Sunday, February 10, 2008

That was shocking. Yawn.

After consistently burying the Yarmulke story on Pat Lykos, it should be of little to no surprise that Alan Bernstein and his crew at the Chronicle would endorse the career politician in today's editorial section.

Now, I'm not stupid enough to have thought that Kelly Siegler was ever going to get the endorsement from this wildly liberal editorial board (remember that the Editor is married to ferocious anti-death penalty advocate Katherine Kase), but Lykos over Leitner?!?!?

I just don't get the love affair that Bernstein and Crew are having with Lykos at the moment.

Back in 2000, when Chuck Rosenthal was running against Mike Stafford, Pat Lykos, and Jim Leitner, the Chronicle endorsed Leitner. Fast forward 8 years, and again you have Leitner and Lykos in the same race.

What's happened in the past 8 years, Chronicle that made you change your mind?

I think that Jim has continued trying cases out the wazoo (thus, gaining even more trial experience and knowledge of how things work in the CJC).

Lykos, on the other hand, has been sitting over in Ed Emmett's Office gathering bureaucratic dust. True, she goes and sits as a visiting judge one day of the month in other counties (NOTE: No sitting criminal District or County Court Judge in Harris County will have her sit for them anymore).

But other than that, where did Lykos "make up the ground" that Leitner had on her in 2008? It certainly wasn't through additional experience within the Criminal Justice System.

The only skill that she's polished in the past eight years is political pandering.

16 comments:

Ron in Houston said...

AHCL

I'm not as anti-Chronicle as you, but this one really makes me wonder about those guys.

If they really talked to people that have experienced the insanity that is a courtroom ruled by Pat Lykos, there's no way they'd have ever made that recommendation.

Man, but she must be good at planting those lips on the right arses.

Kevin Whited said...

It's simple.

They're projecting onto Lykos their own preferences for a "kinder, gentler" DA's office. And hey, if it comes about through her bumbling, well, they don't much like the office anyway.

One hopes that voters aren't so much interested in a "kinder, gentler" DA's office (or a bumbling one), but instead hope to have an effective DA's office headed by a DA who doesn't have a problem of inappropriate relationships with subordinates or the email issues.

Getting bad guys off the streets takes more than feel-good bromides, even if that's enough to win over an editorial page nobody really reads anyway.

Bernstein's probably going to come whack you with the supposed "firewall" between news and editorial, although the Chron's "firewall" when it comes to promoting/dissing certain causes and/or personalities is not always robust (see as the terribly flawed DeLay poll, the Chron Eye for the Death Row Killer Guy series, and of course the infamous light rail memo).

Some newspapers might not try to influence opinion in the way stories are reported, but the Chron? Their "firewall" doesn't always seem so fireproot.

newsdad00 said...

I took a look at your blog just now figuring there'd be some kind of denunciation of the Chronicle editorial board's endorsement in the DA's race. And yes, there it is, full of all kinds of effluvia and misunderstanding. I'll leave you to your choice of eau de toilette and address the latter, which is partly the newspaper industry's fault. I repeat, your gross misunderstanding of what an endorsement is is partly the newspaper industry's fault. In general, newspapers deliver a single product everyday wrapped in the same paper bag (or dot.com) without the best explanation of the differences in content and intent inside. Actually if you click on the opinions page of chron.com you can read bios of each of the eight members of the editorial board, and you can also notice who is not on the editorial board. I'm not. In fact, no reporter is. No columnists, either. Still, more explanation is needed.

As indicated in a story I wrote on what the four DA candidates said during their visit to the editorial board, I attended the session to see if there would be news. Often the setting/format leads to statements that have not been made before. And this frank, on-the-record session was quite productive in that regard. But aside from reporters attending the group interviews, we are not asked by the editorial board for our opinions about who should be endorsed or not endorsed. Reporters do not offer any opinions either, before during or after the candidates visited. I do not know when the board met to decide who would be endorsed. I do not know how they arrived at their decision. And I do not care. I did not know who would be endorsed and what day the endorsement would be published. I found out when you did, by reading it in the paper.

Now, if Brian Rogers and I know more about these candidates than anyone else in the Chronicle building (and by the way the newsroom is on the 5th floor, the editorial board is on the 9th floor, for a reason, so aim your blow darts accordingly) why don't we get asked? Why don't we get to participate in the decision?

Because it wouldn't be fair, it wouldn't be right. I cover these candidates straight up. It would undermine any credibility you might think I have left if I am supposed to give them fair coverage while helping to shape an endorsement decision. Plus, to do so would require me to have such an opinion in the first place, and my small brain currently is too crowded to have one. Nor does the editorial board try to shape my thinking about how to cover the race, and the lack of any dialogue helps keep it that way. Also, anyone who thinks that a reporter reads an endorsement and then takes that as an instruction on how to cover the race is not guilty by reason of insanity. That's just not the mindset of we contrarians. Unless of course every ADA looks at the DA's behavior and decides to model it 100 percent! If anyone on the editorial board told me to bend a story to conform with an endorsement I would tell them to transport themselves unto a hotter place than Houston in August.

Lisa Falkenberg and Rick Casey attended that candidate interview session just like I did, to look and listen for material. Thanks to Jeff Cohen for making it a policy that we can attend. But columnists are a third species of animal in this menagerie. They do not speak (write) on behalf of the paper. (And they don't make their own endorsements of candidates, if you'll notice). But they do have a license in their columns to express opinions about the news. I don't. Even though their work product and mine sometimes appear on the same page!?!

Why do newspapers endorse, at the risk of confusing readers about the difference between opinion and reporting? Tradition, partly. Also because, I guess, they figure they have more resources and time to examine the candidates than the average Joe-sephine to evaluate the candidates and the facts and therefore can do readers a favor by helping complete their homework, if you will. But you'd have to ask the editorial board for their reasons for making endorsements in the first place.

If you don't agree with an endorsement, you can start a blog and make your own endorsement. Oh, you already started a blog? And you can write a letter to the editor. (Do I decide which letters get printed about stories I write or about editorials about races I cover? Of course not).

Sorry to have taken up so much electronic space.

-- Bernstein (alan.bernstein@chron.com)

Kevin Whited said...

Eh, my apologies for the typos. That's "fireproof" not fireproot (huh?), and there's an extra "as" in the graf above. Sorry!

anonymous c said...

Kevin Whited, very well said.

Mr. Bernstein, okay fine. You've explained that you have no say in who the Chronicle endorses.

But that still doesn't excuse your biased "news" about the candidates, nor does it explain your burying of the Yarmulke story. Why are you burying it?

And I know that it was Falkenberg who wrote the story, but, if you know, could you please tell me why the paper is burying Rob Freyer's written response to the Canadian incident? You realize that there IS a response out there, don't you?

Is it because said response adequately and reasonably explains his intent? Is that why your paper is burying it?

I'm honestly curious. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Boy, Can you say guilty concious. At least we now know that A. B. has one buried deep in the back of his body- but not much of one. Does he really think we are that naive? C'mon A.B., spare yourself the time and energy responding. You write a favorable editorial on P.L. and downplay J.L. and blast K.S. While your articles are typically geared toward people who fell of the turnip truck, we haven't. Your response reeks of of guilt. You mention what K.S. said 20 years ago, I read this blog and researched the P.L. jewish issue and in fact it is true... What do you call a woman that is paid for sex?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Ah, Mr. Bernstein. You're so sexy when you're angry.

So, you don't like or appreciate it when the work you do gets diminished because of the actions of your Bosses? Congratulations, you now have something in common with about 250 Assistant District Attorneys.

What I don't get is how you seem to think that you are somehow isolated from the opinions of the Editorial Board. You and Mr. Rogers (Brian, not Fred), are the "eyes and ears" of the Chronicle at the CJC, how can you disavow what the "brain" (Editorial Board) is thinking.

In the course of our tempestuous relationship with each other, I have urged you on at least three occasions to be fair and point out the Yarmulke story, and you have side-stepped that issue EVERY time. Also, I'm also aware that there was an e-mail written by Rob Freyer explaining his use of the term "Canadian" that the media is also sitting on. (HINT: It was found during an open records request on Mike Trent, in case you missed it).

You can't sit on stories like that and then claim that you aren't responsible for the Chronicle's over all opinions of the District Attorneys Office.

Anonymous said...

What is the email? When was it written?

The Phantom Bureaucrat said...

I'm not anti-Chronicle but I recognize that the newspaper has a completely different target audience than what is seen here. As pointed out by Mr. Bernstein;
"Why do newspapers endorse, at the risk of confusing readers about the difference between opinion and reporting? Tradition, partly. Also because, I guess, they figure they have more resources and time to examine the candidates than the average Joe-sephine to evaluate the candidates and the facts and therefore can do readers a favor by helping complete their homework, if you will." My take on the comment is that even he recognizes the elitist mentality of his peers though I'd point out that he is dancing around a number of issues too.

To suggest that the editorial board, as a whole or as individuals, has to "order" him and the other "contrarians" to favor particular candidates is misleading at best. To say that the groups have no influence on each other (editors and reporters, though management is holding a smoking gun too) is to ask the hardened legal minds on this blog to accept sheer nonsense.

You cover the candidates as an outsider but do so in some depth, ignoring some stories while propping up others, while they base their decisions on what can only be less information (I'm giving A.B. credit for knowing them better, regardless of his preferences). Contrast that with those here that know many of the candidates personally, in far greater depth, as well as professionally.

How many more times will Siegler's "Jew" comment be raised in the Chronicle's articles even though it happened decades ago? How likely is it that Lykos will be afforded that same "deep pocket memory" in the still-absent Yarmulke account, given that it is far more recent, includes no apology, and is certainly more damaging? If the Chronicle reporters want the benefit of the doubt when the topic of fairness arises, don't you think the points raised are valid?

And no, I don't think for a moment that any such "firewall" exists that separate the editorial staff from the reporters given the way the two act in concert so frequently (to suggest this is the result of a series of coincidences is wildly laughable).

newsdad00 said...

It is indeed coincidence rather than concert, but I knew heading into this forum that it would be hard to explain what is not transparent, as well as impossible to disprove a negative. Laugh wildly all you want; I said at the beginning of my comments to this blog essentially that I respect your right to guffaw or express an opinion, anonymously or however. And as I explained today, I did not write to defend the endorsement or to disagree with it, but to try to explain the part of the process I know about. -- "Bernstein"

A Harris County Lawyer said...

And I don't mean to be rude, Alan, but yet again, you have not address the Yarmulke issue. Do you not consider it newsworthy? Why or why not? If the answer is that you don't think that, then why was Kelly's "Jew" as a verb story newsworthy?

And are you aware of the Rob Freyer explanation e-mail from 2003?

anonymous c said...

Man, AHCL! That was truly bizarre.

It’s quite clear that he is reading these responses. What could POSSIBLY be the reason for his selective deafness to these honest questions posed to him?

Your customers are waiting, Mr. Bernstein. Just answer the simple questions.

Anonymous said...

Alan can't seem to answer the questions? Let me answer for him, no it isn't newsworthy because it isn't part of the agenda, just say it. Speaking of leaving things out....

Another example: The foreman of the Medina grand jury proclaims to be a lifer republican, why is it that A.B. failed to mention that his brother is running against Mike Stafford as a democrat? How about that, sure isn't transparent is it? Cut out the baloney A.B.-

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Somebody out to just forward this whole chain of of comments to the Houston Press, since the Chronicle isn't interested.

Maybe they would be.

And the reason I won't do it myself is that I don't want to make my IP address available. People who are more tech savvy than me can figure out who you are that way. Right, Mark?

anonymous c said...

Done.

Poly Sci Dude said...

I read AB's post a few times - and I think he's trying to say that he wouldn't endorse Pat Lykos even if his presspass depended on it. Yes?

And - maybe we should see him and his fellow reporters as the street-wise working proletariat, while the out-of-touch bourgeois on the upper floors haven't and don't want to have - a clue.

But, he can' very well say that, can he?

But, I can.

Just tell me I'm wrong, AB.