Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Obfuscated Dealer

For over a month now I've been wrestling with a post about the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Wide Open blog initiative, an experiment in hiring four partisan bloggers to create an online political dialog. Today's events made things moot when they fired the Ohio political blogger that I have more respect for than any other, Jeff Coryell, aka Yellow Dog Sammy. Their reason was simple: Congressman Steven LaTourette complained about Jeff because he'd been critical of LaTourette's campaign in the past.

I was curious to see how the paper would deal with the double edged nature of hiring two bloggers which have been lauded in right wing circles for leading the charge in trying to paint our current Governor as a champion of NAMBLA. Personally, I found it to be the most disgusting smear campaign I had ever seen. To turn a difficult non vote of conscience by a trained professional and try to twist it using the basest, most pretzel-like forms of twisted faux-logic was the kind of intellectual dishonesty reserved for the archest of partisan hacks. Back when I myself was a "partisan blogger" their actions in the matter caused me to pull links to their sites; an action that pained me given how BizzyBlog had stood up for me in the past. I must confess that it did give me a certain amount of ironic joy in knowing that their actions actually helped elect Governor Strickland and Senator Brown by promoting a Republican strategic campaign completely devoid of substance or integrity.

I was wondering how the PD would deal with things when their dark craft resurfaced the next time the GOP decided to anoint an obviously empty suit. Well... today's story has instead shifted things in an entirely unexpected direction.

The right thing to do for Jeff's fellow Wide Open bloggers is to resign. The actions by the Plain Dealer have proven the exercise to be a farce. Before last years Governor's race I had a lot of respect for NixGuy and BizzyBlog, and as I like to say, it's never to late to do the right thing.

You can read more about the situation at Buckeye State Blog as well as Jeff's post here.
Here's Jeff's release on the subject:

30 October 2007

My name is Jeff Coryell, although I have also written on political blogs under the pseudonym Yellow Dog Sammy.

Today I was terminated from my engagement as a freelance blogger at the Cleveland.com blog "Wide Open" as a direct result of intervention of Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Bainbridge Township) of the 14th Ohio Congressional District, in retaliation for my previous blogging about his re-election campaign and my financial support for two of his election opponents.

In August, the Cleveland Plain Dealer hired four Ohio political bloggers to contribute to a daily political group blog called "Wide Open," located at http://blog.cleveland.com/wideopen . In order to assure balance, two bloggers with liberal leanings were chosen, and two with conservative leanings. The other participants are Jill Miller Zimon of Writes Like She Talks ( http://www.writeslikeshetalks.com), Tom Blumer of BizzyBlog (http://www.bizzyblog.com), and Dave of Nixguy ( http://www.nixguy.com).

My participation in the project soon came to the attention of Rep. LaTourette. I had written extensively about LaTourette's 2006 re-election contest and I explicitly supported his challenger, law professor Lew Katz (D-Pepper Pike). I also wrote about what I regard as the suspicious connection between large amounts of campaign cash LaTourette received from the Ratner family of Cleveland, of the Forest City real estate empire, and their receiving an enormous contract to develop 44 acres of the Southeast Federal Center in Washington DC. LaTourette was a member of the powerful Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, which oversees the agency that awarded the contract (the General Services Administration). That writing is at http://ohio2006elections.blogspot.com/2006/10/cong-oh-14-latourette-r-awash-with_12.html , and was picked up at http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=172&topic_id=19905&mesg_id=19905. My wife and I also contributed a modest amount to Katz campaign.

I have been told by Cleveland Online Editor Jean DuBail that Rep. LaTourette complained about my involvement in "Wide Open" to Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Page Editor Brent Larkin. I was also informed that LaTourette brought up the matter of my participation during an interview with Cleveland Plain Dealer political reporter Sabrina Eaton, when she talked to LaTourette about the retirement of Rep. Dave Hobson (R-Springfield). LaTourette mentioned that I had contributed the sum of $100 to the campaign of LaTourette's current opponent, Bill O'Neill (D-South Russell). Eaton suggested that LaTourette raise his concerns with more senior people at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. However, as a result of that conversation, Eaton reported my contribution in her story about third quarter campaign fund-raising by various Ohio Congressional candidates.

Cleveland Plain Dealer Online Editor Jean DuBail raised the matter of LaTourette's displeasure with my participation in "Wide Open"in discussion with the four bloggers on at least two occasions. We discussed the possibility of my making a disclosure of my support for LaTourette's opponents whenever I wrote anything about LaTourette on "Wide Open."

Today Dubail called me and asked if I would agree to never write about LaTourette on "Wide Open," as a condition of my continued participation. He said that the arrangement was sought by Susan Goldberg, Editor of the Plain Dealer. When I declined to agree, after further consultation with Goldberg by DuBail, I was terminated by DuBail.

"As a political blogger, I am a partisan. My political orientation as a progressive Democrat is an integral part of what I do and is completely transparent to my readers. This is a crucial component of being a political blogger/activist, and sets us apart from journalists in the classic sense. It was understood among the four participants in "Wide Open" that we are political partisans and that we would engage in political debate from our respective political points of view."

"I am extremely disappointed that the Cleveland Plain Dealer bowed to pressure from an elected official, to the extent of attempting to limit what a freelance political blogger could write on a hosted group blog and of terminating the services of the blogger to please the offical. To me, this sad episode strikes a heavy blow at freedom of expression and the purported journalistic independence of a once proud newspaper."

My political blog is Ohio Daily Blog, at http://www.ohiodailyblog.com. I previously blogged at Ohio2006 Blog, at http://www.ohio2006blog.com . I began my began my professional life as a successful private and government attorney, and subsequently earned a Masters in Fine Art degree and pursued a second career as an artist ( http://www.jeffcoryell.com) and art teacher. I live in Cleveland Heights, Ohio with my wife and two golden retrievers.


Bill Sloat said...

Hi Chris --

I think you are correct about Bizzy and Nix and that they must go too. Or repudiate what they have said about the governor. You have a long memory, and I had either forgotten or did not remember.

A very thoughtful post on your site. And very interesting that you do not take anon comments. Any explanation about what not?

Chris Baker said...

It is to avoid what I call the Whistleblower effect. The Whistleblower effect is when the lines of truth, fiction, satire and slander blur to such a degree that it's impossible to have a reasonable debate.

BizzyBlog said...

I think my position is clear now:

Didn't say you'd necessarily like it, but it's clear.

I just blogrolled you under Local Yokels, which works unless you've moved on me.