January, 2009

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Tulsa Whorled lashes out on the way down

Friday, January 16th, 2009

The local daily fish wrapper continues to show its true nature while its spirals constrict itself into oblivion. Granted, the story by Michael Bates in this week’s Urban Tulsa Weekly is embarrassing – or at least should be.  However, according to the story about the libel suit in the daily, it is the issue of circulation numbers that prompted the suit. Never mind that a local-family-owned paper is behaving far worse than any corporate behemoth in luring people away from other jobs, just so they can be laid off in less than a year. And this has apparently happened twice in the last twelve months. Never mind that their editorial policy seems to drift back and forth from whatever BOK wants to “build anything anywhere and let the taxpayers pay for it” to “never seen a tax we didn’t like” (except a tax on advertising).

Tactically, I suppose they had to file the suit, otherwise it implies that the story is exactly correct. Whether or not it is, we may never know as these things have a way of being settled to prevent the expenses from going through the roof. In many libel actions, it’s not whether you can prove the truth of your story, it is whether you can afford to go to court in the first place to be able to prove your story.  Fear of the legal expenses in a libel action effectively squelches many stories in small town publications. I certainly applaud Bates and UTW publisher Keith Skrzypcak for going out on the limb for this.

In the Tulsa World story about the suit, World Publisher Robert E. Lorton III is quoted as saying he “does not object to criticism of himself or the World but will not stand for impugning the organization’s honesty.”

So, getting folks to quit a job and come work for you, just to be laid off a few months later is just “business” and does not reflect on the paper’s integrity. This is indicative of the real problem.

What was once a newspaper has become simply a company that prints ads and game scores seven days a week. The odd space that doesn’t carry a hearing aid ad or an Amish miracle heater ad is filled with wire copy, barely rewritten press releases, investigations of puppy mills, or Wayne Greene’s pathetic attempts to find something even lamer and more self-indulgent than Springer Spaniels to write about.

It is especially sad because I know there are still good, capable journalists there. I went to J-school with some of them and have seen the quality of their work, then and now. Sure do miss the Tribune. I didn’t always agree with their positions on things, but at least it actually was a newspaper that was not totally controlled by the local oligarchy.

Who knows, in another year we may be reading Urban Tulsa Daily. Let’s hope so.