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Letter to the Editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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Longtime reader, first-time letter writer. I was hoping you might explain a recent, and prominently displayed, item (“Ex-employee arrested after threats against Star-Telegram”). I only saw it online, so not sure if it was published in your print edition—though it would seem that not too many people are reading your print edition these days, anyway. Regardless, the story struck me as odd, and I was hoping you could answer a question: why did you write it?

From the few facts available in the piece, a nineteen-year-old, allegedly got upset for being laid off—a fate that will soon befall more than 75 full-time and 200 part-time employees at your paper’s production operation. The teenager stands accused of making some noise at the paper’s packaging plant, which resulted in third-degree felony charge of making a terroristic threat. According to you, this guy was mostly inconsequential to the operation, a “part-time packaging inserter for the newspaper” who your publication’s HR guy said “didn’t work here very long, less than a year.” So why is it newsworthy?

Look, I know it’s the duty of the Star-Telegram to report arrests and crimes, and I’ve admired your coverage of attempted hit-and-runs, successful hit-and-runs, shootings, and bank robberies. But this looks to be a low-level felony arrest item—the only low-level felony arrest—you’ve run in the past couple of weeks that I’ve found. So why this story? Perhaps you felt it necessary to “get ahead of the story,” one that’s kind of about you and the dissatisfaction over the hundreds of upcoming layoffs. But that’s only a guess.

And guessing is all I can do, seeing as the story reports so little about the incident in question. What exactly is the incident, again? “Officials declined to specify the exact nature of the threats.” And Terry Evan’s 300-word piece is particularly light on details considering that “staff writer Mitch Mitchell contributed to this report.”

Perhaps I’m blowing this out of proportion. But I empathize with this teenager. As someone who’s been threatened with termination at all but one of the publications I’ve worked for and fired from three newspapers, I can tell you that getting the ax can be psychologically damaging, that it can cause you to maybe launch into some theatrics. But no one called the cops on Jerry Maguire, and none of the publications that canned me deemed it fit to report on my wild exits. Yes, the young man should be responsible for his actions (and I acknowledge that yes, perhaps his actions really were serious, as it warranted shutting down the facility, but it’s hard to be sure since the exact nature of these threats were not disclosed), but shouldn’t the publication that is reporting on the crime also be held responsible for its journalistic standards?

But you know what really gets me about your hit job on a nineteen-year-old? You couldn’t even do it right. The piece by Evans fails to mention the Tarrant County Jail spokesman’s given name, who’s quoted at length, in first (or any) reference. And speaking of names, is the alleged threatener “Markus” as written in Evan’s piece? Or is it “Marcus” as it appears in the piece under Mitchell’s byline. Also, is he nineteen? Or twenty? Looks like you covered all your bases by stating both. (And I noticed that these corrections have since been made on the piece.)

In conclusion: if you are going to drag a kid through a media hazing, it is my humble suggestion that you have the professional courtesy to at least write a clear piece with accurate facts.

Respectfully,
Jeff Winkler

P.S. Love the crossword!

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