The Flash has often noted that the Arizona Republic seems intent on offending nobody but its readers. Now Phoenix Newspapers Inc. employees have been chillingly reminded that they are not to offend anyone inside the company, either.
In a company memo titled "Electronic Messaging Policy," PNI employees are instructed that as of November 5, all electronic mail transmissions and voice mail recordings--even communications employees consider personal--are PNI property.
Now, that's standard operating procedure at most companies. At New Times, for instance, managers' computers sound an alarm whenever their names are taken in e-mail vain or if naughty words are sent via the electronic messaging system. The managers then routinely break in on e-mail conversations to comment on the quality of discourse or to put subversive underlings in their places. Example:
Rubin to Silverman: "My editor is goofy."
Silverman to Rubin: "Mine, too."
Mecklin to Rubin and Silverman: "Hey, cut it out!"
Voas to Rubin and Silverman (cc Mecklin): "Yeah, cut it out!"
When PNI's crack counterespionage unit eavesdrops on its drones, it expects to encounter the same inspired prose that appears in the Republic--and nothing but. The memo admonishes: "Employees are prohibited from using obscenities and should refrain from using sarcasm or exaggerated electronic messages."
Because as we all know, sarcasm corrodes computers.
Employees are further ordered to "refrain from using all capital letters, as this can be construed as shouting . . ."
EMPLOYEES SHALL ALSO REFRAIN FROM HAVING IMPURE THOUGHTS.
The Flash intends to call and e-mail favorite PNI employees to express expansive thanks for leaking us the "Electronic Messaging Policy" memo.
Truth in Advertising
If the e-mail missive had Republic journalists pursing their lips, the November 9 edition of Editor & Publisher magazine probably made them pass stones.
That issue contained a glowing story about how the Republic newsroom was getting involved in marketing the paper. The trade publication devoted more than a page to a speech J. Lynn Town, PNI's consumer marketing manager, gave in October to the Inter American Press Association in Pasadena.
It seems the Arizona Republic is on the vanguard of a movement that requires journalists to act like advertising sales people and subscription telemarketers.
Town said that at PNI, "We have come to the conclusion that breaking news is not the best way to grow our business."
Town was also quoted as saying that "a lot of people in editorial are exhilarated by the idea of also being marketing people."
We can just hear the A-to-B Team racking up the ad lineage.
The E&P story, headlined "So Happy Together," also contained the following passage:
"'I believe our industry overall is seeing the need for editors to also become good marketers,' she [Town] stated. At PNI, she went on, publisher John Oppedahl not only encourages the process but 'frequently insists that editors refine marketing's role in the newsroom.'
"'We strive to change the deeply ingrained culture that historically has said that newsroom types don't recognize--let alone speak to--advertiser and marketing types.'"
Well, Ms. Town, if no one ever mentioned it to you: That culture is supposed to be historically ingrained to keep the news columns independent and free of influence by advertisers.
This Just In: Joe's Wacky
Months ago, curious about how much time Sheriff Joke Arpaio actually spent fighting crime, New Times asked to see his scheduling calendars. Arpaio lackeys, however, refused to turn them over, saying that to do so constituted a "security risk." Apparently, Carlos the Jackal had been stalking The Crime Avenger.
When KPNX-TV Channel 12 reporter Lew Ruggiero made a similar request recently, he too was told that the sheriff's schedules were unavailable. But in a November 22 broadcast, Ruggiero reported that the Sheriff's Office had finally relented and coughed up the skeds.
Ruggiero--who keeps his job with journalistic skill rather than good grooming--reported that in a 72-day period this fall, Arpaio put aside his sheriffing duties for 19 appointments with Valley media, 62 appointments with out-of-state media and 95 speeches and other public appearances.
That's nearly 1.5 speeches every day for a month and a half, Ruggiero pointed out. And nearly that many interviews per day.
Ruggiero's reporting was met with skepticism from anchor-droid Kent Dana. Quoth the venerable gas-bag: "Lew, in the last election, over 650,000 people voted for this man, and most of them would probably say we don't care what's on his calendar."
Undissuaded by the thick-skulled anchor, Ruggiero pointed out that several civil cases have been filed against the sheriff--including a $4.5 million wrongful-death suit pending by the family of dead inmate Scott Norberg and a $500,000 claim recently filed by Jeremy Flanders, a Tent City inmate who was beaten into a coma by inmates while two guards were on duty to watch 600 men.
Ruggiero noted that Arpaio's disconnected "management approach" could tip those cases against the county, and ultimately against taxpayers, who will have to pick up the tab.
Shooting for Some Sympathy
The Diversionary Tactic of the Month for November goes to the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which had its feelings hurt when citizens and community leaders complained about the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Julio Valerio. Julio, you'll recall, was struck by four bullets and 20 shotgun pellets fired by six different officers. One officer fired nine times after Valerio lunged at the cops with a knife.
PLEA president Mike Petchel responded with a four-page rant that contained lots of words in CAPITAL LETTERS. Petchel intimated that Valerio deserved to die because he was a "dope-smoking, dope-dealing gang member." He also attempted to shift responsibility for Valerio's death to the city council, which has failed to provide Phoenix cops with "THE BEST" in tools and training.
But while demanding "THE BEST," Petchel made it clear that even "THE BEST" can't guarantee officers won't occasionally make Swiss cheese out of someone. (And in doing so, he implies that the trigger-happy officers who shot Valerio actually did something wrong.) "And please know," he wrote, "that even if the city council meets all of our demands and give [sic] us THE BEST, none of these will ever make us perfect." (Emphasis his.)
Petchel whined, "We cannot recall a time when we have felt so abandoned or unsupported by the citizens we serve."
We can. Remember when your members fired 89 times at Rudy Buchanan, hitting him 30 times, including in the soles of his feet?
Cops are taken for granted. They do have thankless jobs, and we'd be in big trouble without them. They do sometimes run into people who give them no choice but to shoot.
But it's not unreasonable to expect that six of Phoenix's finest could neutralize a kid with a knife without emptying their pistols.
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They Will See You in Court
Kieran Suckling and Peter Galvin, environmental gadflies and co-founders of the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, have apparently sued enough government agencies to raise out-of-town eyebrows.
The Fund for Wild Nature, an Oregon-based organization that disperses grants to grassroots environmental groups, named the pair Deep Ecologists of the Year for "using litigation to really make a difference," board member Linda Wells explains.
Earlier recipients of the award have included Dave Foreman, founder of Earth First! and the Wildlands Project, and Jasper Carlton of the Biodiversity Legal Foundation.