Friday, February 24, 2006

The City Paper Remains Silent On Its Inaccuracies

It looks as if the powers that be at the Nashville City Paper have decided not to run any corrections, clarifications, or retractions concerning Wednesday's front page mislead on Salemtown, even though William Williams told me on Wednesday that it was a distinct possibility. I think two days is plenty of time to get some sort of statement out, and now that the weekend is upon us, we won't be seeing anything until Monday (if at all), since the City Paper does not publish on the weekends. Given the City Paper's offence, that's not good enough.

I understand that the reason for the City Paper's gross inaccuracies in the Salemtown story are an unsettled staff (signified by the recent resignation of an editor), a lack of editorial checking of articles before publication, and the need to just run something, anything on the front page of Wednesday's edition. Remember those details when you read the City Paper or if they call you for an interview. There is stuff going on behind the stories that we do not see. And that stuff can bite. Those inner workings cause them to pitch and spin the information so that it does not resemble reality on the ground, at least in the case of Salemtown.

I've already mentioned reporter Bill Harless's lack of research into the context of the January graffiti incidents, but there were other problems. When Mr. Harless pitched the story during the interview process, he sold it as if it was going to focus on the communication process between our neighborhood watch and the police department. He said that he was particularly interested in the e-mail that went out from the Central Precinct to the Salemtown and Germantown neighborhood associations. He said that he had never heard of such an early warning system about criminal activity going out like weather alerts. But given the headline, picture, and story as written, it now seems plain to me that the reporter may have been using the old bait-and-switch routine. The mention of the e-mail in the story is only passing, and most of the rest is bent on sensationalizing gang issues so that they do not resemble reality in Salemtown. Even Harless's comments about Germantown are exaggerated on the positive side to put Salemtown in a more unsettling light. If you've read Enclave long enough, you've read that Germantown has had its share of crime and challenges, which are more details with which Mr. Harless refuses to be bothered.

We've learned the hard way here in Salemtown. If the City Paper ever comes calling for a story on your neighborhood, your safest course may be to say, "No comment," and then to hang up. Their piece on Salemtown has seemed like long, deep, slow tongue action with death. Granted, it would have been difficult for the City Paper to write anything in the last two days to repair the damage they did on Wednesday. You never get a second chance to make a first front-page impression. But beyond returning some angry phone calls, it looks like they are not going to make any effort to take responsibility for their mistakes.

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