Media Watch 

Calling All Conspiracy Buffs

Compared to the JFK assassination, the story behind why the Arizona Daily Star had to play catch-up with conservative Ann Coulter's misplaced April 23 column is no big thing--unless you're interested in credibility and the truth.

Of all the columns to misplace, you couldn't have picked a worse one for the Star to mishandle. It was round two in Coulter's not-so-lawyerly critique of Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall's domain. This one also took issue with Star staffer Kim Smith's reporting skills in an April 16 story in which LaWall said she'd decided to re-file charges against two men accused of attacking Coulter with pies during a speech last fall at the University of Arizona.

Star reader advocate Debbie Kornmiller's May 1 column went to the heart of the snafu. The Opinion staff decided to run the column longer than usual because, they thought "every detail would be of interest to our readers since she was writing about us and Tucson." That decision meant moving the column from its anchored space on the left page (Coulter on the LEFT of something--isn't that a sign of the apocalypse?) to the right-hand page, and the instructions got lost between the opinion staff and the Star's design staff.

It's worth knowing that Coulter posts the column to her personal Web site, anncoulter.com, on Thursdays before it appears in the Star. And quite a few newspapers post a version to their Web sites via Universal Press Service's uclick.com operation.

A check of those against the Star's copy turned up a few discrepancies. Coulter's column contains three personal references to Smith, whose April 16 story said "Coulter couldn't be reached for comment late Friday." Coulter appended "(as a result of our not trying to reach Coulter for comment late Friday)" to the quote in her column. The parenthetical comment was missing from the Star's version, as were the three references to Smith.

But wait, there's more. Kornmiller's column doesn't say so, but Star editorial page editor Dennis Joyce had a pretty good reason for concern about Coulter's column. He was concerned about a couple of the column's presumed factual statements, and asked for more details. Can't blame him, considering that she'd incorrectly stated on April 13 that her Tucson assailants "ended up with bloody noses and broken bones."

Coulter's response to Joyce speaks volumes about her devotion to presenting facts accurately and standing behind her work like a professional. Any reporter who treated an editor the way Coulter answered Joyce would have been fired in a flash, and probably advised to find work in some career other than journalism.

Joyce e-mailed the questions to Greg Melvin, Coulter's editor at Universal. Coulter both answered Joyce and posted the questions on "Quotations from Chairman Ann," a bloglike part of anncoulter.com.

And that's where the story gets interesting, as Coulter apparently indulges herself with a bit of what the French call esprit de l'escalier. Translated literally as "spirit of the staircase," it's an idiom that roughly translates to "the zinger that comes to you 20 minutes after the argument's over."

Here are Joyce's questions, the answers Coulter gave him (provided in an e-mail interview), and the answers posted to Coulter's Web page:

"Who told you or how do you know that female prosecutors left the Pima County Attorney's Office because of the way Berkman treats women?"

To Joyce: [wow. it was all over the news, including, among others, an organization known as the associated press.]


You make an issue of the Star's failure to contact you, yet your editor at Universal--which is listed as the contact on your column--says he can only speak to you once a week, usually Wednesdays. How does one reach you?

To Joyce: [my editor, my syndicate, my agent, my publisher, my newspaper, fox news, cnn, msnbc, among others.]


After comparing the answers, Joyce said: "Not sure they need to be consistent. Two different audiences--her chat readers and me--brings two different snide asides. I don't find either to be particularly responsive."

Since April 28, Joyce said, about 60 anti-Coulter letters have come in compared with 20 in support.

"She tests our commitment to publishing a wide range of views on our opinion pages and we have discussed yanking her column. But for now, we're leaving her in. I agree with hardly anything she says, which is true of other columnists we run. The difference with Coulter is her tone. It isn't much more caustic, though, than Molly Ivins on a rant, and Molly is our most popular columnist," Joyce said.

Something else of note: the space on Coulter's home page where the "quotations" had been April 28 was replaced by three words April 29: "no new entries." That's interesting, because judging from the stuff that had been posted--some of it as old as Jan. 30--timeliness didn't seem terribly important to that feature.

However, her Web handler made a booboo. Whoever handles the page merely removed the link, rather than deleting the file or moving it someplace where we couldn't find it. The page address, which was still valid at as of our press deadline, is http://www.anncoulter.com/cgi-local/quotations.cgi#52.

There's a lot more to the Coulter saga, and we'll pick the tale up next week.


The longtime broadcaster will be leaving the friendly confines of KJLL (1330 AM) for a week, traveling to Israel May 9-13 with an interdenominational mission arranged by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

Scott's shows, produced by his wife, Amy Hameroff Scott, will originate from the Jerusalem Post's radio station.

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