The biggish news is Akron Mayor Don Plusquellec's day. First, he scheduled a press conference to talk about the case, then cancelled it, apparently after reading family attorney in yesterday's ABJ. Says city spokesman Mark Williamson, "I'm not interested one bit in giving him anything more that he can manipulate and pass off as the truth."
So instead, Plusquellec announced that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason would conduct an investigation. At some point. It's not clear whether he will take over the official investigation or will review the case once the SummitCo. prosecutor is done.
It's smart of Plusquellec to find someone outside Summit to look at the case, then get out of the way. This case is shaping up as the Black community vs. the police and neither group trusts the mayor much.
Since yesterday's ABJ agit-prop got me interested in the case, I've gone back to review some of the earlier news stories. Yesterday morning WCPN interviewed Carl Chancellor. I wasn't inclined to single out one reporter for the tone of yesterday's story, given that three reporters contributed to the piece. But after comparing Chancellor's measured tone to the conpiratorially tendentious piece that ran in the paper yesterday, I'm ready to call it. It looks, walks and quacks like a Trexler piece.
I also checked out Eric Mansfield's blog in which Eric posts a timeline mixing the information in the public domain with some nuggets he got from sources and that haven't become part of the story yet. Here are the most fertile sections (It's the Tuesday post called "Facts and Truth."
- 9:06 p.m. I hit the high points of the story and record my portion of the script or "package" for the evening broadcasts. As Tim begins to edit, I contact a source of mine at home for more background. I learn that after the 15-year-old was interviewed, police couldn't find anyone to come get him. One person reached by phone even said "I'm really tired. Can't you just take him to juvenile hall and I'll pick him up after I take a nap?" I start to realize what state of mind this teen must have been in when he spoke to the media Saturday afternoon. Considering he'd been up all night, had ducked as three bullets were fired past his head inside a car, had cowered as his friend shot himself in the head, and then had been interviewed by detectives as the sun was coming up, I doubt this kid was really coherent enough to talk to the media. Nevertheless, he did .. and with an attorney in tow. It also occurs to me that with the information on the cause of death being released so late in the afternoon, many in the gallery at city council may not have known that Vinson had shot himself. Instead, most were probably on their way to city hall as the evening news programs delivered the information. That bit of information might not have changed their minds about demanding an outside investigation but it would have been helpful. For that matter, council could have had someone tell the audience that at the beginning of the meeting. Just a thought.
10:31 p.m. I finish the Akron news and try to catch up on my notes before going back on the air at 11. I learn that the teen had planned another press conference but has since changed his mind. I'm wondering now about how tough it will be for this young man to 'save face' with those closest to him. If his sensational tale of police brutality got all these people in an uproar for nothing, you can bet he'll hear about it behind closed doors. If instead he was lying to police to cover his own tracks, he'll end up in hot water too. One reporter asked the chief if there's any way the 15-year-old pulled the trigger inside the car. The Chief said that gunshot residue tests were taken on the teen as well as Vinson but the results weren't back yet. It's a good question, but it's a long shot reality at best. Still, with the twists and turns we've already seen in less than 72 hours, nothing would surprise me at this point.
In any event, I'm suspicious of someone commenting who just happens to think that Phil Trexler is Mr. Objective. First, because probably less than five percent of the readers of the ABJ actually pay attention to bylines. Second, because the defense is laughable. Trexler has never written a story that leaves the reader wondering, "Gee, I wonder what the reporter think about this."
As for Anon's contention that it's a story that should be written about. True. That's why they did so the day before. But yesterday, they just handed the copy desk over to Orlando Williams.
I should mention that there's some history here. When I started at the beginning of Sherri Bevan Walsh's term in office, it became clear early on that Trexler didn't like Sherri and was determined to embarass her. He made life difficult for everyone in the office and I haven't forgotten. One of the reasons I steer clear of local crime stories is that it's easier than constantly checking myself about whether I'm just going after Trexler to go after him. But on the Wednesday story, I feel pretty solid.
Besides, Trexler and I both have our biases. The difference is, I just told you mine.