10 April 2006

The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise, My Foot, and My Mouth

Here's the latest update in the continuing saga of UT Professor Eric Pianka, and the articles from the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise.

I got up early this morning, and made several phone calls to try and get to the bottom of why all mention of Pianka had been expunged from the paper. Bottom line: big misunderstanding, and the articles are now back online. It had absolutely nothing to do with the paper trying to dodge responsibility for its actions, or the paper not standing behind the articles, or any of the other possibilities that I had thought were likely. It appears that I didn't have the full story, and jumped to some conclusions in the earlier articles that were not entirely justified.

Here's the details on how I figured this out, for those interested in checking my work:

The first call I made was to the Gazette Enterprise. There, I spoke with the managing editor of the paper, Mr. Christopher Lykins. When I told him that I was calling regarding the Pianka matter, he informed me that all decisions about that were now "being made by the home office," and that his paper no longer had "any jurisdiction" over those decisions.

That fired up my curiosity a little more. Andrea Bottaro and Reed Cartwright (of The Pandas' Thumb) were both kind enough to track down the ownership of the paper, and provide me with some contact information for the "home office." The Gazette-Enterprise, it turns out, is owned by a company called "Southern Newspapers Incorporated," which owns a number of small papers in the south. The staff at the office then referred me to Mr. Bill Cornwell, publisher of the Brazosport Facts, as a corporate contact.

All of this led me to believe that I was getting a very polite runaround, but that belief was quickly shattered when Mr. Cornwell returned my call. He was actually quite surprised to hear that the articles were not available online. Apparently, the company had directed that the transcript and the audio recording from the speech be removed because both were at least partially incomplete. That was apparently misunderstood, with the result being that all of the materials were removed. He has since gotten back in touch with the Gazette-Enterprise, and the articles are now back online.

My impression that the Gazette-Enterprise was trying to hide from their responsibility was wrong. This will serve as a lesson to me to make sure that I do my research more thoroughly before posting in the future.

As a final note, I think that this whole affair should be the topic of more than just blog articles. If anything, it could serve as an exemplar of both the advantages and disadvantages that are present in the new relationship between blogs and the more traditional media sources. It also provides some valuable insights into the way that fast-breaking stories can be used and misused by various factions for political gain, and how those factions can actually shape the story as it breaks. I'll probably post more on this over the next few days, and I'm also working on an article for print publication (assuming I can find someone to publish it).


JM O'Donnell said...

Excellent work :p I has assumed when I saw them back that they were updated or similar. Oops.

Interestingly, I'd like to note that the April 2nd article is still not present. Are they going to replace that one, or just the april 4th and 5th articles?

Ed Darrell said...

I wrote a letter to Editor & Publisher about their simple picking up the first story, without getting Pianka's side -- an odd way for a publishing magazine to act, I thought. My letter appeared in the on-line edition. E&P may consider a piece on the coverage of the controversy.

Also, check out Columbia Journalism Review, and see if Quill magazine still exists with the Society for Profesional Journalists.

Good luck.

Karl Haro von Mogel said...

Good work, a reader notified me about your investigations. I was careful with my own words that IF they did delete it, (on purpose) I would consider it an abhorrent act. It seems now that they have an alternate story about this chain of events, which may just be something made up to cover their tracks. But what is odd is that Forrest Mims's story on the missing articles is markedly different..?

JM O'Donnell said...

But what is odd is that Forrest Mims's story on the missing articles is markedly different..?

Considering the 'remarkably different' story that has emerged about Dr. Pianka and what transpired at the speech, I'm not surprised to see Mims' account of things is...shall we say, different.

Anonymous said...

That's good to see! Not only that they weren't trying to hide, but it shows intellectual honesty to admit when you've misunderstood something and spoken up about it. If only we could get that from the ID crowd, a lot of the "controversy" might dry up.


Doppelganger said...

I'm curious - has anyone seen this on Fox News at all? I'm wondering if they have covered it, did THEY, with their 'fair and balanced' [sic] approach, bothered to offer Pianka's side of the story. I know when Sternberg whined on the O'Really? show that there was no 'other side' offered, and O'Really? had the nerve to look into the camera after the segment and declare his show the 'no spin zone'....

Anonymous said...

Crossposted at Panda's thumb:

The speech transcript is still not available. Could a call to the powers that be also restore that?