Last Sunday’s front-page feature, “Myers probation extended for violation,” was, to put it mildly, not up to the Juneau Empire’s journalistic standards.
Factual inaccuracies, omissions, heavy reliance on unattributed statements, wandering structure, and sparse newsworthy content made for shaky coverage of a very high-profile event. To cap it off, the reader is met by an anonymous byline. I’m sure the Empire did not intend it so, but the piece is so awkwardly written that it shakes the confidence of the public in the reliability of its news reportage. Given limited space, I will specifically address only the factual inaccuracies.
It is stated not once, but twice, in two photo captions, that the plea agreement was “for Myers’ involvement in the illegal taking of two bears and a wolf.” The fact is, the plea agreement, and Park Myers’ appearance in court, was for one reason only: potential felony theft, stemming from unemployment fraud. That key information, and the end result (Judge Keith Levy’s acceptance of Mr. Myers’ plea bargain resulting in his being sentenced to 30 days in jail) are the basic cause-effect information a reader should be able to carry away from the story. And they were nowhere to be found.
A lesser, but significant error was the statement that Joel Bennett, Harry Robinson, and I were “quoted as being monetarily and emotionally affected.”
In fact, only I claimed to be monetarily affected. And, as I stated under oath, this was my means to gain standing before the court, thereby to give citizens of Juneau a voice at Myers’ re-sentencing. Without that balance, the statement is subject to misinterpretation. Last, in the third photo caption, I, Tina Brown, and Harry Robinson are labeled as “shar(ing)…frustration with Judge Keith Levy’s approval of a plea agreement for Park Meyers’ (sic) after Friday’s deposition hearing.” In fact, we had just stated on record that we were not frustrated with Levy, but by the District Attorney’s office. And it’s “disposition,” not “deposition” — a critical distinction.
By sharp contrast, the reportage on the hearing by KTOO radio was accurate, complete, compact, and objective. I hasten to add that the Empire’s previous coverage of this case, and many issues of local interest, has generally been excellent. This piece serves as a reminder that the rock-solid, objective journalism upon which the public depends, one of the very pillars of our democracy, can’t be taken for granted.