view from mars

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

paul fain gets pissed


Paul Fain penned the C-ville Weekly's piece about our boy Virgil's recent ethical indescretions. You can read what I think about his article here or here. I also sent him an e-mail challenging certain crucial assertions of his article, one of which occurs in a timeline as follows:
Undisclosed month, 2003. Goode arranges for an initial federal outlay of $3.6 million for MZM to create an intelligence facility in Virginia’s Southside, also part of his district.

March 2003. At MZM’s Washington, D.C. office, company founder and CEO Mitch-ell J. Wade pays for and collects illegal contributions to Goode’s campaign.

I referenced a USA Today article:
By the time Goode arranged an initial $3.6 million for the center in 2003, MZM's PAC and its employees had given the congressman nearly $33,000 in campaign contributions, making them at that point by far his biggest financial supporter for the 2004 election.
Fain, in the reply:
I think you may have misread part of the timeline. In detailing the initial earmark of $3.6 million for the Martinsville facility I specifically state that the date of the inclusion and approval of this appropriation was unclear. The timeline reads that it was made in "an undisclosed month" in 2003. This was not meant to imply that the earmark came before Wade's March 2003 first documented illegal contribution to Goode's campaign. I'm sorry if this was confusing. I would have liked to have been more specific, but did not find a way to nail down the date of the earmark request in my reporting. Do you have access to that information? I was actually told that it's classified. I realize that the USA Today said the first contribution came before the $3.6 million. I could not independently verify their reporting, although I don't doubt its validity. However, in reporting a story like this I feel it's far better to be safe than sorry. The burden of proof is on the reporter, as always.
But it was confusing, and, because Fain knew about what USA Today found, the other burden of responsible journalism comes into play: presenting a whole story. What the hell do I know about journalism though, I'm just a kid. I would guess the editors couldn't find any fat to trim to add in that little bit, and include "though it could not be independently verified at the time of publishing." Instead, Fain is forced to write responses to inquiring readers like myself, which is surely the only way to explain the bundled panty bitchy tone.

Oh, so it gets way better. After I referenced his response here, Fain came on this site and in the comments clutched pearls even tighter and insulted me:
The author of this blog has now incorrectly trashed both my C-VILLE Weekly article on Rep. Goode and my response to the author's e-mailed complaint. (By the way, he never responded to an e-mail I sent to him. I guess it's more fun to take shots on a blog than to engage someone in an honest exchange.) So for the record, my article/time-line identifies two flurries of illegal campaign donations - collected by Wade and given to Goode in March 2003 and March 2005. It also describes two major appropriations for the Martinsville MZM facility, which Goode helped to arrange. The first outlay, for $3.6 million, was created during an undisclosed month in 2003. I could not independently verify when this money was approved. The USA Today said, vaguely, that it happened after Goode had been given the illegal funds by Wade. That may be true, but the bummer about being a reporter is that you have to PROVE and back up facts. I was able confirm that the second outlay, for $9 million in June 2005, came three months after Goode received more illegal money from Wade. The story/time-line states this clearly. I have no idea what point the author of this blog is trying to prove with this nit-pick. However, it's clear that he would have preferred a strident opinion piece to a fair, fact-heavy news article. Thank goodness for this blog, where the author can take unsubstantiated swipes.
....what?

I'm not a journalist, but I'm a reader. I support lots of businesses that advertise in that newspaper (it's free) so that makes me someone who has an interest in receiving a fair and thorough account when I read it for news. It's not all news because it's a community weekly, but everyone around here reads it -- and this story has received only superficial expositions from a large corporate media outlet.

I didn't "trash" anyone. I called out Fain because I was aware of a fact that he chose to ignore. (He has yet to explain how exactly his investigations turned up utterly fruitless.)

So this is what I get in return:
  • I think you may have misread part of the timeline.
  • I'm sorry if this was confusing.
  • Do you have access to that information? I was actually told that it's classified.
  • I guess it's more fun to take shots on a blog than to engage someone in an honest exchange.
  • It's clear that he would have preferred a strident opinion piece to a fair, fact-heavy news article.
  • Thank goodness for this blog, where the author can take unsubstantiated swipes.
As a reader, I expressed my concern to the author that he was failing to shoulder his responsibility as a journalist. While he wrote, "...despite Goode’s brush with wonkish infamy, it will probably take more than a confusing Capitol Hill imbroglio to take down the entrenched, five-term incumbent," he simultaneously enabled what he called Virgil's "squeaky clean image" by not presenting his readers with the full story, and, as a result, downplaying its severity and the questions that remain unanswered.

The March 2003 contribution is so crucial because, at least as far as we know, it represents a potential beginning of Virgil and Wade's quid pro quo. We already know so much that tells us that this quite possibly might be true, and, if it really were, then Virgil's "squeaky clean image" doesn't look so squeaky anymore. The Martinsville facility has become an important justification for Virgil's claim that he has brought jobs to his district. We need to know whether or not Virgil was thinking more of the people of the 5th, or whether he, after switching parties to help enable the current republican majority in Congress in exchange for a coveted seat on the House Appropriations uber-Committee and proposing that English be made the official language of the United States and proposing a resolution in favor of Christmas in the midst of last year's faux anti-Christmas hilarity and accepting money from Wade "in person" and being an anti-gay bigot, was thinking more of himself.

Maybe it doesn't matter because we readers will just "misread" things. But at least while we're here, let's not piss all over the relationship between reader and news-writer. I'm allowed to say whatever the hell I want to a journalist about their story, because it shouldn't be otherwise. I want the truth -- if I don't feel like I'm getting it in one of my primary sources for local news, then I'm going to let someone know about it.

Mr. Fain, you're a professional journalist. I'm 24 years old. Get a grip, simmer down, and instead of harassing my work e-mail account with multiple messages and comments on my blog, why don't you accept my criticism and do everything you can to verify (or disprove) the evidence you claim is questionable. If you can't independently verify what has previously been reported as fact, then report it, and then say that you can't verify it. Don't write a front-pager and cross your fingers that no one will notice that you flubbed. Give your reader the whole story, and do your damndest to get to the bottom of things. We are counting on people in your profession to DO THEIR JOB and check the secrecy needed to maintain the current rampant corruption taking over our government. Politicians are corrupt because the news media don't do their job and inform people.

I'm not saying you're not doing your job as a journalist, because it's important that people become aware at least that this relationship exists (or that corruption exists at all -- I had a friend today ask me what Halliburton was.)

I am saying that I think your replies to my inquiries are a little unhinged and scary. Accept that your readers are informed and will question your assertions. Stop harassing me. That would be great.

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