Saturday, March 1, 2008

Why the Chronicle is a bunch of B.S.

Earlier this week, I laughed out loud while reading this post from http://www.lonestartimes.com/. It seems that the writers over there have about as much respect for the Chronicle as I do. They also find it as wildly amusing that such a ridiculous newspaper could somehow earn its editor, Jeff Cohen, an award.

Now, we've discussed the issue of liberalism in the media and "liberal arts" education before, and I've got no problem with the idea of "liberalism" in a news entity. Editors and writers of newspapers are just as entitled to their opinions as the rest of them. And they are more than welcome to express their opinions often and loudly. I think its great that newspapers endorse candidates (even though I usually disagree with them).

I think it's great if they want to write opinion columns opposing every issue I personally believe in on a daily basis. Hell, it's a free country.

I just ask that you try to maintain some semblance of credibility and keep your opinions designated as opinions, and still report the NEWS when it happens. Your omissions are just as bad (if not worse) than your characterizations in news pieces.

Obviously, I'm still pretty fired up about Alan Bernstein still not reporting Yale Professor Gil Fried's experience with Pat Lykos (I will be back to you, in a minute, Alan), but the Chronicle's B.S. goes much farther than that.

It goes up to Jeff Cohen, the Editor of the Chronicle (or maybe we should call him the Chuck Rosenthal of the Chronicle, to give the folks at home a little perspective). Jeff is married to anti-death penalty advocate Katherine Kase. Katherine is to the death penalty what the Terminator is to Sarah Connor -- that is, continuously trying to eradicate it, and failing.

Obviously, I'm pro-death penalty, but I have a healthy respect for those who aren't. Although I don't agree with those who wish to abolish the death penalty, I at least understand their argument. But Katherine Kase is a lot more credible to me than her husband. She makes no bones about her feelings and fights against the death penalty in the legal field. Her husband, on the other hand, buries stories that don't suit his and his wife's agenda.

Want some examples? Andrea Yates is a household name, right?

Can you tell me who Elijah Joubert is? How about Dexter Johnson? Antonio Williams?

They were Defendants who were charged with capital murder because they each killed multiple people and were sent to death row. Joubert killed an check cashing clerk, as well as the police officer trying to save her. Johnson robbed, raped, and murdered a girl and killed her boyfriend for good measure. Williams killed five people in several incidents over the summer of 2006.

Haven't heard of them? That's because the Chronicle didn't pay much attention to those cases when they all got sentenced to death. Why? Because heaven forbid that you picked up the newspaper, read about what they did, and said "Thank goodness for the death penalty!"

If Cohen wants to write about the death penalty being unfair and immoral in his opinion pages, go for it. But hiding stories like that to help your agenda is just, well, chickenshit.

Now, back to you, Dear Alan Bernstein.

You and I have been going round and round about the yarmulke story for weeks now. Quite frankly, I'm just confused as hell as why you 1) don't run the story; or 2) just give a brief explanation in the comments as to why not. I'm confused as to why, when Anon C wrote on your blog at the Chronicle, that you elected to hunt down her real identity and e-mail her at work to let her know you knew who she was.

Kelly Siegler has put, what, like 18 people on death row? It's no wonder that your boss hates her. It's no wonder that he wants anybody but Kelly Siegler to be the District Attorney. It's no wonder that Jeff Cohen would have you dig up a story on Kelly from the 1980s when she used the word "Jew" as a verb. It's no wonder that Cohen would want to make Kelly look as bad as possible.

But you're a journalist, Alan, and you know what's a story and what's not a story. Are you just following orders? Hmm, maybe you are having just as much trouble getting through to your "Chuck Rosenthal" as the ADAs were having getting through to theirs. (NOTE: I totally stole this analogy from pro. victims' comments at Ron's blog).

You know that running the story on Kelly and then not on Lykos is chickenshit. You know that your editor is trying to sandbag her by tying her as closely as a newspaper can to Chuck Rosenthal.

You know that this wasn't why you became a journalist.

So, Alan, to paraphrase The Silence of the Lambs, are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself, and explain to us folks at home your actions and the actions of the paper? Come on man, you've been an employee there for at least 28 years, so you must be part of Jeff's "inner-circle". Can you explain why we shouldn't just attribute all of the paper's bad actions (and bad writing) to you?

NOTE: I have no expectation whatsoever that anyone from the Chronicle will respond to this article.

27 comments:

hcresident said...

Since when do members of the press think the standards they use to judge everybody else should apply to them (anti-trust laws for a start)?

Kevin Whited said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Whited said...

Cohen's award is old news. You need to add bH to your feedreader! :)

http://www.bloghouston.net/item/6238

As for Kathryn Kase (the correct spelling) -- you are spot on. She makes regular appearances on bH!

http://www.bloghouston.net/?query=kathryn+kase&amount=0&blogid=1

Mr. Bernstein and others can give that speech about the firewall between editorial and news all they want, but I can counter with all sorts of examples that demonstrate the firewall hasn't exactly been fireproof in recent years.

PJ said...

Why aren't you asking why the Chronicle didn't cover how racism has infected the Harris County DA's office? Why it didn't publish as first page news Rob Freyer's admission that he used the word "Canadian" to describe a juror who he believed was stupid and wouldn't do his bidding?

Why isn't the Chronicle covering your blog, which reveals almost every day the depth of the depravity of the office, including voting for none other than Freyer himself as best unsung prosecutor? Why? Why? Why?

In short, be careful, you may get what you ask for: A local paper that actually covers things that matter to the average person. You know, those "one in 20 adult Texans currently ... under either institutional or community supervision of the criminal justice system." (And that's just currently; it does not include those who have been under such "supervision" in the past or who will be in the future. That should knock it down to about 1 in 4 or 5 or so.)

AHCL, don't you want to fight for freedom? And shed your vulgar Republicanism? There's a whole world out here! And we can make it better!

hcresident said...

The Chronicle hasn't covered it? I think they have covered it to the point that they have painted everyone that works in the courthouse with one huge brush. Depth of depravity? A story runs on a couple of people and The Chron would have you believe that all 250 prosecutors are monolithic. My limited contact with the staff at the DA's Office would lead me to believe that there as many democrats as repulicans working there. Should the staff have to wear a scarlet letter D or R to show their political thoughts? The fact remains that The Chronicle doesn't report the cases that may hurt their deeply held opposition to the death penalty.

Here is a thought. If you believe that too many people are becoming criminals, figure out how to change the criminal behavior not the laws. The fact that people like PJ support Leitner is the very reason he will never win.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

PJ,
You continue to post about things that you don't seem to understand, and you target Rob Freyer without knowing him. I'm tired of it.
You clearly don't know the people involved with the CJC, and yet you blast them.
You are welcome to come back if you want to talk rationally about real issues, but you're done posting on my blog about Rob and the "depravity of the office".
Extreme views like yours don't help anybody with anything, because nobody can listen to anything you say seriously.
Feel free to go blast me on other blogs, but you're done here.
Sorry.

PJ said...

Oh, no problem, AHCL. If I had known you were a petty tyrant, I wouldn't have ever bothered in the first place. I'll gladly take my verbal uprising elsewhere.

anonymous c said...

I can say with complete and utter confidence that you are not even one sixteenth of the heroic and good human being that Rob Freyer and AHCL are, PJ.

Good effin’ riddance to you! Go falsely indict “elsewhere”.


And Bernstein responds...

Subject: "The Trial" would make good reading in English 3
Date: 3/1/2008 11:57:42 PM Central Standard Time
From: Alan.Bernstein@chron.com
To: (deleted by me)

"So," called out K, throwing his arms in the air as if this sudden realisation needed more room, "all of you are working for this organisation, I see now that you are all the very bunch of cheats and liars I've just been speaking about, you've all pressed yourselves in here in order to listen in and snoop on me, you gave the impression of having formed into factions, one of you even applauded me to test me out, and you wanted to learn how to trap an innocent man! Well, I hope you haven't come here for nothing, I hope you've either had some fun from someone who expected you to defend his innocence or else - let go of me or I'll hit you," shouted K. to a quivery old man who had pressed himself especially close to him - "or else that you've actually learned something. And so I wish you good luck in your trade." He briskly took his hat from where it lay on the edge of the table and, surrounded by a silence caused perhaps by the completeness of their surprise, pushed his way to the exit. However, the examining judge seems to have moved even more quickly than K., as he was waiting for him at the doorway. "One moment," he said. K. stood where he was, but looked at the door with his hand already on its handle rather than at the judge. "I merely wanted to draw your attention, " said the judge, "to something you seem not yet to be aware of: today, you have robbed yourself of the advantages that a hearing of this sort always gives to someone who is under arrest." K. laughed towards the door. "You bunch of louts," he called, "you can keep all your hearings as a present from me," then opened the door and hurried down the steps. Behind him, the noise of the assembly rose as it became lively once more and probably began to discuss these events as if making a scientific study of them.


Alan Bernstein
Houston Chronicle
713-362-7560
alan.bernstein@chron.com

Patrick said...

This is Patrick Brendel from the Chronicle's DC Bureau.

Just wanted to make a reply to thwart your expectations.


:)

A Harris County Lawyer said...

PJ,
I guess I am a petty tyrant, but I've just had enough. If you want to rationally discuss things, please come back.

Anon C,
Bernstein tends to write by analogy when I hurt his feelings. I find it strange that he replies to you rather than post here in the comments. I'm not real sure what his analogy means this time. It could mean several things. I can't figure if he imagines himself as "K", or me as "K". If I'm the K character, I suppose he's telling me that he's mad and won't ever print the DA side of the story again. Darn, and he'd been giving us such a fair shake lately. If he's K, I guess he's saying that we don't give him a fair shot. Who knows?

Patrick,
That's hysterical. You got me. I'm officially lobbying for you to become editor of the Chronicle.

anonymous c said...

I fear that, in your attempts to draw an analogy between yourself and Josef K., you have inadvertently revealed your delusions of grandeur.

You are no Josef K., Mr. Bernstein. Nor are you even remotely Kafkaesque.

K., an arrogant, pompous and morally ambiguous man to begin with, was arrested and “tried” based on no evidence (at least none shown to the reader).

You, however, are being neither arrested nor tried. You are being asked some very honest, simple questions in a free society and, quite frankly, the questions are extremely legitimate ones.

If you don’t want to answer for your deliberate disregarding of what is obviously news and for your occasionally shady behavior, then don’t.

But please spare us your feeble attempts to cloak yourself as “the tragic victim”.

The melodrama! Geez!

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Kevin,
I hate to sound like a dumb ass, but what's a feed reader?

anonymous c said...

Sorry, AHCL!

I responded before realizing that you had.

Yes, I'm also mystified about why he'll no longer type up here like the rest of us.

Good times!

Ron in Houston said...

AHCL

A "feed reader" takes the RSS feeds from blogs and combines them in one place.

I don't use a feed reader, but use the feed reader feature of Mozilla Firefox to subscribe to your blog.

So,I can tell whenever you make a new post because Firefox periodically checks the RSS feed of your site.

Ron in Houston said...

anon c

Prosecuting criminals does not make one heroic nor good. It just creates a delusion that you really are that way.

Just ask Chuck.

anonymous c said...

Ron,

I don’t believe that I gave a reason for my opinion that they are heroic and good.

I simply stated that I know (in Rob’s case) or presume (in AHCL’s case) them to be good and heroic human beings.

But haven’t we discussed the perceived heroism of prosecutors (in my case) or the perceived lack thereof (in your case) ad infinitum around here?

I believe that the ADAs, collectively, are true heroes in this society. I do.

They are not social workers, teachers, rehabilitators or priests. They are prosecutors.

The onus is on others, Ron, to change society, steer teenagers down a different path, offer counseling or provide absolution.

It is when we, very sadly, fail at our efforts that they are there to do the important work of cleaning up the societal mess by providing Justice and they do it well.

I believe that the ADAs are definitely under-paid, certainly unappreciated and absolutely fighting on the right side of things.

There is simply nothing that you can ever say to change my mind.

Can’t we just leave it at that?

Ron in Houston said...

anon c

I'm not saying that ADA's don't do some heroic acts. However, doing something heroic does not make one a hero. Example A being Chuck Rosenthal.

However, the idea that one is a "hero" is a dangerous idea. You basically told PJ that Rob Freyer was heroic and good and that PJ wasn't near that high and mighty standard.

You are tasked with putting people in jail. You put away some really bad dudes, and you also put away some people that are just unlucky enough to have a drug problem. That doesn't make you some heroic master race. The very idea that you are some heroic master race is just the thinking that lead to the holocaust.

anonymous c said...

“Heroic master race”? “The Holocaust”? Oh, lord!

Look, Ron. I feel like I’ve already taken up far too much of the comment space on AHCL’s post.

I’m embarrassed about that, as it is, because there are so many more real, important and excruciatingly pressing issues going on right now than anonymous me and my lil’ ol’, albeit deeply heartfelt, opinions.

Please just see all of my previous comments about this issue.

Besides, I need to get to the gym. :-)

Ron in Houston said...

Anon C

Granted a little hyperbole, but the point is to get you a little uncomfortable with your world view.

You want to say that Chuck is Chuck and the rest of the office is not him, but your mode of thinking is no different that his.

And that is why people don't trust your office.

anonymous c said...

Sigh.

You’re making some pretty wild leaps in your logic, my friend. Your argument is a moving target. Exactly what are we talking about here?

First of all, I am not an ADA, nor do I work in the office. Therefore, it is not "my" office.

What I am saying is that I believe the ADAs to be heroes. And I still say that with complete and utter certitude. That is my belief and, last time I checked, I was entitled to it.

Yes, it’s quite true that they surely have flaws, just as we all do. But, as the old Chinese proverb says, “A diamond with a flaw is better than a common stone that is perfect”.

We are all fallen creatures and, as a result, each one of us is riddled with flaws of varying degrees.

Still, one can most certainly be heroic without being perfect. If that were not the case, we’d have no heroes at all, would we?

Now, to PJ…I took great umbrage at her flagrant, careless and baseless attacks on a man that she doesn’t know. In fact, I took great umbrage at most of the things that she typed up here. We disagree. Is that okay with you?

Now (inexplicably) to Chuck…he has been heroic and he has flaws. I don’t know much more than that about him.

What I do know is that his flaws have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the ADAs. They should, each and every one of them, be judged on their own track records and on their own merits…just as you and I should be. It would be unfair and illogical to do otherwise.

The ADAs, in my book, are not heroes because of Chuck, but in spite of Chuck.

The Phantom Bureaucrat said...

Ron, many people consider prosecutors to be heroes or heroic because they are fighting the good fight, for pay far below what they would make defending criminals, while serving as advocates for the collective good. I know there are a lot of buzz words in that one but that is the general perception that I've had over the years. The same dynamic applies to firemen, policemen, and a variety of other career paths that most of us do not select, most people acknowledging that no group is free from corrupting influences.

Rosenthal was far from perfect but he did a lot of good over the years too. Most ADA's in Harris County that I have come across have been decent people and painting a group for the failings of an individual is indicative of a weak mind all too ready to ignore the realities of modern day employment. Rosenthal sending a few jokes that a handful of people found offensive was in bad taste but hardly grounds for calling him racist or sexist, never mind then applying that standard to the rest of the office.

As far as public trust is concerned, consider that the majority of the public do not trust lawyers or the legal system at all, ranking most of those involved in it somewhere slightly above used car salesmen, bill collectors, and politicians. The perception is largely faulty but it is there nonetheless. I venture to say that if you asked most voters EXACTLY what Rosenthal did wrong or is accused of doing wrong, you'd get answers on the same quality level as you get asking children the difference between the two political parties (to be fair, many adults aren't much better).

What one finds offensive about the Chronicle these days is that it is becoming exactly what the extremists had accused it of being for years. There is enough diversity on the staff to pay lip service to various community factions but the closer you look, the more you find the truth in the claims of bias.

Alan and his ilk can try to explain away some of the points made here (and a LOT of other places online) but either they could use some refresher courses in logic/semantics/reasoning or they really are outclassed by people like our host here on this particular blog. I don't find it surprising that some of the Chronicle staffers make veiled threats though, their frustration that people might actually pay attention to what the paper is selling has grown over the years. Is it any wonder that in a one paper town such as Houston, the Chronicle embraces a bunker mentality, some staffers thinking they are somehow "above it all" or that "the truth hurts" when they are so slavishly tied to deadlines that greatly impact the quality of their reporting (have to scoop the other news outlets after all)???

anonymous c said...

More from Bernstein...


Subject: English 3: Reading assignment #2
Date: 3/2/2008 6:59:41 PM Central Standard Time
From: Alan.Bernstein@chron.com
To: (deleted by me)

"In some cultures judges wore masks for anonymity and to prevent retribution . . . Actually, the Greek word for actor is hypocrites, leading to our English word 'hypocrite' (meaning two-faced), which isn't so surprising as narrators in Green plays changed masks so they could represent several characters."

-- Pagan's Pride; Honoring the Craft and Culture of Earth and Goddess, by M. Macha NightMare; Citadel Press, 1999

Anonymous said...

Can Someone ask Bernstein what the Greek word for "Snookems" would be?

anonymous c said...

Okay, I don't get this at all (very confused!), but here it is...

Subject: English 3: Reading assignment #2, correcting typo
Date: 3/2/2008 7:36:05 PM Central Standard Time
From: Alan.Bernstein@chron.com
To: (deleted by me)

"In some cultures judges wore masks for anonymity and to prevent retribution . . . Actually, the Greek word for actor is hypocrites, leading to our English word 'hypocrite' (meaning two-faced), which isn't so surprising as narrators in Greek plays changed masks so they could represent several characters."

-- Pagan's Pride; Honoring the Craft and Culture of Earth and Goddess, by M. Macha NightMare; Citadel Press, 1999

A Harris County Lawyer said...

I think that Bernstein believes that Anon C and I are the same person. Either that, or he's completely lost his mind.
I'm starting to think he's that "legalize weed" dude, Dean Becker.

hcresident said...

I vote for "lost his mind." In fact, I found Bernstein's posts beyond weird (do we need to do an intervention?). The only person I know that can even come close to Bernstein in bizarre e-mails is, well, Rosenthal.

Ron in Houston said...

I don't care about AB, I want to know who Anon C is.

The mystery deepens.