I was too harsh in my criticism of two Kansas City Star reporters in my last post, and today I’m going to try to make amends.
I’m not going to steer away from warranted criticism of The Star and other papers in the future, but I am going to be more careful with my wording and also make a better effort to verify things I present as fact.
First, I related that a friend, a former KC Star colleague, told me that a young reporter named Ian Cummings wore a T-shirt and jeans when he went to interview R. Crosby Kemper III, Kansas City Public Library director, last week. My friend got that from a friend who is a top manager at the library.
I could easily have emailed or called Cummings and found out if that was true, but instead I went with my friend’s information. Bad move. Cummings sent me an email a several hours after the post was up, saying he had worn a Polo-type shirt and slacks.
I quickly posted a comment noting what Cummings had said — although I still questioned the propriety of wearing a Polo shirt to an interview with a person of Kemper’s stature.
Cummings was under the impression I was going to change the original paragraph in the blog, and from a later email he sent, I got the impression he was disappointed in the way I handled the “correction.”
I don’t shrink from corrections, but they often don’t look like the formal corrections you see in The Star and other papers. Most blogs have a personal, informal tone and that’s what I shoot for here.
In any event, my apologies to Ian Cummings, but, like I said in my follow-up comment yesterday, reporters should be ready to shift gears, sartorially and otherwise, depending on the nature of their assignments. Casual Fridays are not always observed in executive suites, and whatever Cummings wore to his interview with Crosby Kemper, he had library officials talking.
I also criticized reporter Steve Vockrodt for what I deemed to be “lazy” reporting on a weekend story about a Nevada U.S. District Court judge having ordered a former payday lender from our area to pay $1.3 billion to the Federal Trade Commission for cheating several million people out of their money.
My main objection to the story was it included no indication that the defendant, Scott Tucker, would probably never pay anything close to $1.3 billion. A lot of his profits are undoubtedly gone, and besides, first-level court judgments often get altered as the cases forward on appeal.
Vockrodt called and said he didn’t get the court ruling until Saturday (the story appeared in Sunday’s paper), when it would have been very difficult to identify and contact sources who might have offered comments tempering the prospect of Tucker ever making full restitution. He also made it clear he was unhappy with my assessment he was guilty of lazy reporting.
Vockrodt said he planned to do a follow-up story, and today he did so. Today’s story says, among other things, that The FTC has estimated Tucker’s liquid assets are $106 million. My guess is the FTC will get far less than that.
…If I had to write it again, I would not have used the word “lazy.” I would have said, simply, that Vockrodt, a veteran business reporter, should not have left readers with the impression that the FTC would be collecting anything close to $1.3 billion from Tucker. He wasn’t lazy; he just knew better.