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Friday, August 1, 2008

An Infuriating Exchange With Another Reporter

posted by on August 1 at 14:10 PM

Last night, I received an email from another reporter in town who covered the Critical Mass mess, complaining about how I characterized their reporting in my story about the incident.

I generally keep email exchanges with other reporters off Slog, but this one is just so fucking fucked up, that I couldn’t just let it sit in my inbox.

Hey Jonah, I saw your piece on the big melee. You know, I don’t think my initial story portrayed the driver as a victim.

In fact, I took great care to not even use the word ‘victim’ in my article. The only time the word was used was when, in response to my interview with Tom Braun, I specifically asked Officer Mark Jamieson why the driver wasn’t being investigated.

His response was that as far as they were concerned, the driver was the victim.

I can’t speak for the other articles written on the subject. But I don’t think it was fair to characterize my story as being one that portrayed this clash as a one-sided affair, particularly since I took pains to avoid doing so. I know you don’t name me by name, but you did mention the XXXXX as being among those media outlets to give a one-sided account of the incident and I just don’t think that’s true.

That was it. See you around,



thanks for the email. However, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree that I mischaracterized your story. While you did indeed add an interview with Tom Braun in a later report, the [earlier] version … very much paints the driver as the victim.

In your second graph, you mention the motorist was assaulted by cyclists. It’s not until your 12th graph that you mention the fact that the driver struck several cyclists with his car. You also state that one of the cyclists punched the driver which, according to the driver, is inaccurate.

Much of your story’s focus seems to be on the damage done to the driver’s car, and repeatedly quotes Mark Jamieson who, when I spoke with him around the time your story was posted, had not read the police report but still seemed contemptuous of the cyclists and sure that they were solely at fault.

While you did eventually catch up on your reporting, the initial reports that came out of your paper—not to mention XXXXX, XXXXX, etc—completely failed to get the other side of the story. It wasn’t difficult to reach out to CM riders and get their version of events, so I’m not sure why that didn’t happen sooner.

Having said all of that, if you still feel like I was unfair, let me know.

Jonah Spangenthal-Lee

Oh, absolutely. I completely agree that those earlier versions were entirely one-sided. You’re also right it wasn’t hard to find riders. … I just didn’t have the time to devote to the story that I would have liked. I’m glad Tom Braun reached out. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. -XXXX

Wow. Just wow.

RSS icon Comments


Starting your response without a capital, calling a paragraph a "graph".

Dude you're a hack with no credibility to critique a newspaper on ballanced journalism.

Get over it, get off your horse and back on to your bike, and shut the fuck up.

Posted by Non | August 1, 2008 2:15 PM

So, sometimes things get reportedly inaccurately when reporters are pressed for time?

Who knew?

Keep this stupid shit in your inbox. Or the trash. That's what it's for.

Posted by Matthew | August 1, 2008 2:19 PM

Pressure to get out a quick and dirty first edition leads to sloppiness, inaccuracy and hurt feelings? Whaaaaat?

Posted by tomasyalba | August 1, 2008 2:22 PM

When somebody gets dragged from their car and beat and hit with a bike lock, they're a victim. Seattle and all of the country hates these cyclists, except a couple people at the Stranger.

Posted by Bud Dickman | August 1, 2008 2:22 PM

The reporting and commentary on this story is both puzzling and perhaps frightening.

Puzzling. It puzzled me that before the whole truth was out, not only was the story already written (CM bad), but there were HUNDREDS of comment posters ready to heap insults on any and all bicycle riders!

Even when some participants came forward and identified themselves as regular citizenry, the posters kept at it, finding some way to blame bicycling for all that is wrong in the world.

Frightening. Was this pent up rage? Or a calculated "incident" to discourage bicycling? Or, are people really walking around with such rage that the sight of a bicyclist breezing by traffic affects them and makes them think what a hopeless waste of life their day has become? In other words, WTF is wrong with you people?!

Posted by John Bailo | August 1, 2008 2:23 PM


You are making yourself look petty and jealous.

Keep it up.

Posted by Jeff | August 1, 2008 2:24 PM

Aren't you just getting over excited that you are finally actually talking to a REAL journalist who works for a LEGIT news organization? You poor baby.

Posted by ? | August 1, 2008 2:32 PM

Well, this'll sure teach THAT reporter never to come to you politely with a disagreement, followed by an equally polite acknowledgment you were correct, ever again. Serves him right for treating a weekly newspaper reporter with professionalism and respect!

Nice work taking the low road, Jonah!

Posted by Jane | August 1, 2008 2:32 PM

My guess is they tried to phone them on landlines and nobody had any.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 1, 2008 2:36 PM

I hate CM, I'm on the drivers side, and right here I'm on Jonah's side.

This isn't about the driver or the cyclists, you dolts.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 1, 2008 2:41 PM

@4. When somebody gets run over by a car ON PURPOSE, that person is also a victim.

Posted by lorax | August 1, 2008 2:42 PM

You can be such a bitch sometimes, Jonah.

Posted by laterite | August 1, 2008 2:54 PM

Raise your hand if you have ridden Critical Mass?

No one here? Good.

I have. Guess what? 99% of the people are nice, well-meaning cyclists just out to celebrate the fun of riding your bike in a big group.

The people corking that car and the driver were both being unbending assholes. Both are guilty of that.

Calling out other reporters for their coverage is a bit much, don't you think Jonah?

I mean, if the other local papers took the time to call bullshit on you and Erica they'd never have time to write their own stories, let alone comment on the absurdity of your narrow agenda.

Thanks for playing.

Posted by Bicycle Jihad | August 1, 2008 2:55 PM

(hand raised)

Posted by stinkbug | August 1, 2008 2:57 PM

"graphs" is newsspeak for paragraphs silly @#1

Posted by LAH | August 1, 2008 3:00 PM

#1: A graph is a graph is a graph. It's journalism speak.

Posted by Catman | August 1, 2008 3:02 PM

the moral (again) : never ever send anything to the stranger that you don't want getting republished on slog. never know when hunger for comments will strike.

Posted by miss manners | August 1, 2008 3:08 PM

I think we need a lede on Leda.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 1, 2008 3:13 PM

@ 15/16:

Non is a petty idiot. No better than seattle crime blogger or raindrop. Probably not even worth explaining anything to them. Their minds are bent on making stupid shit emit from their keyboards.

and as to the CM thing, whats so wrong w/ Jonah taking to task that the other reporter who was "pressed for time" but also brought some pre-existing bias to the story.

Posted by Naan is good, Non not so much | August 1, 2008 3:23 PM

#19 you are assuming that the Stranger's news staff doesn't bring pre-existing bias?


That's pretty funny dude, thanks for the laugh.

You need to pay closer attention.

Posted by Jeff | August 1, 2008 3:33 PM

Aww, that's so cute: You're like that little dog in the Kibbles & Bits commercials, Jonah/Josh. You know the one where the Chihuahua is leaping up in the air, running after the bulldog, trying to get his attention. "Notice me! Notice me! I'm just like you! Only my brain weighs about 1.5 ounces and my biggest accomplishment is dragging my ass across the carpet!" Awww, keep tryin' there, li'l feller!

Posted by Scooch, pooch | August 1, 2008 3:46 PM

Most of these commenters wouldn't get a point if it ran them down in the street.

The weirdness of this exchange is how the reporter COMPLETELY CONTRADICTS HIMSELF in his second email. First he complains that Jonah was being unfair, then he confirms Jonah's complaint. Which is, indeed, fucked up.

As is the fact that I needed to explain this.

Posted by Irena | August 1, 2008 3:49 PM

fuck! how fucking fucked up! i mean.....FUCK! right? the fucking fucked up fuckhead really had a really fucked up response.

a nicely worded, patiently polite, non provocative intelligent response, to which you seemed to reply with equal politeness. you actually seem to agree to disagree at the end.

until you post it all to SLOG! and then,, ff-FF--F-FUCK!!!!!! how FUCKED UP! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCKING FUCK FUCK!

"Wow. Just wow." is right.

god you're stupid.

Posted by princess | August 1, 2008 4:05 PM

...And you wonder why no one is applying to be your intern.

Posted by Dr. Zaius | August 1, 2008 4:15 PM

I am not the reporter in question, but if someone from the Stranger contacted me about a story I'd written, I'd blow it off. I don't consider Stranger "reporters" to be journalists. They're not my contemporaries. Do they belong to the PNW Newspaper Guild? Nope. Do they win Pulitzers or are they even NOMINATED for any? Nope. So, they're like Wal-Mart and I'm Barneys. And I don't need to stoop to associate with them.

The reporter in the post likely feels the same way. I'd try to get this little fly to buzz off, too.

Posted by SPJ | August 1, 2008 4:20 PM

You CAN.NOT. make grievances for unballanced news when you are putting out newspages with ObamaErotica, fake stories under other peoples' names (the drunk person running for some office last year), columns about scat and call girls, etc etc etc ETC ETC

It is so annoying and utterly contradictory that it makes you look REALLY foolish, whether "graph" is journalis speak or not.


get a better job if you want to make claims to credibility and ballance.

Posted by Non | August 1, 2008 4:35 PM

Jonah, nobody would blame you if you left work early today and starting drinking heavily.

Posted by Wow, just wow | August 1, 2008 4:37 PM

jonathan, you are no one to be calling bs on any other reporter in this town or on this planet, given your inexperience and the one sided crap you've put on CM yourself.

get some perspective litlte boy

Posted by Harry Callahan | August 1, 2008 4:37 PM

Jonah, the final response is pretty shocking. If the laziness of some in the media shocked me anymore.

As for our friend non (last known address: under Aurora Bridge), his entire argument is apparently based on the concept of balance, and he misspells the word itself. Genius shit.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | August 1, 2008 5:03 PM

^I'm just so flabbergasted that I can't spel straight, joob

Posted by A story | August 1, 2008 5:49 PM

Why do you think we fucking care?

I liked The Stranger a lot better before you starting taking yourselves seriously ... drop the self-importance, will you please?

In the meantime, you're doing a lot to drive people back to the Times and P-I. I even look forward to reading Rick Anderson's drivel in the Weekly instead of your BS.

Posted by Man in the Street | August 1, 2008 5:52 PM

Jeff @ 20:
the strangers bias is not the point, does it exist? Sure, but at the same time you are free to do an expose or some hard hitting investigative journalism about that if your so fired up and offended.

You need to to untwist your panties.

Posted by Naan is good, Non not so much | August 1, 2008 6:04 PM

@29, the reporter didn't confess he was lazy -- he confessed he hadn't had the time he to spend on the story he wished he'd had. Things don't work the same in the "real" newspaper world as they do in the world of the weeklies. Most of the reporters I know work 60+ hour weeks and still sometimes don't get their stories written the way they wish they could have (let alone getting to write the stories they actually WANTED to write in the first place). Cuts are taking a bite out of the newsrooms, which means they're covering more than they used to. And they have daily deadlines, unlike reporters for the Stranger who only have to crank a paper out once a week.

It was pretty polite of the reporter to reply to Jonah at all, let alone do so politely and then agree that his first piece hadn't been perfect. Most of the Times/PI reporters I know wouldn't give a Stranger reporter's criticisms a second thought. If that reporter had had the same time Jonah had to write the same story, I have no doubt which one would've been better written.

What people are objecting to here isn't Jonah's point -- which is that the big-wig reporter got it wrong and he got it right nyah nyah nyah (well, okay, maybe some are objecting to that as well) -- but that he reposted the emails here, even going so far as to XXXX out the guy's name, pretending to be "professional" about at least keeping his identity a secret. There's nothing secret about that reporter's identity at this point. Any one of us could figure it out with the information provided here.

Luckily, there's nothing secret at Jonah's identity now either: douchebag.

Posted by MKBW | August 1, 2008 6:07 PM

TEAM MKBW! Smackdown! Silverbacked! Walking home bow-legged!

Posted by Owned | August 1, 2008 6:21 PM

Sadly, I think Jonah started with good instincts and writing skills, and working at the Stranger is eroding both by the day.

Posted by Mr. X | August 1, 2008 6:27 PM

I've already said what I had to say on this topic -- and got branded as a suck because of it...
Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 31, 2008 12:54 PM

Did you mean to say, "suck up"?

Posted by Emporer | August 1, 2008 6:33 PM

It's worth noting that The Stranger gave themselves credit for a "scoop" on the Rat City/Starbucks logo story, even though their early version got the critical detail wrong that there was in fact no animosity between the two parties.

Seems like if you're going to blame the dailies for getting the story (supposedly) wrong in their early versions, then you should do something to make amends for hyping a non-existent conflict in your rush to be first.

Oh, Stranger. How you disappoint me.

Posted by elenchos | August 1, 2008 8:47 PM

@25: Newspapers nominate their own work for Pulitzer prizes and the Stranger can nominate some of their own stories if they want to pay the entry fee.

Posted by J.R. | August 2, 2008 9:41 AM

Jonah, thanks for your article and this follow-up.

Posted by Anne | August 2, 2008 8:17 PM

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