It all began when shop-worn WSB reporter Richard Belcher was unable to recognize the REAL story. Belcher’s MO is to unquestioningly swallow whatever his DCSS “sources” feed him. That foolishness was amplified this time by Maureen Downey and the AJC – although Downey usually exhibits better sense and certainly has a better nose for news.
The REAL story is that someone – most likely a DeKalb County School System Board of Education member – for personal agenda reasons, knowingly broke BOE policy and state law by revealing confidential contract negotiations with the frontrunner candidate for school superintendent who had been approved by the majority of the BOE. This gutless jackboot that Belcher, Downey, WSB and the AJC insist on protecting under the face-saving guise of “source confidentiality” was not a whistleblower reporting illegal, harmful or questionable activities -- just a cowardly person with a personal agenda determined to prevail over a majority vote and a democratic process at any and all costs.
As a result, the question put to Maureen Downey – and subsequently handed off by her to Shawn McIntosh, the AJC’s public editor, was this:
“How is protecting the confidentiality of a jackboot source with a personal agenda more sacrosanct than protecting the legally sanctioned confidentiality of personnel/contract negotiations (per §O.C.G.A 50-14-3 and DCSS BOE board policy)?”
Stay tuned for the AJC’s answer ...
Meanwhile, to bring you up to date, in case you have not been following this thread:
During the DCSS BOE’s negotiations with Dr. Lillie Cox, frontrunner for the DCSS superintendent job, WSB, owned by Cox Communications [no relation to Dr. Cox], broadcast “leaked” information about the confidential negotiations – information known only to someone who was involved with the negotiations. The AJC, also owned by Cox Communications, published the same story. Dr. Cox, the majority choice for superintendent, came face-to-face with the treachery, double-dealing and dishonesty of the DCSS BOE. Dr. Cox withdrew her candidacy.
When people objected to the publication of confidential information that led to Dr. Cox’s withdrawal, Maureen Downey of the AJC’s “Get Schooled” blog jumped into the fray with both feet and smugly said, “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)
Two days later, in the face of continuing criticism, Downey said, “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)
So, now we know that top editors at the AJC know the source of the leak and have approved withholding the source’s name. It is likely that Downey knows the source’s name, also. Responding to Downey’s 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), I wrote:
“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.
“Maureen, you and/or upper management at Cox/WSB/AJC “know something important.” You know the name of the person who leaked the DCSS superintendent negotiation information. Report what you know or resign. Your credibility is shot if you don't follow your own statement [of beliefs].”
Following that, Downey offered to have a telephone conversation with me, but frankly, I prefer to have her comments in writing and I said so. Complete clarity and transparency. No misunderstandings!
The AJC Answer:
Here’s the answer I received in writing – not from Downey, but from Shawn McIntosh, public editor for the AJC:
“You obviously feel that the AJC should not have entered a source arrangement in this case, and I respect your point of view. As further email exchange is unlikely to change the newspaper's position or yours, neither I nor Maureen have further response to your question.”
So, leaker/BOE member/whoever you are – the one who leaked legally sanctioned, confidential information – the one who single-handedly derailed the DCSS superintendent search – you have been given a “Get Out Of Jail Free” pass. You have successfully figured out how to override a majority vote to get your way and to benefit your personal agenda. Carry on! The AJC and WSB have your back.
Crawford Lewis probably wishes he had been savvy enough and/or smart enough to simply tell the AJC or Richard Belcher at WSB about his “activities” – and perhaps leak some inflammatory tidbits (true or not) about his enemies. He might still be sitting in his $5,000 chair and using his private shower in the Palace. Oh, well – live and learn.