New Times' exclusive interview with the Preserves arsonist generates passionate response

The Arizona Republic's coverage of your story was so hypocritical. That it quoted alleged ethicist Marianne Jennings, when she's never defended an underdog in her life, is just laughable.

At the same time, the really scary thing about this person or group is that they have the potential to murder someone. Last week, I began reading a crime novel about arson by Ridley Pearson, called Beyond Recognition (Hyperion, 1997). I came across this passage about the criminal arsonist in the novel: "So he's a planner," Daphne [the police psychologist] said, "which we already knew. He's voyeuristic, which works with what we know of arsonists. But what comes as a surprise are these Biblical references. The earlier use of poetry suggested an intellectual, college educated, well read; the use of Biblical references is typical of a different psychology, a more pathologically disturbed individual."

"The God squad," LaMoia [the police investigator] said, well aware of Daphne's aversion to such terms.

This is one of the pieces of mail that arrived at New Times in response to the interview.
This is one of the pieces of mail that arrived at New Times in response to the interview.

My point is, I think these people are more dangerous than you think. When someone gets killed, everything's going to change. Maybe you need to cooperate with the investigators before someone gets murdered. How would you feel about your scoop if that should happen?

Jeanne Winograd

I think you guys did the right thing in publishing the story. First, your job is not to catch crooks but to publish stories and news. Second, we'd all be out of business if we were precluded from giving criminals publicity.

The Seattle ABC affiliate, KOMO-TV, declared prior to the WTO demonstrations in 1999 that it would not cover any illegal activity. Of course, they couldn't keep their promise because the massive civil disobedience and police violence were impossible to ignore. But they showed how ridiculous such civic do-gooderism is when applied to the news.

Third, I thought the story was particularly important because it offers original insights into the mind(s) of a budding eco-terrorist group without glamorizing them or their agenda. In fact, I'll bet many readers will find them shallow, self-important thugs rather than glamorous, bike-toned growth-resistors.

More important, so-called eco-terrorism is on the rise in this country, and this piece gives us a glimpse of some of the methods and motives in play early in the trend. Your main risk here, I think, is the possibility that the interview is a hoax, but it sounds like you did your best to check it out and I think were right to run with it.

Knute Berger, former editor
Seattle Weekly

You have arrived at your 15 minutes of fame, by playing a fool for the Preserve arsonist. I hope you can sleep at night knowing that another home was destroyed as a means of convincing you that these extremists are who they claim to be.

Are you allowing yourself to believe that you upheld some fabled creed or oath? Journalistic integrity is considered an oxymoron by the majority of your readership. Worst of all is the anonymity you provided this clown, as though he were someone who is "doing the right thing," but was afraid of repercussions.

Do you honestly believe that by betraying his confidence you would become less credible as a journalist? You just did!

Matt Rogers, firefighter

During all the media coverage of the arson fires, I happened to see Barry Goldwater on one of the history channels giving his 1964 nomination speech. It featured his oft-quoted phrase: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." It struck me as to how the people who are setting the fires seem to be astute followers of the late Goldwater. They feel that their extreme behavior is justified in the defense of the liberty of the land contained in the mountain preserves.

One man's meat is another man's poison. I guess it's all in where you take in the view. One of the fires really made me personally feel bad. The one set at the home at the end of Seventh Avenue -- the home that was being remodeled, not built. I used to drive north on Seventh Avenue and would look up and see that house and chuckle to myself as to how much it resembled the hat that Don Quixote wore. I was sorry to see that that landmark was torched. A rather "quixotic choice" considering that people had lived there for years.

Thanks for a great article. I was wondering when someone would "surface."

B. Carroll

Today, New Times overstepped the boundaries of anything I could ever refer to, with any kind of journalistic ethics or decorum, as being the "right thing to do." This article is a self-serving, biased and sensationalized piece.

I realize journalists frequently hang their hat on their "First Amendment rights," and I respect that right, perceived or otherwise, for journalists as well as any other American citizen.

My sincere hope is that no citizen, police officer, firefighter, or even one of the arsonists, is injured during one of these arson fires that I am sure will continue or proliferate. New Times had the opportunity to assist the public in solving and stopping these crimes, and intentionally chose not to do so. That does not bode well for New Times portraying itself as being an asset or watchdog to the community.

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