Letters to the Editor - Untrue February 26 2004

I appreciate John Sugg’s kind words about my bringing “oomph” to local coverage (Fishwrapper, “The news that’s not news,” Feb. 19). I also appreciate his taking note of our energetic and groundbreaking coverage of DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones.

And I’m willing to take heat for my news judgment — that’s part of my job. Mr. Sugg accurately represented my view that the 10-year-old allegations against Mr. Jones failed to constitute breaking news. The main issues for me were fairness and pertinence. I’m happy if he or anyone else wants to take me to task for that judgment.

That said, I have little patience for lousy reporting.

It is untrue to write that I told Mr. Sugg or suggested to him that my bosses didn’t clue me in on discussions with Jones. I was in the discussions — thus technically eliminating the need for being clued in. Mr. Sugg never asked me one way or the other.

I don’t recall his asking me who was at the meeting between AJC editors and Jones and other DeKalb officials. If he had, I would have happily told him.

It is untrue to report that I told him I didn’t know who provided the newspaper a copy of the grand jury report. However, it would be true to report that I wouldn’t comment on the source and still won’t. The inference that I failed to consider the provenance of the report is absurd. No journalist — me included — can afford to be naive about the motives of people who provide information.

It is untrue and insulting to suggest that the newspaper made any deal affecting news coverage in exchange for the report.

It is untrue to say that the AJC “brass were feeding reporters some pieces of information, withholding others and suppressing news on sensational incidents.” I’m not altogether sure what he is asserting here. If he is referring to the grand jury report, I personally faxed the full grand jury report to our reporters in the DeKalb bureau without extraordinary comment, instructions or anything else. There was nothing else to it. The reporters — without additional instruction or information from their editors — wrote the story as they saw fit. It was edited unremarkably.

It is untrue to say I wasn’t privy to internal discussions related to the grand jury report. It is a damnable lie to suggest that we assign reporters with even the faintest concern about what public officials think about our coverage.

It is also untrue to suggest that I have opposed any effort by our reporters to report on the allegations about Jones’ behavior.

Sugg ignored my explanation about the accounting on the overtime costs, apparently because my explanation was inconvenient.

While he noted with some suspicion that the top two editors didn’t respond to his e-mailed question about whether we had concerns about being perceived as attacking black public officials, he (inexplicably!) didn’t ask me that question. I would have been happy to answer.

And he takes ME to task on matters of journalism?

I will look for your otherwise entertaining little newspaper to address these craven acts.

--Bert Roughton, metro editor,

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

John Sugg replies: During his interview with our little newspaper, I understood Bert Roughton to say he didn’t know the source of the report. It’s conceivable that I misunderstood him.

I did ask who met with Jones. Roughton wouldn’t tell me.

It most certainly is true to say the AJC “brass were feeding reporters some pieces of information, withholding others and suppressing news on sensational incidents.” The grand jury report was given to reporters, but the origin of the report wasn’t revealed to them. And despite knowing of it for several months, the AJC only reported on the alleged gun incident after WSB/Channel 2 broke the news; the newspaper still hasn’t reported on the two Georgia World Congress Center altercations involving Jones.

It’s a bit disingenuous for Roughton to say I didn’t ask him about concerns at the AJC about getting a reputation for attacking black officials. He concedes that I discussed the question with him; as the newspaper’s spokesman on the story, he certainly could have taken the opportunity to respond.

br>?Mr. CEO
Thank you for having the courage and professional integrity to write Fishwrapper, “The news that’s not news,” Feb. 19. Colin Campbell is the only AJC writer who has written honestly about Mr. CEO’s antics. However, the gobbling up of our independent media is one of the most scary stories today and the implications are the stuff of nightmares.

-- Jan Selman, Decatur

br>?Antithesis of beliefs
There is one point overlooked in all of the correspondence regarding Ken Edelstein’s piece on Neal Boortz, and it is actually more important than any debate over whether talk radio should be a medium for reporting facts or expressing opinions (Going Postal, Feb. 19).

In discussing Boortz’s allegations of a link between MoveOn.org and the Communist Party, Mr. Edelstein sarcastically refers to the possibility as a “horror!” Whether Boortz’s claim is true or a complete falsehood, the tendency of American liberals to dismiss the dangers of communism is an unfortunately common sign of where this nation is headed, with far greater implications than any perceived factual inaccuracies in an admittedly opinion-based radio broadcast.

In all its various failed incarnations around the globe, communism has invariably resulted in oppression and tyranny, regardless of the good intentions at its inception. A publication such as CL, which is at its most effective when questioning those in power, would be the first to go under a communist regime. Sounds like a true horror to me.

Communism is not simply an alternative political and belief system. It is the antithesis of everything America stands for. Individual achievement and responsibility are inherent to the success of democracy, and communism values exactly the opposite.

-- Tom Harvey, Marietta