Tuesday, March 23, 2004

A Tale From Another City

A Half-Bakered reader sent me a link to a story about Commercial Appeal Editor in Chief Chris Peck, his former newspaper the Spokane, Washington, Spokesman-Review, and conflicts of interest. It was published in the Spokane alt-weekly, the Local Planet back in March 2001.

The story is a two-parter, but it's best for reasons of comprehension to start with part two and then go back to read part one. It's a very complex tale with a lot of players and difficult to summarise.

A very wealthy Spokane family, developers, also own the main daily paper. (In local terms, think if Jack Belz owned the Commercial Appeal.) That family was pushing hard for a redevelopment project that involved public funds. Where the previous generation of family had kept the walls between the newspaper and the property development pretty firm, the current young generation was less strict. That led to a blurring of lines and roles that led to a lot of questions, upset feelings and appearances of bias at the paper.

That's just the slimmest possible outline. As you'd expect, this story encompasses government officials, City Councillors, PR firms, developers, lawyers, editors, reporters and many more.

Peck is only one player in this sprawling story, but an important one. As I said, this is a long and hard-to-read article, but well worth the time for what it illuminates in Peck's behavior and thinking. I sincerely hope that whatever lessons that mess taught, they were learned. Similar public-private partnerships happen all the time in downtown Memphis and the potential for similar meltdowns exists.

Let me also be very clear here. Someone sent this to me and I'm passing it on to you. There's no "gotcha" going on. It's an absorbing story you won't hear anywhere else in Memphis.

Really and truly: Read The Whole Thing.

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