Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tasteless Journalism

I've had my issues with the brain trust that runs the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle over the past years.  I've disagreed with them over endorsements.  I've disagreed with them when they've published uneducated opinions on issues they failed to adequately research.

However, I have never been more floored by their lack of judgment than I was today in reading the thoughtless, insensitive, and ill-timed editorial regarding the death of Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson.  Today, on the day before Mike's funeral, the Chronicle's editorial board saw fit to write such things as:
"With his premature death from cancer at 57 last week, Anderson has been denied the opportunity of carrying out his tough, some would say harsh, prosecutorial agenda as head of the state's largest district attorney's office."
I understand if the Chronicle disagreed with some of the policies of the Anderson Administration, but is a critical editorial really appropriate in the same edition as the man's obituary?

To add insult to injury during this sad time, the editors also decided to criticize Mike and his family for not choosing to share every last detail of his illness with them:
"While respecting that he was diagnosed with an illness that turned out to be terminal, we cannot help but question how he reconciled his desire for privacy against the public's right to know about an official they elected . . . Weren't county voters entitled to know a little more about the DA's personal circumstances?  We think so."
Reading that last paragraph again is infuriating beyond words.

Mike made the announcement that he had cancer many months ago.  He continued to work to the best of his ability right up until the time he died.  He also had help running the Office in the extremely capable hands of First Assistant Belinda Hill.

What more do the morons at the Chronicle feel entitled to know?  Did they want to know how chemotherapy was going?  Did they want to know how he was coming to terms with his own mortality?  Did they want to know how his family was taking the news?
"We think so."
The arrogance of those three words is mind-numbing to me.  Regardless of whether or not Mike Anderson was an elected official, some things fall unquestionably under the category of privacy.  Terminal illness is probably at the top of that category, and the author's claim that voters were "entitled to know a little more" is just whining that the paper didn't get the intrusive story that it wanted.

The editorial did get one thing correct in encouraging Governor Rick Perry to appoint Belinda Hill as interim District Attorney, but they still managed to cheapen that endorsement by basing it on her race.
"We encourage Gov. Perry to appoint former Judge Hill, an African-American with a strong background in the criminal justice system.  Doing so would be a welcome acknowledgment of the need for diversity on the prosecution side in a system where so many defendants are persons of color."
So, at this point, this farewell to an elected official and long-time public servant has turned into an appeal for diversity, which manages to insult Belinda Hill in the process.

Belinda Hill should absolutely be appointed the interim District Attorney.  She should be appointed because she was a long-time prosecutor before becoming a highly respected judge who served on the 230th District Court for years.  She should be appointed because she has helped implement the policies of the Anderson Administration and kept the Office running in its time of crisis.  She should be appointed because she has the respect of the prosecutors she supervises and the equal respect of the Harris County Defense Bar.

In his short time in office, Mike Anderson pulled the Harris County District Attorney's Office out of a downward spiral that was destroying morale across the board.  He recruited then-Judge Hill to join him as his First Assistant, and I have no doubt that he had faith in her ability to lead the Office in his absence.

These are the things that "county voters are entitled to know" and these are the things that should be remembered as we prepare to say goodbye to Mike Anderson tomorrow.

The Chronicle Editorial Board should be ashamed of what it wrote in today's paper.

It is no wonder why no individual signed his or her name to it.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you. The Chronicle Board have no sense of decency, much less just sense at all. Their vulturous skirt is certainly showing.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Perry didn't get the memo on Judge Hill because he offered the Harris County District Attorney position to Ted Poe today. Ted Poe said no thanks, but what does that mean going forward?

Anonymous said...

Apparently Perry didn't get the memo on Judge Hill because he offered the Harris County District Attorney appointment to Ted Poe earlier today. Bigger question is what does that mean going forward...

Tom Berg said...

Murray - Agree with you across the board. The Chronicle editorial was indecent and disrespectful to Mike Anderson and to Belinda Hill. The "newspaper's" lack of character permeates it's entire content - it has exchanged journalism for salaciousness

Tom Zakes said...

I'll be delivering Hipaa releases to the Chomical later today. I think we all want to know aout THEIR treatments for STDs and substance abuse.

Cheeto said...

Thanks Murray for bringing this out. I do not read the Chronicle anymore, so I have to rely on more credible resources. I am sick and tired of those who play the race card in situations like this. I believed all along that Hill would have been the most qualified to run the DA's office should Mike not be able to continue. Race never entered my mind. If these "journalists" would learn what really goes on at the CJC, they would know better than to trot diversity to the forefront in campaigning for Hill. As for Mike's health, it's none of the media's damn business! God rest his soul and be with his family.

Anonymous said...

Once again the comical shows it's ignorance. Mike had no duty to inform the public of his personal health; it's not the public's business nor their right to know. Even mentioning this shows how far the chron will stoop to "make" a story. It's been widely known for months that Brian Rogers has been trying to get information on Mike's illness and Brian was trying to trying to make a story out of it; but every DA Brian talked to told him to go to hell. It's evident Brian played a role in this editorial and I hope all DAs will say "no commen" for the rest of their careers when responding to Brian and his goons.

As to Belinda being the right person for the job - there has never been a more correct statement. However, it has nothing to do with the pigment of her skin; it has to do with her dedication to public service. Does the chron think that since she is black that suddenly things will change in the courthouse? Wait, maybe since she's black she can communicate with other blacks in a language not known by whites or Hispanics! She deserves the job for her character and experience, her color has nothing to do with it. Once again, another idiot remark by a horrible paper.

Anonymous said...

click2houston.com will have live streaming video of the service at 2pm today for those that can't make it.

Thomas Hobbes said...

You're a good man, Murray. The taxpaying public has a right to know that the office is being run properly. At a time of his choosing, the District Attorney provided the public with sufficient information about his situation and how the office would operate. The public was entitled to nothing more. Mike, however, was entitled to his privacy. Godspeed, Mike.

Anonymous said...

Tasteless and inappropriate as this editorial is on many levels:
Is it not fundamental for the voters to know if a candidate's health issues in all reasonable probability might materially impact his/her ability to perform the duties of the position sought if elected?
And once elected, is there not an implied duty to the constituents for disclosure at least to the extent as to how the health issue significantly impacts job performance.

Why keep Hospice Care a secret and lie to the public that everything is okay?

The specifics of Mike Anderson's illness may be a private family matter but how it affects the citizens of Harris County is not.

I'm sure if it was Pat Lykos' funeral today at 2:00 PM under the same circumstances your take would be different and not just for the obvious reasons.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 10:36 a.m.,
I believe that Mike Anderson shared with the public what the public was entitled to know and he then proceeded to make sure the office was in good hands.

You are entitled to think what you want about how I would have handled this if it were Pat Lykos' death we were talking about, but you are wrong.

Despite my dislike of Lykos, Leitner, Bridgwater and that crew of morons, I kept their personal business out of my writings. I even extended the same courtesy to that blithering idiot Hooper -- not that he recognizes it.

I would never celebrate the death or major illness of anyone as Hooper has so gleefully done. I would also never have taken the opportunity to write a negative editorial during the time of mourning.

Anonymous said...

Most people have so many good things to celebrate in their life, I find it sad that this is the best thing they can find to celebrate. These folks really don't deserve any courtesy - but you, Murray, are a class act!

Anonymous said...

What would it have mattered if the public knew everything? Mike Anderson would still be the elected DA, Belinda Hill would still be a leader, and the DAs office would still trudge onward. What's worse than what was written in the article is what it danced around. The audacity to insinuate that Mike knew he was terminal when he was running is outrageous.

Anonymous said...

I only use my free Chronicle to line the cat box. And from time to time to use as a placement pad for my crawfish boils!

anon 10:36 said...

A Harris County Lawyer said...
"Anon 10:36 a.m.,
I believe that Mike Anderson shared with the public what the public was entitled to know and he then proceeded to make sure the office was in good hands"

That's too Nixonian for me.

Transparency, ethics and honesty are ingrained in who you are Murray and I think the office of DA ought to share those principles as well.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful service and tribute.....rest in peace.

BI

Anonymous said...

Let us say for example that maybe Mike or you or I had a premonition/dream that we might be killed while crossing a street in downtown (maybe by a driver? Metro Bus? Rail Line?). Do we stop our lives and avoid crossing streets? Do we stop our careers? Even if someone we held credible, said this may happen, do we stop doing what we love and believe in? Do we share this fear with others? No. Our fears are no one's business but ours and our families. Maybe another trusted person/professional says we can find a way around this. What would you cling to? Hope, would be our/my answer in those circumstances? Hope. Bottom line is, if we have no hope, we have nothing. Thank you Mike, Devon, Sam, Brynn and your family, and more importantly, thank you Mike for your service and for having hope. A life well lived is to be respected and remembered. Mike, you have left with us many things, but one is a legacy of hope.

Anonymous said...

I pointed this out yesterday. I was really P.O.'ed about endorsing Belinda for diversity reasons. She's the best qualified to take over ..period. Crap like this is why I quit buying or reading the Chronicle.
Sid Crowley

Anonymous said...

Out of the deepest respect for Mike and his family, as well as Belinda Hill and the HCDAO I waited until following the memorial celebration service to post this blog.
Regarding the appointment of Mike's successor as the District Attorney the best way that Governor Perry could honor the life of Mike and his service as a public servant - prosecutor and judge - would be the appointment of Belinda Hill to the office of District Attorney. There is not a more qualified person in Harris County for this position. Patently, Mike thought so highly of Belinda that he convinced her to give up her district court bench.
As to the comments from the unnamed neanderthal editorial writer(s) at the Comical chastising Mike in death for having the audacity to fail to provide the Comical with tabloid information regarding his illness, this tasteless foray was their parting cheap shot at Mike because of his ostracism of the prior office holder with which the Comical had found favor.
Finally, as to the Comical's diversity comments vis-a-vis their support for Belinda Hill, although hardly unexpected from the race-baiters at the Comical, such reference to diversity as a qualification is insulting to Belinda Hill. Martin Luther King in his famous speech of 8/28/63 said in part: "[One should] not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character."
In conclusion I submit three truisms about the Comical and its staff:
1)If you don't read a newspaper, your're uninformed; if you read a newspaper you're misinformed. Mark Twain
2) A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy more crazy. H.L.Mencken
3) The fact that a man{woman] is a newspaper reporter is evidence of some flaw of character. Lyndon B. Johnson
The Comical demonstrates these truisms on a daily basis.
Calvin A. Hartmann

Shirley Cornelius said...

I wouldn't wipe my ass with the Chronicle.
Sorry for the crudity, Judge Bacon. There is simply no other way to convey that heartfelt sentiment.

Anonymous said...

That's the liberals for ya! It's all about them. Arrogant A-holes probably wanted to know about his terminal cancer so they could start propping up another liberal POS democrat candidate.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:48,

Hope springs eternal for many things but common sense tells me not to plan my retirement on the hope I might win the lottery.

As trial lawyers we both know there are no absolute certainties and that is not the issue. We are talking about reasonable expectations and honest transparency in government.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed when I heard about the editorial. It was crass of them to suggest that Mike Anderson had some kind of duty to give up his dignity and privacy simply because he was an elected official. To come here and read what they said about Belinda Hill was disappointing as well. She should be picked as the interim DA because Mike Anderson had enough faith in her abilities to make her his 1st assistant. That should be the end of that story. However, I believe the chances that our Governor will actually appoint her are slim and none. I hope I'm wrong on that.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to figure out the difference between the Chronicle, Hooper's blog and Jolly's blog and have decided there is no difference. None are worth reading.

Anonymous said...

To all commenting:

First, and foremost, the Chronicle was wrong in publishing their editorial; it was poorly timed and tactless because of that timing. Yet the timing does not negate the points raised. Was Mike aware that he had a terminal illness prior to or during his campaign for DA? That is a reasonable question and one that is legitimate for the city’s paper to raise. It has been as issue in other elections – President Kennedy’s for example, and has continued to be discussed when historians look back at his presidency. The public didn’t vote for nor did they elect Ms. Hill no matter how qualified she may be. Did the Republican Party and Mike Anderson put one over on the electorate? That is news, like it or not.

As for the Chronicle raising the issue of race regarding Belinda Hill, some seem to fail to recognize that race permeates EVERY discussion of the criminal justice system let alone the entire culture of America. Whether it’s the number of minorities in jails and prisons in comparison to the dominant group for similar offenses to the correlation of violence to being a young, poor, black male raised in a single-parent household race is at the forefront in any conversation about the American legal system. From earlier years of overt exclusion to various forms of systemic exclusion – kind of hard to make it to UT Law when you’re educated in the North Forest school district instead of St. John’s, Strake or Kincaid – quoting King out of context doesn’t conceal the fact being born a white male is still a advantage to achieving success in America.

Again, their timing was tasteless but the issues they raise are spot on.

Godspeed to Mike's family and friends in this time of loss.

Anonymous said...

Belinda Hill is a class act. She is intelligent, poised, approachable, understanding, and just downright amazing. I miss Mike Anderson so much. He was such an inspiration to all of us. But if there is one person who can step in and take the lead now it is Belinda. As Belinda said yesterday her guiding principle was "what would Mike do?" He would appoint her! And we would be blessed to have her, for many years to come.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 11:14,
The only time that the Chronicle is ever "spot on" is literally when the family bird craps on it.

To suggest that Mike Anderson "pulled one over" on anyone is also insulting. That was not his character. The Chronicle wanted to know what Mike knew and when, and quite frankly, it wasn't the business.

Cancer is a tricky beast filled with nothing but misery. It is also one that can leave people in limbo over their condition for large periods of time. A person who is on hiatus from their chemo or radiation treatments may feel fantastic. Its the treatments that tend to knock you on your butt.

The last time I had a conversation with Mike in person was the day he appeared in court for the murder of Bellaire PD Corporal Jimmie Norman. Mike looked fantastic and he was the acting D.A.

Whether or not he was thus undiagnosed at that point or between treatment or in an all-too-short remission, he was doing his job and he was leading from the front. For instance, I had chemotherapy three weeks ago. Yesterday, I moved a couch down two flights of stairs by myself. (Yes, I just wanted to brag about doing that.)

The point is that whatever Mike had and when, he continued to be able to do his job and do it well. He announced in May that he had cancer and he still continued to do his job.

What more do you and the Chronicle feel entitled to know, exactly?

I understand the principle of saying Belinda Hill was not the person elected in November 2012, but don't be obtuse. The choices Mike made to be his leadership team were made by him. No one expects the District Attorney to try every single case nor make every single decision.

If no one knew that Mike had been been ill at all and he hadn't been coming to work for months before just dying unexpectedly, we would be having a different conversation. But Mike disclosed his condition. The Chronicle and others would like to just speculate tastelessly that there was more to the story that they want to know.

Anonymous said...

I think the post at 11:40 p.m. (9/7/13) says all that needs to be said; however, we all are aware that lawyers do not know when to shut-up -so. Rev. King's allegedly "out of context"(sic) comment was clearly apropos. One merely need look to the troubles of the past, as well as the present, (the 3 E"s - employment, education, election) where the calculus employed in the selection process has too often been the color of skin as opposed to character of the person. Let us hope that Governor Perry employs character of the person, not color of skin or political favor, and selects Belinda as District Attorney.
To those libtards: Transparency in government, however, does exist - one need only look to the gaggle of vacuous heads in Washington and Austin.
Calvin A. Hartmann

Anonymous said...

Murray,

To state that acknowledging “that Mike Anderson may have ‘pulled one over’ is… insulting” is an ad hominem argument that doesn’t address the point raised. Nor does calling cancer a tricky beast necessarily excuse one’s conduct.

The issue is when did Mike know he had cancer and what was the prognosis at that time or any time prior to his election? And I wholeheartilly agree if a candidate was informed about having cancer AFTER he was elected the public has little to say about it unless they feel – for whatever reason, to include his illness – he should be removed from office.

But what about knowing before an election? Again, I suggest it depends. IF a candidate knew he had a form of cancer with limited chances of survival AND that it was going to prevent him from fulfilling the duties of a public office for his term, does the candidate violate any ethical issues by failing to inform the electorate of his known limitations, limitations that now allow the governor of the state to appoint his hand-picked choice (Shades of Ryan Patrick)?

Let’s take it out of the realm of politics into a defense practice. Does a potential client have the right to expect an attorney to defend him in court if the attorney agreed to do just that? If the defendant hired an attorney specifically because of their reputation in the courtroom, is it okay to shuffle off the work to another in a joint practice?

And if that client hires you for your expertise in the courtroom and you are aware that you will not be able to handle the case because of a long-term illness you may have, do you have an obligation to inform your client of your probable inability to enter the courtroom? Or do you just take the money and see how it works out?

In Mike’s case we don’t know but it is a fair question, as it is in the defense attorney’s example.

As for being obtuse, I never said it was about a District Attorney or interim District Attorneys courtroom skills. Unlike most, I don’t give a dang about how good a DA is in the courtroom in a county the size of Harris. I am concerned about their managerial and leadership skills and their ability to hire and/or train great litigators. In many cases a totally different skill set.

But back to your original mention of character. If Mike was aware he was dying of cancer prior to the election, more power to him for getting under the county’s health plan in lieu of paying for his own medical care (IF he wasn’t covered under any other decent plan), care that would have otherwise bankrupted his family’s finances. Family loyalty is high on most character lists.

Anonymous said...

Steve Jobs: true renaissance man and world class leader.
Wonder what his take would be on all this?

Anonymous said...

As is often the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle of two points of view. Let us assume that prior to his election, Mike discovered he had cancer. In the early stages, no one can be assured of the outcome or whether some treatment may cure it or at least cause it to be in remission.

Now to place this in the context of the Primary. Mike had watched Pat Lykos trash the HCDA for four years and had agreed to try to oust her and perhaps salvage what was left. If he knew he had cancer, it was nothing less than heroic that he continued the fight to defeat her in the Primary. Once that occurred, if he continued to receive a poor prognosis from Doctors, he realized he also had to keep Lloyd Oliver from being elected, as he would have been on par or worse (its debatable) than Lykos. Whatever he knew at that point, Mike soldiered on and won the election.

It is my opinion from seeing Mike and hearing him speak in that time frame that he fully believed he could fulfill his obligations to the electorate and to the office. He was obviously not terribly sick until several months AFTER assuming office. Thanks to his foresight and judgement, he chose Belinda to be his first assistant.

I agree that the public has the right to know whether a candidate is healthy enough to perform the office to which they aspire. However, in this instance, Mike was committed to raise HCDA from the ashes that it had been left it in so it might once again soar to new heights. He may or may not have been as candid about his condition, but there was ample reason to do what he did in order to put the office aright.

His sacrifice was nothing less than Marvelous!

Anonymous said...

The Machiavellian machinations become more bizarre with each submission. Now it has been suggested that a health insurance ploy was the genesis for Mike seeking election. Mike is dead. When he knew of his illness, the prognosis, and his impending death is no longer relevant, if it ever was. The masturbation of a few in continuing to harp on these issues will not bring Mike back in order that he might be confronted by them on these health matters. It is time for all to move on. Get over it! The innuendos and the implications are only hurtful - to those Mike loved - Devon and his family.
Calvin A. Hartmann

Anonymous said...

I couldn't believe my eyes when I started reading this blog today. Some of you people are so far out in left field. 1. A diagnosis of cancer does not have to be terminal. If in fact Mike was diagnosed before the election, I take off my hat and salute the man. How many people would be willing to spend all of the time it took to win the office and turn it back into a respected place to work. He gave all that he had and in this instance way more than required. When or if he realized he was terminal wouldn't one think he would have quit to spend more time with his family. Most people would have. The reality is Mike cared so very much about the people in the office and yes the office itself. They were family to him as well. He was stand up and right there to bring honor back to the office of DA. He didn't think of himself as most of us would have. He was a trooper, he cared.
I am appalled that the chronicle would write such trash and that a few followers would spread it. Your entitled to your opinion assholes, but really have you not a small amount of compassion in your heart? Karma will come calling to you black hearts out there. Believe, you will get what's coming to you!

Anonymous said...

When Holmes spoke during his last spring training as DA he spoke of two things: the Office is larger than anyone one person and that we should all strive to leave it better than when we entered. Mike (and Devon) give his most precious days - his last days- to take the Office out of the darkness. It is an example we should all admire.

Anonymous said...

Saturday, August 31, 2013: “MIKE ANDERSON”:
20 comments;
Tuesday, September 3, 2013: “PULLING TOGETHER”:
4 comments;
Thursday, September 5, 2013: “MIKE ANDERSON OBITUARY”:
2 comments;
Thursday, September 5, 2013: “TASTELESS JOURNALISM”
34 Comments

Too bad there aren’t more posts akin to the eulogy. Ones’ that step aside from taking the taunting bait and pressed on with memories from the heart. The theme of most sympathy cards read something like: “You (grieving family) can take heart in knowing your lives on in the hearts and minds of us all through MEMORIES. Let’s give it another go shall we? Murray – how about a new simple Post titled: Wednesday, September 11, 2013: “The Courthouse Remembers Mike Anderson”.
Just plug the “yellow vitriol” posts under the Tasteless Journalism post – SEPARATE THEM!

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 11:10 p.m.,

I agree with your sentiment completely, and I will try to do that later today.

Sadly, it doesn't always turn out in practice. I don't want to have to put a preemptive caveat on the front of a post saying "Only say nice things" because you would think that would be common sense in grown ups speaking about a person who has passed away.

Unfortunately, that isn't the case on blogs. Like the same mentality of people who vandalize children's playgrounds, there is something about the ability to comment anonymously online that brings out the worst in people.

Several years ago, I ran a test on the blog by just wishing everyone a good morning. I wanted to see how long it took the commenters to turn to vitriol. I think it took about two comments.

It is a sad commentary.

Anonymous said...

In the interest of balance, why not also write a post about how your other friend Kelly Siegler is trading justice for personal fame. If it's too difficult for you to write the truth you can always quote yesterday's Channel 11 and Brian Rogers on how a killer walks because Kelly Siegler talks. What a joke that TV series is turning out to be. At least there won't be a second season now.

Anonymous said...

From Today's Chronicle:
Mike Anderson's legacy

Regarding "Mike Anderson" (Page B8, Thursday), I frequently agree with the editors' positions on a number of issues. However, the decision to publish your opinions about Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson and who should replace him before he is laid to rest crosses the line.

When you opine about his involvement in the running of the DA's Office and that he had a duty to fully inform the public about his battle with cancer, you dishonor his legacy. I cannot help but question how you reconcile your desire for the public's right to know against Mike Anderson and his family's right to privacy.

In the second editorial "Foster kids" where you, appropriately, show such sympathy for the plight of overworked foster care caseworkers, your sympathy toward Mike's family seems disingenuous.

The DA's office is in very capable hands. Mike's influence could be seen in the attitudes of all of his prosecutors. And, our best DAs have never been directly involved in most of the "life-changing" decisions involving victims and criminal defendants. Fortunately, they have trusted the judgment of their extraordinary staff.

On Friday, Sept. 6, we honored the life of Mike Anderson - a great public servant, a tremendous prosecutor and respected judge who devoted almost 30 years to the administration of justice and protection of our citizens. I can already tell you what Mike's legacy will be: He has restored confidence and dignity to our DA's office.

Randy Burton, Houston


Well said.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 11:10 p.m.,

You only have to look as far Anon 8:27 a.m.'s idiotic post to see what I'm talking about.

So, 8:27 a.m., I've got some bad news for you . . .

The "killer who walks" that you reference pled to 22 years yesterday. You need to keep up.

And as for Season 2, they start filming at the end of this month.

By the way, didn't you used to post under the name of Bubba Joe Six Pack? Grow up.

Anonymous said...

You mean, "Major" Bubba Joe Six Pack, aka Sgt. Pepper?