I've got no problem with reporters dishing dirt on stories from another news outlet. But it sure seems that if they do this, their own coverage of the issue -- or in the case of the Statesman Journal, non-coverage -- becomes open to critiquing.
Yesterday Statesman Journal reporter Jonathan Bach tweeted about a follow-up story regarding the Creekside development and Lone Oak Road in our town's alternative paper, Salem Weekly.
First, the Statesman Journal has engaged in exactly zero coverage of an important issue that has consumed a lot of City Council time and is a big concern of the South Gateway Neighborhood Association that represents the Creekside area, along with other south Salem residents.
Namely, who is responsible for leaving a bridge over Jory Creek and an extension of Lone Oak Road uncompleted, and should a Lone Oak Road Reimbursement District be established that shifts the cost of these projects from the Creekside developer to the public?
Salem Weekly has run four stories about this, including a front page opinion piece that I wrote.
So a reporter from a "glass house" newspaper that is doing a spectacularly lousy job covering local news, including City Hall goings-on, shouldn't be throwing stones at an alternative paper that is printing stories the Statesman Journal is ignoring.
Second, Helen Caswell, who wrote the Salem Weekly piece Bach tweeted about, is indeed a journalist. And for that matter, so am I in a very real way. We both write factual, carefully researched pieces, Caswell for Salem Weekly, me for the blogs that I've posted to regularly since 2003 (I also had a two-year stint as a columnist for Salem Weekly).
I don't know what Friedman is referring to when he tweeted, "Lol at all of this. Totally sums up everything that is wrong with the Salem Weekly."
Salem Weekly, along with me, got a letter from an attorney representing Creekside developer Larry Tokarski after the paper published my opinion piece. Caswell's follow-up story addressed several issues raised by the attorney, James Vick. She reviewed a bunch of documents relating to the Creekside development and spoke with City of Salem staff, along with Tokarski's attorney, I believe.
Which gets me to...
Third, if Jonathan Bach had been covering the Creekside/Lone Oak Road story with anywhere near the diligence Caswell and I have, he would have known that this mess (that's the way the Mayor and city councilors describe it) is a highly complex tangled web of voluminous documents, failed commitments, and a notable lack of straight talk from all concerned -- City of Salem staff and people involved with the Creekside development.
Caswell's story, "Opinion run by Salem Weekly is both sound and problematic," reflected this confusion. She basically found that I correctly identified Tokarski as the Creekside developer, though I didn't highlight several legal entities led by Tokarski that carried out the many phases of the Creekside development.
Tokarski's attorney seemed to claim that the reason construction by the Creekside developer of a bridge over Jory Creek and the northern extension of Lone Oak Road was started in 2007, then stopped, was because of what amounted to a "change order" that markedly increased the cost of the bridge owing to environmental requirements.
But Caswell notes:
Although Mr. Vick asserted to Salem Weekly that costs shot up because City staff chose at some point to require a more robust bridge or a bridge with a different design or function, this is something we haven’t seen documentation on.
So it's no wonder Caswell couldn't come to firm conclusions about some aspects of the letter from Mr. Vick, Tokarksi's attorney. Even though there are hundreds, and likely thousands, of document pages relating to the Creekside development, somehow supposedly there isn't anything relating to the start/stop 2007 work on the bridge and road.
Like I said, this whole Lone Oak Road issue is a mess.
And who is casting light on it? Well, it sure isn't the Statesman Journal, nor the Oregonian. Below is what a Google search of "Lone Oak Road Reimbursement District" turns up in the top five results. A Salem Weekly story. A City of Salem document. Two of my blog posts. A post from the Salem Breakfast on Bikes blog.
Nothing from the Statesman Journal, which used to be called our "paper of record." Now, it's Salem Weekly and bloggers who are writing about local issues that the Statesman Journal isn't covering. So let's ease up on criticism of the work others are doing in your stead, Statesman Journal reporters.