Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Other Side of the Story

Sept. 26, 2006

To: Greg Mitchell, editor and Joe Strupp, senior editor

I was stunned to read a one-sided, inaccurate account of my departure four years ago from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in the middle of an Editor & Publisher online report dated Sept. 25 purportedly about a paragon of ethical behavior.

The No. 1 rule for any journalist is to seek out and listen to
all sides. You don't have to believe someone. You don't even have to print
his or her view. But you must hear it. Your reporter did not.

I was never contacted. For that matter, the Poynter ethicists never
heard my side before -- as I now learn from your article -- they
were formulating means to deal with my "violation of an ethical statute."

Had they or you asked me, I would have disputed the notion that
trying to have an honest conversation with a reader unhappy about our
political coverage violated "an ethical statute." I did not "shoot back
defensively" as you write, when a Democratic reader emailed us that it must
have been a Republican editor who ordered up what he saw as a puff piece
about Katharine Harris. Rather, in an exchange of five e-mails I attempted to
provide him with insights into our coverage and how the story came about.
In the emails, I wrote that, far from being a Republican, I wasn't even planning to vote for Ms. Harris. In Florida, my Democratic registration is a matter of public record. I also wrote about some of the factors shaping our coverage.

Eminent journalists, including some at Poynter, who increasingly
advocate better communication between newspapers and their readers as a way
to win them back should contemplate carefully what happened to me.

There was no public demand to fire me when I learned that our reader was sending our email exchange to others over the Internet. I immediately went to my supervisor, realizing that the emails could be manipulated to try to embarass the newspaper. I operate by the no-surprise rule.

I wrote nothing unethical, improper or untrue. I made the error of thinking I was candidly addressing the concerns of a reader – not an activist with a political agenda. And I resigned because I wanted to act in the best interests of a newspaper I loved.

In return, I would have hoped that Janet Weaver would have the simple decency to accurately report the events of four years ago.

While she has disappointed me again, surely I might have hoped for better from Editor & Publisher.

The airing of my professional behavior in such a one-sided way was
unprofessional and smacks of questionable ethics.

Sincerely yours,

Rosemary Armao


a fan said...

You have always been a reporting hero of mine and an inspiration to other investigative reporters -- a dying breed in this decades-long era of corporate greed, corruption in government and media downsizing.
Editor & Publisher dropped the ball on another important piece, related to RFK's Stolen Election article in Rolling Stone and, again, let the mainstream media off the hook for Sucking. We suck, and you know it. Keep up the good fight!

CookiePuss said...

The “ethics” debate is one that a good journalist will never win. This is because “ethics” initiatives at newspapers are not about conscience and honesty, they are marketing tools to confuse readers into thinking newspapers are reliable sources of information.

These days editors love to talk a lot about “ethics” and run “corrections” over trivial matters such as a name being misspelled or run “clarifications” that intentionally mislead readers into thinking a story contained an error when it’s just a capitulation to a disgruntled advertiser. That way, readers will be less inclined to question the chronic left-wing spin of political stories, the pro-advertiser spinning of business stories, the fact-free reporting that spins public policy stories (such as those near-daily doomsday pieces on the environment), the intellectual dishonesty of “columnists” or the fictional passages editors such as Janet Weaver insert into stories.

The ones who talk the most about ethics are the ones you have to be most skeptical of.

Did anyone notice that, after Janet Weaver (the Eva Peron of journalism) became dean at Poynter, all the comments posted on Romanesko surrounding Roesmary’s departure from the Herald-Tribune were removed from Poynter’s Web site?

Perhaps Weaver was drunk when E&P called for comments. As MADD asserts, those who are arrested for DUI are, at the very least, people with serious substance abuse problems.

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