Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bizarre Attack, Destroyed For Sport

You may recall that a few months ago, the Vegas media world was in an uproar over some truly spectacular corruption committed by inexplicably still-employed KTNV anchor Nina Radetich. The anchor had tipped off an auto repair shop that her station was about to air some negative reports and suggested the owner call Nina's own boyfriend, a damage-control PR specialist.

This was as cut-and-dried a case of journalistic ethical corruption as can be conceived. There were taped phone conversations and the TV station essentially copped to the whole thing, with Radetich never once suggesting the basics of the story as broken by Abigail Goldman of the Las Vegas Sun were inaccurate.

That was well over two months ago. At the time, I jumped into the mix even though I typically do not comment on journalism ethics -- my game is accuracy, fairness, word usage and New Media ineffectiveness, mainly -- this one was so over the top and so many people at KTNV were writing to me in a steam that I did.

So how strange is it that now, all these months later, some dude named Mike Zahara, a political activist who has a history with the local Democratic Party but who seems to play it down the moderate middle on his blog, would decide to take a shot at me. This is a guy who has, in the past, written to me to tell me I was a hero of his. And now this:

The shooting continues unabated! Normally, I would be enjoying this, but I generally like these people and their work and I don’t see a value in its continuation.

The most recent battles began with Nina Radetich and her stuff. Not handled as well as it could have been and her media brothers and sisters had a field day piling on her, culminating with Jon Ralston using his Face-to-Face show and guest Steve Freiss to keep punching away at her affront to ‘journalistic ethics’…while conveniently forgetting to inform that Freiss has no background in ethics education or scholarship and that his husband is employed by fierce rival KVBC across town.

Neither fact was ever disclosed by Ralston or Friess.

I've left the bold-faced parts intact from Zahara's weird passage, the LEAD ITEM of a heading that reads, "Local Media’s Intercine Warfare Continues."


Here's the screenshot so, when he takes it down and pretends he never wrote it, you can see the evidence:


So let's thoroughly discredit Mr. Zahara just for sport, shall we?

POINT: The shooting continues unabated! Normally, I would be enjoying this, but I generally like these people and their work and I don’t see a value in its continuation.

COUNTERPOINT: I haven't written a word about Radetich since mid-September. The shooting has, indeed, abated.

POINT: Not handled as well as it could have been and her media brothers and sisters had a field day piling on her

COUNTERPOINT: Actually, it was handled phenomenally well. The Las Vegas Sun broke the story and followed it up and forced a great deal of discomfort for Radetich and KTNV. Nobody belabored the matter; it was in the news for about one week, maybe 10 days. But there were audio tapes and brought up a very serious problem. Media corruption is at least as significant an issue as governmental corruption but much trickier for the media to cover. In most cities, alternative weeklies keep check but here both are owned by the two competing major media conglomerates. So, given that, I'd say the Radetich matter was handled pitch-perfect. Had the press not reported on this, we'd be accused of covering up for our own. It was undeniably a real news story and was handled with plenty of respect. In fact, I was the one who, in my last post on the matter, asked whether maybe Radetich, whose conduct was unforgivable and indefensible, might nonetheless have been set up. That's called being fair to both sides.

POINT: ...culminating with Jon Ralston using his Face-to-Face show and guest Steve Freiss to keep punching away at her affront to ‘journalistic ethics’…while conveniently forgetting to inform that Freiss has no background in ethics education or scholarship...

COUNTERPOINT: No scholarship, eh? I have a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University, widely viewed as the finest undergraduate program in the nation and a program that requires several ethics classes. I've also attended more than one Poynter Institute seminars on ethics, one of which is listed on the resume that is so buried on my website at SteveFriess.Com/Resume. Plus, I've been a practicing journalist for 15 years and have been confronted with and had newsroom discussions about innumerable ethical dilemmas. Meanwhile, Mr. Zahara, who seems to believe that being capable of credibly analyzing the media requires some sort of advanced degree in it, has none of his own but felt competent to write a blog post called "Local Media’s Intercine Warfare Continues" in which he beats the crap out of this city's most respected newspeople, including Jon Ralston and George Knapp. The guy who has not a lick of actual experience as a reporter thinks he can comment on the propriety of what journalists do. And guess what? I agree with him on that. You don't need a degree or "scholarship" to form reasonable opinions about the media, including about me and my work. A little bit of actual information, however, is helpful.

POINT: ...and that his husband is employed by fierce rival KVBC across town. Neither fact was ever disclosed by Ralston or Friess.

COUNTERPOINT: In the 30th second of the first segment of my appearance with Ralston, Jon states in introducing me: "He has particular insight into the TV industry as he's married to an executive producer of Channel 3." I'm also quite sure that during my comments, I referenced things I knew about Nina's departure from Channel 3 and acknowledged how I knew this, but I don't see the point in spending any more time on this given how thoroughly I've demonstrated that Zahara has no fucking clue what he's talking about.

And just one more thing, Mr. Zahara: It's Friess, not Freiss. At NU, I would've been failed for screwing up a pivotal name in a piece. I left that for last here, though, because as egregious as that mistake is and as much as it lays bare your inability to fact-check even the most elementary parts of what you write, it's actually the very least of your worries.

10 comments:

Reba in Vegas said...

Wow. What a douche. Nicely done.

Dave K said...

Steve, Steve, Steve. I think Zahara's site is some sort of spoof. Not very well executed, but would you react this strongly to something in the Onion? Relax. He obviously wasn't serious.

Evansdsgn said...

Incorrectly spelling somebody's name was an automatic FAIL when I went to J school back in the 80's. Oh, we were taught ethics too. Guess times have changed quite a bit since both accuracy and ethics have been tossed aside for timeliness and sensationalism. Radetich should be fired, plain and simple.

GTS said...

Swallowed hole. Wow. Reminds me why I don't mess with the friesster.

H.Peter said...

Zing!

atdnext said...

Just don't bother with that Zahara blowhard. I think he just has a bruised ego. I still don't yet know his entire story of his rise and fall among Nevada Democrats, but frankly I don't really care to jump into that hot mess. I'd even trust Chuckie Muth in his bats**t craziest than Mikey Zahara trying to sound "smart" when he doesn't really know anything about anything.

Good on you, Steve, for exposing this guy for the fool he really is.

ucsb1990 said...

Victory by knockout to the defending champion, Steve Friess. I think we just found the next host of "Face to Face". I remember you telling Sebelius on NWR not to be like Ralston, but you certainly opened a can of Ralston-like whoop-ass on Zahara.

Zahara must have previously posted something similar, because I came across that same snide remark -- about you not being qualified to write about ethics -- in a comment a couple months ago, when Ninagate was still hot. Even without knowing your educational credentials, I thought it was ridiculous; after all, you've written extensively for a couple of the biggest newspapers in the world, so you obviously know a thing or two about journalism. Zahara, by contrast, needs a remedial course in fact-checking. Maybe he could go to work for Heidi Harris.

ucsb1990 said...

I just took some time to read your résumé. Dude, I am amazed. I had no idea you had accomplished so much. If Nina can make $200k a year, you should be making millions.

Steve said...

Two things, Steve:

1. I don't believe Nina Radetich tipped off Tire Works that the story was coming. I believe the company knew about the story because of the interview requests from the reporter on the story. It was then that the owner of Tire Works, Roshi Weightman, called Radetich, looking for help. It was then that Radetich committed her inexcusable ethical breach. (I concur, BTW, that she should have been fired.)

2. Yes, my newspaper, CityLife, is owned by Stephens Media LLC, which owns the R-J. We disclose that corporate connection often. But CityLife wrote and editorialized extensively on this story, and I wrote about it for my blog. Moreover, it was covered in the R-J's own "media" column, which is actually a column about TV, not all media. My point is the alt-weekly did write about this in its role as a watchdog not only of government, but of business, too.

thomas said...

Well. I guess you told her.