What often gets described in life as Kafkaesque is more often actually like Monty Python. Case in point, yesterday’s wildly inaccurate -- is that a suitable euphemism for “bald-faced lie”? -- post at Fishbowl DC by Christine Delargy claiming that sources had told her my co-publisher, Randy Shulman, had announced to our staff in a Monday meeting that Metro Weekly was ceasing to print and going online only.
A rather surprising bit of “news” for Randy and me. It left me feeling like the old man on the cart protesting, “I’m not dead, yet.”
Delargy never called Randy or me to check out the veracity of her sources. Delargy never attempted to verify with Randy the quote she attributed to him in her “story” (the quote was fabricated, obviously). When I reached her by phone and asked why she hadn’t attempted to call us, she claimed her “source” was an employee -- more on that in a moment -- and that she had confirmed it with another “source.” Unsurprisingly, she wouldn’t identify those sources, which means that her entire story came down to taking the word of one unnamed, unidentified source and “verifying” it with another unnamed, unidentified source. As I told her, that ain’t how they teach you to do it in journalism school.
Though I think I said that with a bit more cursing.
Delargy seems to think that I have some kind of large group of employees. Besides Randy and myself, I have five. On the Monday in question, one was out of the office (he telecommutes), one was on vacation, and my administrative assistant was just starting his sixth day on the job. That leaves two employees, and I’m pretty damned confident that they weren’t spending their deadline making up imaginary meetings for Fishbowl DC.
What makes me even angrier about the whole situation is that Monday was an awful day at the office because Randy had gotten the call from his family that his father had died that morning -- any meetings we had that day were about giving our condolences and planning how to meet our impending deadlines as he planned an unexpected trip home to his family. As he was getting ready to leave on Wednesday, we were slammed with e-mails and phone calls asking what was up -- and in the case of reporters and editors from a certain other publication that ran with the story like they just got the golden ticket from the Wonka Bar, we were suddenly characterized as “denying” a story that was patently false.
I realize that one aspect of managing false stories that appear in blogs or elsewhere is to limit the number of news cycles they occupy, so my blogging about it the day after extends the controversy by a day. But while the statement we had to release yesterday conveyed the sense of our business -- namely that we’re moving on full-steam ahead as both a print and online publication, with no changes to that set-up in the foreseeable future -- it didn’t convey the sense of my anger.
That’s what blogs are for!
It is both wildly ironic and sadly pathetic that a blogger with pretensions at a journalism career writing for a major media blog in the D.C. market can’t bring herself to perform one of the most basic acts of journalism: the phone call. That Christine Delargy would rush out a baseless and potentially damaging “story” is not only sloppy-ass pseudo-journalism, it’s the type of cavalier behavior (at one point in my conversation with her, she characterized my complaints as “harping”) that gives bloggers as a whole a bad rep when it comes to things like reporting of facts. Delargy did take the story off the Fishbowl DC site -- though it's still accessible via permalink, and I ain't linking to it -- and put up a correction, but I'm not exactly in the mood to give a medal for correcting what was stupid mistake to begin with.
The bright side: When we put out our statement to all of our lists, we got a wave of responses telling they were glad we were still alive and still kicking. Things like that always give me the warm fuzzies; it’s humbling, as always, to know that the work you do is noticed and valued by your community. So, thanks once more to everyone who wrote and called yesterday.
That’s it, venting done. Let us speak of this no more. I have a paper to fill, after all.