And now another black eye.
For the Arizona Republic, natch.
On its front page the other day it listed Bishop Thomas O'Brien, Evan Mecham, Charles Keating, Fife Symington and AzScam -- scandals one and all to be sure.
Then, as only the Republic can, the paper grasped its lapels and asked -- seriously -- "Do such downbeat incidents smear Arizona and drive away business, tourists and prospective residents?"
Oh please. And who does it call on as informed sources on the matter? The likes of Charles Barkley and G. Gordon Liddy.
"The state's staggering beauty and easy-living ways are the envy of the nation," the Republic enthused.
"But is there something in our priorities, in our attitudes, that prods people here to temper these blessings with self-induced scandal?"
At first, The Spike thought it was the Republic's attempt at a spoof, a parody of those who would actually seriously think that some tourist from Ohio might be saying to the little woman: "Well, Martha, we can't go to the Biltmore this winter because that's the town where that felonious bishop and a couple crooked ex-governors live. Better go to L.A. instead where they've only had Rodney King, O.J., riots, earthquakes and a governor who hasn't been impeached yet."
But no. It was, in fact, probably the stupidest serious story the Republic has published since that inane investigation of John McCain and Connie Stevens a few years ago. We can only wonder whose bright idea this one was, especially on a day when actual news -- pinpointing (finally) at least some of the people who may be responsible for the terrible handling of several tragic CPS cases -- was relegated to the B section.
Of course, the Republic apparently needed Liddy, who even though he has a house in Gainey Ranch, lives in the nation's capital, to point out that "the Catholic scandals" are not just "an Arizona problem."
And author Tony Hillerman, who lives in Albuquerque, to tell us: "Arizona is just like every place else."
And Barkley, who comes to Phoenix to party: "I think with the exception of the Evan Mecham thing, because that made the state look like it was racist (referring to the former governor's canceling of Martin Luther King Day) that other stuff will not have a negative effect."
James Ahlers, who was a fairly decent reporter before becoming a spokesman for the Arizona Office of Tourism, seemed to be scratching his head when considering the incredibly idiotic question from the Republic.
"I don't think people will say, I don't want to see the Grand Canyon anymore because I'm not happy with the Catholic Church right now,'" Ahlers was quoted as responding. "Boston had an equally bad or worse problem, and I don't know that anybody has stopped going to Boston."
Note to the Republic: If you're going to run drivel on your front page, can we at least get more details on Jaimee Rose's upcoming wedding? Now that might keep people away from here.
Horn Doggy Dog
The Spike got plenty of feedback on the recent item about new Restaurant Hapa owner Ron Walker's cheesy come-ons to a New Times staffer ("Galloping Gourmet," June 19).
While a number of Valley readers called and e-mailed New Times to applaud the story, Walker himself contacted us to spew insults, apparently in shock that someone actually had the nerve to call him out on his bad behavior.
"Nobody reads New Times," he said in a tizzy. Moments later, he said that the article was great publicity for him.
Walker also called our employee who rebuffed him a "skank." The writer forgot to remind him that he was the one who tried to offer -- or was it threaten? -- to expose himself to her at the dinner table. ("It would be soooo easy," he had growled in an inebriated attempt to sound sexy.)
Last time we checked, tube steak was not on the menu at Restaurant Hapa.
The same afternoon as that conversation, in a weird attempt at reverse psychology, Walker made his poor secretary leave an awkward voicemail. "He wanted me to thank you for all of the reservations he's been getting. So . . . thank you very much."
No, thank you. New Times' attorney is enjoying his chats with Walker's lawyer, who took issue with our use of the word "horndog" to describe him. While there are plenty of terms that could've been used, The Spike thinks that one sums him up nicely.
So what has all of this amounted to? New Times is no longer welcome at Restaurant Hapa, according to Walker.
That's OK. Nobody around here's in the mood for tube steak, and our scribe in question will pass on a second helping of harassment.
On-air Jayson Blairs
Speaking of media madness, perhaps all the hoopla over former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair hasn't penetrated the wonderful world of TV news. Blair is, of course, the young writer fired for, among other journalistic sins, taking other people's work and trying to pass it off as his own, while rarely leaving his apartment.
That's pretty much what several local TV stations did recently when they aired a hospital-bed interview with Phoenix police officer Rob Sitek, who was critically wounded by gunfire April 12 while trying to nab a bad guy and whose recovery has been truly remarkable.
So TV people were caught off guard earlier this month by a story in The Arizona Republic -- an interview with Sitek as he was transferred from Maricopa Medical Center to a convalescent home. Reporter Judi Villa had apparently patiently cultivated a relationship with the officer and the family and scored an interview.
But source-building can be such a drag when you only need a 30-second spot. So TV stations descended on one of their favorite sources, police spokesman, Sergeant Randy Force, and demanded he get them equal time. Force says Sitek said no way to a barrage of bright lights.
Sitek did agree to let his fellow cops ask him some questions on tape. Force says once that was in the can, his staff provided the footage to the Valley's news stations -- which ran it on their local evening newscasts.
The Spike, channel-surfing the news that evening, was struck by the similarity of the story on each station but saw only one give credit where credit was due.
Channel 3's Mike Watkiss, who learned his trade during long stints at A Current Affair and Hard Copy, twice thanked the Phoenix Police Department for providing the interview with the injured officer, something that a graphic on the bottom of the screen reiterated.
Dennis O'Neill, news director at Channel 3, says, "We just wanted to make sure that our viewers knew it wasn't our own interview and footage. No big deal. Giving credit is just the right thing to do, isn't it?"
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