Daily Archives: July 8, 2012

New Orleans Times-Picayune weekend reporter Kari Dequine Harden has had it.

“Sometimes I just want to scream about what is happening around me” at the newspaper, she writes.

“Those of us laid off still have jobs to do until the 30th of Sept, but it’s going from bad to worse,” she tells Romenesko readers. “This newsroom is unhealthy, to say the least. I desperately want my job until October because I love it. But I also can’t just keep my mouth shut and pretend everything is okay, or that it doesn’t matter. So I sent this to editors/publishers/ top brass this morning. Because I’m pissed.”

Here’s the reporter’s email to editor Jim Amoss, director of content James O’Byrne, managing producer Keith Marszalek, new publisher Ricky Mathews and online editor Lynn Cunningham:

This is totally unacceptable.

I am on the streets talking to a murder victim’s family and friends while his body is being loaded into a coroner’s van after my shift because we don’t have a Saturday night person – apparently we aren’t hiring one. Then I find out there was also a murder-suicide.

I go to this morning so I know what I need to follow up on today and neither story are anywhere to be found on the home page. Something about a flight that happened a long time ago when there were three homicides within a few hours? I finally find the murder-suicide. Buried, of course. The first homicide isn’t anywhere on the page. But a whole lot of other stupid fluff shit is.

I take a lot of pride in my work, even after I’ve been fired and told my experience, skills, and talents are of no use after Sept. 30. I know that I am good at what I do.

But compared to other news outlets, our website is a joke. We break news – but no one would know because of the worst news website known to man and the priority setting – whoever is doing it, is totally fucked. Embarrassing, compared to TV. And yet we are focused on digital now? Enhanced? Who is buying this crap?

Then I get criticized by – a group of people who still have all their jobs despite our despised website – because a 4th of July story I pitched, wrote, and blogged is in the holiday blog, which apparently is only for certain holidays.

I am writing you because I care about our product and I care about being the best reporter – sorry – content provider – I can be until I no longer have a job. But our product is suffering. Big time. And you all should be aware of that because it means losing respect in the community and losing readers and I’m not sure ya’ll want to be risking that right now. I talk to the community. A lot. I’m not sure if any of you are on the streets getting the opinions of our readers, you should be – during this time of transition. But if you aren’t – I can tell you that everyone hates our website and is losing respect for us as a hard news leader. And this morning – despite the hard work I do to provide the story – I can see why.

UPDATE: Dequine Harden tells that she hasn’t heard from any of the T-P execs who received her email. She’s going on vacation and points out that now “may be good timing to disappear for about 10 days.”

In a 7,000-word SCOTUSblog piece — the site’s second longest ever — publisher Tom Goldstein examines how CNN and Fox News came to incorrectly report the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling and what SCOTUSblog, Bloomberg News and others did to get the decision right.

He says it boils down to this: The two largest cable news networks treated the court’s decision as a breathless “breaking news” event, “despite the fact that everyone knew when the opinion was going to be released.”

At the networks on the morning of June 28…

The CNN producer says (correctly) that the Court has held that the individual mandate cannot be sustained under the Commerce Clause, and (incorrectly) that it therefore “looks like” the mandate has been struck down. The control room asks whether they can “go with” it, and after a pause, he says yes.

The Fox producer reads the syllabus exactly the same way, and reports that the mandate has been invalidated. Asked to confirm that the mandate has been struck down, he responds: “100%.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg was the first with an alert — “OBAMA’S HEALTH-CARE OVERHAUL UPHELD BY U.S.SUPREME COURT” — and gets it right.

Goldstein says SCOTUSblog’s strategy was to go slow and not make any mistakes. He notes that he “stupidly” told the Washington Post that he expected SCOTUSblog to beat the Associated Press with a report on the ruling. (Goldstein later told AP’s Mark Sherman that “we’re not racing you,” and that in a decision this long and complicated, “no one will remember if you move this story first or we do” but the “only thing anyone will ever remember is if we fucked it up.”)

Goldstein says both CNN and Fox “exposed themselves to potential failure” — got the ruling wrong — by:

(a) treating the decision as a breathless “breaking news” event, despite the fact that everyone knew when the opinion was going to be released, while at the same time

(b) not putting sufficiently sound procedures in place to deal with the potential complications, and

(c) not placing more faith in the consensus view of the wire reports.

Goldstein calls two networks’ responses to their errors “a study in contrasts”:

The reaction in some quarters at CNN has been apoplectic. But Fox – which like CNN is taking steps to avoid making a similar initial mistake in the future – generally views Thursday morning’s “transparent” broadcasting of information as it developed in real time as exactly how its reporting should function.

As for SCOTUSblog, “we helped the traditional media and the White House, and we distributed the information directly to the public,” writes Goldstein. “We also survived hackers, accommodated a record number of visitors, and had a chance to report on one of the most momentous decisions in recent history. And we had a blast doing it.”

* We’re getting wildly different assessments (SCOTUSblog)

Earlier posts:

* AP reporter chides CNN for getting Obamacare ruling wrong (
* AP orders staff to stop taunting rivals about mistake on ruling (
* Bloomberg News says it was first with the health care ruling (
* For SCOTUSblog, the goal is to be first with the Obamacare ruling (Washington Post)



Donate $15 or more and you’ll get a signed copy of DEATH LOG, a book of unusual/celebrity coroner’s reports that I published in my 1980s police reporting days. (Only 75 copies left!)