Weakly's "source" was dead wrong
Original post made by Paul K on Apr 26, 2007
1. If the allegations made by her co-workers are true, she should have been fired a long time ago but hasn't because it's difficult if not impossible to fire a government employee. I guess Frank Benest recognizes this since he did everything he could to get her fired, and when eh realized it wasn't going to work, began praising her to make the best out of a bad situation.
2. You can't trust the Weakly, particularly when it cites unidentified sources in a story. Go back to the Weakly's April 6th story <Web Link> and look at all the things that were wrong in that report.
On April 4th, Weakly said Gary Baum launched the Harrison investigation. Now we learn it was actually Frank Benest who launched it.
On April 4th, the Weakly said the allegations were made by a "mid-level staffer." Now we learn it was Benest, a top-level staffer, who made the allegations about how she treated others and him.
The April 4th story sugar-coated the allegations against Harrison, suggesting that the source knew the allegations were much worse and used the Weakly to try and put out the fire. Nothing in that original report discussed her alleged harassment of people based on their political or religious beliefs, her rolling of her eyes, her insubordination, etc.
Did Jay and the Weakly get "used" by their source, or were they trying to help the city with a cover-up?
The original story contains many other inaccuracies which would have never been revealed to the public had the report remained secret. Thank goodness the Daily filed a request to obtain the documents! (The Weakly jumped in and filed its request for the report only after the Daily did so first.)
Since this "source" gave the Weakly bad information, the Weakly should declare that it's promise is anonymity is off and reveal the liar.
It's funny how newspapers always demand transparency from other institutions in society, but when the tables are turned, they cover everything up and ignore their critics.
on Apr 26, 2007 at 11:05 am
My guess is that the source is Emily Harrison.
on Apr 26, 2007 at 11:45 am
The Weekly should correct such errors and explain how they happened. But I'm not holding my breath.
on Apr 26, 2007 at 10:23 pm
Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.
In response to Paul K's "Palo Alto Weakly" posting (a rather tired and petty-insult play on words, I thought), I will provide some background and thoughts, with advance apologies for the length.
1) The Weekly is neither "out to get" Harrison, as some have alleged, or trying to "sugar-coat" or support a "cover-up" of some sort. Our goal is simply to find out what is happening on a story of significant public interest and importance and report it as quickly, accurately and in depth as possible so readers can reach their own conclusions (and then debate them on Town Square).
2) No responsible journalist I know enjoys writing stories based on anonymous sources. In this case, we spent several hours talking with fearful and reluctant persons knowledgeable about the situation to get what was going on, who was involved and how long the alleged behavior had been going on. Sometimes it's a case in which it's a choice between the public getting no information at all about an important situation or having to rely on (trust?) a journalist (such as the late David Halberstam) to find out what's truly happening from trusted (and verified) sources and report that.
We developed significant information, but chose not to publish some of it until we could get at least a "second source" (or third) to confirm it. This is standard journalistic practice. But even trusted and well-meaning sources (anonymous or quoted by name) can sometimes be wrong about details, and this was the case about who initiated the investigation that led to the suspension of Harrison.
We used the term "reportedly," thus clearly indicating to the reader that we are passing on information. When we learned of the error, we corrected it online and in print at the earliest opportunity.
2) The initial story actually was posted March 27, not April 4, and quoted Harrison, reached at her home on a Sunday. The story reported the suspension, and that it was "due to a run-in several months ago with an unidentified staff member." The sources were Harrison, not an unidentified source, and Phil Plymale, head of the Service Employees International Uniion chapter representing city employees -- who told us he didn't think a union person was involved, hence "mid-level" in a later story. We quoted accurately what Plymale said about Harrison.
On April 6 (not April 4, according to our records) we posted a story disclosing that a formal investigation led to the suspension and that "Sources indicate that the grievance was filed by a mid-level staff member, but no time frame has been established as to any specific incident or situation on which the grievance was based." There is a difference between who filed the original "grievance" and who "initiated the investigation" -- it was in fact a mid-level (i.e. "non-union") staff member who filed the grievance, as the sources indicated. "Allegations" is a general, vague term -- and many people have made them in this story. It could apply to either or both the person who filed the grievance and Benest.
At the time we were pretty sure the person filing the grievance worked on the seventh floor but did not report that because we wanted to get additional confirmation. We also learned (not easily) that the investigation uncovered a multi-year pattern of behavior with certain individuals, but needed further confirmation of that as well.
City Attorney Gary Baum at that time would "neither confirm nor deny" that an investigation had occurred.
3) The Weekly filed a Public Records Act request as soon as a letter could be prepared and delivered. The letter was dated March 29 and received by the city attorney's office April 2. We only learned days or a week later that the Daily News had filed a request of its own. We have reported on both requests, but I haven't seen a reference to the Weekly's request in the Daily News' articles for some reason. I do not know who filed first, and question the relevancy of that anyway.
I would be pleased to discuss this matter further if Paul K. desires a real dialogue about standard responsible-journalism practices and the Weekly's intent in this complex, challenging and rather saddening story.