Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Don't Mess With Gannett? Three Sonorans Booted from TucsonCitizen.com

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 8:22 PM

Last night, the Range had a story on tucsoncitizen.com's owner, Gannett, ordering Three Sonorans' blogger David Abie Morales to pull (and rewrite) a post after the blog-hosting site received lawsuit threats from state Rep. Daniel Patterson.

As of this morning, the Three Sonorans is no longer on the Citizen site, a decision reportedly made by its editor and director Mark Evans.

By email, the Range asked Evans for comment. His reply: "I'm not interested in talking to you Mari." We asked why, but haven't heard back.

However, Evans had plenty to say to TucsonSentinel.com, telling Dylan Smith that closing down Three Sonorans was about a "reckless disregard for the truth," and had something to do with Morales being part of the recall effort of Tucson Unified School District governing board member Michael Hicks (as of yesterday, made nationally famous via The Daily Show):

"This decision wasn't taken lightly. I've been thinking about it for a couple of weeks after (Morales) took out recall petitions on (TUSD Governing Board member Michael) Hicks," Evans said.

But Evans said Morales could continue to write about TUSD if he declared his conflict of interest.

Evans said he moved to shut down the blog because of a "constant reckless disregard for the truth."

Morales "won't call sources he criticizes to give them an opportunity to defend themselves or at least explain their position, even after I've asked him to do so," Evans said.

Evans was also quoted by writer Jeff Biggers in an AlterNet piece posted today about the Three Sonorans' closure that you can read here:

In what appears to be more of a personal act of retribution than editorial concern, Citizen editor Mark Evans wrote in an email that The Three Sonorans' liability outweighed its benefit when the Tucson Weekly “posted an article last night that included verbatim email communications I had with David over his Patterson post.” Evans added for good measure: “In the end, it’s better for both of us. He won’t have anyone to answer to but himself and his readers and I won’t have to worry about getting angry phone calls from pissed off people at my mother’s funeral.”

Biggers points out that the Three Sonorans, while a progressive blog and certainly an activist voice for those in the Latino community, took jabs at everyone. Morales called out fellow progressives, the Pima County Democratic Party, Raul Grijalva and his supporters, and many in the Tucson Latino community. And he's offered compliments to those same groups when he felt it was deserved.

At Weekly World Central, it wasn't unusual for us to discuss the latest posts in Three Sonorans, which makes us wonder — especially since most of Morales' posts about Patterson have proven to be true, with similar facts outlined in the recent House Ethics Committee report — why Evans' chose to end the blog now.

In the past, the blogger made factual mistakes that didn't win him friends among journalists, who complained the blog was posting erroneous information. Although Morales has improved over time, grumbles continued when Three Sonorans wrote that Giffords' intern and Jan. 8 hero, Daniel Hernandez, was left out of the book Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, when that wasn't true. Another grumble came when Morales called Ron Barber as a racist.

Those mistakes and controversies didn't make Evans' job at tucsoncitizen.com easier, although dealing with complaints is a thankless job every editor deals with — even when you're in the middle of a family crisis.

However, the Three Sonorans brought up many of issues in the context of racism. It's not an easy subject for many people to understand, but for many in Tucson and Arizona's Latino community, it's reality, and it shouldn't always be treated with civility.

The Three Sonorans' "firing" puts tucsoncitizen.com in an interesting position as being the so-called "Voice of Tucson" and a site for citizen journalism. The site Evans supervises is the byproduct of the newspaper business gone wrong when Gannett closed the afternoon daily three years ago. Prior to the dead-tree Citizen's closure, it operated through an agreement between Gannett and Lee Enterprises, which owns the Arizona Daily Star. That agreement ended in 2009, but a U.S. Justice Department and state Attorney General's office investigation pressured the company to create a new agreement which reportedly ends in 2015 — perhaps tucsoncitizen.com's expiration date.

We're waiting to hear back from Morales on what he plans to do next, but this afternoon, he posted this note on Facebook, responding to Evans' complaint that Morales never asked the other side questions:

The types of questions I would ask to get both sides, but never got response... I wonder why
by DA Morales on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 2:35pm ·

When Evans says I would not contact people for their side it's not true. First of all, the Daily Star (not bloggers but official "journalists") doesn't even do this when they when they write about the MAS director or teachers when they bash them, but here's an example of the direct and tough questions I ask when I do ask for comments, specific Yes/No questions with no room for vague answers you usually get in the news.

Email:

From David Morales 12/27/11

to dpcampaign, Mark Evans

Dear Rep. Patterson,

Was there ever, at anytime, a warrant against you within the last few days? This is the only assertion that I have made. What do you feel is slanderous?

Another question. Who had legal rights to Ruby on Sunday night after 8pm? Did you violate any court order that night? Did you leave the state when Jeneiene had a court ordered right to have Ruby on Sunday night? Why did you not answer her phone calls and let her know you were leaving the state that night, leaving Ruby's packed clothes behind?

Thank you,

~David Morales

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