Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More on the Springfield News-Leader and its coverage of Billy Long and strippers

I have watched with particular interest the last two days as the Springfield News-Leader struggles with its coverage of the Billy Long/Metropolitan Grill/stripper scandal.

The approach taken by the News-Leader in its political coverage has been unique to say the least. Sunday's "investigation" of the accusations made by former Metropolitan Grill workers against Long appeared to be more of a "We're doing this story because we're being forced into it," approach, with every effort made to show that there was no story at all.

At this point, it is hard to tell what the truth is and the News-Leader's reporting only served to muddy the water because of all of the bases that were apparently left untouched.

In my critique of the newspaper's coverage Sunday, I pointed out numerous approaches that the News-Leader could have taken, including various document searches. Reporter Cory De Vera, in a response to my critique, said, "We do have several document requests pending. Many people wanted to tell me many things about the Metro Grill, and while that's all very interesting, the issue for this story was: Did someone see Billy Long there when this allegedly happened? Did Billy Long play a role in some way? Or does he just eat at a place where some times some things have gotten out of hand?"

I would be very curious to see what document requests are pending, and it would have been nice if the News-Leader had specifically stated the steps it took for its Sunday article. From Ms. DeVera's statement, it also appears the News-Leader approached the story in a fashion that I always warned young reporters against- The newspaper went into the story knowing exactly what it wanted to find and failed to follow the leads where they took them. Who are the Metro Mafia? Are these Springfield leaders who have been involved in after-hours gambling and have dallied with strippers? Have there been complaints against the establishment? Had they tracked down those leads thoroughly they would have likely discovered one way or another whether Billy Long actually did what he has been accused of doing.

As interesting as the stripper story has been, I was more concerned with another statement Ms. De Vera made in her response to my critique. I had noted that at no point had the News-Leader addressed the apparent differences between the "Fed Up" Billy Long of primary lore and the Billy Long who accepts sizable campaign contributions from Halliburton, Exxon Mobil, and other traditional. business-as-usual sources:

"I was working on a campaign finance story and on some issue stories when the Eckersley commercial was released. That made a story about these allegations a higher priority."

Whatever happened to a daily newspaper providing timely news coverage? Billy Long's campaign filed
its quarterly report Oct. 15. How long does it take to go through an easily accessible public document, write who contributed to Long, and call him and ask about it.

The Seventh District Congressional race is an important one. I would have hoped that it would be treated as such by the biggest newspaper in the district.


Ghost of Disgruntled Whistle Pig said...

Agreed. This story was handled badly. There's no way around it. The article had more holes in it than Swiss Cheese and had the tone of an opinion piece, not investigative journalism. Keep after 'em Randy!

Busplunge said...

The SN-L managing editor also deleted comments posted on SN-L stories because "we had a feeling if we had deliberately decided not to publish our own story, then it also was not proper to have references on our site to other reports on the topic."

Delete comments because they violate TOS not because you have a "feeling."

Anonymous said...

Good observations and analysis, Randy.

I quoted you on the SN-L comments today re: the 7th District race story.


Anonymous said...

Feelings, whoa-whoa-whoa feelings.