Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jim's World: Explaining Bad Reporting


Frances Robles. What an idiot.

Well it was a week. We can all say that. Frances Robles writes for The Miami Herald. I don't know how or if she reads. From all I can gather she's borderline illiterate.

The 'reporter' -- we use the term loosely -- falsely reported that the killer of Trayvon Martin called 9-11 46 times since the start of 2011. That was false.

That was incorrect.

It was alarmingly wrong.

Ava and C.I. reported here, weeks later, after no one could figure out how many calls or for what period, that it was 46 times from 2004. They did so by getting a copy of the records. Those are public records. They weren't in Florida, so they asked Wally's grandfather if he could do it and then fax the records to them which he so kindly did.

They did not pick up a number and run with it. They did not say, "Well I trust CNN!"

They knew this was a charged and overheated discussion in which far too many confusing details and facts and 'facts' had been offered.

So Ava and C.I. did what reporters are supposed to do: Seek primary research.

Having done that, they were able to tell you that in nearly 8 years, George Zimmerman called 9-11 46 times. They are also the only ones who raised the issue of race involved in the calls or noted that police reports never noted race unless the person was non-White. They told you a lot because they did the work required.

Frances Robles chose not to do the basic work required.

Here's what she originally 'reported' on March 17th:

Zimmerman called police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011 to report disturbances, break-ins, windows left open and other incidents. Nine of those times, he saw someone or something suspicious.

Please note, it was March 17th. The paper's changed the date to March 21st.

Now when you read those two sentences, tell me what you think?

As someone with a bachelor and masters degree in journalism, I know what you're supposed to think. You're supposed to believe the reporter did their own work.

For example, if I write that, it means I did what Ava and C.I. did: I got the 9-11 records and I counted the calls up myself and checked the dates.

If I did that, I could write that sentence.

If, however, I was told that by someone else, I need to note that, for example, "Sgt. Daffy Duck tells me that . . ."

If I fail to do that, I'm not just a glory hog pretending to do work I didn't, I'm also someone who now has to eat the blame pie all by myself because I made it appear I did the work.

Frances Robles didn't do the work necessary and should have noted in her 'report' that she got that information from a police officer -- excuse me, she got those numbers stated to her from a police officer. She never checked the 9-11 logs herself. It's public information, available to all, but she was too lazy to check it herself. She was apparently too vain to share the credit with the person who gave her numbers she never checked.

It is fine to say, "Sgt. Daffy Duck gave me these numbers." It's fine. If they're wrong, you print a correcting that Sgt. Duck gave the wrong numbers. But when you don't credit anyone, it's on you. And in a case like this, the paper should have demanded that every detail be checked.

That includes 46 calls. You don't single source. She could have quoted the officer or attributed the time line to the police department. She didn't do that. She was a glory hog and it bit her in the ass.

In an e-mail, Frances Robles wrote:

It was 4 pm March 20th when the PIO of the Sanford Police acknowledged that he had given me incorrect information. It was within 30 minutes that I sent a correction to our news editor. It ran the next day and all the online versions were fixed. If you are seeing other versions, they are "cached" older versions.

I'm sorry, Francie, when in your original report did you ever acknowledge that you were told numbers by a person and that you didn't do your own work?

Robles is also misleading in the above or doesn't know what she's talking about. (It certainly wouldn't be the first time Frances Robles didn't know what she was talking about.) As she would admit in e-mails to this site last week, the correction was not showing. And that's not on 'cache' versions. If she really thinks that and isn't trying to lie, she needs to try learning the meaning of a word before she uses it.

Now in e-mails to this site last week, she knew that the correction wasn't there. I could share those but I won't.

What I've shared above is an e-mail she wrote to a reader of Betty's blog who forwarded it to Third Estate Sunday Review on Saturday after the reader figured out Frances Roble was being "a real BITCH" about Betty.

Robles wrote this website repeatedly last week. We did not seek her out, we did not contact her. She initiated contact.

Our policy here is and has been: E-mails to this website, an online magazine, are treated as letters to the editor. You have no guarantee of privacy, you should not expect it.

I don't see that Ty gave permission to Robles in their repeated exchanges.

Frances Robles is, apparently, one of those people who never knows when to shut up and always has to have the last word.

If she'd learned to shut up, I wouldn't be writing this article.

But she has no privacy.

I devised the policy here, I'm the only one who can grant privacy. No one else.

It is my policy. From the start, I have stated this policy. I have repeatedly noted that we are not running a pen-pal site and we are not devoting or spending all our time in the e-mails. I've made it clear that what matters isn't how many e-mails we read or replied to but did we get content up on Sunday?

That's what we're judged by in the end.

If we did our job, good for us. If we didn't, we're at fault.

So Frances Robles should, quite frankly, back the hell off Betty. Unless she wants me to publish those e-mails that I gave no permission of privacy on. Or I could always also 'WikiLeak' them to another site if Frances would prefer.

She's a very stupid woman, this Frances Robles. Ty made clear that he knew Betty and yet she continued to trash Betty to him. Ty went on to explain he lives with Betty and she still continued to trash Betty to him.

Frances Robles is a vile and disgusting woman. She hates everyone from co-workers to other reporters judging by her e-mails. So Betty should consider it a badge of honor that Frances Robles hates her so much.

The Miami Herald should grasp a few things as well. First up, when you're told a number, a reporter notes they were told that number. They don't self-present as if they did the work themselves. Ava and C.I. did the work themselves but they're real reporters and strong women as opposed to back-biting little babies. Apply that last section as you see fit.

Secondly, the paper should ask why Frances Robles, fed a number, refused to verify it?

That number was significant in establishing George Zimmerman as a 'nuisance caller" in the words of Goldie Taylor on MSNBC. That number created an image of George Zimmerman in the public mind.

That number was incorrect. That number was false. The 'reporter' who originated that number is Frances Robles. It would appear to me that someone needs additional training.

In the murder of Trayvon Martin, every detail mattered. Real reporters should have done more than the usual verification and vetting. They should have used great care.

But had Robles done even the minimum required, she would have known that the number was false. She refused to do even the basic work required.

It was much easier for a police officer to tell her it was 46 calls from January 2011 to February of this year. It was so easy just to run with that, to fail to verify. It didn't matter to her whether it was factual or not, it just mattered that she get it into print. And apparently that she get it into print as her own work which would explain why she failed to credit the police department with the number and instead wanted to act as if she'd done the basic work required of a journalist.

Betty's not a journalist and doesn't pretend to be. She has an online site where she mainly writes about her kids, music and TV shows. She'll note politics from time to time and she'll note the Iraq War. Mainly, though, she is writing about her kids and entertainment. The exception to that is when non-Black 'helpers' decide to stick their nose into a racial issue that has to do with the Black community and these 'helpers' then get facts wrong. When that happens, Betty will call them out. She is Black (she self-identifies as Black, not as African-American) and she doesn't tolerate distortions, nor should she have to.

She rightly called out Robles and The Miami Herald. it's not Betty's fault that Robles and the paper couldn't get their act together. (Until Ty wrote the paper at the start of last week and asked them to please fix the error or he would be writing about it here today -- that's what prompted everything, let's be clear on that.) It's not Betty's job, when reviewing a bad piece of journalism to contact the journalist.

We've had idiots e-mail that to us before here. That's not how it works. When you're offering a critical appraisal, you are supposed to have a healthy detachment and distance so that you can be impartial and fair to the work. Barring that, you do what Ava and C.I. do which is "a friend with the show tells us . . ." You disclose your links to what you're reviewing.

Betty did what she's supposed to do. Frances Robles didn't like that Betty called her a Media Whore.

Frances Robles, you are a MEDIA WHORE. You are that because you were supplied a number, fed a number, and you didn't check it out. If you'd done the basic vetting or if you'd merely credited the number to the police department, it wouldn't be the problem it is.

But it is a problem and it is your problem and the paper's problem.

The paper needs to seriously examine both your work and your work ethic.

And you need to stop trying to e-mail Betty, you need to stop trashing her, you need to take a hard look at yourself because you have made yourself into a joke -- and a dirty joke at that.

That's how I see it in Jim's World, which, Francie, is an opinion piece and you can kiss my ass.

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