Flashes 12.16.99

Marriage on the Boulders

When police were called in to squelch that boozy domestic battle between C.C. Goldwater-Hedley (that's Barry's granddaughter to you) and husband Anthony Hedley late last month, local gossip-mongers couldn't get enough of the juicy details.

According to newspaper accounts of the torrid tiff, trouble started when Hedley, a top joint-replacement surgeon, arrived at the couple's Paradise Valley home unexpectedly and found the Goldwater scion entertaining another man.

Havoc ensued. By the time the dust settled, Hedley was cooling his heels in jail on an assault charge (he'd reportedly threatened his wife with a knife), and vowing to divorce Goldwater.

Meanwhile, the shaken C.C. (co-owner of a Scottsdale PR firm) was tearfully practicing spin control, first telling cops she'd been alone, then later admitting there had indeed been another man present during the melee -- a private investigator named "Bill," whom cops later found hiding in the couple's backyard.

So who exactly is the mysterious private investigator who triggered the brouhaha? According to a Paradise Valley police report, a Scottsdale resident with the uncommon appellation of William Nassikas.

Could the mystery yardman possibly be high-profile hotelier William Nassikas, manager of The Boulders in Carefree?

"No, that wasn't me," Nassikas answers, then abruptly concludes the call before the Flash even has a chance to point out the incredible odds that another man named William Nassikas could live on the same street noted on the police report.

Or that insiders had definitely fingered him as the Nassikas in question.

The biggest mystery? If the Nassikas in the Goldwater-Hedley case really is the resort manager, why didn't he save everyone a lot of trouble and just get a room?

Johnson & Johnson

Will the real Pam Johnson please stand up?

Is she the one who moralizes to thousands of journalists in the new issue of American Journalism Review on the best way to deal with embarrassing newspaper staff scandals -- by "being straight" with readers?

Or is she the one who clammed up, declined to be straight with Republic readers and slapped a blackout on information about the Republic's handling of L'Affaire Steve, the controversy over Steve Benson's "Texas Bonfire Traditions" cartoon?

Johnson, the Republic's executive editor, is caught in a trap of her own making.

Remember the Republic's firing of columnist Julie Amparano in August after she couldn't produce actual people she quoted in her columns?

The Republic published a 60-inch story explaining the firing. The American Journalism Review article writes of the story:

"Executive editor Pam Johnson says it would have been fundamentally 'dishonest' of the newspaper not to tell the readers what happened and why" in the Amparano affair.

Fast forward to Benson's three-panel editorial cartoon of November 19, which showed the burning Branch Davidian compound, a KKK cross-burning, and a pile of collapsed logs at Texas A&M University.

The Pulitzer Prize-winner's cartoon breezed through two approvals -- one by a junior editor on the Republic editorial page, Ken Western, then by editorial page editor Keven Willey.

But within a matter of days, Aggies were passing stones, and more than 11,000 email protests flooded the Republic (including some that read like death threats against Benson).

Instead of sticking by Benson, news executives went into their butt-covering mode:

Step One was to yank the Benson cartoon from the Republic's electronic archives, leaving a terse note in its place apologizing for the cartoon.

Step Two was to impose a blackout on any stories in the Republic's print edition, including news that Texas-based Radio Shack canceled its advertising -- and subsequently resumed ads after momentarily placating the Aggie mob.

Step Three was to prohibit Benson from explaining his cartoon in email replies.

Step Four was to begin putting distance between editors who approved the cartoon and Benson by blaming him for penning the cartoon in the first place, and thus leaving him to twist in the wind while they abandoned their responsibilities.

Step Five was to write two $5,000 checks to Texas A&M offering to soothe the ruffled A&M feelings -- checks promptly returned by A&M president Ray Bowen, who wrote a holier-than-thou note hinting the checks were an attempt to buy A&M's silence and clean up a Republic public relations mess.

Meanwhile, newspapers from coast to coast were reporting the growing L'Affaire Steve controversy, while executive editor Johnson ignored her own advice about leveling with readers and continued to stifle any information for print edition readers.

This is not the only time Benson has been thrown over the side by executive editor Johnson: Several years ago, after Okie protests, she knee-jerked into an apology for a Benson anti-abortion cartoon that used a replica of the famous photo of a fireman holding a dying baby from the Oklahoma City bombing.

The lesson being learned around the Republic is this: If enough people get together and orchestrate protests, executive editor Johnson will instantly begin apologizing.

There's a final indignity for Johnson and the Republic:

The American Journalism Review article that attempts to deify Johnson's candor in the earlier Amparano affair, but which now can only humiliate Johnson for her hypocrisy, was written -- drum roll, please! -- by Don Campbell, freelancing hubby of Johnson's hand-picked subordinate, Republic managing editor Julia Wallace.

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