Sunday, April 10, 2011

About those journalistic double standards that render the journo part of the story

Here's your difficult truth: Your guy [referring to Darden Copeland] is as much a part of the "elite" you rail against as [James] Weaver or anyone else. Sorry, dude.

I've got to hand it to George. At least he was willing to put his name by his uncorroborated comments. Typically when I get accused of being a tool (or, in George's words, "angling" online writing in coordination with PR firms and lobbyists) it is the anonymous trolls spouting bottomless conjecture they wouldn't sign their name to. But Stephen George incorrectly tweeted that the PR specialist hired to mobilize the movement to preserve the Fairgrounds was "my guy," which indicated to me that I was among the unnamed whom George speculated Darden Copeland "harnessed."

Frankly, I am at a stage in my life where I do not require an education on social movements and the power moves of consultants and lobbyists to "harness" the actions of those movements. My experience helps me see that. When he was hired I was just as circumspect about Mr. Copeland as I have been about lobbyists in general.

I have been getting the same press releases from Save My Fairgrounds that George and the rest of the news media are getting. No insider angle there. I've fielded 2 or 3 personal e-mails from Mr. Copeland and I treated them just like every other e-mail I received from readers of my blog. No more or less consideration when he wanted to make certain points outside the comments section about what I was blogging. I get e-mails from readers on a consistent basis.

Otherwise, I've never had a phone call or a face-to-face meeting with Darden Copeland. So, how can he be "my guy"?

Since I felt compelled to take a position on the Fairgrounds last year, I've never tried to claim journalistic objectivity in expressing my views. However, Stephen George, a journalist, has been somewhat less objective, seemingly unbalanced on the Fairgrounds issue, even as he asserted on Twitter that he was as square with the preservationists as he had been with Mayor Dean in a November report.

In November George described the PR specialists who worked for Dean in highly functional terms before their slump on the Fairgrounds. George used words like "superb," "coordinated," "precise," and "well-heeled" to describe the Dean PR machine. George's narrative almost makes you want to shrug and mutter, "Even the best organizations have their off days." His story's moral: it's not irreparable, not bad enough to tarnish a re-election effort.

In contrast, George paints the Fairgrounds preservationists PR team as dysfunctional, in the most destructive sense. George's depiction of Darden Copeland's PR work spins it as arbitrary and disingenuous, maybe even morally relativistic on the issues it chooses to boost. What George reports as the "new face of public relations" is opportunistic and cynical. Where George spun the Mayor's Office as working openly to convince the public on large capital projects, he spun Copeland's work as "covert" and "black arts," as if interference, subterfuge, and sabotage are suddenly new in the history of organizing movements. And like the Dean Team didn't have such tactics in their own bag of tricks.

Stephen George's double standard could not be more glaring. It discredits those of us who authentically oppose the Mayor's plan, and it suggests that the Mayor's privatization plans are worthy, but just a little bungled. The implication of George's logic: unlike the tainted movement to keep the Fairgrounds public, the privatization plan can be rescued and put back on a "superb" PR track.

But perhaps the worst part of George's slanted journalism is his enlistment of James Weaver, State Fair Board chair and registered Metro lobbyist, who had his own conflict of interest when he supported the Mayor's plan to move the Expo fleamarket from the Fairgrounds to Hickory Hollow Mall, which was owned by a company for whom Weaver lobbied. As if Weaver's comment to George about Copeland's company--"They're capitalists. They're just hired guns, they're not political in their work"--does not apply to Weaver himself. As if the Dean Team aren't capitalists in pining to sell the Fairgrounds off to real estate developers.

The editor has a few "difficult truths" to deal with himself.

1 comment:

  1. I thought George's Scene piece on Copeland sounded like a satirical response to Liz Garrigan's cover story on Mayor Dean.

    Though, I"ll have to give the award to Garrigan:

    Her description of Dean in his "oversized Lands End loafers" was much more on target than George describing Copeland's "flop of frat boy hair." (Both quotes p'by paraphrased).

    I enjoy George's writing.

    He's new to town. And it shows.

    His story was more a reaction to Garrigan's "return" on the cover of the Scene than it was to Copeland.