It’s interesting how this is turning out, because it’s running against the “accepted” stereotype. That would be the one about how conservatives are rugged “on your own” individualists and liberals are team players.
The three of us (Jill, Dave, and I) learned of Jeff Coryell’s involuntary termination in an e-mail from the PD Online’s Jean Dubail yesterday at about 4:40. I’m not the best mind reader (doh-obvious at this point), but what I thought I saw was evidence of a strong disagreement, not clear antagonism. Sure, this was only one side of the story, but I saw nothing to indicate that Jeff was in anything but an “agree to disagree” mode.
I had to leave at 5:00, fully intending to send Jeff an I’ll-miss-your-work, good-luck e-mail at about 9:30 when I returned.
Obviously, all hell broke loose in the interim.
It took a while after digesting (and feeling) the outrage to get to what I think the real questions should be, which is why I tend not to do knee-jerk posts.
Why didn’t Jeff tell us what he planned to do first? Or (better) even ask us if he should do it? Or if there wasn’t something we could do to renegotiate the ground rules? Or to collectively quit if we came to the conclusion that the situation couldn’t be solved? If he didn’t trust the two righties, why not at least run these questions by Jill? (since his Ohio Daily Blog post went up less than an hour after the Dubail e-mail, I’m assuming he didn’t contact her — if I’m wrong, Jill will surely set me straight :–>)
People demanding that “we” resign in solidarity are asking us to react in support of a person, who I thought was part of a team, who instead decided to start throwing verbal bombs not just at the decision to terminate him, but at Wide Open’s entire operation and concept.
Jeff should know that this is (with each passing hour, looking more like “was”) about bigger things. It’s about whether a traditional news operation can co-exist with the blogosphere. (Semi-related — Interestingly, though I was clearly getting under the newsroom’s skin with the Imam Alzaree story, not once was I ever cautioned to lighten up.) It’s about whether two righties and lefties can co-exist on the same blog at a relatively civil level of discourse, even in the presence of less-than-civil commenters. I can tell you that these past six-plus weeks have been tense, often very intense, but that the four of us were making progress towards informal “ground rules” and boundaries that we were getting more comfortable with. Everybody was bending and accommodating to an extent. I don’t think it was happening as fast as any of the four of would have liked, but it was happening.
Ultimately, this is about the evolution of the news gathering, reporting and analysis process. We were part of that; now it seems likely that we won’t be. Don’t get me wrong — the PD gets a large share of the blame for why we are where we are, especially its clumsy handling of Buffoon of the Month Congressman LaTourette, but I have a hard time believing that something couldn’t have been worked out.
It’s more than a little likely that all of us would have backed Jeff totally in light of his treatment, had we heard his side before the rest of the world. But we’ll never know; he never gave us the chance. I for one don’t appreciate that, and I believe I have every right not to appreciate that.
I also don’t appreciate the idea that Jeff either didn’t understand what the ultimate outcome of his in-effect call-to-arms would be (doubtful), or that he appeared not to care about the possibility that three people he called “friends” might involuntarily lose their gigs too. You’re not an island, pal.
Now anyone considering an MSM-blog coop effort has to know that any one member can, and that some will, ruin it for the rest of his or her team when things get too difficult. Again, the PD owns a lot of the blame, probably even the majority of it, but this is not a good precedent.
I do wish Jeff all the best in his future endeavors, and have e-mailed him to that effect.
UPDATE: Here’s one the leftosphere will probably consider a whitewash, the rightosphere might take as vindication, and objectivesphere should sit up and notice. Ex-PDer Bill Sloat of the Daily Bellwether, who would be expected to have sources out the wazoo on this, has given them some exercise –
Although the congressman has widely been portrayed as the heavy, sources The Daily Bellwether spoke to all agreed that LaTourette did not ask for a firing, played no role in the sacking of Coryell, did not express anger, nor put pressure on the newspaper or threaten it in any way. The sources do agree that LaTourette spoke to The Plain Dealer’s editorial page editor, Brent Larkin, briefly earlier this month about Coryell’s work appearing on the newspaper’s Web site. Coryell’s name reportedly came up when Federal Election Commission campaign finance records were made public, and LaTourette mentioned to Larkin that Coryell had given money to the congressman’s Democratic opponent, former Ohio Court of Appeals Judge William O’Neill. LaTourette is supposed to have said something like “what’s up with that” during a brief chat, but did not suggest or demand that Coryell be fired, the sources say.
Jeff’s original contention:
I was fired because LaTourette complained. It would not have happened if LaTourette did not exert pressure.
Jeff’s reax to Sloat’s post:
I do not believe it for a minute. I was on the ultimate receiving end of the pressure and heard much about it in the weeks before my firing.
My take — Both Jeff’s and LaTourette’s contentions can exist in the same universe:
- LaTourette “complains”/”mentions.”
- Larkin gets his undies in a bunch at perceived displeasure.
- Inside a lumbering bureaucracy, “displeasure” turns into “pressure” (hey, they almost rhyme).
- Eventually, the paper decides to be “super-safe,” and lets Coryell go.
- More like super-dumb. It walks, talks and looks like pressure to Jeff, because by that time it is, while LaTourette wonders what the big deal was.
This is why congresspersons have to watch their every word and gesture. LaTourette’s buffoonery in the episode is fully intact.