Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Adrian Walker's "Journalism," Irony

The next time someone prepackages a story for Adrian Walker, he may want to reconsider exactly why such a story would drop on his lap. As evidenced in the Wilkerson affidavit, it was Wilkerson who gave Walker this story.
Wilkerson told the CW in a recorded conversation on or about July 11, 2007, that she sent a package of material to a Boston Globe columnist about the lack of liquor licenses available to minorities in the city of Boston.
He wrote an entire column on how the city of Boston was holding up economic development through the licensing process. Meanwhile, it was Dianne Wilkerson who pushed the story to help get one particular nightclub a license, eventually freezing dozens of other licenses in the process. Oops.

What was the extent of Wilkerson's obstructionism, the obstructionism Walker sought to shine a light on?
Wilkerson said that she had "the sixty licenses" on hold....

On or about January 16th, 2008, UC1 [the FBI informant] met with Wilkerson at her State House office. The meeting was audio recorded. At the outset of the meeting, UC1 introduced a second FBI undercover agent posing as another out-of-state businessman.... During the course of the meeting, UC1 told Wilkerson that he was considering taking over the development of the Dejavu Club for the CW. He asked Wilkerson if she could hold up the liquor licensing for another four weeks. Wilkerson responded that she could do so because she was 'on the... committee' handling the legislation.
Unfortunately, there's shades of Judy Miller here. Walker fell prey to someone using him to game the media, a phenomenon that's helped lead to a serious decline in the quality of journalism. Where once the media was a source to find the truth, now it's a source to be used by independent parties seeking to control the truth.

People who send prepackaged press releases with all sorts of helpful shady information are almost always going to have their own motives. Columnists and journalists should beware using them - and may just want to spend some of their time researching exactly why people are feeding them a particular story. Often, even if there's ulterior motives, it may still be worth printing the story - but without knowing the why behind the leak, it's irresponsible to use that source.

Furthermore, rarely, if ever, should an article be printed on the basis of a source that refuses to be identified. An article on a particular nightclub's liquor license situation was not important enough to run without revealing the primary source behind the article, or who provided the information that led to that article.

The one highlight in all of this for Adrian Walker? Unlike with Judy Miller, at least Walker didn't help get us into a bloody war. Thanks, Adrian.

Update: Walker penned a column on Wilkerson and his column today. He didn't find Wilkerson's phone call to him about the liquor license odd, but never references the packet Wilkerson sent to him at all; it's as if it never existed. Was the packet anonymous? What did he know and when did he know it?

Finally, where was the research on his column before he penned it? Did Roxbury truly have less than its fair share of liquor licenses? Or did he just take Wilkerson's word for it? Did he give any consideration into Wilkerson's motives behind the column - or is he so naive as to think ulterior motives don't exist? He tries to blow off his big mistake when, instead, he should learn from it.

No comments:

About Ryan's Take