Not ready for prime time… or… I’m glad I have my own printing press

 Below is a column I wrote for publication in Wednesday’s N&R.

After receiving it, editorial head Allen Johnson called with some concerns about the content.  He rightly pointed out that much of what I wrote is speculative in nature and that he was reticent to publish these speculations.

I told him I understood completely and that I was sorry didn’t have the time to alter the submission or compose another column for this week’s slot (my deadline was at noon).  We agreed to let someone else have my slot this week and I will make another effort in two weeks’ time.

All that said, I still wanted to get this out.  Good thing I’ve got a weblog.   Here it is, in all of its speculative, non-professionally edited (and, now, hyperlinked) glory.

******************

Back in April of 2006, my very first column in the N&R concerned itself with all of the investigations that, at the time, seemed to focus on the Greensboro police and how former police chief David Wray ran the department.  I quoted from city councilman Tom Phillips who characterized what little information had been made public in those early months as being only, “…the tip of the iceberg�.

Boy howdy.  When Tom is right… Tom is right.  But my guess is that even he didn’t know how expansive that iceberg might be at the time.

According to information from Greensboro’s website, the state Attorney General reviewed the known information about what was going on in the GPD in March of 2006.  That office saw enough at the time to “…initiate a criminal investigation and assignment of SBI resources.�  So for at least 16 months, the SBI has been quietly going about its investigative business.  How wide-ranging that investigation has become is anyone’s guess, but I get the feeling that its not just about David Wray anymore.

As things were heating up during the months before his resignation in January of 2006, former chief Wray was asked to explain why certain investigations were being conducted across multi-jurisdictional lines and where they were headed.  Not having the privilege of saying everything he wanted to say at the time, he famously stated that reporters should, “connect the dots� between what was known. 

There weren’t a lot of known dots for us to connect then, but two years later we appear to have plenty of them. 

Dots are everywhere:  Drug dealing dots.  Check-kiting dots.  Prostitution dots.  Project Homestead-related dots.  Even assassination-planning dots popped up when we read that certain characters were reported to be in the planning stages of doing in best-selling author Jerry Bledsoe.

Bledsoe’s “Cops in Black & White� has been published in the Rhino Times nearly every week for a year now.  The serial has brought us ‘up close and personal’ with the seamier side of Greensboro as he adds to the dots that just keep on coming. (Latest installment here)

Shortly after publication of Chapter 26 of Bledsoe’s story back in March of this year, I ask the author how many more chapters we should expect before he finally lets his keyboard take a rest.  His response was, “I should have sub-headed Chapter 26 as being the end of the story’s prologue.  I could go on for years.�

During what has been an almost complete black-out of new information emanating from city hall regarding all of the ongoing investigations, local blogs are trying to keep up with all of dots as they appear.

On Joe Gaurino’s blog last week, former District Attorney candidate Wendell Sawyer speculated as to what is going on with all the disconcerting official silence since the SBI and FBI started delving into their own brand of dot connecting.  Sawyer opined, “…the federal investigators are not handicapped by political considerations and the compulsion to rush to a conclusion of the investigation. Instead, the feds are patiently and quietly gathering evidence in this complicated puzzle. The same was true in the FBI investigation into the video poker/lottery/Jim Black scandals.�

Sawyer has a point.  Although none of us really knows where these investigations will lead, the sheer length of time and resources being brought to bear leads me to believe that those agencies are going places that few outsiders ever expected.

In the current vacuum of information surrounding where all of this investigating is headed, all we can do is fill the void with what we know.  And what we know is that with every new dot that appears through the efforts of those looking for and trying to speculate as to how they are connected, the depth and breadth of that iceberg Councilman Phillips predicted so long ago is still looming before us.

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16 Comments

  1. Posted July 30, 2007 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Yup, the N&R would have had a heart attack with this one. Too bad you didn’t include the N&R’s writers in your column.

  2. Posted July 30, 2007 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    I dont see any more speculation in this and in any of your other columns. As for speculation not being in the N&R columns and articles, that rule must have been made today. Fine work, Hogg. Glad you told us about this.

  3. tonywilkins
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Great column David. One of your best and ballsiest imo.
    I almost wet my pants laughing thinking about the look on Allen’s face when he read this, especially the “Dots are everywhere” paragraph.
    I’m sure he would prefer to leave the supeenies to John and Lorraine.
    “Wonderful thing, a supeenie”…Asst. US Atty James Wells, 1981.

  4. Posted July 31, 2007 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    This was not the first column in which I have mentioned the Rhino/Bledsoe in a positive light, and Allen has published every word that I wrote. (As he has for nearly every column I have ever submitted – and sometimes, frankly, that has surprised me.)

    He just didn’t feel comfortable publishing this column in its current form, and I didn’t have time to do a re-write (which he was willing to give me a deadline extension to undertake.)

    As I said in the post, I agreed with Allen that the column IS highly speculative in nature and knew that ultimately he was going to have to answer for my speculations.

    I don’t fault him for doing what he’s paid to do and upholding the paper’s editorial standards.

  5. Posted July 31, 2007 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I am also glad you have a weblog.

    As I’ve learned working on the news side for a while now — the standard for speculation is less often what seems obvious or innocuous to the writer or even editor than what will end up getting the paper sued.

    I’ve been on the business end of lawsuit threats from people who would gladly have dragged me and the papers I’ve worked for through long, expensive legal messes whether or not their suits had any merit. I’ve had friends who’ve been sued for news reporting and column writing. The “speculation” editors warn against is often not a judgment on the writer or the writing but the acknowledgment that in journalism all sorts of people often see newspapers, and the companies that own them, as giant targets with dollar signs in the middle in a way that individual bloggers never experience.

    Sometimes a story or column is worth going to the wall for — and in my experience the N&R is as likely to do that as any other paper when they have to. When they can’t they don’t ask their writers or columnists not to print something like this on a blog — which in my experience a lot of papers would.

  6. Posted July 31, 2007 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    show the former columns where you mentioned bledsoe and the rhino that was in the N&R. Everything the N&R’s Ahearn wrote was speculation regarding wray.

    I am very very glad Joe Killian came in to explain it all. He is the smartest person in the world!

  7. Posted July 31, 2007 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Just offering my perspective and thanking David for printing this here…

  8. Posted July 31, 2007 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    N&R has never said boo to me about citing Jerry or the Rhino in my column.

    Example from Oct ’06: “[A]s Jerry Bledsoe has detailed in his ongoing series in the Rhinoceros Times, the Greensboro Police Department appears to have been a snakepit of racial politics, where some officers, including Lt. James Hinson, the man at the center of much of the controversy, allegedly comported themselves in a variety of unsavory ways.”

  9. Posted July 31, 2007 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  10. Ryan Fuller
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like the N & R is one of the dots?

  11. The CA
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    There are more dots than you can imagine. I agree with Wendell that other big names are likely to be involved. We will see the real application of the term “multi-jurisdictional investigation”.

    It is all related, and other shoes remain to drop. It’s actually interesting to see how tangled the web is and what is really involved. I believe most of what we have heard is accurate with regard to subject matter, but I also believe there are additional names to surface, some who may be quite shocking.

    I’m still trying to piece it together myself.

  12. Posted July 31, 2007 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    show the former columns where you mentioned bledsoe and the rhino that was in the N&R.

  13. Posted July 31, 2007 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    And I thought no one was going to figure out that I’d been selling drugs for the N&R…

    I would have gotten away with it, too — if it hadn’t been for that Fuller…and his dog!

  14. Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Joe,

    you are so funny. Gosh, what a great sense of humor. No spelling errors either. You Roch!

  15. Posted July 31, 2007 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    “but I also believe there are additional names to surface, some who may be quite shocking.”

    to say the least

  16. Brenda Bowers
    Posted August 6, 2007 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    David, I have enjoyed most of your articles in the N&R tho have not agreed with all. This is, or would have been, by far your best. As for Phillips, the iceberg he was speaking of is not the iceberg that is now sinking the City Council’s, and unfortunately the tax payers of Greensboro’s, boat.

    By the way, I am now mailing out 25 copies each week of pertinent articles in The Rhino to friends across the country who find the Greensboro Saga the best soap around. BB

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