Monday, December 27, 2010


MY OH MY WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY: The oldest trick in the shyster book is the standard “cease and desist” letter.

So when Big Island blogger Damon Tucker emailed us over the weekend that he’d gotten one from Midland, Texas attorney Robert K. Whitt after he posted a story on December 8 quoting two co-owners of a “zip-line” company- replete with pictures of rusty cables- there saying that,

the (other) owner of The Umauma Experience (Cleo Carlile) installed substandard cable on the course and it started to fail…It has worn down from round to flat and then the tension broke the cable as it became too thin. I immediately closed down lines 1, 2, and 4. The owner will replace the cable that guests ride on, but has refused to replace the guy wires which hold the whole thing up, platforms etc.

We suggested that he

tell him to go f**k himself and take it up with the people who said it. All you did was quote them. These kinds of letters are bluffs. They don't want a lawsuit- all that would do is put the guy's quote in the mainstream media.

suggesting he send a reply to the effect that he would

"welcome a lawsuit where we can air the issue of the safety of your ziplines before the community and in the mainstream press."

The letter demanded that Damon essentially put the toothpaste back in the tube with retractions and deletions.

But while the mainstream press hasn’t picked up the story yet this morning journalist and blogger Ian Lind went to town on the story saying

Attorney Whitt also provided an official-looking “Certificate of Inspection” issued by “Zipline Canopy Creations” and signed by “Julianne Lester”, apparently certifying that the ziplines have recently passed a “safety inspection”.

According to state business registration records, Lester is the registered agent for Kauai-based Zipline Canopy Creations, which was registered to do business in August 2010, and the president of Just Live, Inc., a recreation company also based on Kauai.

Apparently safety of the unregulated zip line business is sort of like getting a “deal” at a car dealership with rotating salespersons playing the part “manager” for the others to give the illusion of a discount- in this case zipline companies signing “Certificates of Inspection" for each other.

Ian also noted that

(a) quick search yesterday left me with the impression that zipline engineering and safety are largely unregulated by the state or counties, beyond the need to get routine building permits, so the status of this “certificate of inspection” is seems questionable.

And it didn’t end there.

After Ian’s post Disappeared News’ Larry Geller picked up the ball and ran with it regarding how these ziplines

cry out for regulatory control. Anything with allegedly rusty cables that could be described by Wikipedia as a “death slide” ought to catch the interest of state or local government you’d think.

Larry also noted that

Damon and Ian have provided a public service by posting information on their findings. At least those who Google for information on ziplines in Hawaii will possibly hit one of the articles.

But more important than those who google “ziplines in Hawai`i” might be those who google “The Umauma Experience” or “Midland, Texas attorney Robert K. Whitt.”

Now they’ll get at least four “hits.”

With the advent of “bloggers” the question is whether, when they engage in the act of reporting, they are de facto journalists. While many of the more stogy practitioners may argue for all sorts of self-serving and exclusionary rules for what a journalist is or isn’t, there’s still “no license required. ”

In fact, after much debate our own Hawai`i state reporters’ “shield law” essentially defines a reporter by the act of reporting- something bloggers do every day whether, like Ian they consider themselves journalists or, like Damon and Larry, not.

In this case Damon simply reported on the situation, citing and naming his source. Whether or not “The Umauma Experience” is actually safe or not his report is true in that the story is that two co-owners are alleging they are not safe.

And in libel cases, truth is the ultimate defense.

But to compound the report, rather than try to show that his operation is safe, Carlile chose to try to put the Genie back into the bottle and squelch the information, leading people to believe that, despite the industry’s claims, safety may not be their primary concern.

Not only that but, should they proceed with the lawsuit it will the become open season for the corporate press whose lawyers normally have their hair on fire over reporting anything of this nature unless and until a suit is filed.

The two-fold lesson here is that 1) the best way to make sure that information you wish would just “go away” gets out to a wider audience than the original report could is to try to squelch it and 2) if you file a lawsuit, even more people will know of the claim and even of you win, all people will remember is the allegation.

The other lesson may be that, even if you’re from Texas, don’t mess with Hawai`i bloggers.


Eleanor said...

I LIKE that. Even if you are from Texas....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the support!

I got some Texas friends that are sure to give me some shat for this!

Unknown said...

If you were to check with the Hawaii County Planning Department you will find that not even a building permit is required for a zipline on agricultural lands. They are totally unregulated and not overseen by any department in this County.

Unknown said...

The County of Kauai and State of Hawaii should be held liable and responsible if any bad incident happened just like the Pluegher Dam that killed all those people. You listening Planning dept???

Good Stuff Andy, Keep up the good work.