It's eminently fitting that John Dowd is Governor J. Fife Symington III's lawyer. They are much alike. Both are wealthy, privileged and powerful enough to believe they are above the rules of law and civility the rest of us live by.
Dowd has taken his efforts to bait New Times reporter John Dougherty to a new (low) level.
Dowd belittles nearly every question Dougherty asks with such pithy responses as "What planet are you from?" or with veiled threats such as "I've always said you will need me some day!"--an allusion to Dowd's well-known role as a fixer.
Dowd escalated his boorishness on July 10 when he exploded in rage at a persistent but relevant question and knocked Dougherty's tape recorder across the middle of First Avenue.
Now Dowd is resorting to libel.
Last Friday afternoon, Dougherty asked whether Symington's accountants at Coopers & Lybrand conducted an audit of Symington's financial statements in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
Let's listen in as Dowd replies to another reasonable question while standing in front of the U.S. District Courthouse, with television cameras rolling.
"No, it wasn't an audit. But it doesn't make any difference whether it's an audit. No. Don't play the [assistant U.S. attorney David] Schindler label game. It doesn't matter.
"And Dougherty, when you give your accountant all that marijuana you buy, they have to take into account whether it's contraband or not, you know."
Actually, Dougherty pays his accountant with personal checks, not marijuana or, like certain elected officials, state contracts.
And Dougherty's checks don't bounce.
Next Decade: Whips
From the Arizona Department of Corrections' 10-Year Plan 1996-2005:
Due to the tremendous rise in prison population growth, the Department will be adding approximately 1,800 new beds each year into the forcible future.
The Arizona Cardinals' "FlexPack" ticket plan allows fans to purchase the same seats for three home games this season, with additional benefits, including the right to the same seats for home playoff games.
Another fringe perk: cocktails with Jake Plummer.
Benson's Long Goodbye
The July 5 edition of the trade publication Editor and Publisher contains a fascinating disclosure the Arizona Republic never got around to giving its readers:
That Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson quit the paper in a huff, but was talked into withdrawing his resignation.
Management has not been kind to Benson recently. The paper printed an apology for a Benson cartoon that used a famous Oklahoma City bombing image to make a comment against the death penalty. The cartoon, patterned after the Pulitzer-winning photo of a firefighter carrying a mortally wounded baby, was published in the wake of the death sentence given to Timothy McVeigh. In the cartoon, the baby says, "Please, no more killing . . ." The firefighter, labeled "Death Penalty Fanatics," responds, "Oh, stop your whining."
The cartoon caused a national furor, even though Benson had used the same image when a guilty verdict was returned--with no ill effect. In that cartoon, the firefighter was labeled "Justice," and the baby was giving the thumbs-up sign.
In "A Letter to Our Readers," executive editor Pam Johnson suggested that better editing might have kept the "stop your whining" cartoon from being published. "We regret that this cartoon did not elicit more discussion prior to publication," she wrote.
Not long thereafter, E&P reports, Benson drew a cartoon lampooning the Southern Baptists' boycott of Disney. That cartoon shows a Bible-wielding man saying, "We are boycotting Disney until it drops its support of fairies!" Tinkerbell flutters inches away from the man's face.
Editorial-page editor Paul Schatt said that in light of the imbroglio over the Oklahoma City cartoon, Benson should "do something a little less controversial while the McVeigh cartoon was still fresh in people's minds," E&P reported.
Benson, upset that the McVeigh cartoon was influencing Schatt's judgment, quit. Schatt and other Republic executives talked him out of it.
Benson declined to comment, other than to say that the E&P story was accurate.
Voice-over mainstay Charlie Van Dyke, a former radio personality whose dulcet baritone can be heard announcing the call letters of television stations across the country, resigned recently from his part-time gig as the radio writer for the Arizona Republic.
Van Dyke got a rare opportunity two weeks ago: He'd nailed some hard news that would land him on the paper's front page.
Van Dyke assumed that a front-page story on a joint venture launched by two local media corporations would call for a sober and straightforward dispatch.
Here's part of what he wrote: "In a joint announcement yesterday, Owens Broadcasting and MAC America disclosed the formation of a new company, OwensMAC Radio, LLC, which will own and operate KEZ (KESZ 99.9 FM) and KOAZ (103.5 FM), currently held by MAC America. . . .
"Sometime in September, KOAZ will change to a country format and be the home of the popular morning team of Tim Hattrick and Willy D. Loon, who previously enjoyed great success on Camel Country 108 (KMLE 107.9 FM). Tim and Willy are returning to the Valley after a year with a Chicago country station."
Let's get one thing straight. That lead sucks. But, hey, the guy's in radio. And it certainly doesn't excuse what transpired.
Van Dyke says he submitted the piece at two o'clock on Wednesday, July 9, to senior editor John D'Anna, more than two hours ahead of his deadline. Noting that the piece contained sensitive information about the business venture, Van Dyke asked to review any changes D'Anna felt the story required.
He says D'Anna told him he'd be too busy to do the edit himself and that he'd pass it on to reporter Cathryn Creno. He assured Van Dyke that Creno would run over changes with him.
Van Dyke didn't get a call. Instead, he was greeted the next morning with the following words printed under his byline:
"Goodbye Jacuzzi jazz, hello turbo tonk!
"Tim and Willy are shining up their boots to head back to Phoenix this fall--with plans to tell Kenny G to get outta town by sundown."
Let's get another thing straight. That lead also constitutes journalistic suckage--especially if your name is Charlie Van Dyke and you're seeing it for the first time along with hundreds of thousands of readers.
Besides the corn-pone opening, the rewritten article introduced several minor factual errors and one major one, misrepresenting the ownership of television station KTVK Channel 3.
Feeling humiliated, Van Dyke called Creno for an explanation, and he says she responded by saying, "What you submitted was unworthy of publication."
"Then I guess you don't need anything else by me," he replied.
"Okay," he heard in answer.
Neither Creno nor D'Anna returned calls seeking comment.
Van Dyke doesn't blame the paper for wanting to bring the news of Hattrick and Loon's return to the fore of the article, but he says he would have been glad to make such a change himself. At the least, he wanted the chance to see what would come out under his name.
If he had, he would have asked that his name be removed entirely.
"I was nauseated because I hadn't written it. Not a word of it," Van Dyke says. Leaving the job won't be a hardship financially--voice-overs are still his main moneymaker--but he is disappointed to give up the beat.
He also hasn't found a colleague in the radio business who could explain what in tarnation "turbo tonk" is.
Memo of the Week
Our Memo of the Week comes from an e-mail communication sent by Roberto Sanchez, a talented reporter who broke the story of Scottsdale Mayor Sam Campana's tendency to get lost and call 911. Sanchez recently took a job with the Seattle Times and sent this message to former colleagues at the Arizona Republic:
My first week here has gone better than expected. . . . My editor sat down with me on Tuesday and let me know the expectations: At least ONE good story a week, no longer than 30 inches, two to three front page centerpieces a year. Almost everything I'll do will be enterprise stories, big issues, trends, analysis. He hates process stuff. He wants me to take chances with my writing. . . . And he handed me my first assignment, a look at the trends in continuing education, which is due Monday. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for hours, knowing that finally I'm going to do real journalism.
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