Thursday, November 08, 2007

Is David Martin a Fair Journalist? Guess Again . . .

A few months ago, David Martin of the Pitch got scooped by the Wall Street Journal. In his embarrassment at having an out-of-town paper get a story he had missed, he decided that the story wasn't true, and wrote an article attacking the credibility of a City Councilwoman, based entirely on his unproven guesswork.

Once again, we are getting a dose of Martin's guesswork when he fails to get to the bottom of a story. According to Martin, the City Planning and Development Department allowed bidders to look at each other's qualifications before they came in for interviews on a feasibility study regarding improving the bridges over the southern edge of the downtown loop. This is apparently unusual, though, frankly, it sounds like a good idea to me. Who's going to do a better job of reference checking than a competitor? And shouldn't the submitted qualifications of someone seeking a million tax dollars be a public record?

Brushing aside most journalists' preference for openness in government transactions, though, Martin sets out to avenge this breach of back-room secrecy and find out who dared to seek this information.

But he failed. He couldn't get anyone to tell him who did it - at least not on the record.

So he accuses HNTB without proof.

Again with the guesswork instead of journalism? Martin tells us twice that it was HNTB who requested the review, but nowhere does Martin explain what leads to that conclusion. Everyone who knows anything refuses comment.

Since speculation is part of the game in Martin's version of journalism (Martinism might be a better word, since it's not really a version of what I consider journalism), I'm guessing that someone told Martin off the record that it was HNTB. I'm guessing he failed to get anyone to go on record with it. I'm guessing he dislikes someone at HNTB for God-knows what reason.

I'm guessing that David Martin was frustrated because he couldn't prove that HNTB had done anything wrong. I'm guessing he was angry enough that he wrote a story calling the company names, but utterly failing to introduce proof.

I'm guessing other journalists would have stayed on the story and uncovered proof, or simply not written it up.

Unlike Martin, though, I'm not going to present my guesswork as fact. Unlike Martin, I won't put my credibility on the line by writing something like "Well, I can tell you it was HNTB." Because, unless he or she has the proof, a journalist really shouldn't tell you anything. I'm just a blogger, but even I know "that's just weak."

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31 Comments:

Anonymous David Martin said...

Once again, Dan, the facts don’t quite square with your critique.

I did not accuse HNTB without proof. I say the company made the request to see their competitors’ RFQs because that’s what happened. The evidence? Larry Frevert’s e-mail and conversations I had with people with knowledge of events. Given the opportunity to confirm or deny, HNTB went silent.

What I speculate about is the chain of events. I wrote that section of the piece in an effort to make sense of the city’s decision to open the documents. As I learned in my reporting you find so deplorable, city officials were not compelled to make the documents available. So why did they? I think they were trying to make level the playing field after HNTB got a glimpse of their competitors’ RFQs.

Also, you insinuate that I went after HNTB for personal reasons. Yes, I have written critically about the company in the past. But it was Councilman Russ Johnson who made an issue of the I-670 job selection process. HNTB’s request to see the other RFQs offended a competitor, Mr. Frevert, as well as others in the industry I spoke to on background. If it doesn’t bother you, fine. But to suggest that my undies became bunched for no reason is silly.

Finally, I find it ironic that my dot connecting horrifies you when you do the same. You say that I wrote the Beth Gottstein/Minuteman column because I was embarrassed about being scooped. That’s false. I don’t feel jealous about losing stories I don’t believe to be true. Besides, even if Minutemen or those sympathetic to their cause did protest outside Councilwoman Gottstein’s condo (a story a Minutemen leader denied and Ms. Gottstein refused to stand by), what makes you think that I’d be embarrassed that a Wall Street Journal reporter published the item? The tensions in the community over the Frances Semler appointment were hardly breaking news when the Journal story appeared.

I’m grateful for The Pitch’s readers. I take shots, so I should be willing to accept them. But your criticism could use a reality filter.

Thanking you in advance for the opportunity to respond,

David Martin

11/08/2007 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Where'sWaldo said...

He writes for The Pitch, which defines his level of suckery. They are arrogent assholes that will do anything to make a buck. They are the crackheads of journalism.

11/08/2007 2:40 PM  
Anonymous Viktor Komarovsky said...

Actually I went back and looked at the quote attributed to Councilwoman Gottstein in the Wall Street Journal concerning the protesters outside her apartment and she did not claim they were associated with the Minutemen.

She reported seeing a small group of "protesters." She did not attribute an affiliation to the group. The reference to the Minutemen came with regard to emails, as described by the reporter.

But did factual-truth stand in the way of David Martin's pursuit of a story he WANTED to write? No my friends -- it did not even slow him down.

Mr. Martin inquired about Minuteman protesters, which the councilwoman was correct in not "standing by." She was right in not letting Mr. Martin put words in her mouth. Yet Mr. Martin used his rhetorical trick to gin up a column that might best be called Political Erotica. Someone is going to get ....ed

Of course, just in case his rhetorical games were not enough to muddy the waters, his "interview" of the councilwoman was accompanied by a series of less-than-ethical tactics; such as, following her around with a camera person and obnoxiously taking flash photographs in hallways and in meetings, which I believe has more to do with intimidation than journalism. But that makes Mr. Martin a big man, a tough guy, I guess.

Once again, in my opinion, Mr. Martin was just playing fast and loose with the facts and presenting an alternative reality for Pitch readers to consume. I believe the whole story was a hit piece to punish critic of the Mayor, who simply opposed appointing a bigot to public office and had the nerve to say so.

Because there has been so much cross-pollination, it is hard to see where Funkhouser Public Relations Staff ends and The Pitch begins, but it really looks like there is coordination between the two groups.

It is all about intimidation. Thinking about saying something negative about the Funkhouser Administration? Be ready for The Pitch to give you the Martin Treatment -- which one can assume will include intimidation and character assassination.

11/08/2007 2:54 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

This isn't specific to Mr. Martin by any means, but I find amusing this attitude that reporters have that people are obligated to talk to them...like they are a part of the law enforcement community.

No one is obligated to talk to a reporter or even give them a reason why they won't talk to them.

Reporters don't have a "right" to know a damn thing.

11/08/2007 3:31 PM  
Anonymous SSideDem said...

Gottstein deserves everything she got on that Pitch story and more. She is tied to Michelle Lahr who took Jason and Diana Kander for a lot of money and is now in a heap of trouble for it. I think it is 10 felony counts or something close. And it was only Martin who had the guts to take up the Lahr story. Gottstein hates Jason. She has deputized her CIVIL SERVICE aide Jim Giles to run the Coffman campaign against Jason in the DEMOCRAT primary. Since David Martin is reading this I hope he looks into all of it. And I know I am going to get flamed as a Jew hater for saying anything because NO ONE can say a word about Jewess Gottstein without getting that thrown at them. Did anyone actually read what David published about his interview with Gottstein? Her thought processes are simply not coherent. And no there is not a thing wrong with Frances Semler and Gottstein was wrong to attack her.

11/08/2007 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Viktor Komarovsky said...

No one has to flame you SSideDem: you self-immolate.

PS If that "Dem" infers "Democrat" then get the hell out of my Party.

11/08/2007 6:53 PM  
Blogger sophia said...

"Jewess"

Nice. I've heard at least one anecdote suggesting that Ms. Gottstein is sensitive to anti-semitism as a source of opposition to her political career, but I've never seen anyone accused of being a "jew hater" for criticizing her. And I've seen and heard a lot of people criticize her in the presence of her supporters. So, um, thanks for that pre-emptive claiming of the jew-hater tag and proving Gottstein right in at least one case.

P.S. Actual Democrats know that it is the Democratic primary. Only right wing thugs refer to it as the DEMOCRAT party, or the DEMOCRAT primary.

11/08/2007 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Viktor Komarovsky said...

Well put Sophia. I believe the case is made for thuggery and bigotry, in my opinion.

An actual member of the DemocratIC Party salutes you.

11/08/2007 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Viktor Komarovsky said...

Now it is clear where this attack is coming from: Beth Gottstein voted against the Mayor in his attempt to reverse the public vote on light rail.

Beth hails from the 4th District, which I believe voted for the light rail plan overwhelmingly and there is no plan to replace it. No doubt it is a kooky plan, but it needed amended not purged.

It would not be unreasonable to assume that the Mayor's office would know what her position on the measure was, and now she is getting set up for the Martin Treatment.

This so-called reform mayor turns my stomach. Beth does not deserve this treatment.

11/08/2007 9:39 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

VK - regarding the conspiracy theory - you're kidding, right? You realize that Martin's horrible mishandling of the Gottstein story was months ago, don't you?

11/08/2007 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Viktor Komarovsky said...

You realize Funkhouser continues to drive this city into the ground to this very day/evening?

11/08/2007 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shhhh....don't tell sside that the Kanders are Jewish too.

Lunatic.

11/08/2007 11:38 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

VK - No, I don't. I see the city manager being brought into far better contract. I see a sensible tax abatement policy passed unanimously. I see the Sprint Center starting to shine. I see a focus throughout the city on citizen satisfaction, instead of only developer satisfaction. I see the East side getting some economic development dollars. I see the West Side welcoming the Mayor to celebrate the overwhelming passage of the tax continuation, which margin reflects a rising faith in a government which is focused on citizen satisfaction. I see the money from that tax being directed into the neighborhoods, where it always should have been.

All this, despite silly conspiracy theorists like you.

11/09/2007 5:54 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

David -

Thanks for visiting and sharing your perspective.

Where's your proof? An email from Larry Frevert? Let me help you "connect the dots" - Frevert works for a competitor. That's not proof - that's an email from a competitor. Off the record conversations are not proof - they're what a real journalist uses for background and help in finding proof.

Now, when you try to make the City look bad for providing information they may or may not have been "compelled" to give, you seem to argue that the city should engage in as much secrecy as possible. Now, David, wouldn't you agree with me that the test ought to be whether they are compelled to WITHHOLD background information on people seeking a million of our tax dollars??

You seem offended at the notion of making a level playing field. I suppose I should expect a dislike of fairness from a "journalist" who publishes guesses as fact. I dare say that the rest of us out here in little people land prefer that we know as much as possible about companies getting a million of our tax dollars, and prefer the "playing field" be as level as possible.

Regarding Gottstein, yes, you are right that I engaged in speculation about what drove you to write your ugly little hatchet job. As you can see from other comments here, other potential reasons range from being part of some mysterious Funk-Pitch conspiracy (which is simply goofy, and which those same people would certainly expect me to support), to outright anti-Semitism. In that light, my suspicion that you did it out of professional embarrassment is pretty generous, don't you think?

Now, I don't pretend to be a journalist. I'm a blogger. But you've inspired me to act like a journalist for a moment. So, here goes:

"Excuse me, Mr. Martin. I'm Dan, from Gone Mild, a local blog, and I'd like to ask you a question, if that's alright. Back in August, why did you write a story accusing Beth Gottstein of lying, when you didn't have proof?"

You'll either answer that question or not. If you do, I would probably ask follow-up questions. Now, if you don't, what should I do? Should I make up a reason, as in Martinism, or should I report the facts, as in Journalism?

11/09/2007 6:19 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

VK -

By the way, your 6:53 comment was one of the best comments ever published on this blog. Thank you.

11/09/2007 6:21 AM  
Anonymous viktor komarovsky said...

Dan, you are welcome for the 6:53 comment. I think Sophia really deserves the thanks.

I am sorry I got mad at your boy the Mayor last night. After 5 votes on the Supreme Court overturned an election in 2000, I am very sensitive about anti-democratic behavior. They overturned an election last night at City Hall.

Back to Mr. Martin, in answer to your question Dan, I do not believe he is a "fair journalist" even if you and I disagree on his motives.

I will also say that I am proud of Mr. Martin's punching bag, Beth Gottstein, for standing up in defense of how her district voted even when I am sure it would have been easier to vote with the majority. I in no way think that defending the ballot box was an endorsement of Clay's unworkable plan. Another plan should have been put in place consistent with the results of the election before the council overturned last years' election results with last night's vote.

I hope you are right Dan. I hope we do not see another negative story in The Pitch about Beth the way one showed up "a few months ago" after was critical of the Mayor's appointment of Semler in the Wall Street Journal.

Again I hope you are right but we shall see.

11/09/2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Yes, Sophia deserves a pat on the back, as well. Thank you, Sophia.

Even when I disagree with some of you, I realize that I am incredibly fortunate to have some of the most insightful and thoughtful commenters in the blogosphere. Seriously.

I've heard rumors that The Pitch is planning another hatchet job on Beth - I hope it's not true, but that's what I've heard.

11/09/2007 11:29 AM  
Anonymous David Martin said...

Unlike Ms. Gottstein, Dan, I’ll be happy to answer your question as directly as I can.

My column about Ms. Gottstein stated my suspicion that she made up the story about the protest outside her residence. I never said I had proof. I said that I thought she made the story up.

I tried to determine if the story was true. I called the management of Ms. Gottstein’s condo (no comment). I called The Wall Street Journal reporter (who said she doesn’t comment about her sources). I called Minuteman Ed Hayes (he said he had no knowledge of a protest). And, of course, I called Ms. Gottstein herself, who refused to stand by the story.

Now, you and I have been over this, but I’ll go through it again. I felt that I had enough to write a column. I felt that many readers would find my conversation with Ms. Gottstein to be revealing and entertaining. You take a different position. On this point, we’ll simply have to agree to disagree.

What frustrates me about your posts is not the criticism itself but your supporting arguments. In your criticism of the Gottstein piece, for instance, you said that I ambushed the councilwoman. This is not true. My first attempt to interview her was through a phone call – hardly a tool of ambush or intimidation. You’ve also stated that I wrote the story out of a sense of embarrassment about being scooped. Also not true.

Getting back to HNTB, I stand by my reporting. The story has been out approx. 48 hours, and no one has e-mailed or called to correct the account I gave.

I will also take issue with your silly assertion that the HNTB column came down on the side of secrecy. I wrote the piece to point out that a.) HNTB was getting a chance to profit from a mistake it had a hand in creating and b.) in its quest to get the contract, HNTB acted inappropriately in the eyes of its competitors.

Nowhere do I make an argument for closed records. What I found puzzling was the disconnect between what two city officials were saying about the records. The speculation that so mortifies you (even though it was clearly marked as such) was an attempt to make sense of the discrepancy.

D.M.

11/09/2007 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Viktor Komarovsky said...

Kind of difficult to get those unflattering photos of the Council woman that your paper ran with the column over a cell phone.

David, the truth shall set you free ...

11/09/2007 2:27 PM  
Anonymous C.J. Janovy said...

Regarding the photos: David Martin had nothing to do with them. As is a common practice, our art director sent a photographer to City Hall with an assignment to take a picture of Ms. Gottstein, a public figure at a public meeting. What you saw in the photos was her response to the photographer.

11/09/2007 3:53 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

David -

Yes, I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree about your hatchet job on Beth Gottstein. You're also disagreeing with just about everyone I know who read it, but you're entitled to your opinion.

While we're talking about Beth, though, I've heard rumors that you're planning another hatchet job on her. Is that true? In all seriousness, I find that about 20% of rumored stories ever happen, so I hope that this rumor is in the 80% category . . .

Now, back to HNTB.

First, regarding your failure of proof. I never said you were wrong, did I? In fact, I think you're probably right, but that doesn't justify sloppy reporting, does it? You appear to have relied on a competitor's accusation and some off-the-record conversations. It's been a long time since I was a high school journalist, but I'm pretty sure that's not good enough. Being right is not the only goal - being a responsible journalist is. Mr. Raterman would send you to detention for what you did.

In your article, you imply that there is something unethical or inappropriate or "weak" in seeking to see what qualifications are listed for a corporation seeking a million tax dollars. Right? Now, could you explain why that is unethical or inappropriate or "weak"?

11/09/2007 5:54 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

This is interesting. The Pitch is extremely pro-Funk, as pro-Funk as the Star was during the campaign.

Beth Gottstein was the recipient of a hit piece from Martin for two reasons: she was perceived by Martin as weak, and an easy target; secondly, she is also in the penalty box with the Funk admin (and its cadré of ex-pitch writers), and consequently in the penalty box with the Pitch, one of Funk's chief apologists.

Keep in mind Beth is the only city council person without a chair or vice chair position (or at least the last one to have one if she has had a recent appointment) and unfortunately she will never get any decent appoinments from the current mayor...

...especially after her last vote against repeal. I thought her vote on that was inspired and right on the mark.

11/09/2007 10:49 PM  
Anonymous LuckOfTheIrish said...

"I see a focus throughout the city on citizen satisfaction, instead of only developer satisfaction. I see the East side getting some economic development dollars. I see the West Side welcoming the Mayor to celebrate the overwhelming passage of the tax continuation, which margin reflects a rising faith in a government which is focused on citizen satisfaction."

Seriously Dan, I like reading your blog but man, it's sick that you continue to use your blog as a lobbying tool for this mayor. Citizen Satisfaction must have been the hot word for the PR team in this month's Save Funkhouser Meeting .

I understand the whole anti-developer thing, but come on Dan, focus on citizen satisfaction? How? I see an Eastside with crime, drugs and prostitution running wild, a Southside with the same minus prostitution, a Westside that is up in arms over this mayor supporting racists, a mayor trying to bribe the Westside with an Immigrant Office which makes about zero sense since he isn't willing to step up for them, and have heard nothing and seen no polls supporting a "rise in faith" in our government. But I have seen a rise in people wondering what the hell is going on at City Hall.

You have got to be kidding me Dan. Riding the Funkhouser train is like jumping in a car with no wheels.


Does anyone else find it funny, pathetic and weird that the David Martin and CJ Janovy are taking the time to get into a blog war? Those guys are idiots.

11/10/2007 12:26 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Lucky -

Regarding the problems in our city, you are absolutely right. They do exist, and they have existed for a long time. They will exist for a long time, too. What has people talking, what has people approving taxes at crazy-high percentages, is the direction we are headed. People in this community are excited by what Funk has accomplished, and I am, too. If all you read is Tony and a few other blogs, you wouldn't see that. If you went to a community forum or talked to people around the city, though, you'd see that the negativity of the blogosphere does not reflect reality. (Except here, of course.)

It's funny that you think "citizen satisfaction" is a PR thing. Funny in a "wow, he just doesn't get it" kind of way.

As for CJ and David, I appreciate their correction of my misunderstaning about the genesis of the pictures (actually, David had emailed me a while ago about that). Why should they not defend their work, if they believe in it? Maybe they could be arrogant enough to think my blog is irrelevant and insignificant, but it's not, and they're not. I appreciate their attention. CJ's done more for this city than any blogger I know, and David could become a good reporter if he starts focusing on facts instead of guesswork.

11/10/2007 8:17 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream -

Your conspiracy theorizing is kind of cute. Yes, we all gather together in a noise-proofed bunker under the Sprint Center every morning at 7:30 sharp. Funk, CJ, David, me, Yael, Nutter, and even Tony (he's late sometimes - the dude can never find a parking space when he needs one). There are a few others whose names cannot be mentioned. We plot out exactly who is going to publish what about whom.

Tony is on an extended undercover mission, amassing all the negatives he can, so that when he launches his "Gotta Have the Funk" campaign in the last two weeks before the next election, it will come from behind enemy lines, and disrupt everything. Brilliant! Gloria came up with that idea. We had to promise to invite him to all our family weddings, though.

Wait until you see how my plotline works out over the next few months. It's an intricate plot, involving my support of Gottstein, my support of Kander, my love of beer, and the smoking ordinance (which Funk doesn't support). I'm not allowed to publish spoilers, but keep an eye on the large billboard over Westport, okay? Oh, and black, unmarked helicopters, too.

It's frustrating that geniuses like you are able to see so clearly. We really try to disguise our work better than that. Most people just think that David Martin is an over-aggressive journalist with poor judgment and worse sources. Most people just think that I'm a middle-aged dude sitting in his living room typing on a laptop. Most people just think that the Pitch is an alternative newspaper publishing whatever interesting stories they can find, both pro and anti-Funk. Most people just think that Yael endorsed Funk in the election, but has been a pain in the ass ever since.

Only you, Mainstream, are able to see the elaborate, subtle, sinister work tying all these disparate forces together. By the time you are reading this, I suspect the black helicopters will have found you, and you will have been replaced by one of OUR agents.

11/10/2007 8:36 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

It must be hell to be a Republican in KcMo lol

11/10/2007 10:47 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Now, Dan, I didn't mention you or Yael in what I said. It's my opinion that you're not in on many legislative strategy discussions. Not that you're capable, you're just not involved.

Anyways....

I think it's a fact that the Pitch is as pro-Funk as it was during the campaign.

Do you disagree? I think that I have made a valid observation.

I also think Beth was and is perceived as anti-Funk. She is perceived to be very much in with the Alvin Brooks crowd. She supported Alvin Brooks actively for mayor. And she is perceieved to be associated with a few individuals in the developer community. Oh, and she was endorsed by Freedom, who was and still is very much opposed to Funk. That's not a value judgement, it's just an observation of reality that the black part of town doesn't get along very well with Funk. And visa versa.

Do you disgaree? Have I said anything innacurate yet?

Ok.

Now, who is the only councilperson without a committee or leadership post? Beth. Even Sharp just got an appointment to the legilative priority work.

Everybody has a chair or vice chair post except Beth.

That's a fact, do you diagree with that?

OK. I haven't said anything patently false.

So, I'll take 30 seconds and connect the dots. Connection #1: Beth is in the penalty box with the Funk Admin. Everybody knows that, so I won't even bother asking if you beleive it or not.

Connection #2: 2 ex-pitch writers work for the Funk. The Pitch is pro-funk. And the Pitch writes a hit article on Gottstein. It can be happen-chance, or it could some organized activity.

I report. You decide.

:o)

11/10/2007 3:48 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

In the first sentence I meant to say that Dan, you are certainly capable and intelligent enough to participate in legislative strategy discussions, I just didn't think you were participating in them.

I would never attempt to impune your intelligence. Your judgement? well that's another....

11/10/2007 3:53 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream -

No, the Pitch is not pro-Funk. They wrote a nasty little article on Gloria, and they certainly did their part to keep the heat on with the Semler issue. You may think they're pro-Funk, but you'll have to show me some evidence. I don't think you can.

I don't recall Beth being anti-Funk. She wisely remained quiet on that race, though I personally believe she leaned Funk's way. But I don't have proof, and you certainly have no evidence that she backed Brooks. You lose that point.

Funk is now associated with members of the development community. You lose that point.

Lots of other councilpeople were endorsed by Freedom, so, again, you lose that point.

Freedom and Funk are not at odds. They came on board with the tax. You lose that point.

So far, you're batting a thousand in the wrong category.

But you got one right - Beth has not been appointed to chair a committee. No argument here. I'll even agree with you that Beth and Mark don't have a great relationship right now. It's early in the term - they'll find their common ground eventually. They're both good people working for the good of Kansas City. They'll work it out.

But, you still haven't tied Funk to the story on Beth, simply because it isn't true. You never will. You also haven't shown bias at the Pitch.

You claim to report, but, really, that's not reporting - not even close.

11/10/2007 8:07 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

*sigh*

the only thing I can counter with at this point is rename your site:

goneblind.com

11/11/2007 12:57 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Smart-ass comments instead of refutation. Classic loser behavior.

11/11/2007 8:56 AM  

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