Writer Loses CultureMap Gig After Blasting Highland Park "Rape Apology"

Pop culture and music writer Dan Solomon, who until recently contributed to CultureMap's Austin and Houston sites, says his byline is no longer welcome at the digital-media venture. Apparently, corporate didn't take too kindly to this post on his personal blog, critical of CultureMap Dallas managing editor Claire St. Amant's piece on the alleged rape of a Highland Park High School student.

"I'm embarrassed right now that my name is associated with the Culturemap brand," Solomon writes in XOJane. "I'm really disappointed in St. Amant's judgment and of Culturemap's choice to publish such offensive -- and stupid! -- bullshit."

Solomon's blog caught the attention of CultureMap's "Dallas higher-ups," he says, because a week later his CultureMap Austin editors asked to meet for coffee. He claims they had a single request: Take the post down. "They told me that the company was upset, and they wouldn't be able to work with me if I didn't," he writes. As you can see, the critical post remains.

CultureMap's Houston HQ has not yet responded to a request for comment. CultureMap Dallas editor-in-chief Jennifer Chininis took issue with Solomon's account. "I cannot speak to what transpired between Dan and his editors in Austin, because I wasn't there," she writes in an email. "But, as I understand it from talking to my colleagues, he wasn't let go for refusing to take down the blog post; in fact, the Austin team was committed to working through the relationship and really made every effort possible to do so."

Chininis claims Solomon refused to work with CultureMap to resolve the issue.

St. Amant's piece is now infamous for speculating -- based on absolutely no evidence -- that HPHS senior and baseball star Ryan Romo may have fallen prey to the alleged victim's second thoughts. "If it's a case of impulsive teenage decisions, remorse and guilt, then no one suffers more than 18-year-old Ryan Romo."

That's one argument, our own Anna Merlan noted, but a poor one given the fact that Romo isn't charged with statutory rape, and a medical examination found evidence of forcible rape. Merlan bristled just as much at what the piece left out. St. Amant made no mention of a recorded phone conversation between Romo and the alleged victim. It suffices to say the transcript is not exculpatory. Says Solomon:

Given that CultureMap and Claire St. Amant never had any reason to speculate that this was "a case of impulsive teenage decisions, remorse, and guilt" except that it was theoretically possible to do so, it's pretty obvious that, of all the people who "no one suffers more than" as a result of her column, Ryan Romo isn't even on the list.

And making the point that people with jobs like mine and St. Amant's have no business speculating like that is well worth losing some steady work over.

Chininis called the situation "disappointing."

"It's reasonable to expect that if one of our contributors takes issue with something published on our site, or any other site in the network, that he or she would come to us directly to discuss it, rather than post something about it on a personal blog," she wrote in an email. "That's simply not the way to have a constructive dialogue with any employer."

He did reach out, Chininis wrote, but only weeks after the story was published. "That said, if the story were really that disturbing for him, it seems strange that he keeps bringing it up."

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Brantley Hargrove