Say, DMN, How Many Wrongs Does It Take to Get it Right?
A lot of what goes wrong at The Dallas Morning News has to do with people who forgot to take their smart pill in the morning. Stuffed way inside today’s paper is a legal ass-covering story by Kent Fischer, in which the paper tries to amend for its atrocious coverage of the DISD credit card scandal. Amazingly, in trying to cover themselves they manage to make their position sorta worse.
When I first wrote about this last September, I pointed out that The News tried to make it look like Sherri Brokaw got fired from the school district because she was involved in corruption. Their headline was: "DISD fires workers after credit card problems: Chief of corrupted credit card program not rehired; scores let go."
Fischer and his paper had taken a garden-variety bureaucratic mess-up over purchasing and tried to puff it into the greatest scandal since Bush’s WMDs. They had a stake in making Brokaw look bad. School superintendent Michael Hinojosa had a stake in making Brokaw look like a felon so people wouldn’t find out the truth -- that his school district’s financial controls are a bureaucratic junkpile.
Therefore, you had to read the fine print in Fischer’s story to find out that Brokaw was never fired. The district found a way to not renew her contract, and then tried to make to look like she was fired. The News helped them. They also covered up the fact that an internal review board had ruled that the credit cared mess was not her fault and she should not be terminated.
In recent days, Unfair Park and Allen Gwinn’s Dallas.org have published documents proving that DISD officials lied when they claimed the review board had never completed its work. By the way, the same officials lied to me when I made a legal demand for the review board’s findings under the Public Information Act, so now I need to see what I can do about that with the Texas Attorney General.
Today, The News finally felt it needed to acknowledge that Unfair Park and Dallas.org have been making an ass of it all week, and they probably thought they had better get some exculpatory coverage into the record in case Brokaw comes after them later. So Fischer penned a story going over the material that we published days ago.
But his opening paragraph -- the “lede,” as we call it in the biz -- was a tad clumsy: “A day before a Dallas school administrator told attorneys his panel had yet to rule on whether the district was justified in firing the supervisor of its credit card program, the panel apparently signed a judgment declaring that she should be demoted, not fired.”
Yeah, but … see … that makes it sound like she did get fired. Maybe I see what he was trying to say: The panel ruled that the district would not be justified in firing her at a future date. But when you’ve already screwed everything up eight ways to Sunday and you’re maybe lookin’ at a lawsuit anyway, you need to parse your phrases very meticulously.
James Murphy, Brokaw’s lawyer, fired off an e-mail to Fisher today in which he said: "Mr. Fischer, you just can't seem to get it right. Sherri Brokaw was not FIRED, as you report this morning. I have warned you about your previous false reporting regarding this case, and this is the last one. You shouldn't wonder why I have declined comment to you on this matter.”
Murphy is a passionate man, and he takes the honor of his clients to heart. Me, I’d be sitting there with my feet on the desk and my imaginary cash register, hoping for more Fischer stories. Ka-ching ka-ching ka-ching. --Jim Schutze