Where's the Quo?

At the risk of feeling dirty--and not in a good way--I'm going to part company from Jim Schutze and Morning News columnist Sherry Jacobson and, ick, take the mayor's side in the whole Dave Levinthal/AMR stock tempest.

Jacobson this morning picked up on a point made by Schutze on Unfair Park yesterday--that Laura Miller is somehow at fault for not calling Levinthal to let him know that, as a member of the airport board, she never voted on any issues involving American Airlines during the brief period she and her husband owned stock in AMR Corp., American's corporate owner. Yeah, sure, Miller is dumb to blacklist reporters; and, yeah, Levinthal's original story was factually correct--as far as it went. But it's disingenous to pretend that his story didn't imply more naughtiness than the full facts bear out. Take a look at the first two paragraphs of the story in question:

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller earned up to $25,000 last year after buying and selling stock in AMR Corp.--American Airlines' parent company--while serving as a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board, according to mandatory 2005 financial statements filed this week by Dallas City Council members.

American Airlines flights account for more than 80 percent of commercial air traffic at D/FW Airport, and the airport board frequently makes decisions affecting the airline.

What the story never says is that there were no airport board meetings during the time she owned the stock. The paper says Levinthal didn't know that because that info came from Miller and the aiport via e-mail, and the paper's e-mail system was busted the day the story was written. Schutze and Jacobson say Miller shouldn't rely on e-mail, so it's at least partly her fault that Levinthal's story left the big question unanswered: Did she cast any votes related to AMR while a stockholder?

Blame the source. Blame your computer. What a load of crap.

Why didn't the News hold this story until it was complete? (Blame the editors for that one.) How hard could it be to find out when airport board meetings were held? (Blame Levinthal for that one.) But if you want to report that Miller bought a gun on Friday and her hubby was shot dead on Saturday, you better first find whether he was shot with the same caliber gun before you tie the first two facts together in your lead. A competent editor would have asked Levinthal whether he had the goods or not. He didn't, and deadlines, e-mail problems and a notoriously cranky mayor are pretty poor excuses for weak reporting. --Patrick Williams

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