I've finished . . . And His Lovely Wife, Connie Schultz's memoir about her husband Sherrod Brown's campaign for Senate. And I have some things to say about it. I won't presume to qualify myself to give a full-bore review, but the book is certainly worth a few posts of observations.
First, we need to work off the Scene blog write-up that ruffled the blogosphere last week. In it reporter Joe Tone writes that Schultz takes "swings" at some of her PD colleagues for "breaking basic rules of journalism." He cites three such swing recipients.
Having read the book and re-read the portions in question, I cannot find a reference Schultz makes to the reporters cited breaking basic rules of journalism. She does talk about reporters breaking rules of journalism -- most notably for pursuing Brown to answer Mike DeWine's charge about a former employee selling marijuana without first forcing DeWine to name names. And she recounts incidents regarding the three PD journalists named. But at no point does she use the "breaking rules" language to describe the incidents involving PD writers.
Tone's first example was reporter Steve Koff who is supposedly called out for writing a story about an instance of plagiarism early in the campaign. Here's Tone's description: "Reporter Steve Koff, Schultz writes, wrote a critical story about the letter without even giving Brown a head’s up."
Here is Schultz on Koff's article: "Sherrod and I did not know this kind of story was coming. We found out about it like hundreds of thousands of other readers, by opening our morning Plain Dealer." (p. 29-30) That's it. No suggestion that Koff should have given her a heads up, much less that failing to do so violates rules of journalism. Schultz goes on to recount upbraiding Sherrod for his response to the article and confessing her own missteps when she emailed the paper's editorial cartoonist to complain about his take on the incident.
All of which does more to illustrate her increasingly untenable place in the newsroom more than swiping at Koff.
Second up is now-retired PD reporter and current Bellwether blogger Bill Sloat. Bill's response to the Scene post was my first knowledge of it. Sloat takes some swings back, then backs off in comments, then in comments to a follow up post expresses again his irritation that he was called out.
One fisking quibble -- Tone writes that Sloat called PD Editor-in-Chief Doug Clifton when the book clearly says Sloat emailed Clifton.
Schultz's comment -- that Sloat would have known earlier of her marriage to Sherrod if he read the paper he works for -- was a dig. But again, she doesn't say "Bill Sloat violated a basic rule of journalism." In fact, since Sloat wasn't writing a story, he wasn't engaged in journalism.
The comment is an aside in the story about how Clifton came to write a column about Shultz and Brown and how the PD would handle the campaign. It was a dig and an arguably unnecessary one, but hardly amounted to spotlighting a journalistic lapse by Sloat.
Finally, there is editorial writer Joe Frolick. Here's Tone:
- But perhaps no one takes more heat than editorial writer Joe Frolik, who broke the 11th Commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Be A Dick To Someone You Had Thanksgiving With.” Frolik, Schultz writes, is a close family friend, yet he spared nothing in a blistering attack on Brown in the early stages of the campaign. What’s worse: He didn’t even tell them it was coming.
“I knew that Sherrod’s race would be scrutinized at every turn,” Schultz writes. “But I could not accept that after more than 20 years of friendship, there was no warning that my friend’s column was coming.”
- When I read Joe's column now, all these months later, it doesn't ignite the rage I felt at the time. He is a smart and gifted writer and I wish him well. But his column still stings. I had tried to step as carefully as possible in the newsroom after Sherrod announced his candidacy, I had stopped attending newsroom meetings about political coverage, to avoid even the appearance of scouting for the campaign. I knew that Sherrod’s race would be scrutinized at every turn,which is what good journalists do -- and I worked with someof the best. But I could not accept that after more than 20 years of friendship, there was no warning that my friend’s column was coming. And if I could not accept that , it was time for me to go. (p. 51.)
One irony to note in all this. Schultz has quite flattering things to say about the Scene posts' author:
- Of all the journalists and columnists covering Sherrod's campaign, the ones who demonstrated time and again their eye for the telling personal details of life that illustrate a bigger story were Jessica Wehrman of the Dayton Daily News, Peter Slevin of The Washington Post and Joe Tone of Cleveland Scene. (p. 243.)