Friday, March 5, 2010

TRIB INTERVIEW TURN DOWN: Gets mayoral candidate big response

COLUMBIA, 3/5/10  (Beat Byte) --  Mayoral candidate Sid Sullivan's decision to turn down the obligatory "endorsement interview" with Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank  Waters has received a big response from readers and journalists alike.  Sullivan (left, Missourian photo) explained his decision both in letters to Mr. Waters; the Columbia Heart Beat; and the Columbia Missourian:

Mr. Sullivan cited Mr. Waters' behind-the-scenes leadership of a move to use eminent domain on two downtown landowners for a new State Historical Society museum.   A museum board member, Waters "carefully orchestrated Trib editorials" about the matter while failing to disclose his behind-the-scenes involvement, practices Columbia Missourian columnist and journalism school professor George Kennedy also condemned, and that Sullivan views as tainting the entire editorial process. 
Kennedy also weighed in on Sullivan's decision.  Agreeing that "when a publisher acts as a power broker, he owes the public more disclosure than Hank deemed necessary," Kennedy wrote "somewhat reluctantly, I rise in Hank’s defense," recapping the 80-year-old publisher's long career. 
Ironically, Kennedy noted that -- just as Sullivan refused to engage with Waters -- Waters, in turn, was refusing to engage with Kennedy.  "I called [Hank Waters], and once he figured out my purpose, he said I should put him down for a 'no comment,'" Kennedy wrote.   "He does intend to publish Sid’s letter, he said.  And he did confirm that it’s rare for a serious candidate to refuse to meet with him." 
Other responses to Sid Sullivan's decision
It seems like we have skipped over what might be the REAL issue here. Perhaps it's not about the interview process, but about not being roped into the back room power plays. 
Hank Waters has become our own little hometown Hearst (or our hometown Rupert Murdoch for the younger people) who evidently abuses his position as a publisher and journalist. I applaud any politician willing to distance themselves from this bad influence.
When I purposely canceled my subscription many months ago, the woman at the Circulation desk asked why.  I mentioned not wanting to financially support Hank because of his involvement in things like the eminent domain issue.
She said she didn't think there was any such issue and would have somebody get back to me. No one ever did.
-- Greg Baka, Columbia
This matter of press-public-electoral process is central to a healthy civic life and the free flow of sound information, discussion, and debate. 
Good government and a healthy electoral process are immeasurably strengthened in accuracy and justice by an independent, responsible, thoughtful, and scrupulously self-questioning free press.  The Tribune and we, the readers, should hold this newspaper always accountable to these highest standards.
-- Catherine Parke, Columbia
Good for Sid Sullivan!   Someone finally stands up to Hank Waters, the bully of our local press, during elections in particular.  I talk to many people who feel the same way.  They are very frustrated with the Tribune's one-sided editorials and complete LACK of investigative reporting.  Of course, you wouldn't expect Mr. Waters paper to question his involvement in the eminent domain issue last year.  

Unfortunately the publisher of the Tribune and his followers are way too smug to sense the community's wariness of his "confluence" of interests.   As a community, we can only vote with our pocketbooks and cancelled subscriptions. -- Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, Columbia
I find Mr. Sullivan's "in your face" independence intriguing, and certainly an asset for an important electoral position.  -- Pat Etienne, Columbia
I'm not convinced this is a smart strategy.  I certainly understand it.  When one feels they haven't been treated fairly in the past, there's a natural instinct to no longer subject themselves to more abuse.  I also understand the pre-emptive strike logic:   If Sid doesn't think he's going to get Hank's endorsement, then maybe he thinks it's better to turn down Hank's interview request.

But to me, this always comes across as someone being a little immature and not able to face their harshest critics.  Whether it's George Bush not wanting to meet with the NAACP or Sal Nuccio not wanting to meet with anyone, I don't know that it's necessarily going to win you over more voters.

I more admire someone like Karl Skala knowing he's walking into the lion's den at The Chamber and handling all their tough questions.   Politics is a rough sport and I think more voters will be turned off than appreciate Sid's decision.
-- Brian Ash, former 6th Ward City Councilman, Columbia
Mr. Sullivan is accurate in his assessment of Hank Water's contradictory justifications for his 'interests' in civic matters.   The only consolation is that the citizens of Columbia are well aware of Mr. Water's prejudices and have learned to temper them into any argument that he prints.  We the public simply use Mr. Water's perspective as a benchmark -- left of center, irrational, opinionated and subjective.   We defer to the content experts on these topics rather than to Mr. Waters and his amazing technicolor ink pen. -- Christina Fey, Columbia
I applaud Sid for standing up to power and giving his reasons for doing so.  Mr. Waters interviewed me in 2004 when I ran for Mayor of Columbia.  At the interview, we had a very long discussion; he seemed to have read most of the materials I had sent him; and, with one minor exception, his editorial endorsing Mr. Hindman very accurately reported what I had said and stood for, in so far as Mr. Waters understood what I said and stood for.
I find it sad that Mr. Waters has either declined so far, so fast in his journalistic skills or has chosen to do so.  -- John G. Clark, J.D., CPA, Columbia
I've been on the other side of the desk, and while I didn't get the endorsement, all those years ago when I went crazy and ran for office, I didn't feel the questions or the eventual discussion of the candidates and endorsement was unfair.  Sid comes off like he's trying to hide something, just as [mayoral candidate] Sal Nuccio does.  I'm VERY uncomfortable with candidates, and Nuccio's not the first, who avoid all public forums like this.  What is he afraid of being asked?
As for the influence of Hank, I think of two things.  "Don't pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel."  And, having worked on several campaigns, there are those who feel that not only does his endorsement NOT win you the race, but some even think Hank's endorsement can harm you. -- Darren Hellwege, KBIA, Columbia


  1. Just a reminder, Sid isn't the first to do this. Arch Brooks, who ran for school board several times along with mayor, also turned down Tribune interviews.

  2. On the note about Arch Brooks, read what Hank Waters said:

    "And he did confirm that it’s rare for a serious candidate to refuse to meet with him."

    Sullivan is a SERIOUS candidate, which is why he is getting all this attention and why Brooks did not.

    That's not to say, however, that Arch Brooks wasn't onto something when he turned Hank "The
    Butterfly" down!