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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shit’s In the PI: Yeakey Cleared of Drug Use

posted by on November 28 at 11:46 AM

Warren Taylor Yeakey—the guy operating the crane when it collapsed in Bellevue on November 16—passed his drug test. The news about Yeakey being clean on the day of the collapse was in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer this morning. While the PI splashed Yeakey’s history of drug use all over its front page the day after the collapse (“Operator In Crane Wreck Has History of Drug Abuse”), today’s news—the news that exonerated Yeakey—was presented with much more restraint. Here’s the headline:

Crane Looked to be Leaning Earlier

And then in much smaller type…

Operated passes test for drugs after crash

The PI only devotes a single graph to the news about Yeakey’s drug test—a graph that didn’t land on the front page, but well after the jump, seven paragraphs into the story. Here’s that graph:

Drug test results show that Yeakey, 34, was not under the influence at the time of the crash, an informed source told the P-I. The results have not been made public. Yeakey has a history of substance abuse, including a number of criminal drug convictions, according to court documents.

The PI doesn’t mention that Yeakey’s last brush with the law for drug use was six, almost seven years ago, and that he completed a drug treatment program. The single paragraph in today’s story about Yeakey’s drug test could be read as implying that Yeakey, sober at the time of the crash, could very well have been ripped to to the tits the day before or the day after. He does have a history of substance abuse, you know.

What the fuck? As I wrote last week, the PI is constantly running stories about local drug addict who manage, with the help of just the kind of drug treatment programs Yeakey was in, somehow manage to turn their lives around. See here, here, here, here, and here for examples of the PI’s previous take on reformed and reforming drug addicts.

Before he was unlucky enough to be sitting in a crane that collapsed, Yeakey was a perfect candidate for one of those glowing reformed-drug-addict profiles in the PI. But now it seems that if someone has a history of drug use—or a history of drug convictions—and is involved in an accident, well, the PI isn’t going to wait to find out if the drug use was relevant before it crucifies that person. It will run to the drug war/drug hysteria playbook, and splash the drug use all over its cover. And if the person cleared of drug use, the PI will play down the results of your drug test.

And then make a renewed effort to blame the drug abuser for the accident.

Despite evidence that there was something wrong with the crane—that stuff about how it was leaning—most of the rest of the piece in today’s PI is given over to speculation about how the collapse could still be Yeakey’s fault. Did he turn the brake off? Did he let the crane “weathervane,” swing in the wind, like he was supposed to? Did that untrustworthy drug abuser follow all the proper protocols?

We’ll find out at some point, of course, if it was operator error. Yeakey wasn’t the only person to operated that crane, however, just the operator who was in it when it came down. But if the investigation shows that Yeakey was not only have been stone-cold sober at the time of the collapse, but also to have done everything right, following all the proper protocols, then Yeakey deserves an apology from the PI.

On the front page, above the fold, with a large headline, and the apology should appear in the first graph.

RSS icon Comments


I think they owe him an apology NOW. Even after saying he passed his drug test they still try to make it sound like he might have cheated or something because there's no way someone with his dark history of drug abuse could clean themselves up.

Once again I wish I had a PI subscription so I could call and cancel it.

Posted by monkey | November 28, 2006 12:10 PM

I felt for the dude once his past was brought up, the television news was just as accusatory as the P.I., it's a sad state of affairs really. Sensationalism over content? Whatever.

Posted by Cupie | November 28, 2006 12:42 PM

An apology is needed. The news too often plays the easy angle, even when it is crucifying an innocent person. Its pathetic.

Posted by Matt | November 28, 2006 1:02 PM

I think they need to do more than apologize; I think they need to do one of those glowing up-from-rehab stories about him, with a large color photograph above the fold, Page One. And the article needs to discuss in detail the rush to judgement, the consequences, and why it -- and the P-I -- was wrong.

Posted by Fnarf | November 28, 2006 1:52 PM

Keep beating the fucking shit out of the P.I. on this issue, shame those useless fuckers into apologizing in a big bad way. This shouldn't be a slog item, this should be a lead story in The Stranger so you can slam those fucks good and hard.

Posted by Jamie | November 28, 2006 2:28 PM

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