Is There Finally a Lesson in Here for the West Valley View?


Why should you read this article? Because it gives the reader some insight into the workings between a small town newspaper and a less than honest small town and it’s less than honest city officials. The question is, will the small town newspaper learn anything from this episode?

I’ve told you before you can’t always believe what a news media outlet tells you. I’ve given you plenty of examples of apparent media bias. Lies. Media Truth? Mall Spin. Trust Me, I’m a Journalism Major. Was this one of them? You decide.

I recently wrote that the West Valley View had it all wrong when it came to Fischbach’s secret “retirement”. WVV incorrectly reported that Fisch’s contract gave him the right to a severance if a council member even suggested retirement. Then WVV went on to paint a rosy picture of Fisch’s firing/retirement based upon quotes from city council members and their mouth pieces and suggested it was part of the “new direction” of a new city council with a new “vision”. WVV’s editors even wrote a rosy editorial supporting the view that this council was all about a city council with “fresh” visions, completely ignoring the fact that this same “fresh new” city council just renewed his contract only 90 days ago.

I tried to help out the WVV. I really did try. I tried to nicely explain to the WVV their error, but do you think they would listen to me on a phone call or even lift a finger to try to understand what I was telling them they had missed? WVV reporter Sara Clawson and the editors at the WVV apparently didn’t even take my comments very seriously until a reader of howardsgoodyearblog wrote them with the same questions I had.

At first, I actually felt sorry for Sara Clawson, the WVV reporter who wrote the incorrect story. At first, I was just trying to help her out.

At first.

What Happened

I called WVV on Friday, the day Sara’s story ran and tried to speak to her. I considered it a professional courtesy call from me to Sara. They told me at the WVV that Sara was unavailable. I told them I had breaking news, she’s a reporter, how could I reach her? They transferred me to WVV Editor Jim Painter.

“Hi, Jim, your story about Fisch’s contract is wrong and I’m trying to reach Sara to explain it to her.”

Jim, “she’s not here right now, you can call her back on Monday if you want.”

You want me to call her back? And not until Monday? Don’t you think someone who was just told they had an article in their newspaper wrong would have a slightly different response? No, “let me see if I can find her.” No, “tell me what it is that you think is wrong.” No nothing. Just the equivalent of, “leave me alone you SOB, everything was fine and dandy until you and your stupid BLOG came along.”

Next, I immediately sent Sara an email asking her where she got her information because it was not in the info that GY sent me. But before I go on, as usual in howardsgoodyearblog, here is the entire email trail that I describe below. WVV mistake emails And here are the emails between Sara and city attorney Roric Massey that are a part of this whole story. Massey to Clawson emails re Fischbach contract

Here is what happened in real time. You can check me by simply opening one of the files above, all of the emails are in there.

  1. 3/23, 3:41 pm, Brodbeck to Clawson, “Where did you get your info from, I don’t see any language like you reported”.
  2. 3/26, 11:35 am, Clawson to Brodbeck, “I got it from paragraph 4 of Fischbach employment agreement.”
  3. 3/26, 11 minutes later, Brodbeck to Clawson, “The language you refer to in para 4 only gives him a right to meet and confer. I’ll explain the difference in my blog tomorrow.”
  4. 3/26, 1:38 pm, After reading my blog, Mr. Blogreader asks Sara if she has read my blog today (I posted it same day for the next morning so this guy must be a “subscriber” because I did not send it out on email until the next morning).
  5. 3/27, 10:22 am, Sara writes Roric an email asking him to back her up but she asks a different question in her email than what she wrote in her article. Also note in the email that apparently Sara and Roric have been exchanging phone calls on this matter or others. Compare that to Roric’s (and everyone else in city hall’s) only reply to me is, “here is your records request reply”.
    In Sara’s article, Sara stated that;
    “The contract also states that Fischbach can choose to deem his departure with the city as “terminated” to receive severance pay “in the event of a suggestion, either formal or informal, by one or more members of the city council, that he resign.”
    In Sara’s email to Roric she asks about an entirely different situation when she asks, “regardless of what his contract says”;
    “Am I correct to report, regardless of what was written in his contract, Fischbach and the council, in their executive session, had a right to negotiate and agree to pay Fischbach six months’ salary, plus benefits, when they accepted his retirement?”
    Earth to Sara. No one has been speaking about what can happen “regardless of what his contract says” and that is certainly not what you reported.
  6. 3/27, 11:52 am. Email from Roric to Sara. WOW, Roric can reply to a WVV reporter in under 90 minutes! howardsgoodyearblog, submit a records request. Roric dances around the issue, only agreeing with Sara that council could “renegotiate” Fischbach’s agreement (exactly what I have been saying happened all along), then goes on to say that he would “interpret” the deemed terminated language to apply if council “ie.” implemented an “across the board pay decrease”. Across the board pay decrease? Is that what happened? I thought he “resigned”?Stay with me on this, it gets even better!!
  7. 3/27, 12:35 pm. 40 minutes after the reply email from Roric to Sara, email reply from Sara to Mr. Blogreader. “I have reconsulted with the city attorney on Mr. Fischbach’s contract. My reporting is correct and accurate.
  8. 3/27, 3:26 pm. Mr. Blogreader forwards Sara’s reply to hgblog.
  9. 3/27, 5:50 pm. Email from hgblog to Roric asking him to forward to “the city attorney” who misinformed Sara and to get back to me with the proper interpretation.
  10. 3/28, 4:19 pm. Roric sends hgblog a “records request” email in reply. Nearly a full day later. This is how I got copies of Roric’s correspondence with Sara.
  11. 3/28, 4:35 pm. Brodbeck to Clawson, “You’ve read this wrong, I look forward to your retraction”.

Will WVV Learn Anything From This? Like, Start Asking Some Questions?

The question for Goodyear taxpayers and readers of the WVV is, will this cause Sara and the editor’s at the WVV to finally wake up and realize that the city of Goodyear has been putting a positive spin on everything out of their mouths for some time now. As serious journalists, will the WVV finally start asking some tough questions of city mouth pieces like Roric, Paula, Georgia, and the rest of city hall?

For example, instead of blithely quoting triple dipper councilman Bill Stipp talking about how Fischbach’s firing may be part of a “new vision” from the new council, the WVV and other media outlets should ask spinners like Stipp the question,

“how does that make sense when you just renewed his contract three months ago?”

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5 Responses

  1. Oh, Howard… Is Sara Clawson the former Sara Drew?? If so, or not, it appears that the WVV reporting will never change. Here is an example of my prior correspondence with “Sara” … from 2008. That’s 4 years they have had to “learn”. And by the way… I never did SEE, PHYSICALLY SEE, the tapes that were missing. I was denied by Sara Chilton when I physically went to City Hall to inspect them as allowed by law. I also tried to give Sara the benefit of a doubt.

    —–Original Message—–
    From: “Mary Greener”
    Sent 8/29/2008 3:40:26 AM
    To: sdrew@westvalleyview.com
    Cc: editor@westvalleyview.com
    Subject: Goodyear article

    Sara –

    I am a bit disappointed in the article as the additional information I supplied was not included, like I have requested to see the tapes and their contents, Roric’s office is not secure, etc…. all information you received prior to print. Additionally, I don’t believe that I ever said in the public meeting that the tapes were STOLEN, but that they were REMOVED. I did not state that information was ERASED from the TAPES, but that the size of the mail boxes decreased significantly after the WVV requested contents of the mail boxes. That simply means that the contents of the mail boxes contained less information from the initial records request and through the week of tapes. Information was erased from the network, not the backup tapes. And buried on page 19 with the obits – pretty sad.

    Nora is supplied with a response that is prepared by the City Attorney. She is just a puppet and he is covering his own ass. I have requested through public records to examine the tapes, also omitted from the article and a request that has not been fulfilled as of yet.

    I know that you have little control over what the editor decides to publish, however, the content was not correct, complete nor the answer from the City truthful. Never give out too much or all the information is the policy I suppose. I have forwarded the attached letter to John Fischbach, Mayor & Council as well as Roric. I will continue to copy you on my correspondence and if the paper decides not to follow it, that’s fine, it’ll all come out in the end. I’m healing and the truth will be told, that’s all that really matters to me.

    Thanks –

    Mary

    FROM: Sara Drew
    TO: Mary Greener

    Friday, August 29, 2008 7:02 AM
    Mary,

    I did not have any control over where the article was published in the paper. I usually don’t see where it goes until everyone else does. Also, I did not know that the information you were sending me, such as the e-mails to council and public information requests, were items you were giving me on the record to report. I thought it was background info/keeping me in the loop. Since I didn’t respond or ask you questions about the information you sent, I didn’t consider it an interview (and thereby alerting you that your comments were intended for publication). Am I to assume that every e-mail you send is on the record information and items I can attribute to you? Same question applies to the information contained in forwards. Do those people know you are sending their thoughts to the newspaper?

    Nora may be a puppet, but when she is the city spokeswoman and the only person who will comment on this story, then she’s the only person I can use as a source. Again, I don’t have much control over that.

    I’m sorry you were disappointed in my reporting. Its disappointing to me to hear that you are unhappy with how it turned out.

    Did the Republic report anything?

    Sara Drew
    Reporter
    West Valley View
    623-535-8439, Ext. 128
    937-541-9315 (cell/text)

  2. *MS. MARY MILLER*

  3. I feel a little sorry for W V V, Hblog is calling them out.
    Not.

  4. Howard, Outstanding public service!! The West Valley View needs to be called out on “real” news and not the fluff pieces they write while all this corruption is taking place in their backyard. WVV is doing the public a great disservice with “feel good” PR pieces — this is NOT real journalism where the public needs to know.

  5. How can, in this day, a person who only worked for the city for less than 4 years (started 4/2008) get a severance package that is so generous? I have been employeed for almost 25 years and I am still under an at will clause and my package at best would be only 10 weeks since this is a right to work state

    I also recall when Mayor C made a statement about firing Fisch a while back would that have been deemed by one or more council members that Fischbach can choose to deem his departure with the city as “terminated” to receive severance pay “in the event of a suggestion, either formal or informal, by one or more members of the city council, that he resign.”

    I think many people have been suggesting this course of action for some time now.

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