07 April 2006

More on the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise Affair

A number of people commenting on my last article noticed and highlighted the disappearance of stories related to the Pianka affair from the website of the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise. Dave Thomas picked up the story, and posted it on The Pandas' Thumb. I'm going to provide a bit more detail on the scope of the paper's dishonest and despicable conduct, along with the text of an email that I've sent them.

As Dave pointed out, the paper archives stories for at least one month. Strangely, however, the stories that involve Eric Pianka all seem to have disappeared from their archive. I mean that literally. I went to the paper's search page, entered "Pianka" as the search term, and received 0 hits.

That's very strange, because stories about Eric Pianka appeared on the front page of the print edition of the paper on three separate days this week: April 2nd, 4th, and 5th. The links to those dates are to the front-page images currently available on the paper's site. Should those pictures also become unavailable, I will post the copies that I've saved. The website lists the news articles for each of those days. If you look at the pages (2nd, 4th, and 5th), you will find that all of the front page stories except the ones mentioning Pianka are still listed. That's the case at the moment, anyway. It's anyone's guess what the situation will be tomorrow.

The disappearance of the material is clearly not a technical error. What we have seen is the deliberate deletion of all material related to Eric Pianka from the paper's website. What we have not seen is any explanation for this inexcusable conduct on the part of the paper. They have not replaced the Pianka articles with anything other than a file not found message. There is no retraction available, there is no reason given for the removal of the files, there is not even any acknowledgement that the files ever existed.

That behavior is beyond dishonest. It is despicable. It is disgusting. It is irresponsible. It is cowardly. It is...somebody get me a thesaurus, I'm running out of words for it.

The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise's initial article sparked enormous amounts of criticism of Pianka from bloggers, newspaper columnists, talk radio hosts, and other media sources. He was demonized in front of a national audience. He has received death threats as a direct result of this publicity. He was questioned about his views by the FBI. All that can be traced directly back to the publicity that resulted from the Gazette-Enterprise's actions.

If they no longer stand behind those articles - and that is exactly what the selective deletion of the material from the website implies - then the paper owes the public an explanation and the professor an apology. What they have done so far in removing the articles without any sort of explanation demonstrate a degree of moral cowardice that is entirely inexcusable. If the paper wishes to cling to its last remaining shreds of professionalism and dignity, they will have to do better. And soon.


Blogger John Wilkins said...

Dude! It's a newspaper. They have shreds of professionalism and dignity by accident.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Emanuel Goldstein said...

When is somebody going to post THE speech by Pianka?

Not ANOTHER speech represented as THE speech, but the ACTUAL speech?

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Daniel Kim said...

I think the word that is sought is "Orwellian". As I recall, one of the primary jobs of the Ministry of Truth was to expunge historical records.

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Freud wore a slip? said...

I wrote to the Editor:

Your paper expressed moral indignation at Professor Piako's (misrepresented) views (Doomsday, 4/2/06 pg 2A). Where is your morality now, your ethics? While you're probably basking in the light of national attention, in fact you've become the laughing stock of the nation. Now, after your sophomoric attempts to hide your editorial blunders by removing the articles from your Web site, you've become the laughing stock of newspaper editors, reporters, and readers too. Show some moral fiber, put the articles back online, admit the blunder and write an apology!

Let's see if they publish it

4:57 AM  
Blogger Rich Hughes said...

Of course, this would be meat and drink to any competing local papers...

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your letter will not be published, because there is no newspaper. This website does not exist. This post also does not exist.

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Nat Whilk said...

For the sake of argument, let's assume the worst about Mims: that he was wrong in every way that it was possible to be wrong about what Pianka said, and this misrepresentation on his part was intentional. Let's put this offense in perspective, specifically Pianka's perspective. It is not a matter of dispute, is it, that Pianka doesn't think humankind holds a privileged position in the universe vis-a-vis other forms of life? Then what reason is there to consider Mims' lies about Pianka any worse than you washing your hands after going to the bathroom, thereby killing multitudes of bacteria?

7:51 AM  
Blogger MrDarwin said...

Ah, but Denyse O'Leary has picked up the ball and is running with it:

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd never include 'Denyse O'Leary' and 'journalist' in the same sentence without a 'not' between them (this is the *one* exception).

So she suggests Mims is a victim now. What a complete git.

Be sure to archive that link...

6:44 PM  

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