by Danny Cross
Posted In: Media
at 12:18 PM | Permalink
A few years ago, a friend and I were walking down the street
in Over-the-Rhine from Neons to somewhere north on Main Street — maybe
MOTR, maybe our friend’s place at 13th and Clay, might have been heading back
to a car. I’m not really sure — it’s been three or four years now since people started
coming back to the (mostly nighttime) amenities in the neighborhood.
Just before we turned the corner from 12th onto Main, gunshots popped off behind us. We turned around and saw some dude running south on
Sycamore. We bolted onto Main and jumped into a storefront
doorway until things calmed down, called the police and then continued on our way. I followed up and found out that the man we saw running away neither died nor killed anyone.It was a scene that has grown less common in recent years in the area, as the push of development has moved much of the drug dealing and related violence outward into other neighborhoods. In January WCPO reported that violent crime in OTR was down 74 percent since 2004, in part due to development and evolving policing tactics. Such facts didn't deter The Enquirer from freaking the hell out yesterday when one of its reporters witnessed a shooting in front of a bunch of popular OTR restaurants. Reporter Emilie Eaton was on the same block when 30-year-old Gregory Douglas was shot around 9 a.m. near Vine and Mercer streets, fled a short distance then collapsed and died. Police today issued a warrant for the arrest of Darnell Higgins for the murder.It's been a sad day for a lot of people: families and friends of the deceased and the accused; those who witnessed such violence up close. It’s also a sad day to consider the
state of local media, considering the response we've seen so far to The Enquirer's collection of coverage. It started with the reporter's first-person account of witnessing the shooting. Then came a news story questioning the neighborhood's safety, for some reason quoting the Hamilton County Republican chairman and a lone neighborhood resident saying he didn't feel safe these days. Soon afterward, a more formed version of the story was updated online — this time the headline tried to cleverly play on the word "dead" (“Gunfire in OTR brings
morning to a dead stop”). The headline was later changed, “After fatal shooting, no easy answer in OTR," though the insensitive quip lives on in the story's URL. The Enquirer’s
decision to frame Douglas’ death as a question of whether or not OTR is
safe for those of us unaccustomed to witnessing violence is generating the type of
online debate (/clicks) the "newsroom of the future" was meant to induce. It has also been heavily criticized. Here’s former Cincinnati mayor Charlie
Luken on Facebook:
Here’s Derek Bauman, an OTR and mass
transit advocate/suburban police officer, who wondered on Twitter why the first
source in an early version of the “Is OTR safe yet” story quoted the county GOP
chair before anyone else. Alex Triantafilou’s take? “There is more work to be
done to make our city as safe as the suburbs."
Eaton's first-person story was published just hours after the shooting occurred. "A stray bullet
could have easily missed the victim and hit me," she wrote.
"The gunman could have come around the corner for me. I'm lucky to be
writing this story right now."The story elicited strong response from readers, but perhaps not the kind the Enquirer was picturing. About 20 wrote comments questioning the appropriateness of the piece, many along the lines of this:As writers molded dispatches from the
scene into The Enquirer’s larger
collection of reporting on the incident, debate continued on social
media. Enquirer writer John Faherty took to the comment section of Eaton's article to defend her. Those
of us in the media don’t enjoy criticizing each others' work, and we realize most
people in the industry are dedicated and passionate. We respect
colleagues at other media companies, especially when their dedication to the
craft is evident.Eaton clearly had a shitty morning. Her decision to immediately get back to doing her job is admirable. Unfortunately, the collection of work to which she contributed was misguided, made worse by
the classlessness with which Enquirer editors showed along the way. Publishing right-wing digs at inner-city neighborhoods has been a longstanding tradition at The Enquirer. Using a play on the word "dead" in a news story about a murder is the type of move that would get a college newspaper in trouble. It shouldn't be OK at any self-respecting daily. There's no way to tell which “content
coach” might have shaped yesterday’s
coverage. Any number of web editors could have written such an offensive headline — the newsroom of the future isn't set up to catch these things. Newsroom morale has been known to be low at Gannett papers across the country, and many of us actually feel bad for the many talented people struggling to produce quality work under such restrictive guidelines. Ultimately, reporting that might have culminated in an articulation of how opposite worlds intertwine in front of our eyes every day instead became a question of whether it's smart to eat and shop near poor people.Later versions of the story noted that the lunch rush on Vine Street continued as usual just hours later, suggesting that maybe the question of whether or not Vine Street is safe had already been answered. "I'm not worried about it," said Mike Georgitan, a general manager at
Pontiac BBQ on Vine Street. "It might affect lunch today – maybe," he
shrugged. "But then it will pick back up."
A person is dead, and the cycle of poverty, crime, drugs and violence that gripped Over-the-Rhine long before a Japanese gastropub opened at 15th and Vine is still occurring all over this city.
The Enquirer would be wise to demonstrate an understanding of these forces rather than following the path of least resistance to Internet debate.It would be a lot more compelling than a description of how witnessing violence makes a typical white person feel.
0 Comments · Thursday, December 18, 2014
Holiday joy must be tinged with renewed survivors’ guilt at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 11:19 AM | Permalink
Shocker: Boehner says redistricting reform not necessary; Gannett reaches out, gets spurned; Cleveland cop who shot 12-year-old was deemed "unfit" at last police job
Hello all, hope you’re doing well this morning. I’m having a bit of trouble getting started today, maybe due to CityBeat’s Bourbon and Bacon event last night. The party at Newport’s New Riff Distillery (which is amazing, by the way) featured nearly unlimited amounts of bacon-infused items. Bacon is one of my favorite things. I’m also a big fan of whiskey, which was also available in seemingly endless quantities. I’m still recovering. Anyway, news time. Usually, we think of the staunch conservatives in our state House of Representatives, bless their souls, as lovers of the smallest government possible. So it’s surprising that GOP state lawmakers have been working on a bill to pick cities’ pockets by reverting tax receipts usually going to municipalities to the state government. That bill got a little less pernicious yesterday, when a revised version passed the Ohio Senate. Mayor John Cranley touts the bill as a better deal for Cincinnati than it could have been. The proposal, which amends and allegedly simplifies Ohio’s tax rules for cities and other local governments, would cut the amount of money municipalities receive from businesses doing work in their jurisdictions. Many agree the current system is incredibly complex and makes it difficult for businesses to operate in multiple municipalities. But opponents of the original bill proposed by GOP lawmakers say the cuts to municipal tax receipts were too deep and, taken with other recent cuts to tax receipts, could hamper cities’ abilities to provide services. Cincinnati could have lost as much as $3 million a year from those cuts. The compromised bill minimizes some of those losses by keeping the municipal tax on items a company ships to places where it doesn’t have a storefront. • A slightly fictionalized Hamilton County Christmas play in one act:Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil:Hey guys, can I get a Harley? Maybe two Harleys? I want them for Christmas. They get better gas mileage than cars and the city taught us how to ride them.Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel: I don’t know. Ask Greg Hartmann.Sheriff Neil: He wrote me a letter. He said I have to wait.Hartmann: Jim, I can’t believe you’re asking for this right now. You know money is tight and we can’t afford two Harleys. We’ve gotta tighten our belts, you know. Have you thought about a nice used Suzuki? Or maybe some bicycles? Red Bike is big right now.Sheriff Neil: But everyone else is asking for cool wheels, too.Monzel: We’ll just have to wait and see what Santa brings. We already gave you those cars you asked for. • Surprise, surprise: House Speaker John Boehner, who is camped out in his safely Republican district just north of Cincinnati, doesn’t want any changes to the way Ohio draws its congressional districts. He says that having one party dominate the process isn’t a problem because both parties have done so over the years and that everyone working on rule changes for redistricting should see what shakes out in Arizona. The Supreme Court is currently hearing challenges to that state’s constitutional amendment cutting the state legislature out of redistricting in favor of an independent panel, a similar arrangement to some proposals for reforming Ohio’s redistricting process. But let’s not be hasty about working to change the process that has created Ohio’s ridiculously gerrymandered districts, Boehner says."For 40 years the Democrat Party had the pencil in their hands, and for the last 20 years we've had the pencil," Boehner told The Enquirer yesterday. "When you've got the pencil in your hand, you're going to use it to the best of your advantage." • CityBeat contributor Ben Kaufman, who writes our "On Second Thought" column and "Curmudgeon Notes," tipped me off to this great exchange. Apparently, Enquirer parent company Gannett is reaching out to veteran journalists seeking help recruiting “leaders for the newsroom of tomorrow,” whatever that means. Gannett has been sugar-coating layoffs with this newsroom of tomorrow thing for a while and has even gone so far as to make reporters reapply for their jobs in a Hunger Games-esque battle for employment. A recruiter got a less than favorable response from three-decade veteran journalist Rick Arthur, who has been an editor at major newspapers and magazines. Arthur responds to the missive, which is, after all, not recruiting him but simply asking for help in recruiting others, with the following:“I would never refer anyone to Gannett, an organization that has such disdain for copy editors and that treats its employees so shabbily, and whose executives, publishers and editors willfully deny that there are problems while creating — for the second time in a decade — the laughably Orwellian 'Newsroom of the Future.'All the best, Rick”Ouch.• Finally, there’s continued anger around the nation over unarmed people, especially people of color, dying at the hands of police. Two brief developments: A grand jury in New York yesterday declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in the death of Eric Garner, who Pantaleo put in a chokehold. Pantaleo died moments after the confrontation in an ambulance and can be heard on a video of the incident telling officers repeatedly he couldn’t breathe. The grand jury decision has sparked protests in New York City.In Cleveland, there are new revelations in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who police shot on a playground. The officer involved in that shooting, Timothy Loehman, was asked to leave another police force in the small town of Independence, Ohio, in 2012 after being deemed unfit to serve there. Loehman reportedly had an emotional breakdown on a shooting range and was “uncommunicative and weepy” during the incident, reports on his dismissal say. The report also calls his performance with a weapon “dismal.”
0 Comments · Monday, November 17, 2014
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:56 AM | Permalink
Enquirer's innovative new layoffs drive reporter exodus; petition circulated to name the Norwood Lateral after Carl Lindner; Kanye or Cruz?
Halloween is here. I’m taking an informal poll: how many folks are dressing up as Union Terminal and/or Music Hall tonight? I’m not knocking ya. I just wish I’d thought of that in time. Instead I have an Abraham Lincoln mask, American flag aviators, and a bow tie for a costume, so I will probably look like a very unappealing, election-themed male stripper. Procrastination is lame, folks.These are painful times for the Cincinnati Enquirer. A reorganization has been happening for a while now, but recently, news broke that a number of newsroom veterans are leaving the paper, including No. 2 in command Laura Trujillio and social issues reporter Mark Curnute, whose stories I've always been impressed with. Over the past couple months, employees have been asked to reapply for their jobs under new, more digitally-oriented job descriptions. That's definitely ruffled some feathers, and has caused the biggest shake-up in the paper's history. The departures probably have something to do with the fact Gannett brass have been wrapping layoffs at the Enquirer and other papers in the disingenuous corporate speak of an exciting new opportunity to create "the newsroom of the future", but who knows?• Right now the Ohio Department of Transportation is having its Southwestern Ohio town hall meeting on the future of public transit in the state. In Lebanon, because everyone knows that is the absolute hub of public transit in the region. You can watch the proceedings live here if you’d like to follow along at home. It’s standing room only there, maybe because I spread a rumor that there’s an ODOT party bus shuttling folks to some killer Halloween parties right after the meeting. That’s false, as far as I know. • You’ve probably already heard about the controversy over a proposal by outgoing State Sen. Eric Kearney to change the name of State Route 562 from the Norwood Lateral to the Barack Obama Norwood Lateral Highway. I bet you can guess some folks’ reaction to that idea. Norwood Mayor Tom Williams doesn’t want a name change, but did throw out another, much different suggestion: naming it after Norwood-raised business magnate Carl Lindner, who died in 2011. Williams called Lindner, who owned Chiquita, Great American Insurance, and a number of other businesses “a beautiful individual” and said the several times he got to hang out with him were “an absolute thrill.” Hm. Maybe let’s just keep calling it the Norwood Lateral. • More than 400 people in eastern Ohio were forced to leave their homes this week after a fracking operation there began leaking and “shooting an invisible gaseous discharge into the air.” …no, I’m just not even going to go there. The blowout happened about 6 p.m. Tuesday. Homes within a 2 mile radius of the site where evacuated, though officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources say no permanent environmental impact was caused by the leak and residents were back in their houses by midnight. No word on the cause of the accident.• Is the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party on the way out? Could be. Some say those within the party are furious at the monumental disaster that Dem gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald’s campaign has become, and party chair Chris Redfern could take the heat for that. We’ll see.• Almost a year exactly after political brinksmanship and partisan wrangling ground the U.S. government to a halt, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says if voters in Kentucky choose him, it’s because “they want divided government.” It may be true, though. New polls heading into the Nov. 4 election show McConnell up five points over his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. • Finally, I want to introduce you to perhaps the weirdest online quiz ever. Can you distinguish the wisdom passed down by ornery, Texan tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz from the golden, learned lessons of rapper and self-proclaimed genius Kanye West? The Washington Post wants to help you find out.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Poynter.org says Gannett — owner of The Enquirer, Louisville Courier-Journal and Indianapolis Star,
among others — is reorganizing newsrooms, job and pay scales “to better
attract an (online) audience of 25- to 45-year-olds.”
2 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
WCPO.com installed its promised paywall
for some online stories. The only question is, “Is it worth it?”
by Hannah McCartney
Court upholds decision that the paper's 2010 statement was made with actual malice
A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge has denied the Milford-Miami Advertiser's request to appeal a 2012 ruling that charged the Gannett-owned suburban weekly with defamation and ordered the paper to pay the defamed plaintiff $100,000 in damages. In an article published in the Advertiser on May 27, 2010 titled "Cop's suspension called best move for city," the paper implicated Miami Township police officer James Young, who years before had been mired in legal trouble for accusations of sexual assault that were eventually disproven, in its article discussing another sex scandal in the area. According to court documents, in 1997, Young was initially fired from his job after a woman named Marcie Phillips accused Young of forcing her to perform oral sex on him while Young was on duty. An internal investigation revealed that the two had actually been engaged in a relationship prior and that Young had spent time at Phillips' house while on duty. The allegations, however, were entangled in questions about Phillips' character and concern that she could have been lying about the rape because the relationship between the two had recently ended on rocky terms. When DNA testing on semen found on a rug in the woman's home proved that the DNA didn't match Young's, he was exonerated and reinstated to his position. The Advertiser article explained that Young had been terminated for sexual harassment, immoral behavior, gross misconduct and neglect in the line of duty and also stated that "Young had sex with a woman while on the job," which formed the basis for Young's defamation suit. The 2010 article dealt with similar accusations lodged against Milford Police Officer Russell Kenney, who pleaded guilty to charges that he'd been having sex with Milford Mayor Amy Brewer while he was on duty on multiple occasions. Kenney was suspended from his position for 15 days, but
was later reinstated even though Milford's police chief planned to
recommend his termination to avoid having to use an arbitrator to
dissect the case. Although the article is attributed to writer Kellie Giest, the lawsuit revealed that the paper's editor at the time, Theresa Herron, inserted the section of the article that went to trial. According to court documents, Herron added the paragraphs about Young to Giest's story because she felt the article needed more context about why the city wanted to avoid arbitration. According to court documents from the suit Young filed against the Gannett Satellite Information Network, Gannett responded the to initial complaint by acknowledging that the statement was a defamation of character, but that the statement was made without actual malice on the part of Herron. There is a high legal threshold for plaintiffs to establish a defamation claim, which require the plaintiff to prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt; for public officials, the threshold is even higher because they most prove that the offender acted with actual malice — in this case, knowing the claim about Young was false and printing it anyway — to win a lawsuit. In its appeal, Gannett argued that Young, as a police officer, did not meet the threshold of a public official required to successfully establish a defamation claim and that Herron's inclusions were based on rational interpretations of documents on the case — even though Young denied having sex with plaintiff Marcie Phillips, he admitted the two had kissed and the arbitrator's report documented one instance in which Young was at Phillips' house while on duty. In the court's opinion denying Gannett's appeal, Judge John Rogers writes that Herron admitted she had read the arbitrator's report from Young's case, which provided no evidence that Young and Phillips ever actually had sex at all. "There was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that Herron was well aware that the statement she added to the article was probably false," it reads. "Herron was also reckless in failing to conduct any investigation beyond the records of the original case. She did not seek out Young for comment, nor did she talk to anyone involved in his case."
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I hope the tabloid Enquirer holds current subscribers and attracts new readers, especially folks who are drawn more to the visual than the verbal. Publisher Margaret Buchanan promises its debut Monday. Trucks will bring it from Columbus, where it’ll be printed on Dispatch presses.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
When a reporter uses the law to pry
public records from resisting officials, readers are supposed to
benefit. And when readers value that invocation of open records laws, it
adds luster to the reporter’s work.