Mock Turtle Scoop

The Spike clears up tale of the tortoises and the harebrained

"As taxpayers, we have resolved ourselves to the construction of the stadium -- for good or bad. Now you come along and, in the guise of attacking the alleged actions of the Bidwills, you intend to use whatever legal or extra-legal means are available to block the construction of the stadium itself . . .

"What we are talking about here are the alleged wrongful acts of the Bidwills in removing the tortoises from the stadium site. If these acts are proven to have been committed, then the Bidwills will pay the consequences. The people who should not have to pay the consequences are the taxpayers of Arizona in suffering any more delays in the construction of the stadium.

"But, as you are quoted as saying: It's time to draw a line in the sand. No stadium should be built until we know what happened to these tortoises. The public has a right to know.' The logic of that statement escapes me, but then I have never known environmentalists of your ilk to worry about logic. . . . I would characterize you and your organization as absolutely irresponsible, and your irresponsibility is demonstrated by your stated intended action to block the construction of the stadium.

Don't worry: The tortoises are still enjoying life.
Don't worry: The tortoises are still enjoying life.

"I am not completely sure yet what your agenda is, but I know for sure it includes personal aggrandizement. If you can cause the Bidwills to be, worst case, convicted of some criminal act and forced to sell their team, how in God's name does that satisfy any public purpose? If, as you have stated, your agenda is to enhance public awareness of protected desert animals, it is perhaps the most egregious case of overkill I have ever seen."


Still, The Spike thinks the author of that massive missive may have a point about some environmental groups. And The Spike is not talking here about the Sierra Club's Sandy Bahr, who for days tried to convince her greener cohorts that the story clearly was a hoax. "The tortoise mating thing was quite a hit with many of our folks," she says. (See picture, this page.)

No, The Spike is talking about Michelle Harrington from the Center for Biological Diversity, which is usually one of the smartest and most formidable environmental organizations around. Harrington called New Times to report that no one in the environmental community had ever heard of Ogden Farrell or the Sonoran Desert Conservancy. (Again, duh.) When she finally realized she'd been had, she complained that New Times' "stereotyping" of conservationists had set the movement back years. "What is this going to do to our efforts for the Endangered Species Act?"

The Spike, which has gotten many press releases and courtesy calls from the center just before it hauls some hapless rancher or developer into court, thought this statement by Harrington was pretty funny, too: "Our first thing is not to go out to the newspapers and scream that something is wrong. It's to go to the officials and discuss the situation."

And the capper from this savvy Center staffer? "Did you get authorization from the Bidwills to run this?"

But the best (as always) is the press itself. For a day or so, both Ogden Farrell and Rubén Oman were hot properties for intrepid reporters trying to beat each other to the scoop. "I read the story in today's New Times . . . and wanted to chat with you further," Dateline NBC producer Joe Delmonico told Ogden Farrell's voice mail.

"Wondering if the story in New Times is fake or true," said Channel 8's Mike Salcedo, in his search for Ogden Farrell. "I'm hoping to God it's true."

KTAR. The Arizona Daily Star. The East Valley Tribune (note to city editor Chris Coppola: Learn to use the phone, bud. Every time you called, your amusing background conversations with people around you were recorded by Ogden Farrell's voice mail.).

And then there's Channel 3. Which has committed the classic case of what we in the biz like to call "rip and read."

Specifically, according to The Spike's sources, some relatively new "executive producer" for the 10 p.m. newscast. It was apparently his (very bad) idea to simply take the story and broadcast it as if it were the station's own work.

That's right. No crediting New Times. Just the straight scoop that the Sonoran Desert Conservancy was seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the stadium because of the tortoises. "We're going to continue to follow this story and bring you the latest as it develops," late-news anchor Liz Habib told tens of thousands of viewers.

The Spike hears that both the Bidwills and the Tourism and Sports Authority were on the phone within minutes, chastising the station for being taken in by the New Times hoax.

So, The Spike would like to apologize to Habib, who had to take the fall publicly the next night for her producer, and admit that the station had been had.

And that, The Spike thinks, is the perfect gotcha.

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