Did The CA Do a Herenton Flip-Flop?

Posted by John Branston on Fri, Jun 25, 2010 at 3:02 PM

Is Willie Herenton in legal jeopardy, or is he not in legal jeopardy in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday in what is being called the "honest services" case?

An online story in The Commercial Appeal Thursday said one thing and a later version of the story (repeated in Friday's print newspaper) said exactly the opposite.

Herenton has made an issue of the fairness of The Commercial Appeal in its continuing coverage of him and especially in regard to editorial page editor Otis Sanford's role as moderator in a televised debate (now a non-debate) with Congressman Steve Cohen.

Online news is a hungry beast. Stories are constantly updated. No newspaper's coverage of a public figure should be judged on the basis of a single story. Yadda yadda yadda. But politics and political coverage are contact sports, and what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If The CA shot from the hip on the "honest services" ruling and then thought better of it after doing some reporting, it gives some credence to Herenton's complaints.

The original version posted online by reporter Marc Perrusquia said the former Memphis mayor was still in jeopardy even though the Supreme Court unanimously narrowed the scope of criminal prosecutions on the grounds that the public was deprived of someone’s honest services.

"A ruling today by the U.S. Supreme Court means Willie Herenton still may not be out from under the cloud of a federal investigation that’s loomed over him the past two years.

"The former Memphis mayor and current congressional candidate was looking to the high court for relief from a highly publicized federal grand jury probe that scrutinized payments he received from a land deal while mayor."

There were no sources in the original story and there was no direct reference to Herenton either way in the Supreme Court opinion, to which he was not a party.

A later online version and the version that appeared in Friday’s print newspaper, however, came to the opposite conclusion. Herenton, the story said, was probably not in jeopardy now. The story cited Herenton’s attorney Robert Spence and two “legal experts.” There is no link to the original story, which was rewritten to include the new material and given a new headline.

That much is standard practice. Reporters constantly revise stories these days to meet the demands of online journalism. But I was a little bit surprised to see an apparent rush to judgment on a complicated court case and a story in which the daily newspaper has become part of the story.

Bottom line: not a big deal but The CA gave Herenton some ammo. And if anyone's curious, this story did not come from him or his camp. The "honest services" case has been on the Flyer's watch list for some time.

Comments (7)

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I have had high regards for John Branston's coverage of the news in this city since his story on Memphis Tomorrow and the "Big Mules" broke years ago. Til this day I continue to have respect for the integrity he brings to the theater of journalism. So I want to share something with him and the readers, ESPECIALLY, outside of the urban circle of life.

I don't know a single African American who is not on nerve medication who gives a twit what the Commercial Appeal says about Willie Herenton. We all know that there is no love or respect between Herenton and CA in particular and the CA and the urban community in general.

The more the CA blows its trumpet for Cohen the more African American votes Herenton will get. I don't know a single person who will admit that the Commercial Appeal has any credibility with them. When ever the statement that the Commercial Appeal is a "Red neck", "Blue dog", "Republican paper"---in the person of Chris Peck, no one disagrees. They all say, "I know". Even the children say, "I know."

So, when someone, especially like Brandson, uses the "IF" word suggesting that the CA might be "flip flopping on the "honest servicing" rule, I say, I KNOW!

Posted by Maia on 06/29/2010 at 7:14 AM

My interpretation of the CA is not that they're redneck so much as they are desperately trying to be all things to all people. There doesn't seem to be any single vision unifying the whole project. On the one hand, they put a picture of a dead teenager on the front page, but then at other times they'll use the front page to promote some barely newsworthy human interest story in an effort to give everyone a warm fuzzy. It's as if their target demographic is a single, white middle-aged spinster named Gladys who doesn't go out except on Sundays for church and Thursdays for Jazzercise.

Posted by autoegocrat on 06/29/2010 at 8:47 AM

It's so funny how the CA is viewed by different people. My father and his friends think it's a left-wing rag. Black people think it's a red-neck republican paper. I think Joe Pepe sucks.

Posted by Packrat on 06/29/2010 at 8:51 AM

@Auto: priceless.

@packy: true that. And if you work there, you think it's a banana republic run by fascist overlords.

Posted by B on 06/29/2010 at 10:54 AM

The CA is a fine newspaper - for me to poop on.

Posted by Jeff on 06/29/2010 at 12:04 PM

If the CA put the Flyer under the same microscope the Flyer puts the CA under, they could have a new weekly section called 'Flyer Follies'. As for Herenton, without the power of mayor, he's reduced to nothing more than a carnival barker. Nobody is really paying attention to him anymore, especially in the black community. Once Herenton loses to Cohen rather substantially, he'll totally disappear from view.

Posted by Midtown Mark on 06/29/2010 at 7:30 PM

Whatever happens to Herenton, I pray to God that it doesn't affect the all important legislation of allowing convicted felons to apply for jobs and not have to say they are felons.

We liberals MUST defend the felon, at all cost!

Posted by Tommy Volinchak on 07/01/2010 at 2:06 AM
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