Friday, March 27, 2009

My Letter to Eric Halvorson of WISH-TV

Dear Mr. Halvorson:

I have to say I have always liked Jim Shella as a person and have been a regular viewer of Indiana Week in Review. However, after that piece he did on the Statehouse rally my opinion of Jim as a journalist dropped considerably. No matter how you slice it, what he did in that report was one of the most unfair pieces of journalism I have ever seen. I would hope that you would recognize that and your station would try to do better. I understand though you are actually defending what he did, which I find distressing as someone who has watched your news program in the past.

I would urge you to again watch Shella's piece on the rally. Watch the clip of Mark Small. The report showed Mark saying something like “Why should the State be funding education.” Then the video immediately cuts away. Mark Small’s speech was clearly marked as humorous and the cut away cut out the BECAUSE that was coming. It was a deliberate attempt to take material out of context and make a speaker at the rally look like a nut. I went to law school with Mark. Mark Small is a Democrat and a liberal, albeit with a libertarian twist, and I'm certain is not against the state funding education. The way that piece was edited completely and, undoubtedly deliberately, misrepresented what he was saying. I would urge you to watch that video and tell me why you think that that edit was okay from a journalistic and, more importantly, an ethical standpoint. There is no question that the snippet was nothing less than an attempt to deliberately mislead people about the rally, to make it look like we had a bunch of nuts up there speaking. The edit was inexcusable.

Then what Shella did to, Melissa (not Melyssa Donaghy, one of the rally organizers), was one of the worst things I have ever seen. She clearly was nervous, it was her first time being interviewed on TV and Jim took advantage of that, mocking her in his report when she forgot her group’s principles. She was not a speaker, and her group did not even have a speaker at the rally. Yet, Jim decided to feature her prominently in his report. She had taken the day off to come to the rally only to find herself ridiculed by Shella and Channel 8.

I have known Jim Shella for years and was the chief organizer of the rally. Jim made no effort whatsoever to even talk to me that day. He made no effort to talk to Gary Welsh who was the major substantive speaker on the CIB bailout. In fact, in putting together his story that day Jim Shella never talked to anyone who actually spoke at the rally or any of the organizers. (The other reporters, however, did.) I was shocked at his report when he said the organizers had to be disappointed in the result. Huh? Outside of some signs of things I didn’t support (like signs touting Sen. Delph’s immigration bill which I personally am not in favor of and wasn't on the agenda), I could not have been happier how things went. But if Jim wants to spin things in a different direction, that's his right. But there is no excuse for how Mark Small and the Melissa were treated in the coverage. I do not know how you could review that footage and conclude otherwise. Again, you should watch Jim Shella's piece and strongly consider apologizing to Mark Small and Melissa for how they were treated. Certainly the editing of Shella's piece was far below professional and ethical standards.

While I appreciate Jim coming to the rally that day, he unquestionably had a story in mind even before he came into the atrium and went about finding people in the crowd who fulfilled that story. It certainly was not Jim’s finest hour as a political reporter.

Paul K. Ogden
Attorney at Law

P.S. I would add that no other print or TV journalist did the same type of slam piece your station carried. Over the past 24 hours I, and other rally organizers, have been contacted by elected officials, and Democrat and Republican activists who all want to talk about how unfair the Shella piece was. I have yet to talk to a single person who thought his piece was fair.


Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, I've learned that WISH-TV's news director went ballistic over the report by Ruth Holladay about the Cancun trip. He insisted to Ruth that nobody on his news staff went to Cancun; however, that doesn't account for management employees who don't report to him elsewhere within the station's organization. I believe that Shella arrived at the rally with the intention of churning out the most negative piece he could possibly do to discredit us. Shella gave me the "fuck you" look every time I came in contact with him at the rally. The guy really has it out for me because I've so thoroughly discredited him on numerous occasions in the past.

M Theory said...

Paul, this letter should also be sent to Kevin Finch.

Kevin Finch, the news director and guy ultimately reponsible for everything that goes on the air told me by telephone yesterday that he had no problem with the story, that he thought it was fair, and that "fair and balanced" is not a journalistic standard.

Kevin Finch also told me that that the event was organized by The Libertarians. I asked which Libertarians and for proof, which he could not provide.

By the middle to the end of the 10 minute phone call he was shouting at me by the phone.

He was both AGGRESSIVE and overly defensive at the same time.

Yesterday afternoon one of the email lists I read suggested that Channel 8's advertisers be targeted for a boycott. They will likely pick on March Supermarket since they support both the Pacers and channel 8.

These people are the same email lists that caused Missouri to issue a public apology for targeting Republican Ron Paul supporters as being "terrorists".

Leslie Sourwine said...

Journalism and ethics don't belong in the same sentence. You've made a lot of good points and that's the problem. Television and newspapers have lost touch with honest journalism that's why they are losing money.

Leslie Sourwine

Ryan Vaughn, CCC D-3 said...

Paul - I was not present to hear any of these speeches so I'm not here to comment on the substance of the reporting. I am here to say, however, "Welcome to the club."

I am glad you are now in a position to understand how frustrating and disappointing it is to have people criticize your actions and beliefs without even taking the time to learn all the facts on issues or even give you a phone call / interview before they offer their opinion.

I'm not applauding or condemning the reporting, but I will say it sure makes me a believer in karma.

Eric Rowe said...

What a sad illustration of how far our nation has slid into socialism that it would be considered radical for someone to oppose state control over the indoctrination of our youth.

Anonymous said...

Now we know why Jay Rockefeller is demanding censorship and tight control if the internet. The bloggers are the last far-reaching b astion of truth. Therefore, the US Senate is working to shut it down:

Melissa Lineberry said...

Hi I just want to clarify a few things; first I was not shy at all as I do my own show up here in Fort Wayne and am usually a great speaker. I just had a brain freeze because I was talking to House Rep Borders turned around and there was the reporter and he asked me what CFL stood for and my brain just went dead. I even told him that I am never that badly spoken as I do my own show and he said he would edit it. And that is what you got. I also called and asked for an apology from him and he said nope he was sticking to the story and I said I thought news was supposed to report facts not an opinion and he said basically tough. I also asked what the point of making me look so silly was and how was that news. And he said I am sticking to the story.

Paul K. Ogden said...


One thing I don't do is mislead or twist facts to fit an agenda. That's what Shella did. What he did to Mark Small and Melissa (not Melyssa Donaghy) was reprehensible and lacking of any journaistic ethics.

I don't go into a situationi and totally misrepersent facts to fit an agenda like Shella did. If you have specific examples of where I said something factually about you that wasn't true, let me know and I will certainly acknowledge being wrong.

I would point out though that bloggers are not reporters. Bloggers offer commentary on things in the news. Reporters like Shella have a higher duty to double check facts, talk to the people involved, etc. It's a full-time job. I have another full-time job, heck it's more than full-time.

I don't recall ever saying anything not factually correct about you, except not picking up that you do have some experience in the prosecutor's office. Of course we're talking about a very poorly run Marion County Prosecutor's Office that is terrible about charging people who shouldn't be charged and not dismising cases that should have never been filed in the first place. So I'm not sure being associated with Brizzi's office is a good thing.

There is no doubt that you took a job at Barnes & Thornburg after the election. You sit on a committee thaa has a parade of B&T clients coming before it. Your bosses at B&T are Bob Grand and Joe Loftus, who are big players in the current adaministration. Those are all facts that I don't think anyone disputes.

Now my take on those facts. Even if you wanted to, and you may well want to, you are in no position to demonstrate any sort of independence and talk about problems with the CIB and the Mayor's Office. We need a leader on the council who will do that and by the very job you have you could not do it if you wanted.

One thing I do not like is losing. Do you really think the Mayor and the Reublican majority council is on its way to winning in 2011 with this corporate welfare, elitist road Grand and Loftus have them taking? Ballard won in 2007 running as a populist and aided by a Democrat who shot himself in the foot before the election. Ballard has neither of those advantages next time.

Ballard and Tom John could have done a lot to reach out to the populist unrest in this county and work to make the Republican Party the majority party in this county. Instead they (aided by Grand and Lofus who are more worried about lining their pockets and those of their clients than winning elections) have given it away, pursuing higher taxes to give more money to billionaires, which not coincidentally is a client of Bob Grand. While I know there are plenty of Republicans on the council (I've heard from them) who want to speak out against the Mayor and what's going on in the CIB, they are afraid that they will be met with retaliation by the administation and council leadership. You're part of the Republican council leadership along with Plowman and Cockrum.

Ryan, you are part of the very leadership that is putting the Marion County GOP on path of getting slaughtered in 2011. While you may not be the one driving the bus off the cliff, you are part of the team that put this bus on the path to get to that cliff in 2011. You bet on the wrong team.

Now if there are any facts above not true, let me know. I understand you don't agree with my interpretation of the facts and that's understandable. But I don't Shellize the facts to fit the agenda.

Diana Vice said...

I just knew you wouldn't let me down, Paul. Zing! : )

Paul K. Ogden said...

Sorry, Melissa, if I didn't get what your experience correctly. Frankly, no matter how media savvy we all are, there are times when we stumble while explaining things or we forget. Most reporters understand that and instead edit the footage to get a fair representation of what the person said, not to mock them. Shella went out of his way to mock you and by extension the rally. It was totally unfair.

The fact Shella doesn't have the decency to even acknowledge that he possibly made a mistake in how he conducted his report shows an arrogance and a lack of ethics. I wish I knew a media ethics professor that I can send him Shella's report and ask if he though it was fair and ethica.