Patrick Lee, an AOL/Patch employee whose responsibilities include overseeing many of the Patches in this area, posted the following on The Tattler yesterday at around 10 AM:
Hi all: This is Patrick Lee, the Regional Editor of Patch - I am John Stephens' editor. We've looked into the claims in this story, as well as some made by commenters on our original story. We stand by Justin Chapman's reporting and story.
And then, around a half hour later, John Stephens posted something very similar to the person he reports to at Aol/Patch:
We have looked into the story and stand by the reporting of Justin Chapman. We welcome any additional comments that Tim Bittle of the HJTA may wish to add regarding this issue.
No further explanations on exactly why they have chosen to defend the erroneous reporting of Mr. Chapman, or how exactly his article in any way even glanced upon the concept of reality was forthcoming throughout the day. Apparently their approach here is to pronounce that because they said it was right, therefore it must be so.
Now this is a bit perplexing to those who still believe that news reporting should at least attempt to adhere to concepts like "facts" and "accuracy." Chapman published an article claiming that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association declared that the Prop 218 process on the water rate hike here in Sierra Madre was done properly. Yet when Tim Bittle (the guy who runs the legal shop statewide for Jarvis and is an authorized spokesman for the organization) was asked about Chapman's claim, he stated it is utter nonsense. Among other things.
This is really a cut and dried matter. One so clear that there really is not a whole lot of room for maneuver. Which is probably why Lee and Stephens have not been able to come up with any reasoned defense for Chapman's (or their) editorial boners.
A post left yesterday on The Tattler summed up what has appeared to be on many peoples' minds:
Just my two cents .... The Patch reporter spoke to a legal assistant at HJTA who provided him with information that was incomplete. The legal director of the HJTA subsequently confirmed that it was still investigating Sierra Madre's compliance with the 218 process. Indeed, the legal director went further stating that the HJTA is "interested in (the rate protesters') case for possible amicus involvement." Under these circumstances, Patch should publish a correction or clarification instead of standing by a story containing information that it now knows is false.
Apparently the Patchies don't do popular reality.
So how do you gauge the reaction people here in town have had to this controversy? As is usually the case most remained blissfully unaware. But amongst those up on the matter it would appear that the anecdotal evidence is folks are not all that appreciative of reporting that is as flawed as Mr. Chapman's. Yesterday's Tattler post on the matter attracted close to 2,000 page views and 70 comments. Which is pretty good for a small town blog. Over on The Patch site there was one sole comment, which turned out to be from an employee family member.
We have no way of knowing how many page views Chapman's article received on the SM Patch, though I suspect it was higher than most due to our generous sharing of attention with them.
But here is what I think could be the reason for Chapman's woefully inadequate reporting. When he called the Jarvis people he only spoke to an assistant. You know, the person who answers the phones for those whose opinions count. And rather than insisting that he be put through to an actual decision maker, Chapman decided instead to get the assistant's opinions on the matter instead, and then report it as official Jarvis policy.
Which is fine, assistants are allowed to have opinions. It's just in this case when Mr. Chapman made this particular assistant an official policy spokesperson for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, he made a presumptuous mistake.
Besides, wouldn't a real reporter have spoken to an actual executive at the Jarvis offices before making such bold pronouncements? You know, someone who knows what they are talking about? And if Chapman gets his reportage from assistants, why would he not also get the opinion of the security guy at the front desk? Or the guy who tidies up after the long work day is done?
Understanding Mr. Chapman
Justin Chapman, who on his Blogger profile describes himself as a journalist, novelist, poet, actor, film maker and a Virgo (which makes him sound a bit like one of the characters from the classic British TV comedy "The Young Ones"), has published blogs of his own in the past. One such blog, "Solipsistic Jouralismo," published 3 articles between Nov 18 and Dec 19. An introductory piece entitled "Croxeldiphivic" spread this uncapitalized cheer our way:
hello. welcome to my new blog, which will cover local, state, and national politics and news analysis, and anything else I find interesting, including travel writing and specific topics as medical marijuana, drug reform, poverty, and education.
Justin then takes a stab at defining the word "croxeldiphivic:"
croxeldiphivic is a made up word that is supposed to represent the relationship between the writer and the reader. it's a dedication to understanding that relationship in more unconventional ways.
This could be key in understanding exactly why Justin presented his Patch piece in the way he did. That from Mr Chapman's croxeldiphicial viewpoint the things we would normally expect in a news piece do not apply. Rather everything has to be turned upside down to meet the "unconventional" criteria of this croxeldiphical reporter's approach to the news. As an example, HJTA's strong misgivings became support for the Gang of Four's Prop 218 approach.
If you can come up with a better explanation please let me know.
Bonus Coverage: We have since found another Chapman blog called "Noospheric G-Spot." It features a banner photo of someone with a flaming Molotov cocktail in the process of throwing it at the Police.