WDN refuses to rebuild trust with Deatherage, loses source | Beaufort County Now | Deatherage notified the WDN, in a Letter to the Editor e-mailed to Publisher Ray McKeithan on Jan. 20, of his amended terms for conducting future interviews with WDN reporters.

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    The Washington Daily News is refusing to quote Beaufort County Commissioner Stan Deatherage in future editions, according to the paper's Managing Editor Christ Prokos, citing the WDN's policy to not let its sources set parameters by which their comments are used.

    Deatherage notified the WDN, in a Letter to the Editor e-mailed to Publisher Ray McKeithan on Jan. 20, of his amended terms for conducting future interviews with WDN reporters, following the fallout from an inflammatory quote which was parsed from its significant context by reporter Betty Gray for her Jan. 9 article, "Board barraged by BRHS comments."

    "Therefore, pursuant to protecting my person with the truth, from here on out I will only accept interviews from your reporters by e-mail," wrote Deatherage, in his Letter to the Editor. "By that format, you are requested to present your questions to me, complete with the relative information of exactly how many words I may use to answer. If you choose to use a quote from me, you are required to publish the quote in its entirety."

    In his interview with Gray, for her Jan. 9 story, Deatherage maintains that he related to Gray how he had been threatened with bodily harm and slandered by people who he was certain were not his constituents. He said that only an obstructed semblance of an extraction from this story wound up in Gray's article.

    "The Washington Daily News has destroyed any element of trust they had with me," said Deatherage, in a phone interview yesterday. "If they ever want another quote from me, it will be in the context in which it was given or they will not have access to me, or my message. I am intractable on this issue."

    Any publication must cultivate sources by sticking to certain ground rules, which assure their sources fair treatment. Reporters who habitually violate these rules risk losing sources. Few sources will talk to an incompetent or an exploitative reporter. When the source realizes that he or she is being used to enhance the reporter's or publication's philosophy, the source will close up.

    "When the Washington Daily News needs to prove a point to satisfy their constituents, they will never let the truth get in the way of their ambition and their story," said Deatherage.

    If a publication loses a source's trust, then, typically, they must work to re-establish it. When asked repeatedly, in a telephone interview yesterday, to explain the journalistic ethics behind the policy that forbids the WDN from printing Deatherage's comments in their entirety, so that a measure of trust could be rebuilt, Prokos could only reiterate that it was company policy.

    "To begin with, I believe we did negotiate with him in e-mailing the questions. We are attempting to work with commissioner Deatherage," said Prokos. "I feel that his request for a guarantee to print their quotes in their entirety is a practice we do not do for anybody."

    The WDN seems to be less willing to compromise, than its neighboring publications would be in similar situations.

    The Daily Reflector Executive Editor Al Clark said that he could not relate to the WDN's decision to lose an important source, rather than work to rebuild trust, in a telephone interview Friday.

    "We don't have that type of policy. Policy tends to paint you in a corner," said Clark. "Ultimately what we're trying to do is what's best for the community, not what's best for selling newspapers. In the case that you're describing, I would think there would be some way to reach a suitable compromise, where the public benefits from the discussion."

    A former Greenville public official, in a telephone interview Friday, referred to The Daily Reflector's and WITN's willingness to create an atmosphere of confidence with him while in office.

    "All I said was: 'Tell me what you want, tell me what the questions are before we go on camera, and I will answer them, but I want you to broadcast what I say and not cut anything out,'" related the former official. "They agreed. They didn't have a choice. It was a matter of getting the story out, or not getting a quote. Interestingly enough, I had the same type of relationship with Stewart Savage at The Daily Reflector."

    Beaufort Observer Editor Delma Blinson said that his publication takes great pains to ensure that its sources are comfortable that they will be quoted accurately.

    "We allow sources to speak 'on background,' and either we'll clear what we're going to post, after the article is written; or we allow them to give us a direct quote, and we use it entirely," said Blinson. "And we would never change the substance of a quote when not using it entirely...We don't want to try to control the news; we want the truth to come out."

    'On background' is generally meant to indicate that the information can be paraphrased but not in direct quotes and is not to be attributed to a named source.

    As an elected public official, Deatherage has a responsibility to be accessible to the public. Since the WDN refuses to accept his "terms of use," Deatherage feels, however, that he can preserve his required transparency by relaying his message through these and other local news publications, such as the Beaufort-Hyde News and Beaufort County Now.

    Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson is another elected official who is currently attempting to control his message by setting boundaries with the WDN. At this time, he is not giving interviews to WDN reporter Jonathan Clayborne.

    On Jan. 15, Clayborne reported that during a Jan. 13 run-in with Richardson at the Beaufort County Conservative Republicans' meeting, he asked Richardson "if his announcement about asking for a law-enforcement escort was the reason he invited the media to Thursday's meeting." Clayborne reported that "Richardson replied by saying, 'I did not ask you here. No one asked you here.'"

    Richardson said that, at this time he will still give interviews to Gray and WDN reporter Mike Voss, but that Clayborne is too "far out" to be trusted with his comments.

    "Now I don't like the Daily News, it is a crappy newspaper, but right now I'm targeting an individual," said Richardson. "I've targeted the whole newspaper in the past."

    Prokos said that the WDN does not have any intention to change its policy to satisfy Deatherage in the future. Deatherage does not intend to bend, either.

    "I will tell you that he probably isn't the first who feels they were misquoted," said Prokos.
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( January 27th, 2011 @ 12:51 pm )
The consistent policy of the Washington Daily News is that they have no true policy. They have a policy for their friends, and a policy for people like me and Hood. The one constant is that it is ever changing for them to gain advantage for those that they advocate for - hence Delma's phrase of "Advocacy Journalism."
This is definitely the ugliest period that I have witnessed in my tenure as a commissioner is Beaufort County. It smells to the high heavens, reaks it does.
Somebody said:
( January 27th, 2011 @ 12:16 am )
"The WDN's policy to not let its sources set parameters by which their comments are used" is very disturbing, especially in this case. Stan Deatherage's terms for his quotes to be used in "entirety" and in "context," is certainly not too much to ask or expect. Anything other would be in conflict with the truth. The way the WDN used Commissioner Deatherage in this recent situation to purposely disparage him in the eyes of the public is disgraceful. If the WDN were interested in the truth rather than advocacy they would have exposed the real story here: threats of violence and slander against Deatherage and others. Instead, the WDN has chosen to be one of the partisan players in this ugly episode.
( January 23rd, 2011 @ 5:29 pm )
You read my mind, Clifton. It may well be story that just keeps on giving. A hint to where I will initially take this continuing issue can be derived from the quote from the Editor of the Greenville Daily Reflector, Al Clark, "We don't have that type of policy. Policy tends to paint you in a corner."
I learned the meaning of Mr Clark's wise words long time ago if one does not adhere to their own policy. And with the WDN, not sticking with their own policy has become systemic.
( January 23rd, 2011 @ 3:09 pm )
"I will tell you that he probably isn't the first who feels they were misquoted," said Prokos. This translates (or taken out of context as the WDN does)You tell me what you want to, we will twist into something that sell newspapers. If it does not fit the WDN's agenda or message, then, they either DON'T print it, OR turn it around to fit their view. HOW HARD IS IT TO PRINT WHAT IS ACTUALLY SAID???

Beaufort County schedules meeting with UHS County Commissioners, Governing Beaufort County Does anyone have the answer to these questions about our Hospital?


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