Thursday, November 18, 2010

Simple crime story gives editor stinkfoot

In "Man arrested on charges of fraudulent use of a city credit card" we hear about a former City employee getting busted for unauthorized use of a City credit card, either retained in his possession for over a year after he left City employ, or lifted while he was working there. No big deal, perfectly legitimate story. But then the editor stepped in it.

Unable to resist the rhythms of City credit-card causing trouble for two people sharing a common Mexican surname, the reporter asked Prescott PD whether the alleged perp in this story is related to Dawn Castaneda of Elks Theatre fame, and the cop confirmed that he's her brother-in-law.

Smelling news-value blood, the editor overcame good sense and journalistic practice and allowed the impertinent connection into the story. That's bad to start, as it's prejudicial to both cases and there's no connection between them. But then the comments came rolling in, and it seems that the brother-in-law thing is just wrong.

Yes, Arthur Castaneda and Dawn's husband Gabriel are from the same large Prescott family, but, say apparently authoritative commenters, related as cousins rather than siblings. It's a stupid goof-up that the reporter or the editor could have averted with one phone call.

But the lesson the editor (Steve?) should take away is this: work harder to separate the pertinent factors from the prurient ones, and blue-pencil the latter. They have no place in responsible journalism.

And rather than waste ink this way, I'd have had that reporter asking sharp and persistent questions of Mr Castaneda's former supervisors about how that card got away from them. That's where the public interest truly lies.


Anonymous said...

2 simple questions that beg to be answered in the article, but are not:

1) Why on earth would Parks and Rec let a temporary employee have access to a city credit card?

2) Where aren't there better safeguards to prevent these 2 cases of unauthorized use? Perhaps the City should consider a lower credit limit? Or perhaps they might consider giving out the card to buy gas AND THEN TAKING IT BACK.

Just wondering, but keep up the good fight, Courier! We know there are many, many more bad brown people out there!

Jack Wilson said...

Look at the last part of "Anonymous"'s comment -- it is blatant racism! There are bad and good people of all varieties, it has no correlation to COLOR!

Steven Ayres said...

I read that as sarcasm, Jack.

Anonymous said...

Yes on sarcasm. I absolutely meant it that way. My point was that the Courier raises a nefarious connection between the two separate incidents of credit card fraud without a shred of proof and yet they ignore the City's role in both. I do not excuse the behavior of either suspect, but neither do I condone the poor management practices of the City.

Companies that I have worked for in the past had much stronger safeguards on credit cards. The place where I work now has a debit card, but I need to get approval IN ADVANCE from a supervisor for a purchase and I must return the card immediately after use.