Tuesday, February 14, 2006

When All Else Fails, Rework The Truth...

There was a letter circulating in November which addressed issues at the Chestnut Hill Local. It started with, "As a long time subscriber and occasional contributor to the Local, I am deeply disappointed in the Board’s decision to stifle a piece that may have been objectionable to some of its members. In the November 3, 2005, Forum on the Hill, the staff eloquently stated myriad reasons for freedom of speech and the press, and I trust reliably recapitulated the course of events leading to the resignations of the two top editors of the paper."

But more importantly, the letter stated clearly what everyone knows about Mssrs. Sturdivant and Mishak; to whit, "Regardless of why these gentlemen resigned, Board pressure or their own volition, they are no longer at the helm of an outstanding neighborhood newspaper."

Clearly, in the days immediately following the coup and resignations, people knew the truth; Sturdvant and Mishak resigned because they had honor and dignity; that they could not be bought by ths board of directors. That people could say counseling either of these two professional journalists to leave was wrong tells us one thing: Money is more important than honor. "Why not be bought?" the Maxinistas might say. "You need a job." Well, there's a term for that – whore. And neither man was about to commit professional suicide by staying with the Local.

The author continued, "The incredulous decision by the Board (21 to 14) not to offer Mr. Sturdivant his job back seemed to border on the ridiculous as they asserted that the THREE individuals who applied pressure to him had no authority to do so."

And we all know that the three are still with the paper, with the Operations Manager penciled in at a $41,000 annual cost. Selling out the editor has its rewards, obviously.

"Something stinks in Chestnut Hill, and as Wes Roberts related in the Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, 'The error in appointing incompetent chieftains is in leaving them in positions of authority over other Huns.' It seems to me that Mr. Sturdivant was one of the other Huns."

Ah, we get to the heart of the issue. (All together now, repeat the mantra the Maxinistas chant in their sleep: Editor's Note - Mr. Sturdivant and Mr. Mishak resigned from their jobs. The Local did not fire them.) Now, back to reality. The "leadership" of CHCA had been threatening Sturdivant for months, as witnessed by this e-mail exchange between Sturdivant, George Parry and Merk Keintz, an exchange shared with us. The heat was on and the Maxinistas had an ending scripted:
Aug 18, 2005, George Parry wrote:
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 12:22 PM
Publisher's Committee Meeting

I think you ran the meeting well. Everybody got to say their piece. And some got to lob grenades.

I have one question for your copious free time: In your non-forewarning of Jim, did you mean to imply you thought there was evidence of his "picking a fight"?


And George answers:

I think that there are people on the board (some of whom, I believe, may be overly sensitive to criticism) who are developing a grievance against the Local's editorial positions. As I said to Lawrence Walsh - none too gently - that is just a fact, and, if a consensus develops on the board that the Local should not be criticizing the CHCA, Jim will be in real trouble.

As for the evidence of his picking a fight, I finally read his editorial about the CHCA being a political versus service organization. First, he was wrong about membership declining. He attempted to minimize that point at the meeting, but, if he wants to criticize the way that the CHCA is being run, he had better get his facts straight especially when he raises an issue that has been a major concern of the board and one to which the board has devoted so much time and effort. One could well interpret Jim's error as either an appalling indifference to or a deliberate misstatement of the facts in order to make a point critical of the CHCA leadership. And saying that someone should write back to argue the point is bogus. Why should the CHCA have to defend itself against its own newspaper when the paper misstates the facts? All that does is spread the disinformation/misinformation (whatever it is) further and give it legitimacy (i.e., well, now it's debatable whether or not membership is declining) that it doesn't deserve.

Second, the tag line of the editorial (saying that CHCA was probably off some where being non-political) was not simply provocative but snide. But look at the supposed justification for it: someone missed a meeting. Big deal. For Maxine and the rest of the leadership, life is full of meetings, more meetings and endless, mind-numbing meetings. How does missing a single meeting justify a jab like that?

Third, I was perturbed at Jim's apparent immaturity and self-righteousness. How dare Maxine take issue with one of his editorials? His performance in that regard was simply ludicrous. He can criticize Maxine, but she isn't allowed to take issue with what he said? Well, who made him Pope? He needs to toughen up and learn to stand on his own two feet.

So, yes, on balance - even allowing for some on the board who are overly sensitive - I think that he is picking a fight with the board leadership. Under the Lentz policy, he is free to do so. But the board is free to take whatever action it wants to protect itself from being attacked by the Local. Maybe, after debate, the board will let him continue to serve as editor despite his criticism. Certainly there were board members present at the meeting in support of Jim or, at least, opposed to Maxine. But, if he continues attacking, he had better start keeping an accurate head count as to which board members will support him if his continued employment comes up for a vote.

I don't know why any of this should come as a surprise to Jim or anyone else. It is human nature not to like being criticized. Indeed, that is the operative psychological principle underlying editorials: criticism will cause discomfort which will change behavior so that the discomfort caused by the criticism will end. Fine. So why should we expect the board to cease being human and meekly submit to Jim's criticism without hitting back? He gets to write his editorials, and they get to fire him. That's how it works, and he needs to think about that before he climbs into the ring for the next round.

I am taking the liberty of sharing these thoughts (and your attached e-mail) with the committee members, Maxine and Jim.

Best regards,

Well gosh darn and everything. I guess what comes next is another of their unwritten rules: "We get to sign their paychecks and they get to kiss our …"

Makes one proud to be a Chestnut Hiller.


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