Saturday, May 19, 2007

Talk of the Town: "CPA stands up for Hambrick, Townsend"

Vic Hambrick's accountant is annoyed that he's being implicated in alleged hanky-panky, and barks back, at one point comparing the Courier's research skills unfavorably with those of a fifth-grader and its reporters of a certain lack of sense. He goes on to ask some pointed questions about how this story has been covered. In case you're keeping score, here are some answers.

"ROI Land Management & Development Company owes her $295,000." Did your reporter verify this statement or ask to see a copy of the note or agreement?
This refers to the May 6 story, and Joanna's balancer came in the same paragraph: "He denies owing her any money." That was the end of it, no mention of proof. Is that the reporter's job? It may be, when they're already stringing you up on the editorial page.
"Did your reporter question how the transfer of real property could have anything to do with solving anyone's tax problem? Or did they confirm Victor Hambrick even had a tax problem before printing this statement?
There's no telling what questions Joanna asked, but there is certainly no answer to this in any of her stories. This was an allegation made by Townsend, though, not the Courier. Should the Courier have printed it without followup or fact-checking?

I also notice that he has to do this on the opinion page, rather than have his viewpoint and assertions of innocence covered in the original story.

It's exactly this sort of sticky complexity that keeps most papers away from investigative work, and I don't mean to criticize Joanna or the editors for going after the story, that's a good thing. You have to mind your Ps and Qs, though. If this accountant really is innocent -- and everyone is until proved guilty, right? -- the Courier may have unfairly screwed up his business and professional reputation. We'll see as the story continues to develop what's just. What we know so far is that the Courier's actions have made it an important part of the story, always a dangerous play for the press.

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