The incorrigible Whirled, part 1

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Recently, John Hart, Communications Director for Senator Tom Coburn, passed along correspondence concerning several attempts by Coburn's office to correct errors appearing in the Tulsa Whirled. There's so much material here, I'm going to have to spool it out over several entries, and you'll have to click "Continue reading" on each entry to see the whole thing.

Here's the most recent example: On August 6, 2006, the Whirled published a story by Jim Myers, the paper's Washington reporter, about a joint town hall meeting to be held in Muskogee by Coburn and Democratic U. S. Congressman Dan Boren. In that story, Myers wrote (emphasis added):

Probably the biggest difference between Coburn and Boren, however, could be their approach to Oklahoma projects and issues.

Boren so far has followed the more traditional approach of making Oklahoma issues a priority, which led him to join others in stepping up when the state had problems this year with a federal agency's response to wildfires.

Coburn, who had been a critic of that same agency on its response to Gulf Coast hurricanes and sits on the panel that oversees it, chose not to weigh in when it came to the state's request for more assistance.

He has said he will not make requests on Oklahoma's behalf until the deficit issue is addressed.

The joint town hall will begin at noon in Rooms A and B of the Muskogee Civic Center, 425 Boston.

"I encourage everyone to attend this important meeting to share your ideas and opinions on the issues important to you," said Coburn, who barred his office from answering any questions on the meeting.

Senator Coburn then submitted the following letter to the editor:

Dear editor,

Your August 6 story, "Coburn, Boren join for meeting" contained a factual error and, I believe, deliberate distortion, which needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

I was shocked that your paper reported that I had "barred (my) office from answering questions on the meeting" I am holding jointly with U.S. Representative Dan Boren when I have no such blanket policy of not discussing this meeting and when no such policy had been communicated to your paper from my office. Your paper also reported that my office had not weighed in with FEMA on behalf of Oklahoma when our state was ravaged by wildfires when we had, in fact, weighed in with FEMA officials.

No one should have to remind any newspaper that manufacturing facts and indirect quotations is highly unethical and unprofessional and a serious offense to subscribers and readers. No provision in our Constitution grants news organizations the right to invent facts or quotations.

Regrettably, the Tulsa World has set a pattern of inaccuracy and distortion which I have been attempting to discuss with your editors for the past several months. My concerns include your paperís refusal to correct, or even discuss, previous factual errors as well as the belligerent and unprofessional actions of some of your staff toward me and my staff. Because my concerns have not been addressed, I have instructed my office to make information available to every news outlet in Oklahoma except for the Tulsa World. As an elected official, the only recourse I have when a news outlet is willfully inaccurate, unethical and unprofessional is to deny them information.

I hope the Tulsa World will address these issues but until that time, the Tulsa World has no right to suggest to its readers that I am withholding information from the entire state when I am communicating openly with every other news outlet in Oklahoma and directly with my constituents through town hall meetings, personal meetings in my office, my website, phone calls and letters. In an age when citizens get their news from many outlets including television, radio and blogs, a newspaper that fails to provide its readers with accurate and unique information does not harm the public, but itself.

Sincerely,


Tom Coburn, M.D.
United States Senator

Following a typo in the web version of an August 8 story, Hart sent the following e-mail to Joe Worley, Executive Editor of the Whirled:

Joe,

Jim's story today refers to Dr. Coburn as "Co-burn". Please correct
that at your earliest convenience. Also, have you decided against
running a correction to Jim's fictitious claim that we have an office
policy of not discussing our joint town hall meeting with Rep. Boren?
If so, could you give us the courtesy of explaining your reasoning,
particularly in light of your refusal to print Dr. Coburn's letter to
the editor?

Thanks,

John [Hart]

Worley's response:

From: Joe Worley [mailto:Joe.Worley@tulsaworld.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 09, 2006 5:47 PM
To: Hart, John (Coburn)
Subject: Re: another error

John,

I have asked the Web staff to fix the "Co-burn" typo on the Web page.

We stand by Jim Myer's Aug. 6 story. We will not publish the Senator's letter. There will not be a correction.

Joe

Hart responded on the 11th:

From: Hart, John (Coburn)
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2006 11:40 AM
To: 'Joe Worley (joe.worley@tulsaworld.com)'
Subject: RE: another error

Joe,

Thanks for your response and for correcting the typo on your web page.

Should we now assume that the Tulsa World's policy is that its reporters are authorized to print any assumption or accusation about Dr. Coburn as fact unless we specifically refute your claim? I can't imagine you would support that policy if your paper was the subject of news coverage. For example, imagine if a blogger wrote to you and said "I assume it is the Tulsa World's policy to threaten legal action against all bloggers who criticize your coverage and that is what I will report if you don't respond." If you failed to answer to his question would he or she be authorized to print that assumption as fact?

Please explain why your paper has the right to print your reporter's
assumptions as fact.

Thanks,

John [Hart]

The Whirled has yet to reply.

3 Comments

Anon said:

Everybody already knows the Whirled's the place to get the 'story', but for news, hard facts and respectable journalism, we look elsewhere.

They've given 'funny paper' a much broader meaning than was originally intended.

Beyond that, it's best used for fish wrap.

Anon said:

There was a guy just outside of Lowell's on Monday, offering (pleading, actually) 'FREE' Whirleds....

He offered me one as I passed out of the store with my bags in hand. All I could do was justle my bags to stop, look over my shoulder at the bottoms of each of my shoes, one at a time, at which time I asked him, "What!? Did I step in it?"


bob said:

Oh, how I miss the old Tulsa Tribune......

Until it folded in 1992 when the (Tulsa) World Publishing Company refused to renew the joint publishing agreement and effectively put it out of business forcing it to sell to the Lortons, the Tribune's quality and agility kept the Tulsa World reporters and editors on their toes journalistically.

Dr. Coburn should however count himself LUCKY that he doesn't get the even worse slanted coverage that the Lorton's World affords the senior senator from Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 17, 2006 8:17 PM.

Kirk out was the previous entry in this blog.

Come thou Fount of smears distressing (part 2) is the next entry in this blog.

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