When you read the title of this blog post, what do you think "giddily" meant? Probably something like happy, right? Joyful, maybe. This indeed is one definition of "giddy." As in, he was giddy with delight.
Almost certainly you weren't thinking of another definition: dizzy, causing dizziness. As in, a giddy climb to the topmast.
Therein lies my newest gripe about the Salem Statesman Journal's editorial page editor, Dick Hughes. Dick and I have a history of journalistic disagreements. It's sort of a fun game between us, and sort of not. (The first "sort of" made my use of giddily in the post title believable.)
Today I was pleased to see my name in the lead Statesman Journal editorial, "Downtown resentments, infighting trump Salem's needs." I wasn't happy, though, about being misquoted.
Download Downtown resentments, infighting trump Salem's needs
Thus, it was shortsighted for supporters of the previous EID manager, the Salem Downtown Partnership, to treat the EID as a referendum on city management.
"The vote today, doing away with the EID, is not a vote against flower baskets and First Wednesday. It's a vote against essentially an authoritarian takeover of what was an independent, democratic downtown organization by the city manager and you guys, and you just let it happen," Brian Hines told the City Council, adding that he was giddy about the evening.
When you read what Dick Hughes wrote, doesn't "he was giddy about the evening" make you think that I was happy the Economic Improvement District was done away with by a vote of downtown property owners? (The Urban Dictionary definitions focus on the happy and excited meanings.)
You'd think that even more if you had read the entire editorial, which started out this way:
The angry accusations directed at Salem's city manager and City Council on Tuesday were coarse and divisive:
"The city came in and stole our money."
"I want to make it very clear the failure tonight is on your head, not ours."
Critics of the Salem Downtown Economic Improvement District were imprudently but giddily celebrating its demise at the City Council meeting. Under state law, enough downtown property owners had opposed the EID that the council was barred from continuing it.
Pretty clever of Dick Hughes, huh? He begins his editorial by saying that critics of how the City of Salem, in the person of City Manager Linda Norris, has been handling the EID, imprudently but giddily celebrated its demise at last week's City Council meeting.
Then he supposedly quoted one of those critics who spoke at the meeting, me, as saying he was giddy. Case closed! Giddily guilty as charged!
Except, Dick Hughes purposely misquoted me. It had to be purposely, because the Statesman Journal put a video of the public hearing on the Economic Improvement District on its web site. This enabled Hughes to accurately quote me as saying to the City Council:
The vote today, doing away with the EID, is not a vote against flower baskets and First Wednesday. It's a vote against essentially an authoritarian takeover of what was an independent, democratic downtown organization by the city manager and you guys, and you just let it happen.
So Hughes knew that when I used the word "giddy" it was in this context.
And I'm a little giddy because I've got low blood sugar and I've sat here listening to something I don't care about for two hours, but you need to wake up and the city council needs to exercise oversight over what's happening to downtown because it's important.
A way different meaning of "giddy," right? I was talking about feeling a bit dizzy. I'm a vegetarian. I left my house without eating much at 5:50 pm to go to the City Council meeting, telling my wife that I'd be back soon because I was going to speak about the EID during the opening public comment period.
But when I got there, a city staffer said I had to sign up for the public hearing on the EID. So I sat for three hours, until 9:30 pm, so I could have my say for three minutes. During most of that time the City Council was holding a lengthy hearing on a zoning change for a boarding house in a residential neighorhood. Sort of interesting, but not after two hours when I was hungry and bored.
So near the end of my allotted three minutes I felt the need to explain why I was talking a bit faster and more emotionally than usual. I was giddy in the mildly dizzy sense, not the delighted sense.
Hence, it was a breach of journalistic ethics for Dick Hughes to say that I was "giddy about the evening" where the demise of the EID was announced. He knew damn well that I was using giddy in a completely different way than his "giddily celebrating."
Maybe you're thinking, this is no big deal. Why devote a whole freaking blog post to it?
Well, because this is one in a series of misleading editorials based on falsities that Dick Hughes has written over the years. Two weeks ago I made a formal journalistic ethics complaint to Gannett, the Statesman Journal parent company, about one of them from 2013.
Tomorrow I'm emailing the guy who handles such complaints for Gannett. I'll ask him to add on the content of this blog post to my initial complaint. I would have held off on this if Dick Hughes had acknowledged that he misquoted me after I pointed it out to him this morning.
But what I got back was this entirely unsatisfactory response. I have no idea what Hughes is trying to say here. Obviously I was at the meeting. I'm on the freaking video! Maybe Hughes was giddy when he wrote this.
Here's the comment I left on the editorial that Hughes replied to, along with my response to what Hughes said above.
My personal gripe is this. The editorial accurately quotes my statement that businesses voted to eliminate the EID because of the City Manager's authoritarian takeover of an independent, democratic downtown organization.
But then Dick Hughes and Co. said "...Brian Hines told the City Council, adding that he was giddy about the evening."
Wow. Cheap shot, Dick. You made it sound like I was giddy about the EID being voted down and downtown being left without promotional funds.
You knew very well that what I said, at 9:30 pm after sitting for three hours waiting to speak for three minutes at the City Council public hearing, was:
"And I'm a little giddy because I've got low blood sugar and I've sat here listening to something I don't care about for two hours, but you need to wake up and the city council needs to exercise oversight over what's happening to downtown because it's important."
I expect a correction and apology on tomorrow's opinion page. I realize your favorite saying, Mr. Hughes, is "It's just opinion!" But you need to realize that facts are different from opinion. I never said I was giddy about the evening. I said I was giddy from low blood sugar and boredom.
Dick Hughes You have failed to understand my point: journalists, and other writers, have a responsibility to use quotations appropriately. In my opinion, you didn't do that, as I'll further explain below.
So here's a challenge for you: Invite me to your next SJ reporter's meeting, or your next Willamette journalism class. I'd like to lead a discussion about what people think "giddy about the evening" connotes to them.
When I read this, I think, "The person was happy." As in, "giddy with happiness after the wedding." I wouldn't think, "The person was giddy with low blood sugar and boredom."
What you did, I'm arguing, is take my quote out of context.
I was explaining to the city council why my speech was rushed and rather emotional, since I had three minutes to speak about a complex issue, after waiting three hours to do so. I left the house after saying to my wife, "i should be back soon," because I thought I'd be able to speak during the opening public comment period.
Your use of "giddy about the evening" made it sound like I was happy with the demise of the EID, which was the exact opposite of what I conveyed in my three minutes of speaking.
Sure, it may seem silly to argue over this misquote. But it points to a larger issue with Statesman Journal editorializing: are you concerned with basing opinions on solid facts, or do you twist/omit facts to support an editorial opinion?
In your columns you have inveighed against candidates who will use only part of an editorial non-endorsement, as in "John Jones is top-knotch," leaving out "... at incompetent management of public funds."
What you did was akin to me saying, "Dick Hughes is the most skilled editorial writer in Oregon at taking quotes out of context and twisting facts," and you quoting only "Dick Hughes is the most skilled editorial writer in Oregon."