Leaderboard 728 X 90

Friday, April 1, 2016

Al.com discounts Web-based reporting that uses anonymous sources, but uses the same kind of sources in its coverage of Gov. Robert Bentley sex scandal


The hypocrisy of Alabama's mainstream press regarding the use of anonymous sources in coverage of the Gov. Robert Bentley sex scandal has reached epic proportions. The evidence was all over al.com yesterday and today, especially in its report that Bentley had bought disposable "burner" cell phones at a Best Buy store in Tuscaloosa.

Al.com's cell-phone story is intriguing, and it provides a possible key angle to the story, suggesting Bentley was buying the phones to hide evidence of his phone calls and text messages to paramour and former senior advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

So where does hypocrisy enter the picture?

Al.com for months has tried to paper over the fact that it got soundly beaten on the Bentley/Mason story. I broke the story, here at Legal Schnauzer, of the extramarital affair and some of its repercussions seven months ago, on August, 31, 2015. Al.com finally awoke from its slumber last week, in the wake of reports from former ALEA chief Spencer Collier that Bentley and Mason had engaged in an affair, plus release of audio that had Bentley speaking fondly of caressing Mason's breasts and exploring her nether regions.

During the seven months al.com failed to report on the affair it repeatedly disparaged my work as the product of "unsubstantiated rumors." Why the use of that language? It apparently was because I based my story on insights from anonymous sources, who happen to be highly knowledgeable insiders on Alabama politics but did not want their names released because of concerns about possible retaliation from the Bentley administration--which has shown it is quite capable of seeking retaliation.

Now, guess what al.com's used in its story about disposable "burner" cell phones. Anonymous sources--surprise, surprise! This is from reporter Connor Sheets article:

Gov. Robert Bentley personally bought multiple inexpensive, disposable cell phones last year at a Best Buy in Tuscaloosa, according to current and former employees of the electronics store. . . .

Two employees – one current and one former – of the Best Buy location in the Midtown Village shopping center in Tuscaloosa told AL.com Thursday that they had each personally sold a single disposable cell phone to Bentley last year.

"[U]p until the scandal came to light, Bentley HIMSELF would by (sic) little burner phones ... I witnessed it with my own 2 eyes and even sold him one," the current Best Buy employee wrote via online message. "I sold to him once, saw him purchase twice."

The current employee said that on both occasions, Bentley purchased inexpensive AT&T flip phones, "the type you buy minutes for. They cost around 15 bucks."

The former Best Buy employee corroborated the general thrust of the current employee's story in a phone conversation Thursday morning.

Did al.com give the Best Buy employees' names? Nope. They remain nameless in Sheets' followup piece today:

Gov. Robert Bentley spent $1,732.68 on "cell phones and prepaid wireless" at Best Buy last year, Bentley's state campaign finance records reveal.
The evidence of the expenditure bolsters the stories of two employees – one former, one current – of the Best Buy in Tuscaloosa's Midtown Village shopping center who told AL.com Thursday that they each personally sold a single disposable "burner" cell phone to Bentley last year.

Why did the Best Buy employees want to remain anonymous? Probably because they feared retaliation--in the form of being fired from their jobs for speaking out about the governor. In other words, al.com granted anonymity to key sources for the same reason I granted anonymity to mine.

Disposable "burner" cell phones
(From inquisitr.com)
But the public is supposed to assume al.com's report is legitimate, while mine are to be considered "unsubstantiated rumors"--even though I have a degree from an acclaimed School of Journalism (University of Missouri) and almost 38 years of professional experience in the field, which I suspect is more than anyone on the al.com staff.

Here is a brief journalism lesson from someone who has spent his adult life in the field: If a story is built on anonymous sources, it does not mean it is "unsubstantiated"; it does not mean the story presents "no evidence" to support its claims. It means a professional reporter trusts his sources and believes they have legitimate reasons for wishing to remain unnamed.

Do anonymous sources matter in journalism? Can they change the course of history? Just ask Richard Nixon (except he's dead). Or you could ask Robert Bentley in a few weeks or months, when he might be out as Alabama governor and headed for a federal "correctional facility."

The Bentley/Mason story did not break last week; it broke last summer, and last week's reports only prove that my reporting was on target all along. Al.com does not want you to know that, probably because they don't like the stinging criticism I've sent their way over the years and they are embarrassed that a one-man news shop has kicked their ass--and not for the first time.

To be clear, I applaud Connor Sheets' reporting on the "burner" cell phones. It makes for darned good reading, and I think it could lead to important evidence regarding Bentley's actions.

But Connor Sheets works for a slipshod news organization, one that never has had a very good reputation, and it's now a mere shadow of its former dubious self.

Our message to Connor Sheets is "good work." Our message to his employer? Hypocrisy, thy name is al.com.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Roger this helps your prestige within the reporting community. I bet your lining up interviews as I type.

Anonymous said...

al.com never will give you any credit because you have made them look like amateurs. I would take that as a badge of honor.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of anonymous sources,you have recieved a face card recently; at least a Queen ;maybe a King and possibly an Ace. But you have such a poker face and the Joker in the deck sent it, I am not sure if you noticed.

Robby Scott Hill said...

I'd love to comment, but this one hits too close to home. Many members of management at my current employer come from Best Buy. I do know that Best Buy, like most big box retailers, encourages employees to be open & honest and has a positive culture of not retaliating against employees for reporting questionable conduct. So, these employees should have nothing to fear if the managements lives its corporate values.

legalschnauzer said...

Boy, you have stumped me, 1:35. Can you elaborate? I receive lots of things, but I have no idea to which you are referring.

Anonymous said...

Matt Hart uses the Riley Machine to shut Mike Hubbard's mouth. He throws soft ball questions at the Riley clan, 96mph fastballs at Hubbards friends, and throws Sonny Reagan under the bus to make it appear he is cleaning up corruption. You appear to be older than a teenager.Do you believe there will be any more indictments?
@1:35

Anonymous said...

Roger, IMHO you shouldn't tout the fact that you have a degree in journalism. I've got a few myself, and have known former classmates that have degrees, but aren't proficient in their educated field. Let your body of work speak for itself!

Anonymous said...

Don Siegelman's 2014 Appeal surprises me. His attorney was present in the judge's chambers when Franklin and the IT FBI were giving their bullshit. I am curious as to which attorneys were assigned to retrieve messages from "Bakers" phone. I would at least ask for my money back.

legalschnauzer said...

Hah, yes I'm older than a teen-ager, for sure. No, I don't think there will be more indictments, and I suspect Strange's office will find a way to screw up what should be an open and shut case. I think Luther Strange is incompetent beyond belief, and his office obviously has been a clown car for a long time. As much as I despise Hubbard and as much as I think he's guilty, I think he is, in fact, a victim of a political prosecution--and, under the constitution, the case against him probably should be dismissed.

If there is an ounce of integrity in Strange's office, I don't know where you would find it--except maybe among some of the career types who probably have been shunted aside to scut work.

Anonymous said...

The Washington Post is tooting al.com's horn for breaking the Bentley-Mason story. All readers who have been paying attention know that isn't true. I guess the MSM people stick together.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/31/an-inside-look-at-how-alabama-gov-robert-bentleys-sex-scandal-broke-wide-open/

Anonymous said...

Hell for that matter, If I had Milton McGregors money, I would go after Keith Baker's phone records. If they can find Clinton,s ,It should be easy to find Bakers phone records.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! You have just told me all my time has not been wasted.

Anonymous said...

I never believed in the "gift that keeps giving," but golly Miss Molly, this could be it!!! The story gets better and better. There isn't a TV soap opera that compares. Thanks, Roger!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm stumped too. It's sort of how I feel when the preacher talks about Adam and Eve's third son, and boy do I feel dumb because I've managed to forget about him when he was right there all along. I know, it sounds as bizarre as an alien from Melmack that would rather eat steak and tell me about his love for excellent government, than hunt for a good live cat.

Anonymous said...

You were the one, courageous lone voice in the hostile wilderness here, Roger. History and journalism, if respectable, fair and honest,, should never forget it nor should they ever misrepresent or ignore the truth.

Anonymous said...

Luther Strange has been quieter than a field mouse.
I wonder if he is worried his fate will run the same course of Bentleys.
Great work at this blog.
You have these criminal pols on the run!

Anonymous said...

LS: Yeah... I wanna know what this riddle means, too!

Speaking of anonymous sources,you have recieved (sic) a face card recently; at least a Queen (probably Beka); maybe a King (probably Bently) and possibly an Ace (Rileys). But you have such a poker face and the Joker (the poster of this message) in the deck sent it, I am not sure if you noticed (the most recent post about the Eliza Battle and Mike Hubbard).
April 1, 2016 at 1:35 PM

So, Joker, am I close?

Anonymous said...

To 11:25 Not exactly right but in the ball park. IN a few days all hell will break loose. As for my grammer any typing, until January of this year,I have not written and never typed in 50 years. My wife laughs at me and calls me a pecker typist.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:25 You need some cliffsnotes to catch up with the class.
The Victoria and Camperdown were 19th century British warships.Due to a stupid mistake, the Camperdown struck the Victoria and the Victoria sank. History repeats itself.
2016: The Camperdown,with Robert"Tom Cat"Bentley on board has made a stupid mistake, which will bring the Feds into Alabama. That will cause the Victoria,with Riley on board to sink. I am still searching for the article where Hubbard said something similar to "and the on going corruption". He tried to bring down the Riley Machine. He underestimated his task. That is why his ship is a side wheel paddle cargo/passenger ship from Alabama.(Eliza Battle) Thinks look bleak for Hubbard and Bentley,but do not count them out yet. The Joker in the deck(Keith Baker) will have to make a decision soon. In this game Jokers are wild.
As a teenager, I read seventeen magazine to see what the girls were thinking. Same thing in Alabama politics. Read Bill Britt to see what Matt Hart is thinking.Read Charles Dean to see what Bentley is thinking. Read Ricky Stokes To see what the wiregrass area is thinking. Read OA news to see what Hubbard is thinking. Read josh Moon to see what the Montgomery fraction is thinking. John Archibald has good articles when they let him off the chain to exercise, but they will not let him hunt. Roger pulls the data you need from these reporters and allows you determine what you see.
The next act of this play will be Keith Baker.

legalschnauzer said...

Memo to Nate:

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a clear path to your digital footprint. That will make tracking you down much easier. You stepped in it, and you will have a hard time getting that poop off your footprint. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Roger! Two things. I used your blog to get my story of the Auburn land thieves public.
A Lee County Commissioner told me they were going to take my property like they do in Shelby County, using the zoning law,(Power to pursue economy through goverment expenditure) I read the snake comment. I am slowly being poisoned ....so be it.The land thieves have underestimated my resolve.
I grew up on a dairy farm some one else owned, with four brothers. A military recuiter came to our high school and said they needed men to stop the communist before they reached our shore.He said if you had two cows, the communist would take one and give it to some one else. Three of my brothers and I joined the military to fight the communist. Three of us went to Vietnam(over a period of 5 years)and one went to Korea.Do the land thieves not see that I would attack hell with a bucket of water to protect my own cow.
Number 2. Some one in the Siegelman family has a deep inner faith. The property I live on is guarded by the ghost of a Civil War doctor.When I was at the courthouse searching documents to prove the land thieves,I would also search why and what the ghost was guarding. One night,while lying in bed,I said to myself"The ghost is going to show me the light" My reading light came on at that instant.From that night on information fell into my hands.I discovered the ghost was protecting the civil war era grave yard next door. I have never found the doctor or his wife's graves in Auburn, even though his descendants say he is buried in Auburn. In july 2009 a land thief destroyed the grave yard,All the markers are gone and RV's for football fans are on the graves.The Yancey's slaves wre buried there. John and Thomas were boys under ten years old.Eliza and Bob were elderly. Mary died during child birth. The Yanceys and the Doctor are haunting the thieves. When ever the Doctor is around,you will hear a knocking noise. Last week, while talking to a neighbor,he said there is some one in that clearing banging with a hammer. We looked but could find no one.The next morning I was walking my hound dog before sun up. A light about 6 inches high and two feet long with no defined borders passed in front of me and moved at the speed of a fast walk. It was visible for 15 seconds. Later I wrote the articles about the bingo trial transcripts. I felt someones inner strength telling me what to look for in the articles.


Anonymous said...

"@ 11:25 You need some cliffsnotes to catch up with the class."

And some Dramamine, no doubt! Thanks @9:52...

"which will bring the Feds into Alabama..."

Aren't the Feds already in Alabama -- e.g. Keith Baker, the infamous sex magnet in the Seigelman appeal, and now caught with his skivvies down again with grand jury tampering in the Hubbard corruption trial? This guy is a menace! (Ever find a picture of him, LS?)

"John Archibald has good articles when they let him off the chain to exercise..."

Archibald was practically screaming at the Masons to go to the "Feds" (sleazy Keith again??) in a couple of pieces this past week.

What a hot mess!