Councilman Bernard Parks didn't care for the Times' weekend story on the surplus city land in his district that he wants to sell to a developer, three years after the city seized it from its previous owner through eminent domain for an animal shelter. (The previous owner is, understandably, a little peeved.) Parks released a letter he sent to Times editor Dean Baquet that doesn't quibble with the facts (I think) but objects to the slant:
Dear Mr. Baquet,
Congratulations! Your paper's Saturday article entitled: "Land Seized for Animal Shelter May be Sold to Developer-Doner" actually defied science by proving that you can be in two places at one time.
I don't know if you remember, but this is the second time the Times has weighed in on the proposed animal shelter on South Western Avenue. The problem is: the first time you reported the story, you favored a furniture store instead of an animal shelter. However, this Saturday* just over two years after the original story* you apparently opposed it. So, I ask, once and for all, where does the Times stand on this issue? And, why all the flip-flopping?
Continued on the jump (* along with an update on that story from two years ago):
Throughout my career as a public servant, I have found it impossible to adequately serve the residents of this great city by playing on both sides of the issue. I would suggest that you adopt this philosophy because, despite your sagging circulation, your paper is still responsible to the relatively small audience it attempts to inform.
In Michael Hiltzik's 2003 article "City Putting a Pound in the Way of Progress", he asks the question: "Why didn't anyone from City Hall stop by and say something along the lines of: Cisco, this is a spectacular and courageous development you've undertaken in the heart of South-Central. Is there anything we can do for you?".
But, the Patrick McGreevy piece from this past weekend is obviously slanted in the opposite direction. He
accuses city officials of having to do "fancy legal footwork" to ensure the animal shelter is kept off of the site. There are also unnecessary details about campaign contributions given by the owners of the furniture store. Given my history and reputation for integrity, I am extremely offended that your paper would even raise the possibility that my vote is for sell* and for a mere $1,000! In the future, just for fairness, why don't you allow your reporters to report in their articles the many times votes go against contributors. This would probably be foreign as it would represent balance. By putting this policy into effect, you would be able to avoid articles like the one published Saturday, where the only consistency was its many contradictions with the previous article.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest instance of your paper's bad fact pattern in stories that seem to involve me. I could recite the seemingly endless stream of complaints to and retractions from the Times, but instead I'll just ask that you examine the enclosed Hiltzik and McGreevy articles and see if at the very least you can introduce the two gentleman and see what happens from there.
BERNARD C. PARKS
* Brady Westwater blogged about the earlier Times piece, but it appears that both he and Parks are misreading the Times a bit. The 2003 piece was a Business column by Michael Hiltzik, who took a position based (I assume) on what the situation was then. The latest story by Patrick McGreevy was a news piece, written two years further down the road. That the two pieces differed should be neither surprising or bothersome to anyone. I'd be more concerned if they were alike, since things change and a news story is not a column.