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Friday, March 31, 2006

Apparently I’m an Asshat

Posted by on March 31 at 11:57 AM

The woman who runs DesktopDetective probably doesn’t know it, but “asshat” is one of our favorite words here at The Stranger, having first come to our attention as a suggested descriptor for President Bush.

Now, apparently, I’m an asshat for writing the following paragraph in this story about Kyle Huff:

A woman who wanted to be identified only as Michelle, and who runs the local blog, said she has talked to three different young people who believe they may have seen Kyle at a few raves and electronic-music parties over the past three months. She could not immediately make those people available to The Stranger, however. More compellingly, a post dated February 1 from was found on the guest book of a local woman’s website after the killings. The message asks for information about upcoming parties. “Hey, I’ve never been to a rave in Seattle,” it reads. “Was wondering if anyone could tell me when one is coming up.” Kim Dietemann, who operated the site, contacted the police about the message.

Michelle appears to be mad that I didn’t just take her word that three different young people had seen Kyle Huff at parties in the last few months. Sorry, Michelle, but it would have been pretty sloppy journalism for me to have just taken the word of an anonymous blogger, and not to have asked to speak directly to the people who you say saw Huff. As for needing to hear from them within two hours—like I told you, my deadline was coming up in two hours, and if I was going to get their stories into my story for this week’s Stranger, I needed to hear from them before my deadline. But I think you’re exaggerating how demanding I was. As I also told you, I would be happy to talk to these people for a future story if they’re not ready to talk yet.

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Eli I told you that they would talk with you. Just give them a little time to grieve and move on - they still have memorials to attend.

I told you who they were. You are a professional writer and I'm sure you understand that presentation is nine tenths of presumption. You could have worded that to convey that they were not ready to talk yet because they were grieving and that there would be a follow up story with them, but instead you conveyed it as to give a perception that I was unable to produce them because they didn't exist. Everyone I know, and those who have contacted me, all interpreted your words the same way.

They are still willing to talk with you - but not right now. They are being disparaged in various forums on the net - all because 'certain' people do not want anyone to admit that he had been at other parties - it's all about business. If that nonsens keeps up they may not want to talk with anyone other than the Detectives.

I'm still fascinated by the fact that when I said I support their idea of PLUR you didn't even know what PLUR was.

Asshat is my favorite word too - I guess we have something in common.

It's amusing to read you reassuring yourself what an excellent reporter you are Mr. Sanders. But to read that you're using reporting techniques that "old media" perfected for the last hundred years is discomforting.

"Unbaised journalism" and "Telling both sides of the story" were discredited a decade ago. You recently told us not to read the P-I because it uses these same outmoded journalistic techniques.

Now your collegues are backpeddling and saying "Only Mr. Sanders wanted the P-I to fail, the rest of us may like the daily papers."

So we understand that your stories are based on personal opinion, personal bias, and your whim at the moment. They wouldn't even stand the scrutiny of a few collegues.

While the "tired old mainstream" journalists reported Kyle Huff stating "there's plenty here for everyone", your publication reported a more colorful slogan. But thoughtful readers know hearsay when they read it, and know that the fact is no one knows what Kyle Huff really said that night or if he said anything at all.

You may want to rush to a five car pile up on the interstate, interview ten bystanders and then report to us what "really" happened.

Perhaps it's good on you for not reporting that "several others saw Kyle Huff at a party". But the real story is "other people are now saying they saw Kyle Huff at recent parties."

Thoughtful readers know we'll never know for sure where Kyle Huff has been the last couple weeks. You can't even tell us were Kurt Cobain was his last weeks, and he's more recognizeable, more famous than Kyle Huff will ever be.

The news we want to read about is how people now claim they saw Kyle Huff at a party, in the grocery store, buying ammo in Wall Mart, or are having dreams about Kyle Huff. We don't care if the sightings are true or not, what's interesting is the community reaction to this horror.

What'll really be interesting to read about is people who see Kyle Huff walking in Volunteer Park this weekend, or have Kyle Huff talk to them through their television sets.

In promising your readers to get to the bottom of the events, to present to them the unbiased truth, to be a reporter with real ethics who keeps personal opinion out of his story, you are being more "old journalism" than the writers at the Times and P-I.

At least those writers respect their readers enough to admit they are writing an boring old article for a newpaper, nothing more, nothing less. Thoughtful readers can then sort out the truth for themselves.

IMAHOLOGRAM: I hear you. The wording that you're annoyed about was an attempt to be both accurate and brief (I was running out of room), not an attempt to describe you as dishonest. Sorry if it left that impression. I'm still eager to talk with your sources, whenever they are ready.

One time when I was seven my friend Ken was playing with my tonka dump truck which I totally let him play with even though it was mine -- just to show you how cool a friend I could be. But Ken was pushing the dump truck and saying vroom vroom vroom and and then he HIT me in the knee with the dump truck! It left like this big red mark and almost was bleeding! It hurt for like 10 minutes and I was so mad and I just wanted Ken to say he was sorry and he did it on purpose. But he was like no, I didn't do it on purpose and I was like yes you did. See? And like no matter what he would never admit it was on purpose. He said he was sorry but I don't think that's enough, do you? To this day he hasn't admittted it was on purpose.

I have never told this story to anyone because I didn't think they would give a shit. But now that I've discovered Eli and Michelle, I know that I'm not the only one who sees how important this kind of thing really is. PLUR, y'all.

If Eli can't even convey this information without leaving the impression Michelle was dishonest and was unable to produce her contacts, why trust his writing in matters as important as uncovering the motive of the murderer?

Oh I forgot the new media game is to point out the problems in other's writing to distract from the weakness of your own.

"Oh I forgot the new media game is to point out the problems in other's writing to distract from the weakness of your own."

Was that directed at Eli or at Michelle?

Dear Kimberly (aka Last Hundred Years),

1. Eli's a tremendous reporter. For starters, check out his Huff profile this week. Tons of original reporting on a story that every paper in town threw its staff at.

2. No one is backpedalling. I wrote a Slog post yesterday saying that the PI's front-page story showed that the Seattle Times's editorial board was isolated and marginalized.

The PI's front-page story seconded—with serious heft—what we had reported earlier—that Team Nickels was against teen dance reform as a response to the shootings.

The PI story was good, and in documenting the mainstream position among our local politicians, it showed how out of touch the Seattle Times's edit board is.

Someone used my post to say I had contradicted the Stranger's position that our town didn't need the PI to counterbalance the Seattle Times. (I actually hadn't contradicted that point because the Seattle Times's position is marginalized by the Mayor and the City Council whether the PI exists or not.

More important, I pointed out that Eli Sanders wrote the piece about the future of the PI, not me or the Stranger editorial board. (I actually don't care whether the PI exists or not. It would suck if all those reporters lost their jobs, but as an intellectual exercise about 1-paper towns vs. 2-paper towns, I don't have a strong opinion about the PI either way. )

Also, I think Eli's story was more about the potential of on-line journalism than about a judgment on 2-paper towns. And Eli's hardly the only person predicting an on-line future for journalism. If you're upset about that analysis, Eli's the least of your worries.)

As for "bashing" Eli for having opinions in an opinion piece, well—opinion pieces have existed for the last hundred years too. Maybe even the last 300.

Speaking of using a story to pursue an agenda, look at the people who bum-rush this post and attack Eli for one pointedly misunderstood paragraph in what was otherwise a well-written piece.

Find better examples to assault Eli's character than a tough cover story turned around in less than a week on a terrible event, you jerks.

For what it's worth, as a reader with no connections to either party, I did not interpret the sentence in question as making "Michelle" seem untrustworthy or dubious in any way - it just sounded like Eli wasn't able to speak with these people before his deadline, which he admitted was very short at the time.


LEVISLADE, you said exactly what I was going to say.

Eli's hardly the only person predicting an on-line future for journalism.

So when is The Stranger going to stop killing trees to print a paper edition only old media types want to read?

Stop clinging to the past the future is today!

Eli is the shizzle.

'Asshat' etymology?

Perhaps it's from Clint Eastwood's Outlaw Josie Wales: I'll kick you so hard you'll be wearing your ass as a hat.

Actually, a couple days ago when I read Michelle's blog quoting ravers (who, of course, insisted on being called by their 'raver names'), I immediately passed it off to the back of my brain as BS. I said, "Wow, this is going to get ridiculous here pretty soon, what with people making stuff up and saying some raver told them so." And lo, I was right. Maybe Twiggy and Blackout exist, maybe they don't. It doesn't matter anyway, because Sanders did the professional thing and neglected to include quotes from people he never spoke to and whose existence he was unable to verify.

I've been involved in the electronic music scene for about 10 years, and by now I am fortunately aware of the fact that no one takes someone named Yum Yum seriously. If you want people to believe your sources are real, you have to give their real names. If your sources won't give their names (or, in this case, when they prefer to be called something silly), and they say stuff like "Yeah, I think my friend Unicorn Sparklefairy cuddled with that guy at a rave once, and I swear I have seen him around before too!" you can't expect your blathering in your LiveJournal to be taken very seriously. After the murders, the boards at NWTekno (not to mention the whispers in real life) exploded with "That guy looks familiar!" Sure he does. I thought so too. That's because Huff looked like a normal guy. You know, the type of guy you see every time you leave your house?

After something terrible happens, everyone seems to want in on the action. People who have never seen that guy before are going to think they have. Then they are going to go on TV and tell everyone they saw him cuddle with their friend at a rave.

Shame on you for asking for a little verification before printing hearsay in your article, Sanders. Shame! Don't you know the public is simply supposed to believe everything that is published? I mean, why shouldn't they? Everything you read on the Internet is true, after all.

The difference between publishing quotes from people inside the house during the shooting and random ravers who refuse to give their real names is that the people in the house WERE THERE. Many of them ACTUALLY SAW THIS GUY SHOOTING PEOPLE. Even if the exact words of the shooter (caps vs. plenty? what's really going on here?) vary slightly between witnesses, they're all pretty much the same. The witnesses and the victims who lived can sit down in a room and hash out what happened, and they'll come to a fairly accurate recount of the details among the lot of them. Random ravers who might have seen some guy that kind of looked like Huff rolling with their friends? Give me some real names and some dates and then maybe I'll start to consider it.

The poster who mentioned the poignant and apparently previously unobserved fact that all of this is irrelevant is pretty much right on, by the way. However, I think it might turn out to be important for the investigation to find out whether Huff was an insider or an outsider, so to speak. That bit of information could help police figure out what caused Huff to pick up some guns and start shooting. Maybe we shouldn't care, but we'd rather read about this than do actual work, so here we are.

I'm with Levislade & Wendy. I am surprised to learn that Michelle took umbrage at all.

Sorry KT - need to get the asshat fixed.

Those two men were standouts in any crowd. I saw them together on the Hill last fall. BIG, very BIG.

Now, that it matters a bit - people are rememembering seeing them around town.

I am 6 foot plus, over two hundred, and I though - my God, look at the size of those boys.

I am gay and I will admit to the world - I also had a couple of flashes about them in my queerly focused mind, since I really like big guys.

Perhaps it too bad someone was not helping Kyle more with his sex life.

Posted by imahologram -They are still willing to talk with you - but not right now. They are being disparaged in various forums on the net - all because 'certain' people do not want anyone to admit that he had been at other parties - it's all about business. If that nonsens keeps up they may not want to talk with anyone other than the Detectives.-

Why don't they talk to Detectives IMMEDIATELY! Why make a story out of this? If you can't provide names, and they cant talk to police, its logical to assume that they might not exist as Eli Sanders has Done. Why hold this information back to make a "story" I can see no other reason then to entertain peoples morbid fascination.


Apparently you're Not an asshat, Eli. You're a reporter.

April Fool's!

Michelle's screechy blog entry attacking Eli is hilarious. She thinks there's no way could have been this Kyle Huff because "when people follow their name with a number it usually indicates their age or date of birth, Kyle Huff was neither 23 nor born in 1923."

Apparently her limited reasoning skills don't allow her to grasp that people can keep using the same e-mail account for years after it's created. Some 'detective'.

I use 23 not because it's my age/birthdate but because it's my favorite number. Maybe he was into the Illuminatus too? ;-)

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