Annoying and inconsistent

I’ve been called a lot of things since coming to Sanford, though “annoying” is a new one. “Inconsistent,” I can’t recall, but that does sound like me.
No it doesn’t.

Those were the words used by local blogger Keith Clark (The E-Lee Dispatch) in reference to my post yesterday about the Hincks signs and the fallout. In my posting, I wrote the following:

I’m sure those who have an interest in (the signs story) have followed it through our paper, our site and through blogger Keith Clark’s site. I do believe Clark has turned this story into somewhat of a vendetta, and I hope that doesn’t cloud his judgment. It’s no secret that Clark and Kelly have had their disagreements since he started his site. But according to Clark, who I don’t believe has crossed any lines yet, the story has led to a big spike in visitors to his site. In the newspaper biz (and I guess the blog biz), that means stick with what’s working.

Note that I wrote that posting “BEFORE” Clark became the guy to officially file the complaint concerning the signs (click here, here and here to read about these signs and why they’re an issue). Clark had done considerable reporting on this issue on his site, and all I did was express concern that Clark was reporting on this because of past run-ins with Jamie Kelly. Those run-ins include, but aren’t limited to, a back-and-forth between the two regarding Kelly MarCom’s involvement in the county’s Web site and lines like “It was possible, even likely, that Jamie Kelly and cronies already had in mind to find someone to falsify a report to the Board of Elections and discredit any reports linking Kelly to the signs …” that appeared in his reporting of the sign situation.
Clark calls his reporting “more documented” with “careful analysis” than ours. Yet, his reporting does not include comments from both sides and with lines like the one mentioned above, leaves him open for criticism and potential libel. You simply don’t “imply” that the commissioner and his “cronies” had it “in their mind” to falsify a report. How do you report that somebody probably had it in their mind to do anything?
By being the one who ended up filing the complaint — and naming Jamie Kelly and others in the complaint — Clark only added credence to my claim that I thought his judgment was clouded in this (and that he possibly “crossed the line”).
I had an editor who called this “tossing rocks.” If it’s a slow news day, go out and toss a rock from a bridge on the Interstate, and you’ll have something to report.
In Clark’s case, nobody stepped up to file a complaint in the sign ordeal … so Clark, who I truly believe has the right intentions and the mindset of being taken seriously as a member of the media in Lee County, “tossed the rock” and filed the complaint himself. He then told me he would step away from the story altogether. Today’s post proves otherwise.
I would have never allowed a reporter to do what he did … but Clark runs his own site and can do whatever he feels is ethically sound. I’m not here to question his ethics … just his actions.

And just to square a few other things away ….
• Clark writes: “In an effort to be fair to other parties to the story, I elected to provide a copy of the complaint to the Sanford Herald and reluctantly agreed to an interview will Billy Liggett.” The word “reluctantly” befuddles me, only because Clark came by my office after filing the report. He even offered to do so. I didn’t have to ask him.

• The decision not to publish Clark’s column was a unanimous decision of the editorial board.

• Clark writes: “Had I not voluntarily given this story to Liggett, you, as you have done so consistently throughout this unfolding story, would have been reading in more documented detail and careful analysis about it here rather than on the front page of the local paper.”
Actually, I think I’ve already mentioned this. There goes that inconsistency on my part again. How annoying.

• Clark writes: “This story has driven the readership of my blog to records even beyond those when Jim McCormick resigned and readers found a far more measured and informed reporting of his departure here.”
Clark’s coverage of McCormick consisted of four postings. The first one came after our initial report and did nothing more than speculate. The second one, he brings up McCormick’s alleged marital misconduct without sourcing it. The third post, he points out what the Herald published and links us. And the fourth post, he writes a lengthy report on the involvement in the lawsuit against McCormick regarding … wait for it … the family of Jamie Kelly.

The reason for my post today was partly to defend myself, but also to defend The Herald. I will admit, we don’t always “get it right,” but I think our coverage of recent big events in Lee County has been admirable, if not pretty good. I felt the need to respond to what Keith wrote … not because I have anything against him and not because I feel the need to defend Kelly, Hincks or anybody else.
I’m gladly dropping the subject now, and if Keith wants to respond to my response, I of course welcome it.
The last thing I want to do is become “part of the story.”


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