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Monday, February 29, 2016

"Spotlight's" Oscar win inspires, but it's a reminder that investigative journalism is on life support, reporters face danger, and scandals go unreported


Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Mark Ruffalo
from "Spotlight"
(from geeknewsnetwork.net)
Mrs. Schnauzer and I wanted to stand and cheer as the final credits rolled at a screening of Spotlight several weeks back. We felt the same inclination last night when the little movie about investigative journalism was named Best Picture at the Academy Awards--an upset, given that The Revenant widely was seen as the favorite.

Was the win for Spotlight, and its story of the Boston Globe's efforts to uncover child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, a victory for hard-nosed reporting on important subjects? It might be seen as such; several presenters and award recipients said last night that the film largely is about the power of journalism to expose corruption and affect change.

But amidst the joy felt in many quarters from Spotlight's win, the public should not ignore grim signs that the kind of reporting that inspired the film might soon become a thing of the past.

In an age of hemorrhaging budgets, many newspapers are cutting staffs to the bare bones--and beyond. Harried reporters must focus on the simplest stories of the moment--fires, car crashes, police chases--with no time to research stories that might take months (or years) to unravel. With many print editions either disappearing or being cut back, newsroom excellence often is measured in digital terms--on the number of "clicks" certain "trending" stories receive.

The Catholic Church scandal in Boston began to unfold in the early 1990s, and most of the stories at the heart of Spotlight were published in 2002. Would such stories be published today, as a weakened mainstream press seems more interested in protecting establishment interests than in unmasking them? I would say it's unlikely.

If the mainstream press won't do it, that leaves the heavy lifting to non-traditional, Web-based reporters, who often have limited funding (if they have funding at all) and face life-altering blow back from powerful forces who do not appreciate being exposed.

Consider my own experience here at Legal Schnauzer, reporting on legal, judicial, and political corruption--in Alabama and beyond. And keep in mind that I have an unusual dual role--as both a victim of, and reporter about, corruption.

Why did Mrs. Schnauzer and I feel we could not stand and cheer Spotlight's victory last night? For one, I was so convinced that The Revenant, with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio's star power, would win that I was only semi paying attention as Morgan Freeman opened the envelope and made the announcement. But even when it registered that our favorite movie of the year had pulled off a shocker, we felt compelled to remain quiet.

Why? Thanks to attacks from the legal and political conservatives who rule Alabama, we lost our home of 25 years in Birmingham to a dubious foreclosure. That came just as I was being released from a five-month stay in jail because of an unlawful contempt-of-court order that lawyer Rob Riley (son of former GOP governor Bob Riley) sought.

Before that, Carol and I had been cheated out of our jobs--her at Infinity Insurance, me at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where I had worked for almost 20 years. Tape-recorded evidence shows conclusively that I was targeted at work because of my reporting on the political prosecution of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. Evidence strongly suggests that Carol was targeted because she is married to me.

When we challenged our bogus firings in federal court, we got cheated there, too. (See here and here.)

With our home in Alabama being swiped from underneath us, we were forced to move to Springfield, Missouri, where I grew up. Last September 9, we were subjected to an unlawful eviction at the apartment we were renting. In the course of throwing us and our possessions to the street, a Greene County deputy grabbed Carol, slammed her to the ground, and yanked on her arms in a vicious upward and backward motion. That broke her left arm so severely that it required trauma surgery for repair--and even then, she is expected to regain no more than 75 percent usage of her arm.

The real-world cost
 of practicing investigative journalism:
An X-ray of my wife's shattered arm

In the eviction's wake, we wound up living at a pay-by-the-week motel--the kind of establishment some might charitably call a "fleabag motel." Carol and I have come to calling it "The Shiftless Drifters' Motel." That's why we had a subdued reaction to Spotlight's win. We didn't want our whooping and hollering to disturb our neighbors. After all, we no longer live in a stand-alone house.

What price have I paid for reporting accurately on court-related corruption in Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and several other states? What price has Carol paid for supporting my efforts in investigative journalist?

Well, we've lost our jobs, our careers, our life savings, our reputations, and our once-stellar credit rating,  During the eviction, the landlord's crew was seen stealing many of our possessions--including almost all of my shoes, pants, shirts, coats, underwear, hats, and much more. Our wedding rings were stolen, and many irreplaceable items of sentimental value were lost or pilfered.

Because of a bogus resisting-arrest conviction in Alabama, I now have a criminal record that makes me virtually unemployable.

What is the cost of investigative journalism for one reporter and his wife? Well, we are almost homeless--and public records indicate even my own family members (and maybe one friend of long standing) have been working against us. Why? My best guess is that it's because one of my brothers is a lawyer, which makes him part of the establishment that doesn't much appreciate my reporting--no matter how accurate it is.

Spotlight is a wonderful movie, and it got two thumbs up here at Legal Schnauzer. If you haven't seen it--and it's not the kind of blockbuster that draws huge crowds--we strongly recommend
a trip to your local cinema to catch it.

But the movie does not touch on the many modern threats to investigative journalism--and the dangers reporters can face when they take on powerful interests.

Do we want to see movies like Spotlight in the future? Do we want to see the kind of journalism that can inspire such a movie?

We are in danger of losing both.

50 comments:

Tatiana Neroni said...

My husband, my family, myself and my former clients also suffered repercussions after I started to raise issues of judicial misconduct in motions, and to file complaints against judges referencing cases where there was documented evidence of their misconduct. So far, my husband, a criminal defense attorney with 37 years of experience, was disbarred, I, a criminal defense, Family Court and civil rights attorney, was suspended, there was retaliation against our children, we were repeatedly fined tens of thousands of dollars when we tried to sue for fraud against well-connected perpetrators of such fraud (connected with the judiciary).

Yet, I disagree that citizen journalism is on life support. While mainstream journalism is timid (or outright cowardly) in refusing to deal with the "super-sensitive" issue of judicial corruption, ordinary people like us expose such corruption in their blogs and on social media, reaching millions of people from around the world.

Your blog is on my blog-roll, I read it, my readers get to read it. Your family is not alone in what you are going through. The mere fact that you continue to blog is encouraging and inspiring to many people. It is to me.

Anonymous said...

Every dog has their day in the sun. Your day is on the horizon.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, how many jobs have you been turned down for because of the misdemeanor conviction?

legalschnauzer said...

Tatiana:

Thanks for sharing your experiences with our readers. I'm sorry you've had to go through this. You highlight one issue, in particular, that I've wondered about for some time: I've long suspected that state bar associations (maybe local ones, as well) routinely punish lawyers who raise unpleasant questions or represent clients who are unpopular with the legal establishment. It sounds like that has happened to you. Please keep us posted on your situation and feel free to contact me at my private e-mail: rshuler3156@gmail.com.

Just one clarification: I don't think citizen journalism is on life support. In fact, it's one of the few areas of journalism that is showing signs of life. But mainstream investigative journalism, I think, is in big trouble.

legalschnauzer said...

Do you think employers tell you, @3:47, that they turned you down because of a criminal conviction? Of course, they don't. Do you think employers routinely throw out people who have a criminal conviction--no matter how bogus--or have dozens of stories written on the Web about their arrest? Why don't you call a few HR types and ask them. Actually, I wouldn't bother calling an HR type because I'm not sure folks in HR are capable of giving a truthful answer to anything. But if you have a few functioning brain cells, you already should know the answer to the question I posed.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievably dumb question, @3:47.

Anonymous said...

You've taken on the legal tribe, LS. That's probably an even more corrupt bunch than the Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, @3:47, how many women have turned you down because of your small d--k?

Anonymous said...

It's funny, Mr. Schnauzer, that those who challenge you (talking about you, @3:47) never do so on the facts or law. This post contains all kinds of facts and law upon which you could be challenged, but @3:47 couldn't do it. So he resorted to a smart-ass question, which tells me he probably is a smart-ass. What a pathetic way that must be to go through life.

Anonymous said...

The Catholic Church scandal is horrible, but I would say the stuff that goes on in our courts every day is even worse. And in family law cases, that involves various forms of child abuse, too.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit of a smart-ass, but it beats being a dumb-ass. Roger implied that the criminal conviction kept him from being employed. It could be that he didn't get hired after the conviction because he didn't apply anywhere. So with that in mind, I will rephrase the question. How many jobs have you applied for since the conviction? I would also like to pose a larger reaching question, how many jobs did you apply for since UAB and how many turned you down?

Shaheed AbdulAzeez said...

How do you know @3:47 is a man?

Anonymous said...

"Just one clarification: I don't think citizen journalism is on life support. In fact, it's one of the few areas of journalism that is showing signs of life. But mainstream investigative journalism, I think, is in big trouble."

Absolutely agree, LS! Couldn't find a link to this evening's NPR radio broadcast of the news at 7:00 pm EST, but that's exactly how the guests--members of the journalism profession--put it when discussing the "Best Picture" winner. If I ever locate a link, I'll post it.

legalschnauzer said...

Shaheed: I can't speak for the other commenters, but I don't know that @3:47 is a man. Sounded like a man to me, but I don't know that for sure.

legalschnauzer said...

Would very much like to check out that NRP broadcast, @10:42. If you can provide a link, sure would appreciate it. Thanks.

legalschnauzer said...

Since the conviction, @7:29, I would estimate I've applied for about 15 jobs--with no nibbles, no interviews, nothing. Since UAB, I've probably applied for 40-45 jobs. Having a termination on your record (which in my case was not justified) is another factor that is a problem for job seekers. Maybe an even bigger challenge for me than the criminal issue is my age (late 50s).

These numbers are very rough guesses because much of our documents on this kind of stuff have been lost in the foreclosure and eviction. But if you are thinking I haven't applied for jobs, you are wrong.

What kind of work do you do, and how many jobs have you applied for in past 10 years? Do you have anything on your record--criminal conviction, termination, etc.--that might cause an employer to toss your application in the trash?

On an issue raised by another commenter above, why don't you challenge me on any factual or legal issues raised in the post? Is that because you are both a smart-ass and a dumb-ass?

Anonymous said...

I realized any numbers would be a best guess, but you had job issues way before your conviction. In the article you made it sound as if the misdemeanor conviction was the reason you were unemployable. Have you had any employment since UAB? If not, that is another strike against you. I have known plenty of people who were fired or had convictions on their record who were able to obtain employment. The one thing they all did was to get employment anywhere they could, including McDonald's. This allowed them to prove they were trustworthy. Then they would get a better job somewhere else and continue this until their history, while it had a few bumps, showed they were good employees. Your comment that the conviction made you virtually unemployable is not a factual statement and I wanted to clear it up.
There are not a lot of factual or legal issues raised here that have not been raised in other posts. This post seemed to be primarily your attempt at comparing yourself to the journalists in a movie and a movie recommendation.

legalschnauzer said...

Well, @5:10, you seem quite knowledgeable about issues involving employment, so please do us a favor.

You say you know plenty of people who have overcome terminations or criminal convictions to build careers. Who are they, and what are the circumstances surrounding the "up and down" nature of their employment? Please provide some details.

If you don't want to disclose this information in a public forum, please contact me via private e-mail (rshuler3156@gmail.com) or phone (205-381-5673) and all communications will be off the record.

I especially would like to know about anyone of your acquaintance who obtained employment at McDonald's, since you make special mention of that company.

I might like to contact some of these folks to get job-hunting tips.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Anonymous said...

LS, finally found it... took me long enough! Turns out that PBS handed over the old PBS News Hour to our local WETA Classical Music Station under the aegis of Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill with Jeffrey Brown do the interviewing/reporting on the Spotlight win and the future of investigative journalism. (Starts approx. 43:38 min in).

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/episode/pbs-newshour-full-episode-feb-29-2016/

Anonymous said...

LS...I'm not the same person as 5:10, but Google "how do I get a job with a criminal background/record". There are plenty of articles out there. Plus there are local and national organizations dedicated to helping people with criminal records get a job.

Here's a start: http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2013/11/19/how-to-find-a-job-when-you-have-a-criminal-record

In Birmingham, places like "The Foundry" help people needing a second chance, both from rehab to criminal records.

I'm sorry...you are not going to be handed a job. You're going to have to take control of your life and reach out to people that can help you

legalschnauzer said...

You only appear to know, or understand, a small part of our situation. What is someone supposed to do when their criminal conviction was wrongful and grew from what amounted to a state-sanctioned kidnapping? You might know plenty of people who have legitimate criminal records and are trying to get back on track from that. I don't have a lawful criminal record, so I'm fighting back against the corrupt system that cheated me. That's called taking control of your life. There is more than one way to go about that.

Anonymous said...

Either way...lawful or unlawful...you need a job. Right? I understand you wanting to fight your injustices, but in the meantime, you're living in a flea-bag hotel. All I was saying was, rightful or wrongful conviction, you need money....and you're not going to get that by fighting injustice full time. Go try and find and agency that can help you find a job.

And, for the record, I'm a 2 year reader of your blog. While I can't understand all you've gone through, I think you saying I know little about your situation was incorrect. Some of us on here want to see you do well again. But you've got to take that first step.

legalschnauzer said...

I didn't say I need a job; you brought that up. I did say that, based on personal experience, a bogus criminal record makes me virtually unemployable. I believe that to be true, and you haven't shared anything to make me think otherwise.

You don't have any idea what our financial situation is, and it seems more than a little presumptuous to act like you do. We are paying our bills, so in that sense, we are doing OK.

If you genuinely want to help, you are welcome to contact me directly (rshuler3156@gmail.com) or (205) 381-5673. People who truly want to help generally don't want to remain anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Geesh! A guy tries to offer some advice and gets told everything that's wrong with said advice. Keep pushing people away and you live a lonely life.

From a former 2 year reader of your blog.

legalschnauzer said...

Pushing people away? I gave you my private e-mail and phone number and invited you to contact me. You call that "pushing you away"? Geesh!

I knew you were a phony from the get-go, and now you've proven me correct. Sounds like you know a thing or two about a lonely life.

Anonymous said...

Roger! @3:47 is not a dumb-ass. He is a cleaver attorney baiting you to say something to be used against you at a later time. @8:40 is his accomplice.I think one is female,but need one more clue. @6:28 baited him by calling him a dumb-ass.@3:47 exposed himself when he replied at @7.29 I am a bit of a smart-ass, and then said "I will rephrase the question." That sounds like a dumb-ass lawyer caught off gaurd.
Shoot! I think I just contradicted myself.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for your input, @7:53. I suspect you are right on target. In fact, I probably get a lot of comments from people like that--someone trying to bait me, distract me, whatever.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how @12:10 expects you to take his advice seriously when he doesn't tell you who he is. That's like pulling the lever for a presidential candidate, and you don't know his name. Tells me this guy is a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Funny @9:48. You "anonymously" reply to someone posting anonymously and call them a fraud? Isn't that like the pot calling the kettle black?

Anonymous said...

Nice try, @10:09, but you miss the point. I'm not attempting to offer anyone advice; you are. My point is that advice means nothing if you don't know the source. If you want LS, and his readers, to take your advice seriously, tells us who you are. Surely you have enough common sense to understand why that matters.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the same person as @12:10. I was simply stating a fact that one anonymous person (who hides their identity) is calling out another anonymous person. If you're so proud of your claim, why are you hiding your identity?

Anonymous said...

@7:53 - Sorry to break it to you, I am @3:47 and I'm not a lawyer nor have I been to law school. I also don't have a clue who @8:40 is and I don't care. Just out of curiosity, what clue are you looking for and which one do you think is the female?

Anonymous said...

To @4:52: Surely you realize by now that Roger will not accept free advice. I was picking the comments that advanced my agenda. Nothing personal against you.The clue part was to plant Baxley and Garrison in his mind. But the first clue is "The Foundry" is a family orientated organization which a woman would advocate.

Anonymous said...

Roger, you must be worried that your wife will suffer further collateral damage as you continue your project. Any thought of getting her to safety for awhile?

Maybe she could stay in Jasper with that man she used to fuck.

legalschnauzer said...

Why don't you contact me at rshuler3156@gmail.com and (205) 381-5673, and we'll discuss. Or you can discuss this "man in Jasper" with Carol directly.

Anonymous said...

Roger, @5:59 AM here. Happy to help.

How can I contact Carol? Did he t ie her right?

Anonymous said...

Care to comment:

http://www.nickifaulk.com/2007/11/14/jury-duty-notes-and-my-thoughts-on-the-case/

legalschnauzer said...

I gave you our phone number above--(205) 381-5673. It's the same for both of us. She will be looking forward to your call.

Anonymous said...

Lets see. This post ran Feb 29. @3:49 alias @5:59 makes a threat to you. One minute later @3.50 asks you to comment on a post that ran today (march 9).niki was talking about Springer. @3:50 is baiting you to slander Springer.The threat must be related to Springer. @3:49 and @3:50 are same person.

Anonymous said...

I gave you our phone number above--(205) 381-5673. It's the same for both of us. She will be looking forward to your call.

You're turning your wife out like a whore now Roger? Disgusting. Hypocrite.

legalschnauzer said...

You are several miles off target, @6:31. Someone has made bogus allegations against Carol and asked how they could speak to her. I told them how; she's not afraid to speak to them. First, she knows they are too big a coward to call.

Sounds like you just aren't very bright, @6:31. Unfortunate for you.

legalschnauzer said...

I read the post at nickifaulk.com, @3:50. It was fairly interesting, but the long-and-winding writing style made it hard to follow. I saw that Mr. Springer was involved, apparently as the plaintiff's attorney. Saw Doug Jones mentioned, and that's a familiar name.

I assume you were trying to make a point, but I'm not sure what it is. Do you care to elaborate?

Anonymous said...

Roger, could we get your comment on something I think we're starting to see:

http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2016/03/committee_hears_both_sides_of.html#incart_river_index

A couple of names keep popping up in this and other contexts: Ken Johnson and Rich Wingo. You've no doubt heard the rumours and wondering when we will see something from you about it. Wingo has long-range ties to University of Alabama... What is Wingo's interest in "sugar"?

Anonymous said...

My point being; The only article, nikifaulk has any connection to, is the march 9 article.It sure is a coincidence that it was posted at this article, one minute after the person making threats in this article and march 9 article,posted at 3:49.Looks like some one forgot to get back on the right article,after they made their threat.

legalschnauzer said...

Interesting, @10:50. You might be onto something. Please feel free to share more details as they come to mind.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for the link, @10:46. I don't know a lot about this payday loan issue. Rich Wingo played linebacker at UA under Bear Bryant, didn't he? Did Wingo play in the Sugar Bowl--is that what you mean about "sugar"?

I thought Neal Berte's comments were interesting.

What do you make of Johnson/Wingo connections? Would welcome your insights.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned your brother. What is the status of his attempt to have you can Carol declared incapacitated and disabled?

Anonymous said...

"Sugar" might well refer to a sugar daddy relationship with someone, a man or a woman.

legalschnauzer said...

Don't know, @2:03. Haven't heard from him in ages.

legalschnauzer said...

I see, @2:08. Are you thinking Wingo or Johnson or someone connected to the loan story is getting "sugar" on the side?