Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques and Training


-----Original Message-----

From: Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques and Training
[mailto:IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU]On Behalf Of Charles J. Reid
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 3:24 PM
To: IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: Review of "Into the Buzzsaw"

Hi, John!

I think you're generating gossipy complexity here.

If Webb's story is true, and we all agree that it is and he was shafted,then Borjesson is right. One for her.If Port's shory is true, and we now know that it is, and he was shafted,then Borjesson is right. Two for her.If Akre/Wilson's story is basically true, and we all know that it is,and they were shafted, then Borjesson is right. Three for her.

Three strikes, John.

There's no reason to criticize her book regarding the basic investigative facts in a journalism context. Please reflect on this: Doyou have any personal reaons why you might want to de-value her effort, which is probably the best effort strictly devoted to teh problems of investigative journalism in the last 50 years?

Don't forget, there's Levine's story -- 25  years with the DEA -- and all the rest. They can't all be wrong. And let's not forget the basic corruption of all the institutions we have to deal with. There've been a few journalists who have died in "accidents" or by "suicide" in the last twenty  years while right in the middle of a story they've been working on.

Borjesson's book is just the top of the iceberg we can see.

//CJR

9 10 03
_________________________________________________________________________
From Sugg to Charles Reid
Charles,
This isn't a ballgame with a score. Sorry. The fact that Webb was right 
isn't a point for Borjesson. People will assume, uncritically, 
as you did, that all of the accounts are correct. The issue is that 
the stories in the book are entirely one-sided, written by people 
who were participants and who, often, have an ax to grind.
Port may be right in his description of the No Gun Ri events.
From what I've heard and read, he is correct. But he leaves out
important (and potentially embarrassing) information about why he 
lost favor at AP. He gives the impression it was all No Gun Ri.
But there was at least one other episode that wasn't likely to earn 
him an AP gold star, and he doesn't mention that.
And, since Borjesson didn't bother to check her contributors 
beyond their own assertions, she opened herself to far worse cases 
of misreprentation. To wit, Wilson and Akre, whose story is most 
definitely not, as you wrote, "basically true," at least as it pertains 
to the reporters themselves. They constantly misrepresented facts, 
they continue to distort what a jury ruled, they grossly mischaracterize 
an appellate decision, and they snookered people into sending them money 
while they were very quietly buying a $1.4 million home. The true story is
that WTVT was desperately trying to air a gutsy story on the hormone 
and did so). The reporters wanted to become media martyrs for the fame and money.
 
John Sugg
______________________________________________________
"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
in the context of professional journalism."
                         -- Hunter S. Thompson
John Sugg
Senior Editor
Creative Loafing
Atlanta, Georgia
John.sugg@cln.com
404-614-1241 

_________________________________________________________________________

John Sugg wrote:

The problem with "Buzzsaw" is that journalists can be as self-serving in
their accounts of situations as anyone else. Gary Webb and Greg Palast
deserve honors, and they have been vindicated by facts and time -- but their
stories are diminished because they are personally involved in very
contentious situations. That doesn't mean their accounts aren't basically
accurate. They are -- I was the only editor who ran Webb's full series in
Florida, after Knight-Ridder papers turned chicken, and Palast deserves
credit for exposing perhaps the
biggest-story-that-scares-the-bejesus-out-of-mainstream-media in the 2000
Florida "election." But Borjesson does a disservice, I'd argue, by not
vetting the accounts.

There are problems with some of the stories in "Buzzsaw." E.g., Bob Port is
a journalist I respect from his days at the St. Pete Times, but he attibutes
his fall from favor at AP to No Gun Ri, and makes no allusion to other
events. Unacknowledged was a very serious and sensational upheaval over a
terrorism series skippered by Port. Two veteran reporters came to doubt the
veracity of a major source/consultant brought into the series by Port. That
source, Steven Emerson, was largely dismissed from the series, and
retaliated with vigorous complaints, including that material he supplied was
used by AP without crediting him and that one of the reporters
inappropriately revealed the government agency for which one of Emerson's
sources worked. In a letter from Emerson to AP, Emerson wrote: "I was
subsequently told by Mr. Port that Mr. Wolman (an AP executive) was very
'angered' by my criticism and thus maintained 'a vendetta' against me."

After reporting the AP episode, Emerson sued me, my newspaper and one of the
AP reporters -- we recently defeated Emerson after four years of his
stalling the lawsuit's progress (but that, of course, is my version of
things). During the lawsuit, we obtained in discovery from Emerson an
internal AP document. When asked in a deposition where he had obtained the
AP document, Emerson cited journalist's privilege. He later amended his
response to say Port had supplied the document. Port now works for the New
York Daily News, and when I've asked him, defends Emerson and says he never
discusses his reporting with those outside whatever news organization
employs him. He won't comment on whether Emerson's sworn account is true
and, if it is, whether he (Port) was doing what he told me he doesn't do --
discussing his news organization's business with an outsider, and, in fact,
giving them internal documents. Certainly telling Emerson that an AP
official has a "vendetta" against him seems to be discussion of AP business
outside of the wire service. And when that discussion became known, via
Emerson's letter to AP, it probably didn't help Port.

The point is that from what I know of the No Gun Ri account, Port faithfully
tells his version. And I agree with Port that AP's bosses were gutless
wonders in dealing with controversy. But there was more going on inside of
AP at that time than Port acknowledges. No Gun Ri wasn't the only bump
encountered by Port, as he implies.

Far more offensive to the truth in Borjesson's book is the Steve Wilson/Jane
Akre account. Below is my column that comes out later today (online, you can
get it at http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/fishwrapper.html after about 5
p.m.). I break some news in it. While Wilson/Akre were panhandling for
donations from well-intentioned people concerned about Frankenfood -- the
duo never precisely claimed they had been impoverished by their "crusade"
but they certainly implied it with statements on their website such as "we
were just hoping to get back on our feet" -- they were quietly buying a $1.4
million home near Jacksonville. Even better, public records indicate they
made a $1.1 million downpayment on the home.

Here's the column:  (SEE Link #8)

_________________________________________________________________________
-----OriginalMessage-----

From: jrport@computerjournalist.com
[mailto:jrport@computerjournalist.com]
Sent: Friday, August 29, 2003 6:50 PM
To: John Sugg
Subject: RE: AP Documents

John, 
Again, I do not discuss my sources or news gathering activities with anyone
outside news organizations that employ me as a journalist and publish my work. 

What are the names of the "several people" who would tell you that my
"fall from favor" at the AP "involved ... the situation that
occurred involving the terrorism series and Emerson"? 

That statement is false. I'd consider it defamatory toward me if it were published.

I was never, ever asked to leave the AP. In fact, I was asked to stay.

What exactly was the problem with the terrorism stories published by the AP? That they warned Americans about a growing threat of terrorism? That they identified Osama bin Laden as a threat to the United States three years before the attack on the World Trade Center?

As for the reporters on the terrorism series, and what they did or did not think about anyone's credibility, I do not discuss sources or news gathering activities with anyone outside news organizations that employ me as a journalist and publish my work.

Bob Port
- - - - - - - - - -
J. Robert Port
Cell phone:    917-757-1966
Fax to e-mail: 309-412-6490
Phone text: Mailto:jrport@vtext.com
Home e-mail: Mailto:jrport@computerjournalist.com
- - - - - - - - - -

___________________________________________________________________________________________

"John Sugg" <john.sugg@creativeloafing.com> 08/29/03 01:51 PM

To
<jrport@computerjournalist.com> cc
Subject
RE: AP Documents


Bob, one of the documents was your internal response to Emerson's complaint. Emerson in his deposition refused to say how he got the document -- on others he claimed he didn't remember. In correcting his testimony, he said he got it from you. Thus, according to his sworn statement, you gave him AP internal documents.

I read with interest your portion of "Into the Buzzsaw." And, I wouldn't dispute the credit you deserve for No Gun Ri. But I was told by several people at AP that your fall from favor involved more than No Gun Ri -- specifically, the situation that occurred involving the terrorism series and Emerson.

As for paying attention to Emerson, it was your own reporters who doubted his credibility. And, as for the claims in his lawsuit with us, when the judge ordered him to provide proof of his allegations, he ran away.

Again, you're welcome to comment.

John Sugg


______________________________________________________
"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
in the context of professional journalism."
                        -- Hunter S. Thompson

John Sugg
Senior Editor
Creative Loafing
Atlanta, Georgia
John.sugg@cln.com
404-614-1241

_________________________________________________________________________

                -----Original Message-----
                From: jrport@computerjournalist.com [mailto:jrport@computerjournalist.com]
                Sent: Friday, August 29, 2003 12:51 PM
                To: John Sugg
                Subject: Re: AP Documents
                Importance: High              
               

                John,
               
                I don't know what documents you are talking about. You should ask Steve Emerson why he said or did any particular thing.
               
                I would say only this:
               
                I am a journalist in New York City. I do not discuss my sources or news gathering activities with anyone outside news organizations that employ me as a journalist and publish my work.
               
                All of my work is available for anyone to read. This includes my efforts as editor of the AP's 1998 series, entitled "Jihad USA." These stories relied upon dozens of credible sources to describe how Islamic extremists were entering the United States, using it as a base for fund-raising and targeting Americans for future terrorist acts.
               
                I wish more people had read the AP's stories on terrorism and taken them more seriously.
               
                I also wish more people had paid attention to Steve Emerson's even earlier warnings about terrorism and taken them more seriously, as well.
               
                I have nothing more to say.
               
                Regards,
               
                Bob Port
                - - - - - - - - - -
                J. Robert Port
                Investigative Reporter
                New York Daily News
                450 West 33rd Street
                New York, N.Y. 10001-2681
                Work phone:  212-210-2270
                Work fax:    212-643-7831
                Work e-mail: Mailto:rport@nydailynews.com
                - - - - - - - - - -
                Adjunct Professor
                Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
                School e-mail: Mailto:jrp2001@columbia.edu
                - - - - - - - - - -
               
"John Sugg" <john.sugg@creativeloafing.com>

08/29/03 10:47 AM
_________________________________________________________________________
To
<jrport@computerjournalist.com>
cc
Subject
AP Documents              
               
               
                Bob, you're aware of the lawsuit Cole, the Weekly Planet and I had with
                Emerson, which we won. In discovery, Emerson furnished us with a number of
                internal AP documents relating to his dispute with AP. In a deposition he
                was asked where he obtained those documents. In the deposition, he said at
                one point he could not remember, and he claimed later the source was
                confidential and protected by the journalist's privilege. But, exercising
                his right to correct remarks, he later stated under oath that he obtained
                the documents from you. This may figure into a story I am writing, so I'd
                like to know your position. Did you furnish the documents to Emerson, and if
                so, why? If not, do you have any idea why Emerson would say you did provide
                him with the documents?
               
                John Sugg               
               
                ______________________________________________________
                "Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
                in the context of professional journalism."
                                        -- Hunter S. Thompson
               
                John Sugg
                Senior Editor
                Creative Loafing
                Atlanta, Georgia
                John.sugg@cln.com
                404-614-1241

_________________________________________________________________________

9 11 -3

Charles, the point -- the exact point -- is that Buzzsaw is purportedly
those who have suffered at the hands of media owners in trying to get the
truth out. In the Wilson/Akre case,  (1) the story was not suppressed (Fox
aired an extremely good story); and (2) Wilson/Akre  have grossly distorted
the facts of the case.

More important, they didn't discover the dangers of the bovine growth
hormone. A search of the Lexis-Nexis database shows 394 stories on the
subject PRIOR to Jan. 1, 1996 (they were hired in December 1996). The issues
about Monsanto are important; Wilson/Akre used that issue for their own
benefit.
Their purchase of a $1.4 million home most certainly is relevant -- because
they have constantly made pleas for donations, implying financial hardship.
Their financial appeals are clearly lacking in candor -- why should we 
expect more from their account of the WTVT dispute.
My only interest in this is because our Tampa paper, when I was its editor,
covered this case more than any other media, national or local. Noteworthy,
Wilson solicited our coverage (violating his contract with WTVT when he did
so). Thus, I do enjoy a unique position in commenting on this case. Wilson
likes to claim that it's personal, but that's his style (bully, obfuscate,
threaten). I don't care about Wilson and Akre personally; I do feel that
many fine journalists in Tampa were maligned by their lawsuit.
John Sugg
______________________________________________________
"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
 in the context of professional journalism."
                         -- Hunter S. Thompson
John Sugg
Senior Editor
Creative Loafing
Atlanta, Georgia
John.sugg@cln.com
404-614-1241

_________________________________________________________________________
-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques and Training
[mailto:IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU]On Behalf Of Charles J. Reid
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2003 2:38 PM
To: IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: Review of "Into the Buzzsaw"
Hi, John!
You ask some good questions here. But don't you think that in the end,
they're all petitio principi? A journalistic story about Monsanto
scamming the FDA or potentially bribing the the FDA is not the same as
journalist fund raising. Akre and Wilson wrote that the FDA processed a
drug in ninety days after testing it on only thirty rats, concluding
that we don't know what the long term effects of the drug are, while
observing immediate debilitation on those cows who were injected with
the drug. Is this true? If it is, everything else is irrelevant with
respect to Borjesson's book. The report is: a corporation, through
illegal or corrupt means -- if after they allegedly bribed or lobbied
any FDA folk -- is putting out a drug that is potentially hazardus to
the health of American citizens and definitely hazardus to the health of
cows. It's true or false and  office politics be  damned.  As it
happens, it  appears to be closer to the truth  with a lot more  going
on than  we now know.
At least you admit that " most of the stories in Buzzsaw are worthy. "
That I take it is at least 50% +1.  So it seems your beef is with Akre
and Wilson. I can see your side of the story, but it's irrelevant from a
journalistic point of view. I mean, they did have to pay legal fees, and
they're not cheap. As for the house -- that's none of our business.
Unless you can prove they robbed a bank to get it. Then you'd have a got
story. But there's no evidence for that now. However, now that Kristina
has got the National Press Association prize, we don't need to ask any
more questions, unless we want to write a book that debunk what she has
brought together in her volume -- which can't be done. Trust me. My
suggestion is let it be. Let's move on.  And lets try to share in
Kristina's happiness in winning the award. 
It's a jungle out there anyway.
//CJR
_________________________________________________________________________
John Sugg wrote:
>Whether intentional or not, Bojesson is inaccurate, and very much
>misrepresents my efforts to check my commments. I sent her several lengthy
>emails on Aug. 14 and 20 -- and even suggested she convey the points to
>Wilson and Akre for response. Included in those emails are drafts of what I
>intended to write -- precisely so that she could comment or dispute.
>Questions for Borjesson: Did you review the Wilson/Akre vs. WTVT case files?
>Did you review any of the transcripts? Did you read the decisions in the
>case? Did you talk to the many fine journalists who worked at WTVT (some of
>whom, like former news director Daniel Webster, were fired by Fox) to
>determine what they thought of Wilson/Akre's claims? Did you consider that
>those journalists have been run through a buzzsaw by Wilson and Akre (read
>the depositions Wilson took of his former colleagues)? Did you talk to the
>Fox lawyers? Did you ask Wilson and Akre about their fundraising? Did you
>question or even wonder what they were doing with the money? Did you search
>public records? Did you know they had purchased a $1.4 million home,
>apparently with a $1.1 million down payment -- while alluding in their
>claims to financial hardship?
>
>What independent checking did you do for the book? An author's footnotes --
>the only example you give for verification -- are useful. But, of course,
>they can be just as self-serving and misleading as the article they
>document.
>My factual assertions are attested to by court documents.
>As I wrote on the list, I think most of the stories in Buzzsaw are worthy.
>But I gave two specific and well document instances where the account was
>misleading or, as with Port, not complete.
______________________________________________________
>"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
>in the context of professional journalism."
>                         -- Hunter S. Thompson
>John Sugg
>Senior Editor
>Creative Loafing
>Atlanta, Georgia
>John.sugg@cln.com
>404-614-1241
_________________________________________________________________________
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques and Training
>[mailto:IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU]On Behalf Of Kristina Borjesson
>Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2003 8:31 AM
>To: IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU
>Subject: Re: Review of "Into the Buzzsaw"
>Mr. Sugg:
>Get your facts straight sir.  You didn't contact me to ask before you wrote
>that I didn't bother to check my contributors' work, so there is no way you
>could know that I in fact did check the accuracy of the stories. Nothing
>you've written has offered any proof or solid documentation that there are
>problems with the facts offered in the essays.
>I don't know if you've actually read the book or not, but if you haven't,
>you should know that most of the stories are extensively footnoted.  In
>some cases, like my essay, the sources are mentioned right in the essay and very easy to confirm.
>A book of personal essays written by top, award winning journalists writing
>about their personal experiences with censorship may look to you like a
>series of stories by reporters with axes to grind, but to the vast majority
>of reviewers of the book as well as many others (including me) it looks
>like proof of serious problems within the American press.
>Kristina Borjesson
>Editor, INTO THE BUZZSAW
_________________________________________________________________________

 From: John Sugg [mailto:john.sugg@creativeloafing.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2003 12:00 PM
To: jrport@computerjournalist.com
Subject: RE: AP Documents

Bob, I did not say or imply that you were forced to leave AP; I said you fell from favor. Your own account of the No Gun Ri episode in "Into the Buzzsaw" makes it clear that you fell from favor -- see the last full paragraph on page 211 for an example. Were I to write anything in that regard, I'd quote your own words in the book.

 
As for my sources, I report on the media. My sources are in the media. If you recall, when I called you about the terrorism story, I already had talked to several people in New York, Washington and elsewhere. I was aware of some of the internal politics about the series (e.g., reporters who weren't assigned to it but felt they should have been by virtue of their beat, experience and unique qualifications) and I was generally aware of the internal fallout caused by the Emerson episode. Thus, all of my sources are or were AP. Some have been named. Others, for fear of retribution, didn't want to be named. I'm sure you aren't asking me to divulge the names of people to whom I've promised anonymity.
 
The argument about discussing news matters outside of the organization is at the heart of what I'm asking. To repeat: Among the documents we obtained in discovery are several internal AP documents. One is an internal response you drafted and sent to Boccardi regarding Emerson's complaint after his falling out with Cole and Bayles. When, in a deposition, we asked Emerson where he obtained that document, and others, he initially either cited no recollection or journalist's privilege. In correcting his deposition, Emerson pointed the finger at you and said he obtained the document from you. Thus, if Emerson is being truthful, you did discuss and disclose proprietary AP information to someone not in the news organization. That apparently violates the exact reasoning you are citing in response to my question.
 
So, is Emerson telling the truth? If so, why did you disclose this information outside of AP? (I should also note that we asked Emerson about the similarities in content between your internal AP memo and Emerson's own writing.) If Emerson isn't telling the truth, as you remember it, you should say so. After all, he outed you, so to speak. (Emerson's lawyers had already told our lawyers that if the judge ordered him to reveal proof of his accusations, he would drop the suit. He was stonewalling to keep the suit alive -- it served his purpose to say he was suing us. He could have protected your identity a little longer, until he dropped the suit. His claims of privilege wouldn't have survived, and he knew it -- it would have allowed the journalist's shield to be used simultaneously as a sword.)
 
I've never said anything disparaging about the terrorism series. I think it was excellent. Like you, I wish more people had paid attention to that warning -- and others (I wrote a number of articles and columns predicting major terrorism events). I think the series' segment on Tampa was especially good, and I suspect much closer to the truth than, say, The Tampa Tribune's reporting.

John
______________________________________________________
"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
in the context of professional journalism."
                         -- Hunter S. Thompson

John Sugg
Senior Editor
Creative Loafing
Atlanta, Georgia
John.sugg@cln.com
404-614-1241

_________________________________________________________________________
-------- Original Message --------

Subject:

Re: "Into the Buzzsaw" and Mr. Port dissembles

Date:

Fri, 12 Sep 2003 14:23:39 EDT

From:

JohnSugg@AOL.COM

Reply-To:

Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques and Training <IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU>

To:

IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU


Bob Port is, to be blunt, a liar. He accuses me of "threatening to announce that the reason I 'lost favor' at the Associated Press ..." Below is the exchange of emails between Port and me. There is no threat in the message, no hint of threat. I explained my purpose, and even commended Port on his work. There is nothing contentious in my communication with Port.

I may or may not be working on a book that may or may not involve Steven Emerson. I've never discussed it with Port -- and, in fact, alluded only to an article in the e-mails below. If I write a book, it certainly won't be only about Emerson. I love how Port admonishes against filing libel suits, and then implicitly exonnerates Emerson for doing just that, and implies that my only motive for writing a book would be "revenge." Was it revenge against AP that prompted Port to write his self-serving account in "Buzzsaw"? Horrors, he would say, of course not. Perhaps the reason I might write a book is, as a journalist, to tell some different sides to a story -- after all, Emerson has certainly had his chance.

Further, unlike Mr. Port falsely alleges, I have never asked him to reveal confidental sources. You won't find it in the e-mails. However, if you read the e-mails below, you will note that Mr. Port pushes me to reveal my confidential sources.

Mr. Port further distorts my reporting -- and his own (former) reporter's actions -- by saying the reporter made an off-hand comment "in a moment of indiscretion." It's an indiscretion because it's embarrassing to Port and to his hero, Emerson. This reporter -- and another named in my articles (the second reporter's name was suggested to me by none other than Bob Port) -- gave me identical, detailed accounts of an episode where they felt Mr. Emerson had tried to mislead them. Further, they and other AP personnel revealed the very serious internal dispute that arose after Emerson was dismissed from the series and then retailiated. That episode was far more serious than described by Port. Moreover, the reporter, Richard Cole, was my co-defendant in the case brought by Emerson, and Cole stood steadfast (and still does) with us. He certainly has never described his remark as "off-hand."

In sworn testimony, Steve Emerson said Bob Port gave him internal AP documents. Moreover, in a letter to AP, Emerson said Port had told him that an AP official was engaged in a "vendetta" against Emerson. That's in the court record. Either Mr. Emerson is not telling the truth -- a relevant fact about someone who is a regular talking head on TV -- or Mr. Port isn't telling the truth, which is certainly relevant to his claims here.

It's interesting that in his vitriol-laced statement, Port answers the questions I originally asked him. He says that Emerson did not tell the truth when (in sworn testimony) Emerson said internal AP documents were provided to him by Port, and when Emerson in a letter to AP said that Port had told him an AP official carried a "vendetta" against Emerson. Thank you, Mr. Port, for responding and saying that Emerson did not tell the truth. I will quote your words exactly.

Mr. Port says it's good to avoid libel suits. True. Why has he advocated one against me? He says it's good to have vigorous debate. True? Why is he trying to stifle such debate. This is a guy so thinned skinned, or is such an elitist, that he feels he can call names and disparage people at will -- telling, as he has with me, demonstrable untruths -- and then whine about civility when he is challenged. Grow up, Port.

Incrediblly, Port (who is really fibbing at this point) speaks of "quashing the subpoena brought on by Mr. Sugg's libel suit." And he says, "If Mr. Sugg would please restrain himself, and kindly keep us folks up here in New York out of his business, perhaps we could keep our shield law intact..."

That is such a gross distortion of events, I now have to question the credibility of his account of No Gun Ri and everything else Port writes. The truth: It wasn't my libel suit. It was Emerson's. We did not subpoena Port. Emerson did. We did not try to undermine New York's shield law. Emerson did -- and if his contentions in NY had succeeded, Mr. Port and the rest of NY's media would have an emasculated shield law. This is the Emerson Mr. Port so reveres.

Keep in mind: My reporting was vindicated by a victory in the lawsuit. Emerson stands exposed as a person who makes allegations he cannot prove.

If people want to know of a real "Buzzsaw, " look at all of the journalists that Port's hero, Emerson, has tried to destroy -- former AP reporter Bob Parry (who can claim credit for revealing much of Iran-Contra); the famed, recently deceased Robert I. Friedman, the Miami Herald's Marty Merzer, independent journalist and author Reese Erhlich (who won money from Emerson after Emerson libeled Erhlich), and many others including me. Where's all the civility you advocate, Port. Oh, it doesn't apply when you want to trash AP or when Emerson wants to destroy the reputations of good journalists.

As I have offered: Anyone who wants to see the documents on the internal meltdown at AP over Port's terrorism series can send me a snail mail address. You can judge for yourself the veracity of Port's statements.

9 11 03  Port to Sugg about his chapter

Re: Port's statement:

"His (Sugg's) assertions that my essay on the Associated Press investigation of the No Gun Ri massacre, as Mr. Sugg inaccurately describes it, somehow conceals a "loss of favor" regarding a very good 1997 AP wire series on terrorism, including a piece warning of the impending threat posed by Osama bin Laden, are completely false. His statements about me and others still at the AP are absurd, ridiculous, distorted, twisted, misleading, defamatory and lacking any basis in fact.

1. I don't call No Gun Ri a massacre. I don't describe it at all.

2. The last full paragraph on Buzzsaw's p. 211 clearly shows Port (his own words) lost favor at AP.

3. As Port knows, I not only didn't disparage the terrorism series, but commended it -- just recently in an email exchange.

4. The terrorism series internal events at AP -- which I argue might add perspective to his own admission that he was sidetracked at the wire service -- are contained in public record court documents. I asked him very specific questions about what was contained in the court documents. He refused to answer, saying: "I do not discuss my sources or news gathering activities with anyone outside news organizations that employ me as a journalist and publish my work." That statement is directly contradicted by sworn testimony and by documents produced in discovery. His blustering is just that. If testimony by Steven Emerson isn't true, Port could say so. He won't do that.

5. If Port wants to add something to the discussion of journalism, and since he has already castigated AP when it served his purpose, he might want to tell what when on with the terrorism series. But that episode is harder to spin in a way that's flattering to Port.

6. Port says I should be sued for libel. I have been -- by Port's good friend -- and I won. Decisively. At issue here is Port's relationship with Steve Emerson. Port's reporters at AP distrusted Emerson, and he was dismissed from his role as a consultant in the terrorism series. Port stuck by Emerson. Emerson would later sue me, one of Port's former reporters, Richard Cole, and my newspaper. When a judge ordered Emerson to produce proof of his claims, Emerson ran away, and we won the lawsuit.

7. Finally, clearly Port hasn't studied the case files or facts surrounding the WTVT/Wilson-Akre case. Not only wasn't the story spiked, but an aggressive version, plus folos, ran.

 

______________________________________________________
"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
in the context of professional journalism."
                         -- Hunter S. Thompson

John Sugg
Senior Editor
Creative Loafing
Atlanta, Georgia
John.sugg@cln.com
404-614-1241

_________________________________________________________________________

-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques and Training [mailto:IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU]On Behalf Of jrport@COMPUTERJOURNALIST.COM
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2003 10:22 AM
To: IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: Review of "Into the Buzzsaw"


Folks:

"Into the Buzzaw" is a good book. It deserves to be read.

It is a collection of essays earnestly written by journalists who saw their honest work attacked or dismissed by publishers or TV network managers who at times allow their own personal, career or economic interests to trump the interests of the public.

Do these essays tend to be one-sided? Yes. Is this surprising or evil? No. These are personal accounts from people who believe they were wronged. Their veracity can be judged by anyone who takes the time to actually read what these journalists actually say. These are voices seldom heard -- those of the individual reporter, not the spin of an editor or spokesperson for a news organization embarrassed by its shortcomings.

John Sugg's recent ranting about this book is really appalling. This man is an idiot. He should be sued for libel.

His assertions that my essay on the Associated Press investigation of the No Gun Ri massacre, as Mr. Sugg inaccurately describes it, somehow conceals a "loss of favor" regarding a very good 1997 AP wire series on terrorism, including a piece warning of the impending threat posed by Osama bin Laden, are completely false. His statements about me and others still at the AP are absurd, ridiculous, distorted, twisted, misleading, defamatory and lacking any basis in fact.

His attacks on Jane Akre are equally vicious. Jane deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor for standing up to the corporate moguls at Fox TV, who would spike a important story just to avoid a hassle from a another big, fat corporation willing to place its pecuniary concerns above those of the public.

His other criticisms of others who worked on "Into the Buzzaw" are so wrong-headed it isn't possible to make sense of them here.

"Into the Buzzaw," which concludes with a thoughtful essay on the state of investigative reporting by IRE's long-time executive director, Brant Houston, was simply meant to spark healthy debate.

Unfortunately, this kind of sniping by one journalist at others isn't healthy at all.

Bob Port
- - - - - - - - - -
J. Robert Port
Investigative Reporter
New York Daily News
Work e-mail: Mailto:rport@nydailynews.com
- - - - - - - - - -
Adjunct Professor
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
School e-mail: Mailto:jrp2001@columbia.edu
- - - - - - - - - -
Home e-mail: Mailto:jrport@computerjournalist.com

9-11 from sugg to list

Sorry for a second post on Port's comments, but rereading his rant:

1. I'm not sure he's clear on what he's commenting about. He makes a personal attack as way of defending himself, then lauds Jane Akre and then writes that my "other criticisms of others who worked on "Into the Buzzaw" are so wrong-headed it isn't possible to make sense of them here." I only criticize Port and Akre. I think Port better check his reading. I can't very well be wrong headed about non-existent comments. And, of course, I never called No Gun Ri a massacre, so his accusation in that regard is delusional.

2. Port knows I have the documents -- and the interviews with AP staffers -- from the terrorism series days. His name-calling aside, he really, really doesn't want this stuff to come out. It's public record. I will gladly send it to any list member who wants to read it, and you can judge for yourself about what I wrote. It's not digital, so send me an address off list.

3. Finally, Port writes: "Unfortunately, this kind of sniping by one journalist at others isn't healthy at all." Ah, I see. But the sniping that Port does at other journalists, and what Akre does to her ex-colleagues -- that's OK and commendable. I'd call it hypocritical.


John Sugg


9 11 03 to ire list

_________________________________________________________________________

Hello all,

My thanks also to Mr. Sugg. I had seen and heard about "Into the Buzzsaw" when it first came out, but I decided I'd get around to buying and reading it later.

Now, I'm definitely going to buy it and read it soon. It sounds like a great read.

Brian

9 11

Wow.  The upshot of this ranting and raving is for once quite positive.  Into the Buzzsaw flew below my radar screen until all this brouhaha.  Now, I definitely plan to read it.

jeanne

Jeanne Lenzer
Freelance journalist


9 11 03 Port to list

_________________________________________________________________________

Charles Reed makes a good point. I apologize for my harsh words about John Sugg. That was inappropriate on my part.

However, since I have already been made Mr. Sugg's latest punching bad, I do feel compelled to share just a bit more information about Mr. Sugg that readers of this mailing list may find helpful for future reference.

Folks, Mr. Sugg is working on a book that I expect will be highly critical of Steve Emerson, the terrorism expert.

I worry that this is intended to be his revenge against Mr. Emerson for having sued him for libel.

Recently, Mr. Sugg contacted me seeking to add my comments about Mr. Emerson to his book. I declined and in response, Mr. Sugg made it clear to me that this was most displeasing to him.

He did so by threatening to announce that the reason I "lost favor" at the Associated Press was not the story about the No Gun Ri massacre that I had pressed so hard as an editor to see finished before I ultimately resigned in frustration. No, it was partly due to my failure to properly control Mr. Emerson in my role as editor of an AP series on terrorism years earlier. I am covering up this episode, Mr. Sugg informed me, by not mentioning it in my essay in "Into the Buzzaw." This assertion is absurd and it angers me a great deal.

The AP's stories on terrorism in 1997 were truthful. The AP's reporting was professional and fair. I am proud of the work the AP did to publish that material. It marked the first time the wire service had transmitted a photograph of Osama bin Laden -- a time when few people knew, or cared, who he was. The stories identified many individuals and groups that have since been indicted for supplying money to terrorists or who have had their assets seized after a judge was persuaded of the government's legal grounds. AP's management handled a then highly controversial subject with admirable patience. Anyone who would like to read those stories can find them in the archives of Lexis-Nexis or the AP. Gosh, I wish more people had read them at the time. Come to think of it, I would like to see the AP publish even more probing stories about terrorism. That would be a good thing for all of us.

I am not now nor have I ever been Steve Emerson's friend. I have never leaked internal documents to Mr. Emerson, whatever Mr. Emerson might have been referring to in court. I never told Mr. Emerson that anyone at the AP had a vendetta against him, nor did any vendetta exist. I have not spoken to Mr. Emerson in years. Mr. Emerson has said in court he was a source of information for the AP's stories on terrorism. If one reads those stories, which include material from documents that were classified at the time, one will see there were many, many sources. And, some of those sources deserve to be protected, whether Mr. Sugg likes it or not.


I do believe Mr. Emerson possesses a great deal of information about terrorists. Many good reporters covering the subject of terrorism have found it useful to interview him. He has one of the largest libraries of terrorist documents, publications and video tapes in the world. A good reporter can separate his passionate views, perhaps colored by his ties to the Israeli government or its proxies, from actual facts and weigh their veracity, as any reporter might do with any number of sources. And whatever any of us think of Mr. Emerson, it's pretty undeniable that his intelligence was stunningly correct about the threat posed by many individuals and groups that he began warning of a decade ago. As we ponder the second anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center, and the deaths of all those people, let's give Steve Emerson a little bit of credit for being right about many things, shall we? He must contend with the fact that there are many people in the Middle East who would like to kill him.

Mr. Sugg has a different view. He repeatedly attacked Mr. Emerson in his columns in Tampa, Fla., for being on a witch-hunt. This, as best I can tell, largely concerned Mr. Emerson's views that a former university professor there, then under investigation by a federal grand jury and now under indictment on federal terrorism charges, was raising money in the United States to finance terrorist acts. We can all read about that case and judge it for ourselves.


Mr. Emerson, who values his reputation, sued Mr. Sugg for libel in Florida. It seems that a former AP reporter had made an off-hand remark to Mr. Sugg about Mr. Emerson during what I would call a moment of indiscretion. Mr. Sugg delighted in publishing this in his weekly paper, exposing the AP wire service to costly litigation for no good reason at all. Mr. Emerson then subpoenaed me to be deposed for his case against Mr. Sugg in Florida. As one might imagine, this would not be a pleasant prospect -- especially when prompted by the actions of a columnist a thousand miles away. I contested Mr. Emerson's subpoena and was successful in quashing it under New York State's shield law.

Subpoenas are a really, really bad thing for reporters. A reporter placed under oath in hostile circumstances can be exposed to all kinds of damaging questions -- damaging not so much to him as perhaps to others, such as sources and important news organizations just trying to do their job.

This is why it's good to maintain decorum in reporting and avoid unnecessary libel suits brought on by publishing personal attacks. And it's always desirable for the vigorous debate about any serious story that can naturally occur among journalists to remain inside a newsroom between professionals who respect one another -- not splattered in random snippets in court depositions taken by people advocating their own agendas.

I am grateful to the Associated Press for providing me with excellent legal representation in quashing the subpoena brought on by Mr. Sugg's libel suit. This is costly stuff in New York City. Mr. Emerson was continuing to press that subpoena through an appeal, a dangerous piece of litigation given its potential to create precedent. Then, Mr. Emerson withdrew his libel action against Mr. Sugg in Florida, thankfully rendering the subpoena in New York moot. This has preserved the favorable caselaw many hardworking journalists enjoy from the Empire State's shield law.

If Mr. Sugg would please restrain himself, and kindly keep us folks up here in New York out of his business, perhaps we could keep our shield law intact for any future lawsuits sent our way. And, we could all move on and do our jobs the best we can.

The AP often defends journalists against subpoenas and lawsuits that chill our right to a free press everywhere -- and the AP rarely gets the praise it deserves for doing so. It sometimes gets dragged into lawsuits that it doesn't deserve, such as the dispute between Mr. Sugg and Mr. Emerson. This becomes a profound waste of time and money.

The AP has nothing to hide in its reporting on terrorism. I have nothing to hide. However, I do wish to avoid being involuntarily drawn into making comments that compromise fellow journalists and news sources and threaten to drag them further into this personal vendetta Mr. Sugg seems to have against Mr. Emerson. That vendetta appears destined to lead to more bad things than good. I would simply counsel other journalists to exercise caution with Mr. Sugg on this subject for that reason.

I think it is terribly unfair for Mr. Sugg to continue publishing his random comments about me and the AP to the IRE's internet listserv. No one, I suspect, is really interested.

Have a nice day everyone.

Bob Port
- - - - - - - - - -
J. Robert Port
Investigative Reporter
New York Daily News
Work e-mail: Mailto:rport@nydailynews.com
- - - - - - - - - -
Adjunct Professor
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
School e-mail: Mailto:jrp2001@columbia.edu

- - - - - - - - - -

9-12  Folks fed up!!!
_________________________________________________________________________

I don't care who is a liar and who isn't. right now, none of you do anything for me than clutter my inbox, so as of now, I am filtering this idiotic and personal junk. It is as approarite to this list as beer is at an AA meeting.

I suspect I'm not alone in my view.

Take heed, the impression you make on people.

George Schwarz
Health Care/Business Writer
Amarillo Globe-News
(806)345-3352 

_________________________________________________________________________

-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques and Training [mailto:IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU] On Behalf Of jrport@COMPUTERJOURNALIST.COM
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2003 7:05 PM
To: IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: "Into the Buzzsaw" and Mr. Sugg


I really want to apologize to everyone on the list about these tiresome postings, but I beg you to be a bit tolerant. On a mass mailing list such as this, people whose reputations are being smeared deserve a chance to respond -- and I am someone who will respond.

"Liar" is a very strong and often reckless word.

In fact, it is one of the words Mr. Sugg published that caused him to be sued for libel. One would think that he had learned his lesson. Alas, he has not.


He quoted an AP reporter calling Steve Emerson a liar. Mr. Emerson sued him and sued the former AP reporter. Not a big surprise, but what a senseless waste of energy.

This is Mr. Sugg's method of reporting. He goads information from people, then uses their words to do his dirty work. To hell if by pursuing his petty vendettas he drags an honest news organization like the Associated Press into sordid litigation that damages us all -- he's merely reporting the news.

For the record: I am not a liar. I am a very honest person.

And I would be happy to answer anyone's questions (except Mr. Sugg) about this ridiculous business off this mailing list -- if anyone even cares.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Bob Port

_________________________________________________________________________

9 13 Sugg apologizes to listserve and says people who have been smeared should respond

I too apologize, and I agree with Port on one thing – people who are being smeared deserve a chance to respond. In his most recent post, Port smears me again, and he misrepresents what was told me by one of his own reporters. 

He writes: “In fact, it (liar) is one of the words Mr. Sugg published that caused him to be sued for libel. One would think that he had learned his lesson. Alas, he has not.
He quoted an AP reporter calling Steve Emerson a liar. Mr. Emerson sued him and sued the former AP reporter. Not a big surprise, but what a senseless waste of energy.”

The article in question was titled “Ties to Spies,” published in May 1998. It is available on the web. I will gladly send a copy to anyone who asks. It does not contain the word “liar.” Nope, not there. Port has uttered another false statement. No AP reporter used the word “liar” in discussing Emerson. Port has uttered another false statement. Thus, again Port doesn’t tell the truth – I guess that makes it clear who is being reckless. And, just in case Port has forgotten, we won the suit against Emerson. That may have been a waste of energy for Emerson (and now embarrassing to Port) – but it seems that a long series of reporters have taken an interest in Emerson’s credibility, so for them, and me, it was energy well spent. 

I won’t repeat all of the other arguments. But I will say that I had nothing to do with, as Port says, dragging “an honest news organization like the Associated Press” (is this the same AP Port disparages in “Buzzsaw”?) into litigation. It was Port’s pal Emerson that hauled AP into the mess. 

As for the rest of my very well documented statements about Port’s serial mendacities, note that he doesn’t respond. He can’t. 

I’m happy to let this thing go off list if Port will stop, um, not telling the truth about me.


9  13  03 Sugg to IRE list

_________________________________________________________________________

I accept Port’s correction. Now it would be nice if he went back through his posts and corrected the other misstatements, beginning at the start where he attributed something that Charles Reid wrote (No Gun Ri was, as Reid put it, a “massacre”)  to me. (By comparison, Port can’t cite one factual misstatement by me about him – only that my inquiries are somehow inappropriate, which is a bizarre attitude for a journalist). This exchange began with Reid’s request for opinions on Buzzsaw. I apologize if the only response is supposed to be adulation. But, I’m a media critic, and I’ve reported on one story related by one of contributors at length. I also have boxes of documents relating to what was going on inside of AP when Port was there.  

More than anything, I thought Port would want to respond to damaging statements about him – not by me but by Steven Emerson. Port doesn’t feel people should criticize Emerson, who I guess Port classifies as a journalist. Sorry. I’ll stand with real scribes such as Robert Friedman, Bob Parry and Sy Hersh who all feel Emerson’s claims are worth a great deal of scrutiny. For an example, Emerson claims just the other day – see towards the end at http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=11027 – that Middle East peace activists, many of them Jewish, are spying for terrorists. Proof? Hahahaha. 

By Port’s standards, I am at fault for Emerson filing a lawsuit against me and one of Port’s former reporters. And, somehow I should have “learned (my) lesson” – for, by the way, telling the truth, as attested to by my being the prevailing party in the lawsuit. That truly is “blame the victim” stuff. If I work hard and have money, and it’s in my house, and a burglar steals it, by Port’s reasoning, I’m at fault. Rather than respond to specifics (such as that I had nothing to with dragging AP into Emerson’s attempt at legal intimidation of journalists), I’m sorry that Port only upped the decibels by repeatedly accusing me of acts and statements I am not, often could not be, responsible for. I never faulted his terrorism series, as Port repeatedly implies. But it was the very people who were working for Port that doubted Emerson’s credibility – two very senior AP reporters – a fact he is loathe to address. And, the politics inside of AP should be of interest to journalists; indeed several similar situations have reverberated on the list in recent memory.

Port says that he’s tired of me “trash(ing) good journalists for no good reason.” But this is how Robert I. Friedman, a truly great investigative journalist before his early death, described Emerson: "I have never known a journalist to use strong-arm tactics to intimidate another journalist's sources. But intellectual terrorism seems to be part of Emerson's standard repertoire. So is his penchant for papering his critics with threatening lawyers' letters.” What about that, Port? It would be nice if Port would be even-handed in his admonitions to not report on the media.

Hopefully, this will be the end.

_________________________________________________________________________

 -----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of Investigative Reporting Techniques and Training [mailto:IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU] On Behalf Of jrport@COMPUTERJOURNALIST.COM
Sent: Saturday, September 13, 2003 12:45 PM
To: IRE-L@PO.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: "Into the Buzzsaw" and Mr. Sugg

 


Don Ray -- You're right. And I apologize again. I would have been wiser to simply not respond. For what it's worth, I didn't bring this up. I am just tired of seeing John Sugg trash good journalists in public for no good reason. And now of all things, I am embarrassed to say that I owe John a correction. He did not, as I incorrectly stated in an earlier message sent to this mailing list, call Steve Emerson a "liar" in print. He only implied that Steve Emerson was dishonest (and I hope we don't have to quibble about that). I am the only one being labeled a liar, which is absolutely untrue and unfair. This, I guess, is my punishment for pressing to do a story about terrorists as an editor at AP some six years ago. Again, I apologize to anyone hurt or bothered by this open and public exchange on an Internet listserv and I would be happy to answer questions about it off-line. -- Bob Port

    EMERSON DROPS ALL ACTIONS AGAINST COLE, SUGG, AND WEEKLY PLANET
TAMPA, Sept. 17, 2003 -- Self-styled terrorist hunter Steven Emerson has
dropped all legal actions against former Associated Press reporter Richard
Cole, Tampa's Weekly Planet and former Planet Editor John Sugg.
Emerson dropped his case against Cole, notifying lawyers and the court in
letters received over the last week. In May, after a judge ordered Emerson
to produced proof of his allegations and claims, he abandoned his lawsuit
against Sugg and the Planet.
"This is a complete vindication," said Cole, now a crime reporter with the
Daily News in the San Francisco Bay area. "The lawsuit never had any merit,
and was an attempt by Emerson to salvage his reputation at the expense of
Sugg, Cole and the Planet.”
Sugg, who is now senior editor of the Planet's sister paper in Atlanta,
said: "Our reporting was sound and fair, and Emerson is now revealed as a
person who makes serious accusations without the willingness to provide
proof. Emerson has a long record of trying to intimidate his critics in the
media. We would not be intimidated.”
The defamation case, filed in Washington D.C. in 1999 and later re-filed in
Florida, was based on a 1998 story written by Sugg in the Planet. In the
article, Cole, who had written a 1997 series on terrorism for AP, was quoted
as questioning the authenticity of a document Emerson had provided the wire
service.
“Had this baseless lawsuit ever gone to trial, my defense would have been
that everything I said in the Planet story was true, and we had the evidence
to prove it,” Cole said.
Emerson's lawsuits had asked for total damages of $33 million. Attorneys for
Sugg and the Planet are currently seeking to recover from Emerson their
costs and attorneys' fees incurred in the Florida litigation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Richard Cole, 650-327-6397 ex. 344.
John Sugg, 404-614-1241.
Attorneys for Cole: Pat Anderson, 727-865-6505; and Stuart Pierson,
202-274-2950.
Attorney for Sugg and the Planet: David Snyder, 813-258-4501.
______________________________________________________
"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
in the context of professional journalism."
                         -- Hunter S. Thompson 

John Sugg
Senior Editor
Creative Loafing
Atlanta, Georgia
John.sugg@cln.com
404-614-1241
_________________________________________________________________________
Mr. Port and Mr. Sugg,

Could you both kindly take your squabbling elsewhere?
I understand that both of you feel smeared and
everything but you have both made your points about
the other several emails ago.  I am subscribing to
this listserv as an assignment for one of my
journalism classes and it is extremely time consuming
for me to sift through all of these needless emails
regarding the two of you when I have other work to be
done.  I wasn't even going to respond to these emails
but I felt that once again it had to be said that no
one is really interested in this issue anymore.  I
appreciate the apologies but kindly refrain from using
this listserv again for this particular issue.
=====
Jennifer Babulsky  9/13
Journalism Student
University of Connecticut
Wheeler 201B
Storrs, CT 06269
_________________________________________________________________________