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.
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