Thursday, February 22, 2018

Birmingham civil-rights lawyer Chevene Hill wants info about his professional background removed from post re: status as a customer at Ashley Madison

Chevene Hill
When we left Birmingham civil-rights attorney Chevene Hill, he was denying having paid for an account at Ashley Madison, threatening me with a cease-and-desist order, and asking me to call him.

I did call him, and Hill said little about his name appearing on the list of paying Ashley Madison customers for Alabama. He did try to rework the draft of an article I sent him, namely by asking me to remove his picture, remove any references that he went to Miles College School of Law, and remove any references that he used to work at NBC 13.

All of that information is on the Web and is easily available to anyone who wants to look for it. I told Hill that his background information was relevant to the story, and I likely was not going to remove it. Hill was not too pleased with that response, and a circuitous conversation ensued, including some language you don't generally hear in church.

Ultimately, Hill promised to send me a comment for my post via email, but I never received one.  Our back-and-forth was one of the more interesting experiences I've had in reporting on 45 to 50 posts about Ashley Madison customers. Here are the highlights:

Chevene Hill (CH): "I know I can't stop you from running it, but there are some things I would like you to take out of it. Any reference to Miles College and any reference to NBC 13, that needs to come out of it.

Roger Shuler (RS): "I've got your request, but journalistically, I can't think of any reason to take those out."

CH: "Journalistically, they have no relevance to anything you're trying to talk about. If you're going to play the journalism card, let's be responsible. Don't start this shady bullshit; you just want to run it for the hell of it. . . . My resume has nothing to do with whatever it is you're trying to report on.

RS: That's your take on things. I don't agree with it.

CH: You tell me how . . .

RS: I'm asking you for a comment. In any news story . . .

CH: No, I'm not going to let you dance around it. I asked you a direct question. How does my background have anything to do with your story?

RS: It gives people an idea of who you are. If I write an article about Donald Trump, his background is important.

CH: I'm not Donald Trump, I'm not the president. My work history and law school has nothing to do with it. What kind of comment do you want? I'll work with you if you work with me.

RS: It can be whatever comment you want to make.

CH: This bullshit isn't journalism. You didn't call me before you ran this.

RS: I haven't run it. I'm calling you pre-publication.

CH: I will work with you and give you some type of statement. It has to be edited. I don't want my picture in it, and I don't want this stuff about law school and NBC 13 in there.

RS: I understand your request, but I don't agree with it. The information is on the Internet and on your LinkedIn page, so it's public information.

CH: If I have to file some kind of invasion of privacy . . . I don't want to spend the money on it. But if I got to, I got to.

RS: I can't give you any advice there.

CH: If you're going to run it, take the NBC 13 out. I wasn't a lawyer back then.

RS: I hear you, but I can't promise that. I think it's relevant to the story.

CH: As I said before, I don't recall being on this goddamned site, so what am I supposed to comment on.

RS: I don't know. You don't have to comment at all.

CH: You're the journalist, quote unquote, ask the question. What am I commenting on, that this is bullshit?

RS: If that's what you want to say . . . . I can't put words in your mouth.

CH: You're really terrible. This is bullshit, first of all. I'm trying to work with you, man. Ask me a question, maybe I can answer it. You're just trying to paint a picture of these lawyers being out there on Ashley Madison. I'm asking you to ask me a legitimate question. You're trying to slander me, for whatever reason, to get hits on your fucking blog. Basically, that's what you're trying to do.

RS: That's your take, it's not accurate. The question is, "Were you on Ashley Mad . . .

CH: Why am I involved in it?

RS: Your name shows up on the list of Ashley Madison . . . that's just fact. If you think somebody put you on there by mistake, maybe you need look into that.

CH: What is your story about?

RS: Did you read the draft I sent you?

CH: I see all my information on here, and what the hell does that have to do with anything. What's the point?

RS: If you feel there's no point, feel free to make that comment.

CH: I'll give you a comment.

RS: You can see what the story says.

CH: I'm going to say this as a professional courtesy: You suck as a journalist, Roger. I'll give you a comment.

RS: I can't put words in your mouth.

CH: Where do I send my comment.

RS: Back to this email.

CH: I'll send it, I sure will. 
RS: Good, thanks.

Did Hill send a written comment via email, as he promised? If he did, I didn't receive it -- and he had my email address. I have to give him credit for an interesting dialogue, although I still have no idea why he's so sensitive about Miles Law School and NBC 13? Furthermore, I can't figure what made him think it's a good idea to try to tell a journalist how to write a story.

For those who might engage in public-relations careers, here are three big no-nos: (1) Never try to tell a journalist how to write a story; (2) Never insult a journalist; (3) Journalists tend to be foul-mouthed creatures, but it's best not to use foul language with them; (4) Don't threaten journalists with cease-and-desist orders and invasion of privacy lawsuits; most journalists have taken courses in communications law, and such threats are not likely to impress them -- or scare them.

In short, Mr. Hill could use some help with his PR game. I have no idea if he is a good, bad, or indifferent lawyer -- but as a professional courtesy, I can say he kind of sucks as his own spokesperson.

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