Jan 4 2008
04:28 pm

I was disappointed to see that Gerald Largen's column was not published in the Friday Roane County News so they could check with their lawyers. Since Gerald had been accused of a possible malfeasance by a candid piece in the Reader, which a wisp of journalistic capability could verify was false, I was looking forward to seeing what the old curmudgeon had to say.

(Updated after the jump)

Looks like the RCN chickened out or something. They say they'll have Gerald's column back next Friday but I say they owe us one and ought to put in two next week. Particularly if they contain words like "libel suit" and things like that.

Update: Ok...The word on the street is that due to the possibly litigious implications of the Reader piece and the implications inherent in Gerald Largen's reply, his column got sent upstairs to the legal review booth. I guess that's prudent instead of chicken, and fits with the statement in the RCN.

I also suppose that everyone all over Landmark Communications Inc. is adjusting to the news they might be sold and businesses get real careful during times like that. I need to watch the Weather Channel to see if those folks look more nervous than usual.

Anyway, It certainly doesn't seem like any form of censorship because of who the piece was about...Duncan is a large advertiser. I guess we'll see if Duncan pulls his car ads because of the scrutiny involved in his real estate development dealings with the City of Harriman and the pointed conclusions of the State Audit that Prestige Development owes Harriman a fair amount of money. It would seem silly to hurt one business out of spite over revelations involving another, but you never know.

Anyway...Stay tuned folks...I think we'll be finding out more one all this soon.

What's the backstory? Do you

What's the backstory? Do you know what his article was about? What does he usually write about? Any examples?

We have a similar problem over here in Blount Co. I hope this isn't a trend.

Tennessee of all places, and particularly East Tennessee, needs all the free press we can get.

The backstory involves the

The backstory involves the 20 questions in a local monthly that falsely implied malfeasance on Gerald's part and therefore could be litigious. I hope the update above helps.

If anything, the Roane County News has gotten more open about local dealings of late and not the other way around. Several years back I was on the verge of cancelling my subscription because there was nothing but rah rah and bs, but now I look forward to reading it, and I'm just disappointed that one of my favorite columns got pulled just as things were getting juicy.

A Possible Mis-reading of What Was Printed in Roane Reader

"Since Gerald had been accused of a possible malfeasance by a candid piece in the Reader, which a wisp of journalistic capability could verify was false, I was looking forward to seeing what the old curmudgeon had to say."

First I'll quote (quoting one single question out of 20 I think will qualify as fair use) the question and answer. I'll have to type it, since I haven't scanned it.

"19. Gerald Largen, in his columns in the Roane County News, seems to have taken a close interest in your personal as well as business matters. Any comments?
[answer] I was real surprised. I have known him and respected him. It was really surprising that he has printed insinuations and attacks without even calling me to ask any questions. I don't know his motivation for his actions. I would hate to think it was some sort of personal agenda. But for him to attack me for doing business in a county venture when he, personally, collected a big bundle on the 'Japanese in lieu of tax settlement' is worse than the pot calling the kettle black! Wasn't he County Executive at that time? I would like to see Gerald spend as much time doing some positive reporting on our county instead of being so negative."

I'm not sure how many readers of this forum were around then (I'm sure several were; I was), but there is some background of facts here. Largen DID collect a considerable sum personally from the county a good number of years ago from an in lieu of tax settlement Roane County received from several Japanese utilities that had stored a lot of materials on DOE land in Roane County. Largen and then local attorney Joe Walker represented the County in the lawsuit to collect the in lieu of tax payment, which, as I recall, had been quite long in being paid.

There's nothing wrong with remembering that, and with saying that. It happened. It isn't an accusation. It's a statement of fact.

As to accusation: Last time I looked, someone who says "Wasn't he County Executive at that time?" is asking a question and not making a fer-sure statement. I don't remember if he was County Executive exactly at that time, but those years were very close to the time when he was County Executive. I don't remember exactly which year which of those events happened in or in what sequence. My guess is that the answerer of the question didn't remember exactly either, and answered candidly, based on recollection, not absolutely sure, but ending with a question. What the answer to the Roane Reader's question said is exactly that - a recollection with a question mark after it rather than a period. It is not an accusation. It was a candid apparently unrehearsed response to a candid question, and absent further information, one may decide for oneself to interpret it as accusation, but taken on its face, and in context of candid unrehearsed conversation, it is a recollection ending in a question.

As to "wisps of journalistic capability."...
I'm not sure you can ever find in the pages of the Roane Reader where either of the publishers purports to be a professional journalist. Their publication does what it sets out and purports to do - like or not, read it or not. You call it what you will, what you see is what you get.

In addition, were it to be a bastion of professional journalism, I can't fathom exactly what you would have had them do with the answer given to their question. Their entire article was to publish a set of questions and answers - no more, no less. There was no editorial comment on either. Absent editorial comment on the content of the interview, it would have been their job as professional journalists to accurately render the quotations of the answers to their questions. The accuracy of the content of the quotations is the responsibility of the one uttering the quote, not the one reporting the quote. In that context their job was to accurately report what answers they were given to their questions. Their job was not to add their own comments to what the interviewees said. They said what they said, and leaving it at that is accurate, and I find no faulty reportage in it.


I do...

I find no faulty reportage in it.

There is no way that one can read Steve's comment and not find it to be accusative. Unless the Readerettes had verification they should not allow things like that to go forward without checking. Steve complains that Gerald never called him and then essentially does the same thing.

As for the "reportage" there is none. Reporting requires journalism and as you yourself point out, there is none.

Well, we disagree... it's a matter of choice.

Yes, there IS a way one can read Steve's comment as not being accusatory. And there is a way one can read it and find it accusatory. There is choice involved. You see it one way. I see it another. A matter of opinion, then.

As you reminded me once, "Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But not to their own facts." So you have the freedom to say it is accusatory in your own interpretation. No doubt.

The only part of the Kirkham quote that can be called into question is the reference to whether or not Largen was County Executive at the time he received payment for the large settlement to Roane County. And the fact is that what Kirkham said ended with a question. Contextually and grammattically it is different from an affirmative statement that Largen was County Executive then. So interpretation comes into play.

There may be no way YOU can interpret it otherwise - that is based on your own preferences in thought processes. There IS a different way I can interpret it, and that, too, is based on my own preferences in thought processes. My claim is that, objectively, what Kirkham said when he ended the sentence with a question mark is open to interpretation, and that is different from being a black and white fact.

That level of freedom of interpretation of Kirkham's comments is no less than the level of freedom that Gerald Largen demands readers apply to his own writing. Gerald can be vituperative and get personal, he can leave implications or raise questions about his subjects' morality, yet he will quickly tell someone that questions what he said that he only raised possibilities rather than making direct accusations, etc, etc, etc. Gerald is a good lawyer, and he knows how to press personal attacks right to the bleeding edge of legality. I've seen him do it in the courtroom, and I've seen him do it in his columns. I choose to give Steve Kirkham the same leeway Gerald demands for himself. That seems fair to me. That seems to me to be open-minded - what I had thought, perhaps mistakenly, was a mark of being progressive.

Now, if Gerald Largen can do no wrong, and Steve Kirkham can do no right, then I guess there's no question about how to interpret it. But I'm not convinced that either is the case. Therefore I am open to a less captious way of thinking. I'm not a captious person, but certainly recognize that others have the right to be :-> It's a matter of free choice, predisposition, attitude, and approach.

Reporting requires facts. Being an editor or commentator would provide a venue for trying to interpret or investigate what someone said. Reporting requires accurately reflecting what they say.

Mazel tov.


Good post, Roane

Good post, Roane Booster!

There's an old saying that, "What's good for the goose ought to be good for the gander" Didn't Largen basically do the same thing with his column on Kirkham a few weeks back?

I've read and enjoyed Gerald

I've read and enjoyed Gerald Largens columns for years and I know of no instance where he has alluded to someone committing malfeasance when in fact none had been committed.

Nor do I know of an instance where he quoted someone making an implication of malfeasance where the facts could so easily been checked and were misrepresented in the "Didn't you use to beat your wife?" genre.

Feel free to correct me with some instance you can back up. I don't fault Steve Kirkham for being irritated but I do fault the Reader for being a vehicle for his false implications.

Are we involved in a quest for facts here or not?

I'm sure there are others

I'm sure there are others but the column I remember the most vividly was from about ten years ago, because it included comments about a personal friend. It was about actions that the utility board was taking to try to solve some of its problems in which he indicated that a board member (woman) had resigned from the utility board because, according to him (and I am paraphrasing from memory), she must have apparantly seen the light and knew that their actions were not the right ones to take, so she jumped ship. In fact, the woman resigned so she could direct her energies to fighting a battle against a recurring cancer. If he had bothered to call her or ask any of her friends or other board members he would have known this. The woman was really hurt by his comments but he never bothered to correct his false assumptions.


Did Gerald's response ever get published? It's not online and I haven't consulted the dead tree edition.

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