In Tower Fight, D Magazine Editor Tim Rogers Fails to Disclose His Wife's Employer Did Work for Nasher Center
Once again, D Magazine Editor Tim Rogers demonstrates that he struggles with severe intellectual and ethical challenges. Or something.
In mid-April D Magazine published a cover story called "Towering Inferno," written by Rogers, about claims by the Nasher Sculpture Center downtown that it is being damaged by reflected light from a new high rise called Museum Tower. Since that story came out, Rogers has taken to the blogs again and again to lambaste what he calls the "Museum Tower death ray."
Rogers' version of things is that Museum Tower, which complies with all of the city's requirements and was awarded all the necessary city approvals before construction, nevertheless is too reflective and is basically subjecting the Nasher Sculpture Center to a slow death by light.
As Unfair Park has reported, lawyers for the owners of Museum Tower have accused D Magazine and The Dallas Morning News of "pursuing advocacy journalism to serve the agenda of one side of this complex situation."
What Rogers has neglected to share directly with his readers -- something he still denied to me this morning even after his wife admitted it -- is that his wife, Christine Rogers, is part-owner of a public relations firm called SparkFarm that has represented the Nasher in the past and still lists the Nasher as a "current client" on its web page.
That's a material personal financial interest in keeping the Nasher happy with the Rogers family. All he had to do was disclose it in his story. He did not.
Knowledge of this connection may have been floating around in the rumor mill for some time. But Rogers has never declared it. In fact he continues to deny it.
SparkFarm's client list, from the company website. We added the highlight, in case you missed it.
Rogers wrote me early this morning to say, among other things, that, "SparkFarm doesn't represent the Nasher."
But his wife had already emailed me several hours earlier to say, "A former member of The SparkFarm team provided project-based support for two traveling exhibitions and an event at the museum. The work occurred between March and May 2011. Our firm has not worked with the Nasher since then."
And the SparkFarm web page shows a red asterisk -- or did last night when I screen-grabbed it -- to show that, among a much longer list of entities SparkFarm has represented in the past, the Nasher Sculpture Center is one of a shorter list that SparkFarm still works for.
I asked the Nasher last night if SparkFarm had represented the Nasher in any way in the Museum Tower controversy. Kristen Gibbins, a spokesperson for the Nasher, emailed me this morning to say, "SparkFarm was not paid to advise or represent the Nasher on the Museum Tower story/situation. There was no involvement whatsoever."
In her message to me, Christine Rogers also said, "I'm not sure how much you know about Tim and me, but I can tell you this: We don't agree on much. Because of this, and to avoid any conflict of interest, we don't discuss work with each other. Our marriage and our jobs are better off for it."
I am perfectly willing to accept that at face value. My own wife and I both work in the media business in Dallas, and for years we have maintained a pretty scrupulous separation of church and state (don't ask me which one is which) where proprietary information about our employers is involved.
But what about the people who own Museum Tower? Do they accept this explanation at face value? They have informed me this morning they are in meetings but will call me ASAP. I'll let you know.
Here's the point. Rogers needed to say it upfront, first and foremost. The rumor mill and anonymous blog comments don't count.
In Rogers' position, taking a strong advocacy position for one side and against the other in a dogfight, you absolutely need to declare upfront if one of the dogs is yours. You have to disclose at the very beginning any personal material interest you may have or could be perceived to have in the outcome of the fight.
Look, part of this is sort of an I.Q. thing. Why declare it yourself? So Jim Schutze won't be able to declare it for you in "Get Off My Lawn."
In January of 2011 I accused Rogers of being I.Q.-challenged over this same sort of thing. The Dallas school system was obligated to carry out a special internal investigation after complaints were lodged that Rogers had used his clout with the school system's public relations office to get his kid into a certain school.
I said at the time I thought the basic underlying journalistic principle in that ugly scenario was, "Do not call the same people you beat up on all the time and ask them for an under-the-table favor." You know. How smart is that?
So now he defends the Nasher and goes after Museum Tower. Fine. That's his right. Glad to see the magazine is capable of an edge sharper than a butter knife once in a while.
But his wife's company has a website listing the Nasher as a current client. She admits her firm has done work for the Nasher in the not-too-distant past. Rogers never declares any of this to his readers. He continues to try to weasel out of it today, after his wife has admitted it to a reporter.
And what is the big investigative tool needed to ferret out all of this? An Internet connection and a mouse.
I'll let you know when I hear from Museum Tower.