May 28, 2006

On Coingate, Fritzgate, and Tanbergate

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(Toledo OH) I read with interest the Toledo Blade article detailing what the editors of the paper claim they knew about Fritz Wenzel, the Blade reporter that GOP and Blade sources claim knew about the shady dealings of Tom Noe.

I worked on this story for two weeks last year for the Toledo Free Press, but given the fact that no sources would go on the record, we spiked it. There is no point in running a story with 8 off-the-record sources.

At the risk of sounding like an arrogant fortune teller, the piece was about what I expected. The Blade is sticking to the same story that they have been telling: namely, that Fritz Wenzel never approached Blade editors about GOP money laundering, Coingate, or any other Noe-related scandals.

While the sidebar claimed that the Blade's purpose "is not to bash any individual, including the author of the letter," they did take a few swipes at George Tanber, the Blade writer who sent the anonymous letter to the Pultizer Prize committee charging that the paper attempted to coverup alleged ethical lapses by Wenzel. Tanber was fired by the Blade for his role in the letter to the Pulitzer committee.

Also getting some implied shots was Editor and Publisher magazine, which discussed the Blade's use of emails and outing of sources.

What it all boils down to is this: Wenzel said he told Blade editors everything he knew about GOP money laundering schemes and Coingate, and the Blade editors say that he never approached them. Wenzel says that he kept Blade editors apprised of his roles as a Zogby freelancer and as a GOP strategist, and the Blade editors say that he did not. Readers can decide for themselves who they believe.

I have never met or spoken with George Tanber, and in 16 years in Toledo I have exchanged two emails with the man (both unrelated to Wenzel). Nor have I read the Pulitzer letter, so I am unable to even comment on it. Copies are flying around, so if I get one I will post it.

The Blade piece provided readers with most of the facts in the matter, put just a little spin on the affair, and readers leave the article knowing only a few more details than were available in the previously published articles in Salon, E&P, Cincinnati City Beat, and Toledo City Paper.

Here's my take, for what it is worth. I think Wenzel was told about the scandals by GOP sources, sat on them, and never told anyone what he knew. I find it hard to believe that the Blade editors knew about Coingate and Laundrygate before the 2004 election, as these stories were too hot to shelve. I think the Blade editors later found out about the alleged ethical lapses of Wenzel, and tried to keep them internal personnel matters.

The purported crowing in the Blade newsroom by Wenzel to some of the Coingate reporters ("I knew about this months before you") and the going away party at the Belmont Club for Wenzel turned this into a very public scandal, as pissed off Blade employees began to talk about Wenzel's alleged ethical lapses.

That's what I believe; what do YOU think?...

23 comments:

historymike said...

BTW - I added the Toledo Blade back to my list of media sources, as a poster who claims to be a Blade employee cited that as "evidence" that I am not objective.

I removed it last year when I protested a sleazy attack piece - with no byline - on Toledo Free Press publisher Tom Pounds.

Anonymous said...

The Blade isone of America's gerat newspapers, and this article proves it. What other paper would examine itself in so critical a way?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see the last anonymous poster had a 3rd grade education. Nice spelling, fucktard.

Berserker said...

"I removed it last year when I protested a sleazy attack piece - with no byline - on Toledo Free Press publisher Tom Pounds."

And you think I used the fact that you did not include The Blade as a media source on your blog was the "evidence." No, I would say your charge that The Blade story was "a sleazy attack piece" is sufficient evidence of your dislike of The Blade, don't you?

That coupled with the following reply to McCaskey.

http://historymike.blogspot.com/2006/05/blade-writer-george-tanber-admits.html


"I actually yanked the Blade from my list after the despicable article they ran on Free Press publisher Tom Pounds last year, as well as the condescending BS that Jack Lessenberry wrote about me when I complained about the article to the Blade's lapdog...err..ombudsman."

"One of these days I'll put them back up."

[begin sarcasm] Oh yeah! A "despicable article" and calling Jack Lessenberry a lapdog makes your commentary in this blog (or anywhere else) very objective![end sarcasm].


No, Miguel, you own words are sufficient.

Oh, and were any of your "sources" who wouldn't go on the record named in The Blade story? You know, the union Mobilization chairman, et al who played Hear-no-evil, See-no-evil, Speak-no-evil when called on their complicity by their employer? hmmm?

Gee. You could interview them now, on the record! I bet you could find some really interesting Blade conspiracies.

Thanks for the entertainment, Mike. You're a riot. Stay with the history gig.

However, keep in mind that the Ottoman boundaries weren't finalized until 1879, and if you look at all the Ottoman Vilayets, then you would see that they were mostly population centers. for example, Ankara was a vilayet. Therefore Turkey didn't exist. So, tell the Turks that their country is an "historical anomaly." The Turks that I know would do very bad things to you for that kind of arrogance.

On the other hand, maybe history isn't a good gig for you either.

So... the question is what will you be when you grow up?

Anonymous said...

[What it all boils down to is this: Wenzel said he told Blade editors everything he knew about GOP money laundering schemes and Coingate, and the Blade editors say that he never approached them.]

Show me where it says that. That's not where things stand between Wenzel and The Blade.

[Nor have I read the Pulitzer letter, so I am unable to even comment on it. Copies are flying around, so if I get one I will post it.]

Warning: There are false charges in the letter. One in particular is a hot potato and, in my opinion, quite serious. By posting it, I fear you could be opening yourself to legal problems. As a loyal reader and fan, I would hate to see that happen.

[The Blade piece provided readers with most of the facts in the matter, put just a little spin on the affair, and readers leave the article knowing only a few more details than were available in the previously published articles in Salon, E&P, Cincinnati City Beat, and Toledo City Paper.]

Interesting how differently two people can see the same thing. Where you see "a little spin," I see clarification. I appreciated reading The Blade's side of the story. Details of Tanber's history helped put what unfolded in perspective. I knew some of that history, but not as much as the report revealed.

[Here's my take, for what it is worth. I think Wenzel was told about the scandals by GOP sources, sat on them, and never told anyone what he knew. I find it hard to believe that the Blade editors knew about Coingate and Laundrygate before the 2004 election, as these stories were too hot to shelve. I think the Blade editors later found out about the alleged ethical lapses of Wenzel, and tried to keep them internal personnel matters.]

I can't argue with your conclusions, but I would add that Tanber is the one who made it impossible for any of this to remaln an internal personnel matter.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what Editor and Publisher is getting at when they whine that The Blade called Strupp's piece a "story" when it was, according to them, an opinion piece. I guess I'm missing the opinion in this:

http://editorandpublisher.com/eandp/search/article_display.jsp?schema=&vnu_content_id=1000991071

Or this:

http://www.mediainfo.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002502657

Strupp was on Maury and Connie's show on MSNBC this weekend, talking unhappily about how people call his opinion pieces stories, though it was in a different context. Apparently this is a sensitive issue for him, so maybe he should make the distinction more clear in his writing.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something here? While I can see how the Wenzelgate and the Lettergate are important matters to the Blade, the reporters who worked on the Noe story, and the world of political strategists. I just wonder if this is as big of a deal to the larger community?

Brian said...

Mike,

I'm sorry. I usually find you objective while disclosing you're own ideological preferences. The world we be a better place (certainly the Internet) if we were all so consciencious as you.

However, you have taken leave of your senses here. Tanber was a sleaze here. By turning on colleagues who did nothing but work hard to expose the piece of shit Tom Noe really was, he revealed what a self-centered, arrogant, piece of fly dung he really was.

Tanber is the moral equal of Benedict Arnold and John Dean. He got what he deserves and if he lives the rest of his life eaking out a living writing free-lance movie critiques, it will be better than he deserves.

Anonymous said...

It's important to journalists and anyone who cares about investigative journalism, not just The Blade and/or the reporters who put the series together.

The Blade's response is, or should be, important to those who turn to the newspaper for information.

It's also good theater: a drama playing out on local and national stages. If you can't get caught up in who-did-what-to-whom-and-why, you can at least enjoy the popcorn and and stellar performances.

Anonymous said...

The popcorn's a tad stale and the performances aren't so damn stellar.

Anonymous said...

The Coingate reporters and the project supervisor were stellar in their performance. Even Tanber turned in a noteworthy performance as the anti-hero. And we can't forget those in supporting roles: they're a rich assortment of characters with so many virtues and flaws, often in the same person, any dramatist would be proud to have created them.

Anonymous said...

Mike - as you couldn't get anyone on the record for your work, why would you think Wenzle would get anyone one the record for his?

I think Wenzle told a few editors about the rumors and that he couldn't get anything on the record. I think they let it go with him (because of his real/perceived political bent) and put several other investigative reporters on the story and voila...coingate.

This is as believeable as any other theory

-Sepp said...

I have a pretty good connection at the blade. I was told on Saturday that there would be a writeup about the Tanber story that had a lot of half truths, untruths and bullshit mixed in to help the blade justify canning Tanber. I'll stick by my oppinion that the paper has a plethora of good staff and, a scubag at the helm.

historymike said...

(ignoring the usual ad hominem BS or Berserker)

I will not discuss any sources for several reasons:

1. I promised them anonymity;
2. I have chosen not to work on this story;
3. If any sources want to talk, they are all adults and know how to call the media.

historymike said...

Anonymous #3:

Wenzel was quoted in the Salon.com piece as saying that he informed Blade editors, and Blade editors said he didn't tell them.

Believe who you choose to believe.

historymike said...

Anonymous #3:

Agreed about Tanber making things public.

historymike said...

Agreed that, to most people, Strupp's columns could be called "stories," and that many people use the word "story" interchangeably with "article" or "piece."

I am not going to waste time on an arcane debate about the proper nomenclature for every type of article.

My head hurts this morning.

historymike said...

Brian:

Good points, although the jury is still out on Tanber's "sleaziness."

The Coingate series was excellent journalism.

Fritz's alleged improprieites are a separate issue.

historymike said...

Anonymous #...I have lost count.

Agreed that Wenzel might have told Blade editors about rumors.

Only he and the Blade editors will really know what happened - or did not happen - between them.

historymike said...

Left out a response to Berserker:

Actually, I may never grow up. I hear that it causes brain damage.

Anonymous said...

[I am not going to waste time on an arcane debate about the proper nomenclature for every type of article.]

I'm sorry your head hurts today. But this isn't about an arcane debate. E&P brought it up as if the distinction is meaningful in the topic at hand and I was hoping it could be explained to me why this would be so. What difference would it make whether Strupp's articles were stories or opinion? How does that factor into what the Blade said about them? Mine is a genuine question, not a debate, and it's one I'm hoping someone can answer for me.

[Wenzel was quoted in the Salon.com piece as saying that he informed Blade editors, and Blade editors said he didn't tell them.
Believe who you choose to believe.]

You said that about Wenzel and The Blade in reference to what we could take away from the paper's Sunday article. That's not what it says in the article. I'm not trying to pick a fight here. Just telling you that you've picked up some information (I see now it was from the Salon article) that is inaccurate. That Frogameni quoted Wenzel as saying that does not make it true.

Wenzel has admitted to The Blade he had the Coingate information and didn't tell anyone, including the editors. He has also told them why he didn't tell them. Fritz was not the only Blade employee who had the Coingate story long before it became a series. The evolution of the series was as described by The Blade in earlier articles.

When I first started posting about Pulitzergate, it was to warn you away from Frogameni's articles and sending people to them with high praise as you did the day I posted. The above paragraph is an example of why I tried to alert you.

It's clear you think highly of Frogameni. I do not. He was carrying Tanber's water in this matter and that colors, or discolors, his reporting, much to his discredit. He may have believed everything he wrote, but accuracy is not his strongest quality.

It's difficult to clear one's mind of what one has previously read, particularly when one has admired what was read, buying into its validity. That's too bad because that then colors everything one learns afterward about a given matter. In this case, you carried something false from the Salon article to your reading of The Blade's article. That's what I'm talking about in regard to the contamination present in Frogameni's work, making him far from the best reporter to recommend to your readers. He may be a perfectly lovely person, but he is not up to snuff when it comes to being a serious journalist. Let's hope his experiences during his Coingate coverage teach him a few lessons and mature him. He is a lively writer and otherwise shows some promise, but he's as green as my lawn.

I am now ready to resume my life and leave Pulitzergate behind.

Hooda Thunkit said...

"That's what I believe; what do YOU think?..."

For the record, time will probably prove your assessment to be accurate.

historymike said...

I agree that Strupp is making a lot of hay out of a minor side issue.

My point was that, to most non-journalists, the "story" versus "editorial" versus "opinion piece" debate is has little value.

I referenced Frogameni's article because it covers most of the material revolving Fritzgate. It is also the most complete picture to date on the matter. Dave Murray's Blade piece left out some important information (I'll leave it to knowledgeable readers to figure out what was omitted).

As far as Bill Frogameni the person, I know him to be a conscientious journalist who is concerned about ethics. I have not seen anything he has written that is less than ethical. Perhaps the Bill-bashers would kindly cite some examples.

As far as "leaving Pulitzergate behind," I suspect that there is more to come.

Just a hunch, though...

Personally, I would like to leave Pulitzergate behind, although I suspect that I may have to weigh in on this topic in the future.

Lots of people still sniffing around.