Thursday, September 06, 2007

How Wendy Says "Thanks"

After listening this morning to former News-Press reporter Anna Davison give her account of the genesis of her "Walk This Way" story, the one about the lower State Street revitalization project and the article that ostensibly got her fired, I gained a newly found appreciation for just what a skewed vision of the world that the paper's owner Wendy McCaw must have.

It's as if the owner of a restaurant happens to like their meat served blood rare and insists it be served that way to all of the restaurant's customers without regard to the fact that many would prefer it cooked medium or well done. Perhaps not an apt analogy when talking about the vegan McCaw but hopefully you get the point.

Davison described how she, the former science writer, and been assigned to the City beat a few days earlier and was trying to come up with story ideas. She learned about the project and thought it would make a good article. She ran it past her editors who gave her the green light and set out to to the story.

Although she was aware that other projects elsewhere in town had caused an outcry over the removal of trees she was unable to find anyone who was critical or skeptical about the removal of trees in this particular situation.

She contacted Mayor Marty Blum and quoted her about the City's role in the project and she also spoke with and quoted Downtown Organization head Marshall Rose about his group's involvement and views. When she turned in the draft of her story to her editors no one raised any questions or asked her to make any changes.

The story ran on the front page of the paper on Monday January 15th of this year. By that afternoon, McCaw had called Davison's editor, the irrepressible Bob Guliano, down to her office. I've read the story and in my opinion no reasonable person would ever find cause to complain that the article was biased. Despite that, McCaw felt it was and she wanted Guliano to formally reprimand Davison for the story.

Guliano later called Davison in to tell her about his meeting with McCaw. He told Davison that McCaw was upset about Davison having quoted Blum and Rose too much. Davison told him that it was ridiculous that she was upset over her quoting those people.

She subsequently saw a memo from Guliano to McCaw in which he told McCaw that Davison's story "was weak." Davison confronted him about this and wanted to know why he had written that when he had previously told her when she inquired whether her story was okay Guliano had told her it was "fine."

Guliano replied that he had read the Dale Carnegie book, How To Win Friends and Influence People and had read that sometimes it was helpful in resolving conflict with a person to make a concession. He told her that was his reason for doing so, which by the way was the same explanation given by Guliano when he testified at the hearing a week or two ago. Davison let him know she was upset that he would put into writing something that he know not to be true.

On January 25th at the end of the work day, Davison was called into the office of human resources director Yolanda Apodaca where associate editor Scott Steepleton handed her a letter telling her she was being fired for her biased reporting.

The madness of McCaw's outrage over what by all rights should have been an innocuous story was magnified by Davison's account of how on the day after the July 6th walkouts by the editors, when the paper was in very grave danger of not being put out at all, she along with senior writer Scott Hadly took charge of organizing those remaining in the newsroom, assigning stories and producing a newspaper for the next day and for a time after that until others were put in charge.

How was Davison rewarded for that? Mysteriously poor performance evaluations, no bonuses and no, not even a thank you.

News-Press attorney Barry Cappello will get a crack at cross examining her when today's afternoon session resumes.

During the middle of questioning of Davison by Steve Willey of the NLRB, Cappello rose from his seat and walked to the rear of the courtroom to where the Independent's Nick Welsh was seated in the next to last row. Cappello was holding Welsh's article, the one in which he refers to Cappello as a "barracuda," from this morning's edition of that paper. In a quiet voice Cappello asked Welsh, "did you write this piece of crap article?" Welsh replied that it wasn't a piece of crap but that he did write it. They both broke out laughing.

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