Thursday, October 21, 2010

About that Lentz story

In case you missed it, Rep. Bryan Lentz made a little news this week.

The Democrat who is running against Pat Meehan in the heated 7th District Congressional race sat down with the Daily Times Editorial Board for a session that we live-streamed on our website.

During the interview, not surprisingly the issue of third-party candidate Jim Schneller and how he came to be on the ballot came up.

We asked Lentz if and when he knew about allegations that some of his supporters were instrumental in helping Schneller obtain the signatures that got him on the ballot.

Lentz didn’t dodge the question.

Instead, for the first time, he admitted that he was aware of what his backers had been doing, but qualified it by saying that Schneller had already made the decision to get into the race.

He said he would not call what happened “a mortal sin.”

It again reminds me of the power of the Internet, and the profound change it is exacting on the journalism business, and what I do for a living every day.

We had been promoting the live-stream all day on the website. We had afforded the same last week to Pat Meehan, so I thought it was only fair to be sure that we also live-streamed the session with the Democrat Lentz.

We weren’t the only ones tuned in. Literally before I could wrap up the session and walk from our conference room to my office, I saw the e-mail from the Meehan camp blasting Lentz for finally coming clean on the matter, quoting him speaking to our editorial board. I guess they were tuned in.

They weren’t the only ones. Staff writer Danielle Lynch, who has been covering the 7th District race for us and who sat in on the session, immediately got an item up on her Politics ’10 Blog on Lentz’s statement.

The next morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a story based on our session with Lentz and his admission that he knew about the Schneller petition help.

Not only that, but they posted a five-minute audio clip on their website. I’m assuming they simply taped it off of our live stream. The properly credited us with the story, but I have to admit I was a little taken aback hearing my voice and that of my colleagues on the Inquirer’s web site. It’s all part of the brave new world in which I now toil.

Later in the day, the story got picked up by both The Hill, and eventually the Drudge Report.

I admire Lentz for confronting the issue head-on. It was not the only interesting thing he said in the session. But it certainly is the one the garnered the headlines.

In fact, I have only one regret, and it is one I admit with a bit of embarrassment.

While we posted the item online, and I wrote a blog on it the next morning, as did columnist and fellow editorial board member Gil Spencer, the fact is that we did not get the story into our print edition.

That was a mistake. We should have gotten it in. Maybe I can blame it on a serious case of Phillies Fever. A reader who e-mailed me believed I was actually suffering from something else.


He pointed out that we used the story on our website and also blogged about it, but that we specifically did not use it in print because we knew that it would place Lentz in a negative light.

“So, you guys put the story about Lentz finally revealing his help for Schneller only on your blog page and not in the actual paper?” he complained. “Even the Philadelphia Inquirer put the story in the print edition and treated it as a real story, not just mentioned in an online blog ….

“Do you see how people could possibly claim your paper is biased? I know, I know you’re going to use that old chestnut all editors defending their bad decision use – you hear from the other side also so that does not make you biased. I would argue the people from the other side that complain are more often than not partisan weirdos out of touch with reality and nor your average credible reader like me who is so incensed by your obvious bias that he decided to write to the editor for the first time."

Actually, that is not what I told him at all when I responded to his e-mail. I told him he was absolutely right. The story needed to be in our print edition. It was simply an oversight. That’s not an excuse. It’s just the truth. He had me dead to rights and I told him so. I was guilty as charged.

The story is in the paper today. You can actually view the video here of our session with Lentz.

I also thanked him for the note, and told him not to be a stranger.

That’s also part of my changing business. The newspaper continues to have a voice – and a strong one – in the community. But we are not alone.

Welcome to my world. I invite you to be more than readers, be a participant. Go to our website. Post a comment. If you don’t like what you’re reading, tell me so.

We may not always agree, but I’ll always listen.

Even when I’m just flat wrong.


Blogger Manalive said...

Funny how the "mistakes" trend one way.

October 22, 2010 at 6:27 AM 

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