RESPONSIBLE v. RECKLESS JOURNALISM
Only Responsible Journalism Can Seek Justice
People believe what they want to believe. Conversely, they don’t believe what they don’t want to believe. That’s just human nature. Most people seem to have found the source of political news that they prefer, and they agree with the views they hear or read, and there would be no harm in that if the news media was always reliable, but it isn’t. There is reckless journalism from the far left all the way through to the far right. We’re not asking anyone to change their political views. We’re just asking folks to be responsible enough to accept that journalism can be reckless or even self-serving and can cause great harm. We have categorized the reckless journalism that relates to the topic of our website and we give specific examples. We hope that folks will realize the damage that has been caused to people’s lives and the barriers that have been built in finding justice for Kevin and Don, because of the likes of Unsolved Mysteries, 60 Minutes, The Washington Post, The Arkansas Democrat (now Democrat-Gazette), the Benton Courier, and Max Brantley, editor of The Arkansas Times, all explained within the pages of “Reckless Journalism.”
As stated above, some aspects of main stream media has done as much to thwart justice for Kevin and Don as any corrupt public official or dirty cop, as the journalists featured on the “Disinformation” page.
However, there are a few ethical journalists who abandon their marching orders and refuse to report untruths. Two such journalists are Phillip Weiss who wrote for “The New York Times Magazine” in the 1990’s and Evalyn Lee, a producer of “60 Minutes” at CBS, also in the 1990’s. See below: “Ethical Journalists Do Exist.”
Ethical Journalists Do Exist
By Jean Duffey
How Linda Was Labeled A Clinton Basher:
By the mid-1990’s Linda had been labeled a Clinton-basher, because she appeared in “The Clinton Chronicles,” a widely distributed video produced by Pat Matriciana, a conservative activist. It was not Matriciana’s intention to side-line Linda’s message, and in fact, the next year he produced another video “The Boys on the Tracks: The Mena Connection, and gave Linda and Jean editorial control. Linda would always talk to anyone, anytime to keep the story of Kevin’s murder in the news. Pat was drawn to Linda for his video because of Clinton’s inexplicable yet staunch support of medical examiner, Famy Malak, who’s ruling of “accidental deaths” of the boys and 20 other highly controversial rulings, had become a national story and an embarrassment for Clinton.
Linda’s motive was to tell of the story of how difficult is was to get Malak’s ruling overturned, in spite of his ridiculous explanation that the boys were in a marijuana induced psychedelic stupor when they laid across the tracks in identical soldier-style position and didn’t hear the train. Although the ruling was overturned to homicide by a renowned team of forensic pathologists, Malak’s ruling continued to plague investigations all the way to investigation #6 by the FBI in 1995. After 18 months and 17,000 documents, the Arkansas Bureau Chief, I.C. Smith shutdown the FBI because they couldn’t determine whether there had even been a crime committed.
The Journalists Who Recognized The Truth:
In spite of the relentless hunt for Clinton scandals, Linda Ives and I stubbornly refused to be labeled Clinton-bashers. We stood especially firm when the White House included Linda on the President’s “enemies list” they called “the conspiracy commerce report.” White House Counsel Mark Fabiani even singled Linda out to New York Times Magazine reporter Philip Weiss who was preparing his cover story “The Clinton Haters” printed February 23, 1997.
The White House must have been pleased with Weiss’s take on the questionable motives of several Clinton-haters and his commentary on “conspiracies” like the “Body Count.” But then Weiss goes against White House wishes and writes of the “train deaths” as an example of “how a legitimate question gets spun into a conspiracy.” Weiss recognized the validity of Linda’s story and questions Clinton’s support of Malak, whose cause of death ruling was an attempt to cover up murder. Weiss writes, “Clinton’s own connection to the murders in Saline County is plainly indirect. But he did stand by Malak, even as The Arkansas Democrat and a group of enraged citizens called for Malak’s dismissal.”
The summer before the White House sicced Weiss on Linda, Evalyn Lee, a 60 Minutes producer, was sent on a similar mission. Again, after spending two days with Linda and me, Lee confessed that she was supposed “to befriend and interview” us and was to “fold our interviews into a story about Clinton-bashers. According to Lee, the story was to air that fall before the ’96 election and was supposed to boost support for Clinton. Lee said she had changed her mind about using us in the story and planned to ask her superior to run a legitimate story about the “train deaths.” Of course that never happened, but as it turned out, neither did the Clinton-basher story, probably because pre-election polls never indicated Clinton needed a boost.
The Media Turned On Linda
The headlines read, “Two teenagers killed by train near Alexander.” This was the beginning of a media frenzy about the bizarre deaths of Kevin Ives and Don Henry and the even more bizarre twists and turns taken by the first investigations into those deaths. The media reported the gross incompetence of the initial sheriff’s department investigation and supported the parents’ battle with authorities to get second opinions on the cause of deaths. They seemed to hang on every word spoken by Special Prosecutor Dan Harmon during the county grand jury investigation of the case, often referred to by now as the “train deaths.”
The media covered every newly developed detail of the case, no matter how insignificant. There were close to one thousand newspaper articles written, and all were in support of the parents’ quest to find out what happened to Kevin and Don. Gradually, however, enthusiasm tapered off to an occasional article when a related issue made the news. It was during this time period Linda realized that Dan Harmon had been strategically placed in charge of the grand jury investigation so he could orchestrate and control the cover-up.
Linda also realized the brutal media smear campaign against Jean had been orchestrated by Harmon, who had lied to and manipulated them like sheep. Linda now believed that Jean had to be destroyed professionally because she was conducting a forthright investigation against Harmon and other public officials. However, it was not until both Linda and Jean began cooperating with the FBI’s investigation in 1994 that they finally met.
Jean and Linda shared their accumulated information with each other and with the FBI. They had high expectations that the FBI was going to do its job. Linda was told to “sit back and relax and to let the FBI do it’s job, that there would be a conclusion she would be satisfied with by the end of 1994.” This investigation was also different because the people they felt were involved in Saline County corruption were not involved as investigators and there was no information being leaked to the media. So Linda and Jean were patient . . . .and patient . . . . and patient. But the “successful conclusion” didn’t come. On November 20, 1995, Special FBI Agent Bill Temple told Linda and Larry Ives that “after an eighteen month exhaustive investigation, the FBI had no evidence of anything.” Temple went on to pour salt into the wound and told the Ives they “should consider the fact that a crime had not been committed.”
After recovering from the devastation of another shut-down investigation, the seventh one, Jean and Linda decided to go public for the first time. They authorized the release of their video, Obstruction of Justice, and they began exposing the corruption surrounding the shut-down of investigations from the local to the federal level. They publicly released information supporting their belief that very powerful people were involved in covering up the murders of Kevin and Don. The media, however, ignored them, even when they revealed the existence of an FBI witness who had passed a polygraph test placing Dan Harmon on the tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered. What was going on?
If Linda and Jean had suspected before that much of the local and state media is part of the corruption, they now are certain that it is.
Update: March 30, 1996
The Media’s Role in Federal Government Cover-ups
By Jean Duffey
Most Americans, regardless of their political persuasion, have an abiding distrust for our federal government. We know our national leaders lie to us, but we feel helpless to do anything about it. Forthright investigators are discredited for trying to reveal the truth, (See Investigators, Bill Duncan and Russell Welch) and whistle-blowers are punished, while “team-players” are rewarded. We hear about shredded or lost documents, but no one is held accountable. We are weary of Congressional hearings that tip-toe around the real issues or go into closed-door sessions in the name of “national security.” Our federal government has too much power, and we have none. Worse still, we are in a Catch-22 situation – power corrupts and we bestow that power via the polls.
Not too many years ago, news reporters seemed to do a better job of holding our leaders accountable. Our Constitutional right (and protection) of “freedom of the press” still exists, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much for us lately. That’s because our federal government controls the press. Oh please – not another conspiracy theory!
I truly hate to suggest a conspiracy explanation of anything. Mainstream Americans generally won’t buy it, and mainstream media’s favorite sarcastic topic for editorials, at least in Arkansas, is “conspiracy nuts.” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Editorials “This week’s conspiracy theory” and “Conspiracies behind every rock“) So, imagine how vicious the suggestion of a conspiracy might be attacked by the media if they are accused of being involved themselves. However, I’m going to stick to this conspiracy theory, but bear with me – I will qualify the role of the media.
I think every American can accept as fact that our federal government is engaged in a deliberate and calculated cover-up of information. Federal officials, appointed and elected, have many secrets. Some secrets may be kept legitimately for purposes of national security, but some secrets are nothing more than a cover-up of the dirty deals and illegal activities of our officials. This is where the conspiracy begins – with dirty officials protecting themselves and other dirty officials, which expands to officials protecting their cronies for favors, which expands to staff members who are rewarded for their loyalty. This web of protection and deceit is next to impossible to escape. Those who have tried to expose it are handily discredited or even destroyed, because the government is in charge of investigating the government.
At one time, the media was supportive of a legitimate whistle-blower but not these days. That’s because they’re part of the conspiracy, and here is how I want to qualify that accusation. There are different levels of culpability, and I don’t believe the media deliberately participates in the conspiracy. They are, however, negligent and maybe even reckless. So, am I saying media reporters, editors, and producers/publishers are ignorant? No, I’m saying they’re lazy. So, am I accusing them of being unethical? Absolutely.
My notion revolves around the media’s acceptance of the government’s “official” position on a subject. Once a government agency has taken an “official” position, mainstream media, especially network news, will not challenge it. This is not just an observation, it is an unwritten policy confirmed by several seasoned reporters. The deaf, dumb, and blind acceptance of an “official” press release from the government fits very nicely into the American way of life – do as little as is necessary to get that paycheck. Put in your eight-hour day, but no longer without compensation. Exert enough effort to keep the boss off your back, and, by all means, don’t make waves.
My brother very eloquently describes today’s method of reporting as the three R’s – rip, read, and write. The government takes advantage of this three R’s method by employing their own news writers to feed the lazy media. There are a reported 10,000-plus federal employees who are responsible for inundating the media with press releases. Just think about that for a minute and try to iminage how many press releases are being sent every day to every major news media source in the world. All a reporter has to do is rip a news release off his fax, and he’s got his article for the day. And the real beauty of it is, he doesn’t even have to verify the information or its source. It doesn’t matter if the information is inaccurate or even a bald-faced lie – it’s an “official” statement from the government, so the reporter’s butt is covered.
On the other hand, what happens if an ambitious reporter wants to investigate the dubious subject of a government news release? He (or she) enters the game with three strikes against him. Strike one: The rest of the media has already given the government’s “official” position credibility by reporting it as factual. Strike two: The government agency who put out the release is the keeper of some, if not all, of the evidence proving the information is not accurate. Strike three: If the reporter discovers a fraud, the rest of the media attacks the work and defends their originally reported position (either because they have been made to look like lazy fools, or because they don’t want to disturb their cushy status quo three R’s method of getting information, or both).
Bottom line – a forthright investigative reporter who challenges the establishment will have hell to pay. Just ask Gary Webb, Micah Morrison, Chris Ruddy and Emmett Tyrrell, to name a few. This is not to say those reporters don’t make mistakes. After all, look what they’re up against. They had to dig up censored information the old-fashioned way; I believe they called it wearing out the shoe leather or something like that. Rather than giving these gritty reporters a pat on the back, the rest of the media turn on them. Instead of following up the investigative reporters information and joining the effort to dig for more, they attempt to discredit the reporter, and they take up the government’s banner and defend that ever-sacred “official” position.
Update: July 8, 1996
The Media’s Role in State Government Cover-Ups
By Jean Duffey
One thing that makes me think the media’s role in this conspiracy may be more than mere laziness or negligence is their reluctance to report information that is contrary to the government’s “official” position, no matter how verifiable the contrary information may be. Case in point: The Arkansas media was supportive of the homicide investigation of Kevin Ives and Don Henry for years and reported every newly discovered detail, no matter how insignificant. There were many hundreds of newspaper articles written in the early years. This was when the “official” position of the state’s special prosecutor was that the boys had been murdered and their bodies placed in front of an on-coming train to cover the crime. Eight years after the murders, in spite of overwhelming evidence implicating public officials in the murders and a perpetuated cover-up, there have been no articles – zero, absolutely none. In November, 1995, the FBI shut down its investigation when evidence linked the crimes to the Mena drug-smuggling operation. FBI Special Agent Bill Temple told the Ives’ they “should consider the fact that no crime was committed.” (See Linda Ives’ FBI Timeline. The Arkansas media has, of course, accepted that position and without questioning the obvious contradictions, we can expect nothing more to be reported.
Fed up with the cover-up, I revealed on a Little Rock TV talk show that three witnesses place Prosecutor Dan Harmon on the railroad tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered (transcription of that talk show coming soon). This information came from state police reports of two eye-witnesses, and an FBI witness who passed a polygraph test. The radio host was so excited about the news, he immediately sent out a news release to the Arkansas media reporting what I said. However, the story was ignored by every news source except the small daily paper in my hometown of Malvern.
Think about this a minute. I am a former deputy prosecutor and director of a drug task force disclosing documents of three eye-witnesses who place a state prosecuting attorney at the scene of two brutal murders, yet I am ignored by Arkansas’s news media. They, of course, do not want to be in conflict with the government’s “official” position, which includes U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks clearing Dan Harmon in June, 1991, of all allegations of wrong-doing. The media also ignored my report that the FBI recommended Banks be charged with obstruction of justice for shutting down that federal investigation of Harmon – the FBI won’t confirm that, but they won’t deny it either, which is a red flag also being ignored.
When the state’s only daily newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, refused to print a letter to the editor my brother, Mark Keesee, wrote asking them to cover this story of great public interest and concern, Linda Ives and I decided to not let this go by unchallenged. We went to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette office and asked to speak with the state news editor, Roger Hedges. It was July 2, 1996, at about 10:30 a m. The previous week, my brother, Mark Keesee, sent Hedges a packet of information to make certain he was apprised of the issues which concerned us. (The Benton Courier interview of I.C. Smith, the Courier article of Linda’s response, my letter to Smith, Mark’s letter to the Courier editor, the Courier article about missing money from Harmon’s task force evidence locker, a Democrat-Gazette article on the missing money, the Malvern Daily Record article reporting Harmon on the tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered, and a copy of the video Obstruction of Justice. The articles about the missing money and Mark’s letter to the Courier editor were intended to show media bias. The rest was to show there is a very good story the Democrat-Gazette is missing.)
When Linda and I arrived at the paper office, we were directed to Hedges. As soon as we introduced ourselves to him, he immediately became defensive. He said he had to get ready to go to a meeting, so we asked if we could make an appointment to talk with him at his convenience. Hedges said “What about?”
I told him we wanted to know why his paper was treating the new information we had on Dan Harmon like it was a “non-story.” I specifically asked why they hadn’t pursued a story on the eye-witnesses who place Harmon on the tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered. Hedges asked who the witnesses are, so I began telling him that a witness came forward in 1993 who was placed in protective custody by the FBI. This witness’s information was credible enough for the FBI to open its own investigation of the “train deaths.” Then I began telling him about Sharline Wilson, who is a confessed ex-drug dealer and cohort of Harmon. Sharline claims to have actually ridden with Harmon to the tracks that night.
Hedges interrupted me and said in an inappropriately condescending tone, “Well, look at the kind of people you have accusing a prosecuting attorney”. He placed great emphasis on “prosecuting attorney.”
Let’s examine that statement – it has three very revealing points.
- First point: Hedges either ignored me when I told him about the FBI witness who prompted a new investigation, or Hedges took exception to the FBl’s assessment of the witness’s worth by placing the witness in the category of “the kind of people” who have no business accusing a public official of a crime. It couldn’t be the latter, since Hedges knows nothing about this witness, including the fact the witness passed an FBI polygraph test. Hedges was,therefore, ignoring the very existence of this particular witness since the information does not fit his agenda – a well-established practice of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
- Second point: Hedges clearly asserted his opinion that Sharline Wilson is an unfit witness by placing her in the category of “the kind of people” who have no business accusing the likes of Dan Harmon. But wait a minute. Just who are the best witnesses against drug dealers? Could it perhaps be those who know about drug dealing? And who knows about drug dealing better than drug dealers? Not only does Sharline know about Harmon from first hand experience with him, she paid a heavy price for testifying against him. After Harmon was cleared by U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks (in spite of the federal grand jury unanimously wanting to indict him after hearing testimony from Sharline and many other witnesses), Harmon had Sharline arrested by his drug task force. Harmon then teamed up with his buddy, Circuit Judge John Cole, and railroaded a jury into convicting her. As an ex-prosecuting attorney and head of a drug task force, it is my opinion that Sharline’s history with Harmon, coupled with Harmon’s retaliation against her, makes her a compelling witness. I feel certain prosecutors will not be lining up to get advice from Hedges about how to get drug dealers convicted.
- Third point: Hedges was apparently offended by the witnesses who were “accusing a prosecuting attorney.” Wait another minute. Never mind the prosecuting attorney we’re talking about is Dan Harmon, who was the subject of more than a hundred newspaper articles in the last year chronicling his bizarre, illegal, and violent behavior. Never mind that Harmon was so discredited the voters of Saline County dealt him an embarrassing and overwhelming defeat in the 1996 primary elections. Never mind that Harmon later resigned from office as part of a plea agreement on five felony charges. Hedges considers Dan Harmon to be worthy of a higher class of witnesses than the average criminal by virtue of his position as a prosecuting attorney. But mainstream media is notorious for holding public officials to a lower sandard rather than a highter standard, even criminals according to Hedges.
Hedges had cut me off before I told him about a third witness – it was quite evident that he had an attitude problem about Linda and me. We offered again to come back another time, hoping he wouldn’t be so irritated with us if we had an appointment, but he asked why we wanted to meet again with him. Linda said we wanted to know why the paper has never run a story on the six witnesses who have turned up dead in Kevin and Don’s case.
Hedges looked at me and said, “Your brother, (emphasizing “brother” in a hateful tone) told me there were six jurors that turned up dead.
Linda said, “No, they were witnesses.”
Hedges said, “I was told they were jurors.”
This was the only time during our visit Linda or I were anything other than very cordial, but Linda was obviously irritated with Hedges. It was an insult for him to think we would suggest that grand jurors were being murdered, and it was ridiculous for him to think Mark would be mistaken about such a thing. Hedges was calling us liars, and we take serious offense to that.
Linda responded sternly, “You obviously misunderstood. I can assure you Mark did not say jurors were turning up dead. He would never have said something like that.”
Hedges responded by saying something like, “Anyway, there is no evidence that the deaths were related to the case,” and he didn’t think the coincidence made much of a story.
Linda said, “The Democrat ran a story when three of the witnesses turned up dead. It seems to me that six dead witnesses is twice the story.”
Hedges acted ticked but didn’t have a response, so Linda continued. She reminded Hedges how angry the Democrat-Gazette was when the Benton Courier had written an article the previous month allowing Harmon to explain why he assaulted a Democrat-Gazette reporter. The Courier printed very ugly things Harmon had to say about the reporter, but didn’t call the reporter to respond or tell his side. Linda said the Democrat did the same thing to me back in 1990, time and time and time again. They printed whatever lie Harmon wanted to mouth about me, but rarely gave me the opportunity to respond.
Hedges tried to cop out by saying that was before his time at the paper. “Besides,” he said, “that was Doug Thompson who wrote those stories, and Thompson is now in the business section and doesn’t have anything to do with the Benton bureau anymore.”
Linda quickly reminded Hedges that when Harmon was on his “hunger strike” in the hospital, a few weeks earlier, Harmon refused to talk to any reporter but Thompson, so, of course, the Democrat-Gazette complied with Harmon’s wish.
Hedges had no choice but to admit it and said, “Well, yes, that’s right.”
Yes, that is right. Anytime Harmon wanted to mouth off to the press, they rushed the reporter of his choice to him. With this, Hedges looked at the clock and said in an accusatory tone, “Now I’m late for my meeting,” as if it was our fault. I asked him if we could arrange to meet with him some other time, and he said he would be in touch. We’ve never heard from him.
Sunday, February 23, 1997
Excerpt from: The New York Times Magazine
The Clinton Haters
By Philip Weiss
The notion of a Body Count list apparently began with an Indianapolis lawyer named Linda Thompson, a feverish woman who was incited by the 1993 burning of the Branch-Davidian compound outside Waco, Tex.
“Linda [Thompson] first announced that list on my program,” says Stan Solomon, a right-wing talk-show host. “It was very early in the Clinton Presidency that she started connecting these deaths. She is a very analytical person, although I think she has succumbed to a great deal of pressure. She later sent me letters every day on my being a Government agent.”
The lists make sad reading, and ridiculous reading, but not entirely and here one can glimpse how a legitimate question gets spun into a conspiracy. Notable on all the lists are “the boys on the tracks.” This is the case of two small-town teen-agers in Saline County, just outside Little Rock, who were killed late one night in August 1987. They were clubbed and stabbed and their unconscious bodies were laid on the railroad tracks to be mutilated by a train. Their murders have never been solved. One theory given a lot of credence by those who have looked into the case is that “the boys on the tracks” had wandered in on a drug drop.
The medical examiner under Governor Clinton, Fahmy Malak, did a terrible disservice in the matter. He said that the boys’ deaths were accidental, that they lay down on the tracks in a marijuana stupor. It took years for the families to undo this ruling.
Clinton’s own connection to the murders in Saline County is plainly indirect. But he did stand by Malak, even as The Arkansas Democrat and a group of enraged citizens called for his dismissal. (Malak left the job for a state health department position in 1991.) Linda Ives, the mother of one of the boys, says: “My agenda is not Bill Clinton. The only goal I have is arrest and conviction in my son’s case.”
Still, the deaths of the boys have taken on huge emblematic significance to the far right, people who believe that government regularly covers up brutalities. The legend of the boys is reminiscent of the legend surrounding the 1992 killing by an F.B.I. sharpshooter of Vicki Weaver, a white supremacist, as she held her baby in her arms in northern Idaho. Ives told me that she has heard of highway overpasses in the Middle West painted with the message “Bill Clinton Knows Who Killed Kevin Ives.”
The Wall Street Journal attacked me twice on its editorial page as a White House dupe and said I was planning to undermine its coverage of the Linda Ives case. The Journal said Ives said the White House had “sicced” me on her. But the former Whitewater counsel, Mark Fabiani, had spoken of her case to me in rather neutral terms, and as I told Ives, I thought official inaction in her son’s case merited further investigation. I had told the Journal reporter, Micah Morrison, that I admired his coverage of the boys on the tracks.
Copyright 1997 The New York Times
December 28, 1998
Excerpt from: The New York Observer
The Breaking of the President, 1998
By Philip Weiss
It used to be that Clinton hatred was a closet sect of the far right. Two years ago, I went to Arkansas to meet former state employee Larry Nichols and other martyrs of Clinton hatred. The interesting thing about these people was that they weren’t ideological. Often they were Democrats or independents who had been deeply angered by Mr. Clinton’s behavior, who felt that they had been used or smeared.
Back then, a friend in the White House had given me a report the White House counsel’s office had assembled on Clinton-hating. It was called “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce” and showed how hateful stories about the Clintons came into the mainstream press, unfiltered, via irresponsible but newly trustworthy channels: the Internet, the tabloids and British papers. The report was highly prescient in its description of the collapse of traditional distinctions in the media; it seemed to foresee the day when Larry Flynt would lead us into the wilderness.
Still, that report was more hateful than the haters. For instance, the report named Linda Ives, whose teenage son was killed by well-connected drug dealers just outside Little Rock. If you scratched the surface of her case, you understood what a terrible injustice Mrs. Ives had suffered: Then-Governor Clinton’s medical examiner had called the death accidental, grand jury witnesses had been killed, no one had ever been prosecuted, and Bill Clinton had refused to meet with her. My point is that well-meaning Democratic lawyers in the White House from fancy schools knew nothing about the facts and were happy to use Mrs. Ives’ case to demonstrate a right-wing conspiracy.
Just as, years later, some of them were happy to call Monica a stalker.
This column ran on page 1 in the 12/28/98 edition of The New York Observer.
COPYRIGHT (C) 1998
THE NEW YORK OBSERVER
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED