Thursday, April 30, 2009


SPOTLESS: When it comes to blogs not all are created equal.

Though what we do is no different than the news analysis and op-ed type column we’ve been writing on and off for 25 years- except for the freedom to extend to 12-1500 words from the standard 800 limit that the newspaper “news hole” imposes- we have suddenly morphed into a blogger.

So be it. Although we often run straight PNN news it’s all in one place due to our sketchy ability to manipulate the technology beyond what the “blogger” software provides.

Not so for the oxymoronic “on-line newspaper” where their reporters can file standard stories and also post “blogs”- if they dare

Trouble is few do. Most of the hard news reporters who have tried such as KITV’s Darryl Huff quickly remove themselves from the fray after finding the opportunity to express themselves is countered by the exposure to vagaries of public discourse with readers.

Perhaps the only one who has done it successfully with any consistency is Honolulu Advertiser’s Derrick DePledge.

None can dispute the hard news value of DePledge’s blog posts. They are often the only coverage of some of the most important events of the day that eventually appear in the headlines of the Advertiser and other papers.

And therein lies the pitfall.

What at face value is a value-added feature, at times turns into a dumping ground for important stories that corporate overlording editors either don’t want to see in print or don’t see the importance of so they wind up before a handful of on-line readers instead of the thousands that their print or even regular on-line coverage reaches.

While more and more people turn to independent blogs as a source of news outside corporate control, the corporate press has apparently usurped that independence and actually used it to counter the charge that they are ignoring certain stories by relegating them to blogs like DePledge’s.

One example is the story of State Rep. Joe Bertram’s (D-Makena-Kihei) defense of a man accused of being a child predator after being caught in one of those “Dateline” style entrapments where there is no actual child involved- a police tactic Bertram called an “imaginary crime” invoking images of the Orwellian thought police.

Bertram became the target of whack job Willes Lee head of the Hawai`i Republican Party who started a radio ad and eventually a TV campaign spinning Bertram’s support of constitutional rights as being “pro child molester”.

But aside from a couple of posts here defending Bertram-electing the same accusations against us- the story was the chief province of DePledge’s blog with a couple of posts on the story as it evolved.

No one but those who perused DePledge’s “Notebook” would have known anything about the story until today when, not DePledge or the Advertiser but the Associated Press picked up the story that Lee decided for reasons unknown to “cut it out” and pull the ads, presumably due to outside pressures- an accusation upon which Lee had “no comment” according to AP.

But if that story could be excused from prime time coverage due to some kind of anti “inside baseball” rule editors often use to dismiss reporters’ stories, it has to make us wonder what the editor was thinking when he relegated DePledge’s coverage of the last minute petition campaign to revive HB 444, the civil unions bill.

Even though the activists, pushing the revival and the petition, put on a full court press on the media, the advertiser’s sum total of coverage was in DePledge’s blog and the Advertiser has yet to run a story on the subject, even after a couple of TV news stations finally relented and ran stories on the filing of the 7000-plus name petition.

DePledge has to be commended for hanging in there with his blog especially after episodes like our post the other day wondering, along with a couple of other bloggers- Poinography!’s Doug White and Kauai Eclectic’s Joan Conrow- why the scrupulously “objective” reporter apparently signed the petition

White had his comment asking about it on DePledge’s post deleted- “accidentally” according to DePledge- from the post and Conrow left a comment on our post saying “(b)etter be careful, Derrick. You wouldn't want someone ratting you out to the editors as a political activist.”.

That seeingly refers to the fact that she lost the race for the job as Advertiser Kaua`i Bureau chief after long time reporter Jan TenBruggencate retired last year when, she says, DePledge turned her in to the editor for an alleged lack of “objectivity” in covering the Superferry story for the paper after she expressed her opposition to the project in her blog.

Then when Conrow tried to post a comment on DePledge’s original post she found herself “awaiting moderation” until it was finally posted today

All that that apparently forced DePledge to put on a full court of his own to clear his name and reputation.

Sensing that it didn’t look good DePledge, after unequivocally saying he didn’t sign the petition, went to the source of the email he cited- and posted portions of along with a personalized URL that provided the petition with a “signed Derrick DePledge” at the bottom- and got an explanation for why he received a copy with his name from Alan R. Spector who organized the emailing campaign to the media and supporters.

He wrote to DePledge saying that:

I just verified all the signatures and your name is not on our petition.How did you get the URL that you posted on your Blog?the correct URL should be

You indicated a different URL (below). that one takes you to a page that auto fills out your info.

I just figured out what happened. You are entered in our database as a media contact only. On April 27, you received an email from us with a link to the petition. It was my understanding that this was going out to just "General Members" and not "media contacts". Don must have goofed when he ran the query. I noticed that it also went out to media in error. That URL is specific to your account. It makes it easy for our members to click on a link, whether it be an action alert, petition, etc, and have everything automatically filled out based on the information we have on file. In your case, just a name, email, and phone number but no address.

No other media we contacted received an email with that “error” and none of our six emails- all in the form of letters urging us to write about the petition, not press releases per se, contained anything but a “blank” form.

It’s no wonder many if not most MSM reporters refuse to blog, especially with the “appearance of impartiality” requirements of the job and the exposure to criticism reporters face if they “blog”.

“Objectivity” and “lack of bias”, while mythical, remains an imperative of the late 20th and early 21st century press. It’s always been exercise is futility and duality when juxtaposed with the first-day journalism school axiom of “news is what we say it is”.

It insults the intelligence of the reader to think that reporters and editors are either something less than human and that people cannot separate opinion from factual reporting even within a single piece or handle a first person style that is at the core of the news analysis of the now half-century of “New Journalism" originated by Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson among others.

No one with a modicum of sense reading this could confuse the opinions in preceding two paragraphs from the factual material reported above it. But somehow it is considered something less than reporting when the reporters expose their preconceptions in order to give readers an accurate prism through which to read the piece rather than try and obfuscate the biases all humans have.

The only ones who complain about the biases of the media are those whose biases are exposed and contradicted by the elements of factual reporting. But as long as the mainstream media insists they are something they can’t be, people like DePledge will come under scrutiny, not necessarily for actual bias but for the contention of the lack thereof.

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