Last week many people rallied to CityBeat’s defense when it came under attack by Citizens for Community Values and a “Who’s Who of Cops Who Hate CityBeat.”
Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis and Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher joined a coalition demanding that CityBeat drop the “adult” category in its classified ads. Their assertion is that the ads promote prostitution.
Although several Christian ministers were among the 39 members of the coalition, its strategy was aggressive and hostile. Instead of asking to meet with CityBeat management about their concerns, the group held a press conference at City Hall, inviting major local print and broadcast media but not CityBeat.
That was too much even for the conservative Cincinnati Enquirer, which published an editorial criticizing the coalition’s behavior, pointing out that the group had met with The Enquirer’s editorial board in advance of the press conference but refused to contact CityBeat.
Whether you see adult ads in terms of vice or freedom of speech, the coalition’s strategy backfired, making the participants appear sneaky and arrogant.
Full disclosure: I’m a former news editor at CityBeat and count its staff as friends and colleagues. But I’m still going to criticize the paper.
CityBeat’s published response to the attack by the CCV-led coalition made much of the unfair way it waged its campaign.a blog post June 9, the same day of the press conference, CityBeat Co-Publisher John Fox explained that the paper didn’t yet know what the coalition wanted.
“Apparently this coalition is planning to send us a letter detailing its request,” Fox wrote. “When we receive this letter, we will consider its contents and respond in a timely manner. We weren’t invited to attend this morning’s news conference, so we don’t know what was said and can’t comment on what was said.”
But not so fast. Fox’s blog post points out that The Enquirer had reported that morning that the press conference was coming. In fact, the article quoted CityBeat Co-Publisher Dan Bockrath.
After receiving the letter from the coalition, Fox wrote a follow-up blog post. He wrote an editorial in the paper’s June 11 edition. But where is CityBeat’s news story?
The paper has two very fine full-time reporters. Why didn’t they attend the press conference?
CityBeat can’t claim it found out too late. After all, Fox’s editorial explains that the company knew before June 9 what was afoot.
“CityBeat Co-Publisher Dan Bockrath was alerted to this coalition and this news conference late last week when a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter called,” the editorial says.
Time apparently wasn’t the issue. Nor can CityBeat get away with saying it wasn’t invited to the press conference. City Hall is public property. It’s not that the police in this town wouldn’t try to keep CityBeat out of a press conference; they have in the past. But the last time Streicher did it, the city administration told him to knock it off.
It is unpleasant to criticize one’s friends and colleagues. But as one of CityBeat’s two media critics, I have to ask: Why didn’t the paper have a reporter at the CCV press conference? This seems a major failing.
I asked Fox to respond.
“Dan Bockrath and I were out of town the previous week at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies conference in Philadelphia,” Fox writes. “He received a couple voice mail messages from an Enquirer reporter who was working on a story about CCV complaints, a letter they were sending us and a news conference they were going to have. Dan never spoke directly with the reporter, so we didn’t receive any more information.
“We both forgot about it until Monday morning and The Enquirer article. By the time we got to the office and connected with our staff, the news conference was underway. I did confirm with our two reporters that CityBeat hadn't been notified by the coalition about the news conference.”
CONTACT GREGORY FLANNERY: email@example.com