DA Reisig Responds to the Democrat

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reisig-2009Now we have really done it, we started the debate on media coverage and now the DA has been forced to weigh in on it.  Our complaint was reignited a few weeks ago when the DA released a press release on the Michael Artz trial, a case in which Mr. Artz was acquitted on the main charge but the press release never mentioned that and in fact went on to imply that he had been convicted of charges that he had not even been tried on.

The local media then, as is customary, ran the press release verbatim and implied that they had written it by putting the byline as “Staff” rather than “Press Release from the DA’s Office.”

Two days ago, Associate Editor Jake Dorsey ran a column lamenting this state of affairs, but suggesting strongly they fear retribution if they put the byline as the true origin of the article.  Now Jeff Reisig takes exception to that insinuation.

Writes the DA, “Dorsey complains about what he perceives as the self-serving nature of those press releases and frets that continued access to “truly important cases” might depend on the paper continuing to publish them. Rubbish.”

Mr. Reisig continues, “As prosecutors, we are public servants whose fundamental obligation is to the people we represent and who pay our salaries. A significant part of that responsibility is to communicate information regarding the business of the District Attorney’s Office. Since we filed more than 6,000 felony and misdemeanor criminal cases last year, we obviously cannot provide information about all of them. We do our best to identify important cases of general public interest and keep the public apprised of developments in those cases. It is also our belief as prosecutors that some “deterrent effect” is realized by publicizing certain convictions and the consequences for those who engaged in criminal conduct in our community.”

“Since guilty pleas or guilty verdicts are the result in the vast majority of the cases (approximately 90 percent) we file each year, most of the press releases we issue underscore those outcomes. Dorsey apparently is suspicious of the fact that we don’t send out press releases on those occasions when a jury returns with a “not guilty” verdict,” he continues.  “I’m proud to say that there are comparatively few outright acquittals in jury trials in Yolo County, but on those occasions when a defendant is acquitted of criminal charges, it is generally the defense attorney who makes a public statement, not the District Attorney. We do respect the findings of those who serve as jurors, however, and have always responded to questions about a jury verdict whether favorable or not.”

First of all, I think the DA is right on at least some, if not most of this.  They do file a volume of criminal cases that precludes providing information about all of them.  They do not have the duty to do so.  I agree that they should identify important cases of public interest.

That said, I do question some of the cases that they have chosen to provide information on, whether they are really more important than others.  I also question the accuracy of some of the information provided in them.

Moreover, when he says “comparatively few outright acquittals,” I am not sure what that means.  From our observations, close to half of all criminal cases end with some sort of acquittal.  And many times it is the acquittal on the main or strongest charge.

The Michael Artz case is a good example of this.  He was charged with a forcible crime and acquitted.  He was also basically charged for having sex with a minor and talking to her about having future sex.  So that is not an outright acquittal, but 90 percent of that case went to trying to prove the main charge.

The other problem is that their press release acted as though he had been found guilty of the main charge, or on the charge that they dubbed “sextortion” when in fact, he had not even been charged with the latter and was acquitted of the former.

I agree with the DA that when there is an acquittal the defense attorney should make the public statement.  I think it is a mistake for the Public Defender not to do so. 

DA Reisig goes on to say that they have a press information officer that is available to answer the media’s questions.  And he goes on to point out, “The reality is that we rarely get calls from the Daily Democrat before their stories are printed. That is unfortunate.”

This is a key problem that we are facing.  I understand the Daily Democrat and others are experiencing financial hardship and do not have the staff to cover every story. 

Jeff Reisig goes on to castigate the Daily Democrat, saying that Dorsey’s suggestion that they feel, “obligated to print press releases from the District Attorney or else run the risk of losing access to information, is both insulting and simply unsupported by any fact.”

“To imply that there would be some type of media blackout from the District Attorney if The Daily Democrat doesn’t print our press releases is ludicrous, to say the least,” he continues.

“We will continue to issue press releases when we believe there is important information to share. And we presume The Democrat will continue to exercise its discretion as to whether to print that information, identify it as having come from the District Attorney’s Office and, hopefully, call our office for additional comments or clarification if they choose. But please don’t characterize your decision as being forced on you by a phantom threat of your own creation,” the DA concludes.

Sounds very reasonable.  Except that we know in the Michael Artz case that when Kathryn Druliner, Mr. Artz’ attorney, contacted the Bee to correct the record and the Bee ran a retraction, the DA apparently got angry at them.

Court policies make it difficult for reporters to independently verify information about a case after it has run.  Typically the court holds the files for up to a week after the verdict, so these public records are unavailable for awhile.  I think even under the current fiscal constraints, local papers could do more to fact-check and verify information provided by the DA (and other government entities).

At the very least, the DA has now gone on record saying that they do not expect the Daily Democrat or any other newspaper to simply reprint their press releases or print everything they send out.  I have less of a problem if press releases from the DA are simply labeled as such, although it would be nice if the DA’s Office would go to greater lengths in its attempts to be accurate.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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21 thoughts on “DA Reisig Responds to the Democrat”

  1. Roger Rabbit

    Reisig is a good politician, he tells people what they want to hear. You know he is lying when his lips are moving. He does not believe one thing he said, he simply said what he thinks most people want to hear. He wants to give the impression of being above board but where the rubber meets the road, he is just another politician, trying to confuse voters with fancy comments that really mean nothing. Talk is cheap, lets see if he answers any tough questions, if we can find someone who is not to scared to ask?

  2. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Sounds very reasonable. Except that we know in the Michael Artz case that when Kathryn Druliner, Mr. Artz’ attorney, contacted the Bee to correct the record and the Bee ran a retraction, the DA apparently got angry at them.”

    All you know is that the Bee SAID the DA got angry at them (hearsay). The DA is claiming otherwise. So the word directly from the horse’s mouth (the DA) is: “We will continue to issue press releases when we believe there is important information to share. And we presume The Democrat will continue to exercise its discretion as to whether to print that information, identify it as having come from the District Attorney’s Office and, hopefully, call our office for additional comments or clarification if they choose. But please don’t characterize your decision as being forced on you by a phantom threat of your own creation.”

  3. Themis

    “All you know is that the Bee SAID the DA got angry at them (hearsay).”
    Why would anyone believe the DA over the newspaper?

    Hopefully if the press releases are printed, newspapers will check for accuracy and not just believe the DA.

  4. Superfluous Man

    David,

    “Sounds very reasonable. Except that we know in the Michael Artz case that when Kathryn Druliner, Mr. Artz’ attorney, contacted the Bee to correct the record and the Bee ran a retraction, the DA apparently got angry at them.”

    I agree with Elaine, we don’t “know” with any certainty whether the DA was truly angry.

    That said, I think you’re comparing separate issues. The DA was allegedly upset with the Bee over the retraction, presumably because they felt their characterization of the case was accurate. Now, the DA’s response to Dorsey’s piece, which I believe you’re referring to here, seems to address Dorsey’s notion that running the DA byline with the press releases would upset the DA.

  5. David M. Greenwald

    While it is true that it’s the Bee’s word on the retraction anger, what would be their motivation to make that up?

    I don’t think it’s separate issues. If Mr. Dorsey fears retribution and sees evidence of it, then maybe he’s somewhat justified in that fear. I still think the Democrat can do what they want and the DA’s office if they want good press coverage in Woodland will have far more to lose than the Democrat, but it’s not my dime.

  6. JakeDorsey

    Superfluous Man: I read your suggestion about the Public Defender’s Office issuing press releases. I’ll talk to Tracie Olson about it. I admit, I don’t have high hopes, but I’ll give it a shot.

    Also, SM, you are right about a previous comment you made.

    [quote]I also think that by running the DA (or other government entity) byline it makes the Democrat (and other media outlets) look as though they are not doing as much work, for they rely on many of these press releases to fill their pages. So, they benefit from not running the government entity’s byline because it makes it look like they are covering more than they actually are.[/quote]

    We do this with many other types of stories, but whether we want to benefit or not, we do benefit from not using the DA byline exactly as you say (though recently I’ve been applying it to online stories). Again, I don’t like the policy, but there it is, and fear is part of its existence.

    The “Democrat staff” byline is a little different. After talking with Editor Jim Smith, we’ve come to enough of an agreement that we won’t put “Democrat staff” as a byline on the DA releases, instead leaving them unbylined and with all information credited to the DA (as a press release).

    However, when you see “By Democrat staff”, you are seeing work by a reporter. There are two reasons we use that byline:

    1. The reporter did not write a long enough piece to warrant a byline. This is a moving target, but I tend to peg the limit at 150 words.

    2. The reporter did not have sufficiently varied sourcing. This most often means they had to write a story off a release with a call to another source. We’ve had fewer of these stories recently because our reporters, Erin Tracy (who is “graduating” on to The Modesto Bee) and James Noonan, do a great job getting lots of sources for an article.

    As to Mr. Reisig’s column, perhaps he’s right. I might worry too much. He is definitely right that we rarely call his office unless it’s a big case, because of our limited time and staff.

    I liked his paraphrasing Mark Twain, though. If only I had that much ink.

  7. Alphonso

    Why not have one web page to capture all court related press releases? Currently, the public supports a DA web site and that is where all of the major DA victory press releases are attached. Why not allow the defense attorneys post their victory press releases at the same site. That would provide some balance – one place to go to see both sides of the Yolo Justice System.

  8. Superfluous Man

    Jake,

    Thank you for your responses.

    “Superfluous Man: I read your suggestion about the Public Defender’s Office issuing press releases. I’ll talk to Tracie Olson about it. I admit, I don’t have high hopes, but I’ll give it a shot.”

    Well, it’s at least one option worth trying. You acknowledge that there’s a problem and, although not a panacea, better PD communication/press releases might better inform the public about the CJS. I have my doubts too, but why not give it a shot? Have you tried before?

    “We do this with many other types of stories, but whether we want to benefit or not, we do benefit from not using the DA byline exactly as you say (though recently I’ve been applying it to online stories). Again, I don’t like the policy, but there it is, and fear is part of its existence.”

    Well, then it’s mutual? The Democrat benefits from appearing to have written the story and the DA’s office has their press release appear as it was written from an unbiased journalist? That fear being the public’s reception to all the government bylines or the DA’s?

    “The “Democrat staff” byline is a little different. After talking with Editor Jim Smith, we’ve come to enough of an agreement that we won’t put “Democrat staff” as a byline on the DA releases, instead leaving them unbylined and with all information credited to the DA (as a press release).”

    Is that the common ground, don’t list “Democrat staff,” but don’t clearly indicate, via byline, that what’s to follow is the DA press release? Is that another way of saying you wanted the DA byline and Jim Smith did not?

    “As to Mr. Reisig’s column, perhaps he’s right. I might worry too much. He is definitely right that we rarely call his office unless it’s a big case, because of our limited time and staff.”

    Perhaps. The fact of the matter is this: certain public officials are always going to need you.

    Thanks for explaining what the new policy is, re: “Democrat Staff.”

  9. Superfluous Man

    Alphonso, “Why not have one web page to capture all court related press releases? Currently, the public supports a DA web site and that is where all of the major DA victory press releases are attached. Why not allow the defense attorneys post their victory press releases at the same site.”

    The County has a site that lists all the County departments’ press releases. Thus, if the Public Defender were to issue a press release, I believe it would be perfectly acceptable for her to request that it be posted on the County’s website. Regardless, what you’re referring to is a County matter, something the Democrat has no control over.

  10. JakeDorsey

    Superfluous Man:

    [quote]Well, it’s at least one option worth trying. You acknowledge that there’s a problem and, although not a panacea, better PD communication/press releases might better inform the public about the CJS. I have my doubts too, but why not give it a shot? Have you tried before?[/quote]

    I’ve not tried it before, so I will put in the call and see if Olson is interested.

    [quote]Well, then it’s mutual? The Democrat benefits from appearing to have written the story and the DA’s office has their press release appear as it was written from an unbiased journalist? That fear being the public’s reception to all the government bylines or the DA’s?[/quote]

    I’m not sure it’s mutual on the level that the DA and The Democrat have agreed to it explicitly, but that’s sort of the effect. The fear is the one I expressed in my column, that we could lose a source if we piss them off, but on a lower level, there is the embarrassing perception that we can’t even cover the DA’s Office less than 200 meters from our back door. Which is true. We cannot cover them sufficiently.

    [quote]Is that the common ground, don’t list “Democrat staff,” but don’t clearly indicate, via byline, that what’s to follow is the DA press release? Is that another way of saying you wanted the DA byline and Jim Smith did not?[/quote]

    Correct. While it isn’t indicated via byline, it’s indicated in the story with crediting statements to the DA’s Office’s release.

    For the record, any story we run without a byline is something that’s submitted to us, whether it’s a wedding announcement or a police press release. That’s how the editor wants it.

    Jim and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, and that’s usually healthy. Part of being on a team is working with each other, but at the end of the day, he makes the rules, and I’m his associate.

    [quote]Perhaps. The fact of the matter is this: certain public officials are always going to need you. [/quote]

    I’m not as confident about this as you are. Increasingly, public agencies are taking media into their own hands and finding ways to effectively publicize themselves or, worse, simply walling themselves to criticism.

    My true fear is getting in a “non-publishing match” with the DA’s Office. If we hold some of their releases hostage, something like their Day to Honor Crime Victims, in order to get more transparent access via their case releases, they could respond by closing themselves to us. I could be paranoid, but I’d rather not see that happen.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    Unfortunately I spoke to Tracie Olson about it maybe eight months ago, and she was not inclined to run press releases. Maybe having the Democrat ask her would have more impact that. I think it’s unfortunate but that’s her decision. However, I would also point out she was very new to the position at that point and her views may have changed after several additional months on the job.

  12. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “While it is true that it’s the Bee’s word on the retraction anger, what would be their motivation to make that up? “

    Because they want to justify a practice that makes things easier for them even tho it is ethically questionable? The statement that the DA was angry is very self-serving…

  13. JakeDorsey

    David: Dang. Did you tell me that once before? I’m having deja vu about that.

    I’ll try my hand at it. You’ve got a point; maybe so many months later she feels a bit more settled in.

  14. Superfluous Man

    JD, “I’ve not tried it before, so I will put in the call and see if Olson is interested.”

    Well, that was one of my initial questions, if not…why not? I thought that would’ve have been a logical next step when faced with the reality that the public may be getting a slanted view of the DA’s office/CJS in YC. Needless to say, I’m curious to see what happens

    JD, “I’m not sure it’s mutual on the level that the DA and The Democrat have agreed to it explicitly, but that’s sort of the effect.”

    Perhaps it was an unintended consequence of the times? I didn’t think both parties had formally agreed upon anything.

    JD, “The fear is the one I expressed in my column, that we could lose a source if we piss them off, but on a lower level, there is the embarrassing perception that we can’t even cover the DA’s Office less than 200 meters from our back door. Which is true. We cannot cover them sufficiently.”

    The fear you detailed in your column was that by running the DA byline, the DA’s office would become upset (unless I misread). I don’t understand why they would react in such a manner. They would still get their message across to the public, byline or otherwise. To my mind, the only difference would be the effect of such a byline, meaning it reads FROM THE HORSES MOUTH, as opposed to the alternative (“Democrat Staff” or no byline at all).

    I am simply trying to understand why the perception from the DA’s office would be so visceral (from your vantagepoint)…they still get to characterize the case as they wish, don’t they (ie usually no calls from the Democrat following up on the case or fact checking in most cases)? Consequently, I do think your fear may be unwarranted, but it’s not my job or paper that is at stake.

    JD, “Correct. While it isn’t indicated via byline, it’s indicated in the story with crediting statements to the DA’s Office’s release.”

    It sounds like the only thing that’s going to change is that there will be no byline. Will there still be large portions of the press releases lifted straight from the source without citation or quotation?

    JD, “For the record, any story we run without a byline is something that’s submitted to us, whether it’s a wedding announcement or a police press release. That’s how the editor wants it”

    Thanks, I admit, it’s not clear to me what the policy and protocol for the press is in any given situation. Doesn’t necessarily make sense to me, but I appreciate you informing us. Will there be a disclaimer in the paper or online that indicates as much?

    JD, “Jim and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, and that’s usually healthy. Part of being on a team is working with each other, but at the end of the day, he makes the rules, and I’m his associate.”

    I don’t envy you guys. That said, you don’t shy away from certain issues and you own that which you put out to the public, that’s worthy of some respect.

    JD, “I’m not as confident about this as you are. Increasingly, public agencies are taking media into their own hands and finding ways to effectively publicize themselves…”

    How are they reaching people otherwise, through their own websites or facebook and twitter pages?

    JD, “My true fear is getting in a ‘non-publishing match’ with the DA’s Office. If we hold some of their releases hostage, something like their Day to Honor Crime Victims, in order to get more transparent access via their case releases, they could respond by closing themselves to us. I could be paranoid, but I’d rather not see that happen.”

    I don’t think anyone wants that, including readers of the Democrat, want that to happen. I really think all this could’ve been avoided had the Democrat just ran all government press releases with the agency’s byline all along.

  15. Superfluous Man

    Jake,

    You’ve mentioned that, due to staff shortages, the Democrat can’t dedicate a reporter to the courts. Are there no journalism students, volunteers, or retired reporters who would dedicate some of their time to the Yolo County criminal justice system?

    I would think journalism students from UCD or CSUS would jump at that opportunity.

  16. JakeDorsey

    Superfluous Man:

    [quote]Well, that was one of my initial questions, if not…why not? I thought that would’ve have been a logical next step when faced with the reality that the public may be getting a slanted view of the DA’s office/CJS in YC. Needless to say, I’m curious to see what happens
    [/quote]
    Most of it is based on assumptions on my part: Olson’s office is overworked, has fewer people in it and is not in the business of trumpeting its victories the same way the DA is. Again, all assumptions on my part after speaking to various lawyers from the Public Defender’s Office.

    [quote]The fear you detailed in your column was that by running the DA byline, the DA’s office would become upset (unless I misread). I don’t understand why they would react in such a manner. They would still get their message across to the public, byline or otherwise. To my mind, the only difference would be the effect of such a byline, meaning it reads FROM THE HORSES MOUTH, as opposed to the alternative (“Democrat Staff” or no byline at all).[/quote]
    I think, whether they admit it or not, the DA’s Office likes the fact that their releases go without by-line and are only sometimes credited inside the story (as in, “blah blah according to the DA’s Office”). The office enjoys the idea that its releases seem more credible, and its name (which isn’t always considered a positive one) is kept off the story. That was not a belief I detailed in my column, as it really is just my belief. I don’t even have any insinuation to back it up, but the fear from it still exists.

    However, as you say (and the DA argues), my fear seems to be unwarranted. That’s good to know, but I’m not about to believe it (yet).

    [quote]It sounds like the only thing that’s going to change is that there will be no byline. Will there still be large portions of the press releases lifted straight from the source without citation or quotation?[/quote]
    To be honest? It’s a possibility. When I get the releases, I try to credit each line I write to the DA’s Office. Jim, because he works alone when I’m not in the office, doesn’t always have time to be so thorough and doesn’t believe it’s always required.

    Again, difference of opinion.

    [quote]Thanks, I admit, it’s not clear to me what the policy and protocol for the press is in any given situation. Doesn’t necessarily make sense to me, but I appreciate you informing us. Will there be a disclaimer in the paper or online that indicates as much?[/quote]
    No, no disclaimer. I think this is a generational disconnect more than anything else. I’m told older people who still read our printed product know what “no by-line” means. It’s when people outside of that generation read those things that the trouble bubbles up.

    I didn’t know what it meant, either, until I came here. UC Davis News Service press releases only recently started carrying the UCDNS by-line on them. I don’t know why that is; I have never asked about it.

    [quote]How are they reaching people otherwise, through their own websites or facebook and twitter pages?[/quote]
    These things, yes, but more importantly, they’re framing things a certain way via programs and press conferences. This gets deeper into my own beliefs about how the DA’s Office operates, but in brief: They know we’ll come out to cover their conferences to maintain good relations, at the very least, regardless of how newsworthy we find the material. That’s why some conferences get short stories, but are still covered.

    [quote]I don’t think anyone wants that, including readers of the Democrat, want that to happen. I really think all this could’ve been avoided had the Democrat just ran all government press releases with the agency’s byline all along.[/quote]
    Me, too.

    [quote]You’ve mentioned that, due to staff shortages, the Democrat can’t dedicate a reporter to the courts. Are there no journalism students, volunteers, or retired reporters who would dedicate some of their time to the Yolo County criminal justice system?

    I would think journalism students from UCD or CSUS would jump at that opportunity.[/quote]
    This is another difference point Jim and I pivoted on during my first year, 2007, and then again when we got really short on staff in early 2009.

    Jim wants to pay people for their work, so he won’t accept unpaid interns. We have no money to pay interns. Therefore, no interns.

    The same goes for volunteers (who wouldn’t be bound by The Democrat’s chain-of-command anyway, I’m told). Retired reporters is an idea, but I don’t know any (and they would also have to conform to our chain-of-command). I’ve asked a couple former journalists about it before, but they have day jobs that pay, so we don’t compete.

  17. Superfluous Man

    JD, “Most of it is based on assumptions on my part: Olson’s office is overworked, has fewer people in it and is not in the business of trumpeting its victories the same way the DA is. Again, all assumptions on my part after speaking to various lawyers from the Public Defender’s Office.”

    I understand and maybe that’s a problem: why one has the resources and/or staff available to dedicate time to public relations, whereas the other scrapes by just trying to execute their Constitutionally mandated job, representing the indigent. I don’t necessarily doubt your assumptions, rather I questioned the lack of initiative taken by the local media given the efforts taken to invite local law enforcement to your office and train them how to communicate with the public.

    Sure, DPD’s from that office may tell you that, but what do they personally think? It’s tough, because many have hostile feelings towards public defenders, because…how could they defend those people…the presumed innocent? Consequently, I think it’s difficult for the PD, considering the public’s perceptions of them, to “brag” about getting a “guilty” man/women off or “beating” the DA whose job it is to protect the public from those criminals. People may not like that and who wants that kinda PR?

    However, in certain cases, such as the ‘cheese case,’ people may want to know. They may read that and think, “hey, that’s not what this law should be about…what they…” I think there could be a PR sensitive way of going about it. You and I know that there are cases, weekly, in which attorneys from that office (PD) are up in arms, they just don’t parade it via press releases (again, not blaming DA for doing so, who wouldn’t). One, very simple, way of looking at it is this: the DA gets to inform the public about how they have protected them from a dangerous criminal(s), while the PD never gets to inform the public as to how they’ve protect THEM from, as some would characterize, overzealous prosecution.

    JD, “I think, whether they admit it or not, the DA’s Office likes the fact that their releases go without by-line and are only sometimes credited inside the story (as in, “blah blah according to the DA’s Office”). The office enjoys the idea that its releases seem more credible, and its name (which isn’t always considered a positive one) is kept off the story. That was not a belief I detailed in my column, as it really is just my belief. I don’t even have any insinuation to back it up, but the fear from it still exists.”

    That is my assumption and who wouldn’t? The operative word is “sometimes.” There are often entire paragraphs printed without any citation or credit given to the source, DA or otherwise. To my mind, that’s just not acceptable. That was ground for discipline at every academic institution I’ve attended.

    JD, “To be honest? It’s a possibility. When I get the releases, I try to credit each line I write to the DA’s Office. Jim, because he works alone when I’m not in the office, doesn’t always have time to be so thorough and doesn’t believe it’s always required.”

    Okay, but I feel Jim Smith was not accurate in his column. I don’t think he (or whomever) credits the source every time. I guess that can be chalked up to not having the necessary time to do so. When such constraints exist, why not run the government agency or department’s byline? IMO, whoever it was who “credited” the source in those releases, did not do as Smith described, as he says he was taught to do in journalism school.

    JD, “No, no disclaimer. I think this is a generational disconnect more than anything else. I’m told older people who still read our printed product know what “no by-line” means. It’s when people outside of that generation read those things that the trouble bubbles up.”

    Yes, that seems to be a common theme. I had no clue that’s how it should be taken. I just thought a disclaimer, even once to the reader, prior to its becoming the paper’s policy would be fair.

  18. Superfluous Man

    JD, “Jim wants to pay people for their work, so he won’t accept unpaid interns. We have no money to pay interns. Therefore, no interns.

    The same goes for volunteers (who wouldn’t be bound by The Democrat’s chain-of-command anyway, I’m told). Retired reporters is an idea, but I don’t know any (and they would also have to conform to our chain-of-command). I’ve asked a couple former journalists about it before, but they have day jobs that pay, so we don’t compete.”

    Well, people who want experience don’t care about the money, especially interns who get college credits for their efforts. Given the times, I would think you would have a plethora of talented journalism students lining up to cover the CJS or whatever else. It’s a resume builder if nothing else. What profession doesn’t do this? Does he believe it’s not fair to take their work for free? This makes no sense to me. Wouldn’t you, as a student of journalism, have had an interest in such an internship? Not to mention, it has the possibility of leading to a job at some point down the road.

  19. JakeDorsey

    Superfluous Man:

    [quote]However, in certain cases, such as the ‘cheese case,’ people may want to know. They may read that and think, “hey, that’s not what this law should be about…what they…” I think there could be a PR sensitive way of going about it. You and I know that there are cases, weekly, in which attorneys from that office (PD) are up in arms, they just don’t parade it via press releases (again, not blaming DA for doing so, who wouldn’t). One, very simple, way of looking at it is this: the DA gets to inform the public about how they have protected them from a dangerous criminal(s), while the PD never gets to inform the public as to how they’ve protect THEM from, as some would characterize, overzealous prosecution.[/quote]
    Hmmmmm. I’ll keep this in my head when I call Olson. Any kind of reasoning I can use is worth having.

    [quote]That is my assumption and who wouldn’t? The operative word is “sometimes.” There are often entire paragraphs printed without any citation or credit given to the source, DA or otherwise. To my mind, that’s just not acceptable. That was ground for discipline at every academic institution I’ve attended.[/quote]
    Mine, too. You’re in the right on this as far as my idealistic self is concerned, but ideals don’t always survive reality.

    [quote]Okay, but I feel Jim Smith was not accurate in his column. I don’t think he (or whomever) credits the source every time. I guess that can be chalked up to not having the necessary time to do so. When such constraints exist, why not run the government agency or department’s byline? IMO, whoever it was who “credited” the source in those releases, did not do as Smith described, as he says he was taught to do in journalism school.[/quote]
    Mmmm, don’t be so sure. J-school isn’t what it used to be, and though Jim’s no old codger, he’s not a spring chicken, either. I graduated in 2005; I believe he graduated at least three decades ago, so his rules come froma different era. The credit can come in the form of a single attribution at the top of the story, with everything else left as submitted.

    As Jim states, it can depend on how well it’s written. The DA’s people do a good job with the actual writing, thus they aren’t rewritten much.

    [quote]Well, people who want experience don’t care about the money, especially interns who get college credits for their efforts. Given the times, I would think you would have a plethora of talented journalism students lining up to cover the CJS or whatever else. It’s a resume builder if nothing else. What profession doesn’t do this? Does he believe it’s not fair to take their work for free? This makes no sense to me. Wouldn’t you, as a student of journalism, have had an interest in such an internship? Not to mention, it has the possibility of leading to a job at some point down the road.[/quote]
    You’re right on the line of students, to be sure. I’m sure they’re out there (though David here’s already stolen a few).

    I can’t get into specifics with you on the college credit part of your question because I don’t know how it works here with MediaNews Group. I did apply and receive a paid internship, but I applied for several nonpaid ones, too. They’re excellent resume builders.

    You hit the nail on the head, though, about how Jim views it. He thinks not paying them cheapens their work, and that they deserve a wage of some sort just like any writer, but no money exists, etc.

    I can tell you this is exclusively Jim’s view as editor; other editors of area MNG papers happily take unpaid interns.

  20. Superfluous Man

    JD “Hmmmmm. I’ll keep this in my head when I call Olson. Any kind of reasoning I can use is worth having.”

    Maybe you can just provide the opportunity, when running a DA press release, for the defense attorney(s) involved in the case to contact the Democrat to discuss their take on the trial (although I’m sure they know they can, perhaps this would encourage them to do so). In other words, attach to the press release an open invitation for the defense to provide the public with what happened from their point of view. As we know the defense attorneys often drastically disagree with the prosecution and their characterization of the case in the releases. Of course Ms. Olson would have to approve this.

    Maybe you can just send the press release to the PD posing the question, “what do you think, care to weigh in?” Have an intern there to attempt to contact the defense when you receive a press release. Pretty simple?

    The PD doesn’t want to come off as chastising the prosecution (that would not benefit her office), so I think it should be viewed as telling their side of the story. Consequently, the reader gets both sides and can decide on their own. It will also help readers assess the job one of their elected officials is doing.

    JD “You’re in the right on this as far as my idealistic self is concerned, but ideals don’t always survive reality.”

    That sure is true, but their’s is always the option to not settle for anything less…ideally.

    JD “I believe he graduated at least three decades ago, so his rules come froma different era. The credit can come in the form of a single attribution at the top of the story, with everything else left as submitted.”

    I get it, so technically he is properly crediting the DA’s office despite it not appearing that way at all.

    JD “You’re right on the line of students, to be sure. I’m sure they’re out there (though David here’s already stolen a few).”

    Absolutely they are and they need to build up their resumes as much a possible given the supply and demand in the industry (I assume).

    JD “You hit the nail on the head, though, about how Jim views it. He thinks not paying them cheapens their work, and that they deserve a wage of some sort just like any writer, but no money exists, etc.

    I can tell you this is exclusively Jim’s view as editor; other editors of area MNG papers happily take unpaid interns.”

    In my mind, the PD press release suggestion was just a desperate attempt to get both sides of the story, for I thought the Democrat had interns. Now that I know Smith will not hire unpaid interns I say: just bring them on already. To not do so would be (is, actually) self-defeating. I can’t make any sense of that given how understaffed and financially limited the Democrat is.

    He won’t hire unpaid interns, but he’s got no problem printing the releases w/out the govt byline, not specifically citing or crediting the source (old school style) and not being able to verify facts or contact the defense attorney? Which is worse…unpaid interns or the other stuff mentioned?

    This kills me; Smith habitually uses the “in a perfect world we would do x, y, z, but we don’t have the money or the man power to do that, so we compromise and accept the undesirable consequences…” Well, Jim, you don’t HAVE to accept it, hire bright and talented journalism students to help carry the weight around there.

    He’s like the man who constantly complains that he has no money to buy eggs for his family, all the while egg-laying hens fill the coop which is located in his backyard.

  21. JakeDorsey

    Jim’s trying to protect his own ideals in this, as well as treat reporters (and interns) with the respect he would want if he were in their shoes.

    I’m actually the complainer. Jim’s the man who’s poring through budgets, watching proposals be shot down and reporters leave after perhaps a year because he can’t pay them enough to stay. He does the hard work; I’m the “no man” who yammers on about ethics Jim sometimes doesn’t have the time or money to fully service.

    There are several times I do not agree with what he does, but he suffers through a lot of crap to keep things running, especially as de facto publisher. Were I in his shoes for as many years as he’s walked in them, I can scarcely wager how I’d turn out.

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