"Why does the Ledger's Brian Eason ooze contempt for so many Jacksonians?" by Jackblog | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Jackblog

Why does the Ledger's Brian Eason ooze contempt for so many Jacksonians?

OK, Snark King, it's your turn.

I've had it in the back of my head to blog about a really offensive post by The Clarion-Ledger's city reporter Brian Eason for weeks now, but it had fallen to the side in the need to report actual news. But while cleaning up my desk today, I started noticing a pattern—first from a clipping of another snarky thing he wrote calling a whole city office stupid, and then I saw a blog post belittling an enterprise story by our staff this week, but without actually saying what was in it or linking to it. So here's my Friday afternoon round-up of what I've been noticing about Mr. Eason's snark, which I assume is meant to be humor, except none of it is funny.

No. 1. Don't dare compare crime to terrorism, dumb little council candidate. After 20-year-old minister Corinthian Sanders decided to get involved enough to run for City Council, he made the mistake of saying that the "terrorism" of crime was one of his top priorities (as if he's the first to ever say that here). Sanders told the Jackson Free Press: "Let’s talk about getting our lawbreakers, criminals—I call them terrorists….(If) you can’t go anywhere without killing someone or robbing someone or terrorizing someone, that’s terror, (and) you’re a terrorist; you’re a domestic terrorist.” The mention of the word terrorism tickled Eason's funny bone. He snarked:

"To my knowledge, no major terrorist attacks have occurred or been planned on our streets, and the Jackson Police Department reported no terrorist incidents in 2012, according to its published crime stats. But maybe that’s what the terrorists want us to think.

"Lest anyone think Sanders is trying to politicize the Boston Marathon bombing, rest assured, his commitment to fighting terrorism on the streets of Jackson predated the explosions at the marathon.

"But while Sanders listed counter-terrorism as his No. 2 priority, right behind “protect, improve and increase affordable housing,” none of his competitors — or, indeed, any other candidates in the entire metro area — mentioned local terrorism as a problem worthy of their consideration.

Eason's blog post shows he later clarified what Sanders meant, and quoted Sanders' above words from the JFP in an addendum to the snark-post, but that nasty horse was out of Eason's barn by then. That's what you get for running for office in Jackson, Corinthian. The ire of a native Dallasonian. And I really don't know what all his references to monkey videos on your Facebook page were about, and don't care.

No. 2. In a post called "Common sense? Not at clerk's office," Eason showed the entire staff of the Jackson city clerk's office not to mess with him, no sir. He was irked that he couldn't get election results from the clerk's office at 11 a.m. the day after the primary. They didn't have certified results available, yet, and gave him a bit of a runaround. OK, it's fair to complain about records delays; we get miffed about delays for public records, too. But, seriously, no "common sense" in the clerk's office? Does he know that it was a problem with the staffers there for sure? It couldn't possibly be a delay somewhere up or down the pipeline that he might need to investigate and offer solutions for in the future (sans juvenile snark)?

(Note: We got the elections results quickly with little drama, as I recall.)

No. 3. Then today, Eason decides to go directly for the JFP's jugular by making fun of a story that our news staff spent enterprising reporting time on this week, the so-called secret write-in campaign for Quentin Whitwell, and ended up just carrying water for the councilman himself. From reading the post, it sounds like Eason was perturbed that he didn't figure out that the email might have originated from Whitwell's wife's business partner when she was on vacation with Whitwell's wife (none of them will call back to confirm or deny, so we can't say for sure), so he just skips over all of that to make fun of reporter R.L. Nave's blog post and story. (R.L. has so far this year won four regional and national awards for his reporting; not sure what Eason's count is ... but now I'm being snarky; sorry).

Essentially, the whole dumb blog post rewrites R.L.'s stories into a straw man that Eason tries to beat the hell out of, as he allows Whitwell to blame us for even bothering to find out if a local elected official was trying to defeat another one with a secret, unregistered campaign. (Whitwell told us he didn't know about the email, which was in the story.)

Remarkably, Eason makes fun of the fact that R.L.'s story linked to Whitwell's deleted Facebook thread, wholly missing the point that that was the only place we know of where Whitwell has said he knew nothing about the email. In other words, that part is good for Whitwell, as long as it was true, and we have no reason to say it wasn't. I'm stunned that Eason's blog claims to be an "Eye on Government," and he is simply not comprehending very basic components of this story. And just publishing an elected official's story after not reporting it at all is most certainly not keeping an "eye on government." Everything about this offends my journalistic sensibilities. It feels like bad P.R.

And, of course, Eason doesn't actually link to our stories as he's cherry-picking them, but instead to a local hateful blogger who got kicked off this site a few years back for threatening to kick our Latino reporter's butt in a thread about immigration. It was a stunning use of Gannett's bandwidth to, I presume, deflect the fact that the Ledger missed another important election story that readers have the right to make their own decisions about.

Eason also makes fun of our efforts to determine who put out VOTE signs in just majority-white parts of Jackson days before the runoff. I'm guessing he can't imagine driving around the city to figure out such a thing and trying to get sources to say whether or not they were the work of a particular campaign or PAC; perhaps transparency isn't his priority, after all (see city clerk belittlement). It probably also doesn't bother him that many of them were still out days after the election as trash on our right-of-ways. Read my column disputing the signs' message here.

No. 4a. Two of Eason's election news reports (and maybe more; I haven't had the stomach to read them all), also displayed shoddy, selective reporting. The first one came out three days after the JFP broke the news about Jonathan Lee's multiple default judgements. Eason's angle emphasized the local attorney and Harvey Johnson supporter that the C-L believed sent out the public (!) information to various media outlets.

(Note they had not reported the default judgments when they got the information, which reminded me of the Ledger not going with the Melton duplex demolition story until days after the JFP broke it, but we can't blame Eason for that -- he hadn't moved to town yet.)

The Lee "followup" to our story essentially demonized the source, giving the non-journalists out there the impression that it's somehow a horrible thing that a campaign supporter would provide public records to the media. Guess what? The Ledger had been getting tips from many of the campaigns and their supporters just as we had been, but they didn't feel the need to "out" those sources.

Also, I had to write the editor there to figure out if Eason actually talked to Lee for that story because the piece seemed to reveal Lee's thoughts without direct attribution -- making it seem like some of the info came from our story. (They said they did interview Lee for it, but remarkably didn't quote him. I have no idea why they wouldn't quote the candidate.)

No. 4b. The second story that I know he screwed the pooch on came out earlier this week. In "How Lee Lost," Eason opined that "devastating attacks" by Lumumba's side cost Lee the race. He stated:

"There are a number of reasons, but the most damaging was a barrage of attacks at the finish line in the form of mailers, radio ads and flyers.

"Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Jackson, on Friday set the tone for what was to come. “When I see Republicans from Rankin and Madison County supporting the other so-called Democrat in this race, I know that something is fishy,” Thompson said in a radio spot paid for by Lumumba’s campaign. “I know these Republicans well, because they are the same Republicans who always support my opponents, and they opened their checkbooks last fall for Mitt Romney in an effort to kick President Obama out of the White House.”

The problem both Lee and Eason had here is that these points were true. Lee did have immense support from Republicans, both in Hinds and beyond, as we reported here before the primary. People could decide for themselves what they thought about that, but Eason seemed to buy into the Lee campaign's narrative that it was "unfair" (Eason even used that word in a news story) to tell people about it.

He then stated: "Then came mailers tying Lee to Republicans like Romney and former Gov. Haley Barbour, by way of shared donors. Flyers bearing a similar message also were circulated on Election Day."

Being that Eason has been here a year and half, he may not know that this is a long-time Republican tactic in our state: picturing a local candidate next to hated Democrats like Bennie Thompson and Hillary Clinton. Sure, it was negative campaigning and exaggerated, but the ads were at least based on some degree of fact.

But what is journalisticially remarkable—I might even call it malpractice—is that Eason never mentioned the attacks from Lee supporters back on Lumumba, including the flyer distributed on cars at churches that called him a "race traitor" based on a blurred Mississippi Sovereignty Commission document that indicated nothing like that. Eason also left out the TV and radio ads Lee supporters ran against Lumumba using what Lee himself called "sound bites" to try to prove that Lumumba wasn't a Christian.

To hear Eason tell it, the negative campaigning against Lee over his Republican support was devastating enough to take him out of the race -- with no indication of what his own negative campaigning did to his chances. Or, for that matter, the effect of Lee's business problems, which had had time to reach more voters by then.

Ah, but Eason counters, it wasn't "fair" because Johnson got money from Republicans, too. Yes, Mr. Eason, he did, but there was little comparison between the depth of Republican support, and from Republicans who support very extreme national Republicans in many cases ($1.2 million worth federally since 2008). Trying to equate the two was absurd false equivalency, which he might have known had he done the research on the amounts. But that didn't seem to be his priority. He seemed out to equate when it looked good for Lee and to not equate when it would look bad for Lee.

This selective reporting gave me the sense that Eason was trying to excuse the Ledger's prediction that Lee would be hard to beat after the primary (which he mentions in his first sentence) and perhaps even to explain their endorsement of Lee in the runoff. (Both the JFP and the Ledger endorsed Harvey Johnson Jr. in the primary.)

Once again, these news stories showed contempt for Jacksonians: for the source of important public information about a candidate, and for those who supported a different candidate than he seemed to want to defend. He also showed contempt toward the idea of protecting sources of good information, and to fellow journalists, such as R.L. Nave, who are working to get as much information as possible out there so people can decide for themselves. Put simply, I'm not impressed and after watching this pattern unfold, I wonder why Eason even bothers to cover a city whose citizens he seems to find so undeserving of fair, complete information. Maybe Jackson isn't his cup of tea. The city needs and must demand more enterprise reporting than he seems to be in the mood to take on.

I can tell you this: I can't imagine a city where we didn't report the kinds of news and information that Eason openly belittles. It would be kind of like going back in time when crime sensationalism ruled, and The Clarion-Ledger endorsed Frank Melton without mentioning that they knew he was lying under oath.

In other words, a city with no accountability because the "local" media can't be bothered. We must do and demand better, Jackson. That includes y'all, Gannett.

In response to:

Tease photo City & County

UPDATED: Stealth Whitwell Write-in Campaign: 'You Can't Do It'

Jackson residents waging an underground write-in mayoral campaign for Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell are wasting their time, individuals familiar with Mississippi election law say.

Comments

donnaladd 4 years, 6 months ago

A reader just sent me an email in response to my response to Eason, telling me to ask The Clarion-Ledger city reporter why he did no story about the Friday poll (days before the runoff) and the fact that Lee had such a tough time in the debate. The reader attached these links:

http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20130517/NEWS01/305170027/WAPT-poll-Lee-favored-win-Jackson-mayoral-runoff http://m.jacksonfreepress.com/weblogs/politics-blog/2013/may/20/wapt-poll-shows-lees-lead-over-lumumba-down-dramat/?templates=mobile

Another reader posted a comment on the site that isn't getting through because he used the word "bitch" in an unsavory way. In it, he accuses me of doing this blog post because I hate The Clarion-Ledger or some such. The truth is that I responded to a very nasty, clueless blog post that went after our news staff in an inaccurate and unfair fashion, seemingly designed to appease an elected official.

Play games like that with my team and our solid reporting, and you're gonna hear from me. Take it to the bank. And if you want your comments to get through, don't fill them with juvenile insults and name-calling. Better yet, be a man (or a woman) and sign your name like we do everytime at the JFP.

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tstauffer 4 years, 6 months ago

Here's my favorite part of Eason's blog entry... the explanation of why the C-L didn't report on the potential stealth write-in campaign of a Republican councilman in the Jackson mayor's race when it came to their attention?

They're "ignoring" it because they "don't care."

Wow. This from a guy who does find time to make fun of Margaret Barrett-Simon for being coy about her age... and "cares" enough about the city to put fingers to keys and write zingers like "Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. must really like speeches" because he opted to give one about the state of the city on his way out of office.

Thank the Maker he's got his "eye" on the government.

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pjiv 4 years, 6 months ago

You make a good point about the one sided reporting and false equivalency of the "Republican" attack. What I found most jaw dropping, however, was that after creating his argument for the "devastating attacks", he uses the WAPT poll as proof the attacks had their desired results, while noting that most of the poll respondents said they changed their minds after watching the two candidates debate. For me that fact nullifies the entire argument of the story.

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tstauffer 4 years, 6 months ago

Donna, I was thinking about this over coffee this morning and wanted to suggest an edit -- I'm not sure "Snark King" is the correct moniker for young Master Eason.

While he's perhaps a rising star in the once great Gannett Empire, I'm not sure he's proven himself ready for the crown... yet. Small things suggest it -- weak ledes, the barnyard sounds he embeds, the simple matter of criticizing us without having the temerity to actually link to our work—is a sign that he's not yet grown strong enough for the throne.

The Gannett Corporation might one day promote the brash and irritable knight, if he works hard to please them and can avoid the dastardly layoffs and beheadings that are all too frequently ordered throughout their land.

But I think for now a title fitting his rank would be more appropriate.

My thought: "Count Snarkula." ;)

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Lindahelen 4 years, 6 months ago

I no longer read the Clarion-Ledger. I will read a paper copy of it if I happen to run across one that belongs to someone else--in the same way that I listen to the local conservative talk radio shows, in order to get a picture of all the differing opinions circulating about our political climate--but I won't pay money for my own copy since that would ultimately support the Gannett organization.

I predict the demise of the Clarion-Ledger as a viable newspaper within five years. Too much of what they do print is homogenized, less-than-factual and written only to fulfill some nationally-sourced political agenda. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that some percentage of Gannett is owned by Republican party PACs. (Notice that I did not call the CL a 'viable source of local news'. It stopped being that years ago, when the policy of sacrificing reporters who were actually interested in writing accurate news stories on the altar of 'shareholders expectations' went into effect. It seems that younger, cheaper and less experienced reporters are more apt to willingly follow a sensationalization strategy as their 'journalistic standard'.)

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goldeneagle97 4 years, 6 months ago

I couldn't tell you the last time I bought a paper copy of the C-L, and I sure as hell not gonna pay to read an inferior product online when I can get much better news elsewhere.

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SusanM 4 years, 6 months ago

I would have left a comment on the C-L site but you have to use Facebook to comment, which is creepy and annoying.

I think his comment that they didn't pursue the story because "we just don't care" sums up the Clarion-Ledger these days. The guy seems to have been hired to be a sneering blogger more than a journalist (because there are apparently not enough sneering bloggers in the world?) and judging from the comments on his blog, he's feelin' the love from a lot of really offensive people.

Like the guy who thought it very important that people know that Donna Ladd "RENTS" a home in Fondren. (The all caps was his.) Because, you know, only the propertied class should have a say in anything.

I also love the suburbanite who defended his outrage about Jackson's residents choosing Lumumba as mayor by saying that "everyone has a stake" in Jackson because it is the capitol, etc. I'd love to see all the people who think that way throw their support behind more state and federal support for a city that has a reduced tax base thanks to all the government and non-profit institutions here. Oh, and maybe Madisonites who work in Jackson could voluntarily contribute to fix our torn up roads, since their cars help tear them up. Please keep doing what you do, Donna, because there are those of us out here who really do want to know what's going on, who do think it is a story when someone mounts a secret campaign to increase white voter turnout, who want to be clear-eyed about our next mayor rather than blinded by out-of-context quotes and old rumors.

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donnaladd 4 years, 6 months ago

Haha, Susan. I'm always amused by people who try to besmirch renters. When we moved back to Mississippi from New York City (where most people rent), we rented two apartments because it was so cheap: one for me to write in (I had a fellowship then). A year later, we started the JFP on the kitchen table there while we had JoAnne Morris living on the other side of our duplex pouring us wine and giving us advice on how to do a good paper (and after she moved into a house behind us, we even used that side of the duplex for the paper for a few months; we were much smaller than). Let's just say Jackson rentals are a big part of the JFP's narrative.

From there, everything we had went into growing the JFP, and we were seldom home. Back then, we worked seven days a week to grow this company. Not to mention, we were almost knocked off our feet in 2006 when The Clarion-Ledger decided to start picking up our distribution boxes and racks and we had to fight them off, along with other locally owned papers. We won that battle, but it cost us a lot of resources and set us back for a while. But we dug out without ever suing them by working with other business people.

Through the first decade of building this business, the last thing Todd and I wanted or needed was to have to worry about repairs and broken dishwashers ourselves. In many ways, it was a business decision. That dude will be thrilled to know, however, that we now in the market to buy a home and have found one that we hope we will own someday. Although, I must say, I will always miss the days when we could call a landlord when things break. ;-)

Otherwise, thanks for the kind words, Susan. What's funny is that the incoming support for our work has always far outweighed the ugly people who hate real journalism and the people who do it, including through city election cycles when the haters act the ugliest. And don't worry, we're not going to change our focus on "reporting the news with style and letting the chips fall where they may." The haters don't get it: They've nipped at our heels for more than a decade now, and we have consistently done what we do. Suddenly, they think, the juvenile insults are going to hurt our feelings and make us stop? That makes me smile to even think about. In addition, they bring more people to the JFP, and many become fans.

Onward and updward, as my friend Jeff Good likes to say.

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Duan 4 years, 6 months ago

I can't lie - I still read the CL for the Sunday paper - the Political commentary, the opinion section and the sales papers (its like a tradition whether it was the Plain Dealer, Chicago Tribune, Sun Times, Miami Herald or the Commercial Appeal - you just got to get a Sunday Paper)

I think you should be on your p's and q's when it comes to peoples opinions, especially the writers in your hometown that's driving the narrative.

So whether you agree with them or not - you should always take heed to what they are putting to print.

Now with the news on TV - that bodes a different argument to me - because I do not watch WAPT - I'm more of a WLBT fan.

But I think he was off with the terroism comment - but his opinion of Jackson is typical.

Instead of solutions - they rant and complain and keep with the status qou.

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