Saturday, May 9, 2009

Irby story was good example of what is wrong at Clarion-Ledger

Yesterday saw an episode of very sloppy and irresponsible reporting from the Clarion-Ledger when it broke the news about Karen Irby's indictment. Mrs. Irby was indicted for two counts of depraved heart murder and one count of aggravated assault. I can report the grand jury returned the indictment last week and that all of the local media knew about it through their own sources.

There is a very good reason why none of them reported it and that is because they had no copy of the indictment or a public record and no public official would go on the record to confirm the indictment. I knew about it, had my own sources, knew the counts, everything, but running with it would have been very irresponsible and then there is the chance I might've been wrong and that would have been fun, to say the least. The process for an indictment is the grand jury returns the indictment, its processed by the D.A.'s office, and then the indictment is delivered to the Sheriff who then has the duty of serving it upon the defendant. Only after service takes place is the indictment filed with the circuit clerk where it then becomes public record.

When the CL tried to break the story yesterday, there were NO public records available to the newspaper. It had not copy of the indictment. The newspaper reported she was indicted for two counts of vehicular homicide, NOT two counts of depraved heart murder, as shown by the saved screenshots above. Once they posted the sensational but wrong information, I made a post that corrected their gross negligence because the information was out there and picked up by the AP and USA Today, citing the CL as its source (and the depraved heart murder indictments were reported here first before the rest of the media reported on them). It was important at that point to report the correct information and correct the newspaper as it had already triggered a feeding frenzy.

The CL was told it was two counts of "murder", not two counts of vehicular homicide (and I know this for a fact.). It didn't have a copy of the indictment. It ran with this story based on an unattributed source and simply could not get the story right even after corrections were made:
"Chancery Court records show a divorce petition pending for the Irbys.
Stuart Irby filed the divorce complaint in September, alleging habitual cruel and inhuman treatment and irreconcilable differences

The problem is (and regular readers of JJ will know this) is that if it had bothered to actually look at the file, it would have noticed there was no service of process. After 120 days, the petition expires, which it did in this case. There is no divorce petition pending because it expired before February.

Unfortunately, the CL's irresponsible reporting caused the rest of the media to jump on the story and government officials finally decided to put them all out of their misery by confirming the indictments. The Clarion-Ledger will not apologize for such mistakes nor even mention a correction was made. It will simply act as if the new reality was always the old reality. Meanwhile, they wonder why they are going broke as readers become more disgusted with such yellow journalism.

Earlier Posts:
Karen Irby indicted
Irby indictment
Trick shot defense
Review of the news
Mrs. Irby is home
Irby filed for divorce in September
We report, you decide
Toxicology reports and campaign donations
JPD: Toxicology reports could take months
Remembering Dr. Lisa Dedousis
No title for this one


Anonymous said...

Karen's age also jumped from 35 to 39 in a matter of weeks.

Here is a great idea, try searching the data section on his own company's site for more information for his stories...

Anonymous said...

38, excuse me

Kingfish said...

Now don't ever let it happen again. Pay attention.

Anonymous said...

38, 7 months, 2 days.

Sorry not down to the minute and second.

A. Boyd C. said...

If they waited until the indictment was filed as a public document then there are people who would have accused the C/L for sandbagging the story. People have been accusing them of it anyway because they've never reported on the toxicology results, even though they've never been given access to the results.

A bigger paper might have had a lawyer on staff to review the story to make sure the legal particulars were correct, but the C/L never had a very big staff and now they're smaller than ever.

It'd be nice if our local paper had a bigger, more competent staff (read: more expensive) but that's just not a reality at this point. With all the changes in the news industry, it may never be.

It looks like the state is probably handling this case the right way and we should be grateful for that. The local media might not bat 1000 on the story, but I think we're just going to have the accept that for the time being while that industry is in such flux.

Kingfish said...

The reporter took murder and ran with it as vehicular homicide nor did an editor question. This has nothing to do with how well you pay your staff but just asking the simple question of "what were you told" and "What charges could that cover". is free.

No one would've accused them of sandbagging if they didn't have the sources or record to use.

Kingfish said...

Gates and Simmons have also been at the CL for years. These are not people in their twenties.

A. Boyd C. said...

"what they were told" could mean anything though. It's not like there was a press conference or a press release.

Most people wouldn't have any idea how to look up the code even with the website, nor what it means. Reporters might be better at it than most regular citizens but still, that's why papers who can afford it have lawyers on staff to go over this stuff.

How many of the readers do you suppose have the first clue about the difference between vehicular homicide and depraved heart murder anyway? 5%? 10%?

The meat of the story was that an indictment was handed down and the charge was something approximating "murder" rather than just speeding or something superficial.

Once the case is filed, I'm sure they'll run a piece with the exact details, but in the mean time they answered the question most people seemed to have, which is whether she would ever be charged with anything.

Kingfish said...

Imagine what would happen if editors started requiring reporters to actually look up the statute before they reported on it. What a novel idea. I know what the CL was told. I used quotes for a reason. The CL simply assumed VH.

Kingfish said...

Let's not forget the family photo.

A. Boyd C. said...

Did you hear what they were told or did somebody tell you what they were told?

I'd love it if they could do better journalism, but it's a ghost-town down there these days. I'm just glad they're still publishing at all.

Kingfish said...

check your email.

Anonymous said...

Some of the CL forums had posts that had a very odd slant to them. In a case like this, is it common for defense lawyers to have underlings flood public forums with false info to taint the public viewpoint? Some of the posts seemed like they were "seeding" disinformation.
or perhaps I'm projecting a malevolent intelligence where there is none at all.

A. Boyd C. said...

I don't know if that's what they're doing, but it poses an interesting question. Is it legal to taint the jury pool that way?

Anonymous said...

Under the First Amendment I'd say yes, unless there's a gag order specifically applicable to the parties doing the tainting.

Anonymous said...

Legal and moral are 2 different things.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the legal beagles out there can tell us: When will the case probably come to trial? Can a jury decide "guilty of a lesser offense" (e.g., vehicular manslaughter)? I would hate to think she could get off because a fancy lawyer was able to show some kind of diminished capability.

A. Boyd C. said...

I'm noticing somebody who sounds like the same person going from board to board and adding comments about how the country club should be financially culpable.

If the defense is trying to manipulate the jury pool this way, could the plaintiffs be doing the same thing?

Anonymous said...

Agree with the sad state of affairs at CL, but the story was accurately repeated all over Jackson days and days before the media broke it. It gets to be a very small town.
I don't know why the papers couldn't get sources as every grapevine has had first rate sources all along.

Do you know why it took so long to go through the legal mechanics, Kingfish? How long has Mac had the indictment?

I don't know if the misinformation and defenders are orchestrated, but if they are, the PR person or lawyer should be fired. Those postings caused , not only a backlash, but triggered revelations in rebuttal that might not have come to light publicly otherwise. Jeninms is one of the worst offenders, for sure. She practically begs someone to tell her she's clueless and misinformed.

But,kudos to you Kingfish on responsible reporting and still calling it like it is.

Anonymous said...

Agree, Kingfish that that family photo should never have been used once, much less twice. It had to come from family or a family friend as it's obvious where it was taken. Those kids should never have been exposed that way and CL could have cropped them out. Irresponsible journalism!
Now , those kids are recognizable on the street when not with parents. Awful, awful...

Anonymous said...

Remember at the C-L its not about news anymore, its about the money. You know the money that goes to Virginia to the HQ. The profit that was posted was not from results in the news room or increased circulation but from cutting expenses (people). Down hill is still down hill noe matter the spin.

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