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).
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