Oh, for God's sake.....

Dateline: Fri 12 Jan 2007

Marcia Oddi of the Indiana Law Blog sent the following link from the Washington Post Thursday.

The story, by tech writer Alan Sipress, makes reference to my numerous blog postings about the death of Star photographer Mpozi Tolbert on July 3. The article includes a comment from the Star's big cheese Dennis Ryerson on the unfairness of bloggers towards his poor little paper:

Here's the link and the quote from Ryerson:


"Dennis Ryerson, the Star's executive editor, said that no one blogged about Indiana's Occupational Safety and Health Administration clearing the newspaper of any wrongdoing in connection with the photographer's death. 'Yet the postings that made those allegations are still available for anyone to read,' he added.

Gee, maybe if this bit of information was so important, Ryerson could have run it in his own newspaper -- except he obviously doesn't want any more attention focused on his operation regarding Tolbert's death.

And here is my backstory: I have been calling the Indiana Department of Labor every two-three weeks since Mpozi died, in an effort to get a copy of the report. I had formally requested a copy back in July in writing, as instructed. After numerous calls and leaving messages, a woman called me back in early December and said a letter had been sent to my home in November. Since I never got it, she resent it.

As Ryerson himself had told me in emails after Mpozi's death, the IOSHA investigation was meaningless. The state agency, which monitors occupational safety and health, was simply looking for a possible airborne cause of death, such as a chemical. The agency had no authority to tell the Star to get defibs or chastise it for an elevator that wasn't working or any other in-house protocol, Ryerson told me.

Ryerson was right. According to the letter I finally received in early December from the Department of Labor, "Please be advised that our records reflect no violations of IOSHA safety regulations with respect to the above inspection (Indianapolis Star). Certain material and/or information that may be in our files of our Agency have not been provided and have been removed or redacted from the documents and not provided."

Ho hum. But now you have it -- not from the newspaper of record, but on this blog. IOSHA clears Star.

As for the Post article by Alan Sipress, he contacted me shortly before Christmas. He said he was working on an article for the Post about the ethics of blogging and he was interested in what I had written about Mpozi Tolbert's death. He interviewed me by phone within the next day or so.

I think his article was fair and accurate. I was quoted correctly. The larger issue that Sipress is addressing is ethical standards for bloggers, and I agree with some of his commentators: the Internet is the wild west, and blogs have different biorhythms than newspapers. That's why we are blogs and not associated with old media.

Finally, as for Mpozi and all the pain caused by his death and the subsequent refusal by the Star management to fully acknowledge what a cluster-flub took place that night, I can only rely on what a Tolbert family member told me shortly after Mpozi passed. "I don't expect to get the truth from either Gannett or IOSHA. I expect them to be in cahoots together."

The only positive in this ordeal is that -- as I reported on this blog -- the Star did buy defibs and offers CPR training.

Did bloggers make a difference? I'd like to believe that the Star would have done so without public pressure and embarrassment, but I gave up naivete for New Year's.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com


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