Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Which Is It, Maureen?

The following e-mail was just sent to Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schooled blog. It has been confirmed as delivered.

Many of the DeKalb School Watch readers received a copy of this e-mail. If you did not, but wish to be put on the mailing list for this kind of e-mail, please send your name, your phone number (so your interest can be confirmed) and your e-mail address. This information will not be used for any other reason.

Good morning, Maureen

Please respond to the apparent inconsistencies in your position about reporting the news. (See article below, as published in Get Schooled blog and DeKalb School Watch blog.)

Is your real position that you report what you know only when it is comfortable and non-threatening to you and the AJC -- regardless of whether it is relevant, newsworthy and involves tax dollars?

That is certainly your right, Maureen. But, those of us who have admired your writing and thought you were a fearless straight-shooter need to know. Life is too busy to spend time reading a reporter/blogger who may be in the pocket of special interests.

Just so you know, I am copying others on this e-mail and on your response -- or lack of. You may just want to select "Reply All."

Sandy Spruill

Wow! Maureen -- what a cop out!

Wow! Maureen -- what a cop out!

"I can assure you that unnamed sources are not used lightly and have to be approved by top editors at the AJC." (Maureen Downey, Tuesday, April 26, 2011)

"But here’s my position: If I know something important, you are going to know it, too. The newspaper is not paying me to collect information and then hide it from readers. If it is relevant, if it is newsworthy, if it involves tax dollars, then my job and the job of this newspaper is to report it." (Maureen Downey, Sunday, April 24, 2011)

Here's my position, Maureen, and I am sure it is similar to that of other AJC readers and subscribers:

The REAL story is that a DeKalb County School System Board of Education member, for personal agenda reasons, knowingly broke BOE policy and revealed confidential contract negotiations with a candidate for superintendent who had been approved by the majority of the BOE.

It now appears very likely that the person who leaked the information may have been BOE Chair Tom Bowen.

In your holier-than-thou post on April 24, 2011 (appropriately Easter Sunday) aimed at people like me who objected to the AJC and WSB running this particular story, you said, "If I know something important, you are going to know it, too. If it is relevant, if it is newsworthy, if it involves tax dollars, then my job and the job of this newspaper is to report it."

Well, Maureen ... knowing the name of the person who leaked confidential negotiations:
(1) is relevant (this person has virtually assured that no worthwhile or viable candidate for superintendent will have any interest in working for a back-stabbing BOE who thinks nothing of breaking BOE policies to satisfy a personal agenda.)
(2) is newsworthy (in a state and a county with abysmal education results, this person has consigned DeKalb's public school students to an inferior public education for the foreseeable future.
(3) involves tax dollars (this person has cost DCSS hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars; restitution must be made)

The person who leaked this confidential information must be held accountable -- morally, fiscally and legally. This person must be fired for cause or told to resign, must reimburse DCSS for all taxpayer dollars spent during the superintendent candidate search, and must be prosecuted to the full extent allowed by law.

As you said, it is your job and the job of the newspaper to report what you know.

So, Maureen, you and/or upper management at Cox/WSB/AJC know the name of the person who leaked the negotiation information.

Report what you know or resign. Your credibility is shot if you don't follow your own statement:

"If it is relevant, if it is newsworthy, if it involves tax dollars, then my job and the job of this newspaper is to report it." (Maureen Downey, Sunday, April 24, 2011)


ben dover said...

Well said Sandy. I agree Tom is most likely the mole. Can DCSS sink any lower?

Cerebration said...

I cannot believe that Tom would actually leak info, he has too much at stake with his professional licenses. I simply think that he is much too passive to lead this board. They are like children running around leaking info and doing as they please to get their way - knowing full well they will not be reprimanded.

As for the AJC and others - they will not and should not reveal their sources. Once reporters start revealing sources, we can no longer access important information. That said, I do think they were unwittingly used by either certain board members or certain insiders who were privy to the details of personnel related executive session.

As Don McChesney said in an email response, I think Dr. Cox would be our superintendent had it not been for the leaks. That's very damaging and very controlling and manipulative. It makes me very worried that our chair doesn't seem to think it's an issue to investigate and reprimand.

Anon said...

Media protects it's sources. And they should. Also this was Belcher's story first.

Gayle said...

I agree with Cerebration. If they AJC should reveal sources, then so should this blog. As you can imagine that would undermine much of the airing of information that occurs. All the more reason to elect a competent and ethical BOE.

Unknown said...

I actually don't consider this leak to be a source in the journalistic sense of the word. This person broke the rules in order to manipulate the process and was using the media to help in a larger scheme to derail the hiring process. This was not a source inside DCSS that was sharing information that SHOULD have been shared and wasn't. This was information that should have stayed confidential and didn't and had ripple effects that we are still measuring.

It would actually be a service to DeKalb County taxpayers to REVEAL the source so that we can get that person out of the position he or she is in. This is not someone who should be included in any other contract negotiations or should have any influence on our next superintendent or should have any say in how to spend our billions of tax dollars.

It doesn't matter who reported it first. I am assuming the AJC doesn't just take WSB for their word. WSB and the AJC know who this person is and are choosing to support the person who used them to manipulate this huge decision by not turning them in for violations.

In fact, according to the Society of Professionial Journalists, a journalist should

-Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity.

September said...

Ann, you make some good points.

Has anyone stopped to consider that the leak may have come from someone who was working with the Board on these negotiations? An office worker who was handling documents related to the negotiations. Perhaps someone overheard something and repeated it to the media. Did someone's notes go into a trash can instead of the shredder?

While everyone is pointing fingers, Mr. Bowen should be investigating. If he doesn't figure out who did this and how it was done, it could happen again. He should have a plan that will keep the next contract negotiation process confidential.

Longtime said...

Have we come to simply accept this kind of reckless behavior on the part of media outlets such as WSB-TV and the AJC?

Regardless of who leaked the information, these two “news” outlets are as responsible, if not more so, for what has happened.

I’m as underwhelmed by our BOE as anyone, but they had gone through the required process, narrowed the field from fifty-one to three, and were presumably negotiating with their number one candidate. Until a final agreement was reached, any of these discussions were
privileged information. Dr. Cox may not have been my first choice, and certainly wouldn’t have made everyone happy, but we were weeks away from hiring a new superintendent. Any of the three finalists would have been better than the crook we fired and the under-qualified, overpaid place holder we have now.

But because our local “news” outlets went public with what should have been private information, we are back to square one.

Protecting the identity of sources is not an ethical question. It’s simply a way of maintaining that source – driven by the reporter’s self-interest.

The next time either WSB or the AJC runs a self-promoting ad about their support for “the local community,” remember what they’ve just done to the people, and more importantly the students, of DeKalb County.

Joseph Hunt said...

Sounds like the leaker and the AJC have, perhaps unwittingly, publicized the venality and incompetence of the Dekalb BOE very well to all of those who had yet to realize it.

That may, in the end, be a good thing.

Unknown said...

DeKalb county is shameful and disgusting. The board, especially tom, that beasley person, and ramona need to be kicked out (tom for being spinless beasley because he is USING the system and ramona for the whole ball of lies and lack of professionalism she embodies). This county's SCHOOL BOARD is responsible for the education of it's TAXPAYERS children. They have FAILED. If you could see the ineptness I see every day in the school houses, you would be screaming at the top of your lungs to get these pretenders out. This latest fiasco just shows you, the public, what we as employees have known for years, but no one would listen. Are you listening now? PLEASE... help us get them out.

Cerebration said...

This topic can be discussed along with others at the upcoming ELPC meeting --

Emory Lavista Parent Council
Join us at 9:15 am
(refreshments begin at 8:45 am)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Druid Hills Middle School
(Formerly Shamrock Middle School)
3100 Mount Olive Drive
Decatur, Georgia 30033

Lessons Learned from Redistricting…

Impact of a United Voice on DeKalb’s Educational Future

Featured Speakers: You*

*We will gather in both small and large groups to build consensus on matters related to DCSS. Recognizing the valued participation and energy from the redistricting process, we hope to create a unified vision and list of priorities to be submitted to DCSS.