James Tracy has reached out to the news media outlets that attacked him between September 18 and 20 for a Memory Hole post addressing the September 16 shootings at Washington DC’s Naval Command Base.
On September 20 Tracy initially responded to the attacks. On September 19th and again on the 20th Tracy contacted personnel at South Florida NBC affiliate WPTV and Fox affiliate WFLX, including WFLX Program Director Barb Billens, WFLX site manager and reporter Rachel Leigh, WPTV Executive Producer Julie Pearl, and WPTV-WFLX News Director Michael Garber.
Leigh wrote a September 18 article appearing on WFLX’s website, “FAU Professor Claims Navy Yard Shooting Was Staged,” while Pearl oversaw a WPTV piece, “FAU Professor Writes About Navy Yard Shooting,” that aired at approximately 12:10PM as Leigh’s article was posted to WFLX’s site.
Mr. Garber oversees news operations at both WPTV and WFLX, each of which maintain the pretense that they are separate operations.
Tracy has asked Leigh, Pearl, and Garber if they will submit to a taped interview via Skype concerning their editorial decision-making, in addition to their broader journalistic responsibilities and endeavors.
As of September 24 Leigh and Billens have been non-responsive to two email queries from Tracy, and in a September 20 telephone conversation Pearl flatly refused to be interviewed, deferring to News Director Michael Garber. Garber has not returned Tracy’s telephone messages.
While Tracy is immediately concerned with the undue scrutiny afforded him by such outlets that has prompted disciplinary action and retaliatory measures by his employer, WPTV and WFLX’s “news product” is symptomatic of a larger problem that tends to characterize almost all locally-produced broadcast news throughout the US.
Much of the content generated by major network affiliates consists of easily-produced “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” reportage of car crashes, shootings, and other tragedies, accompanied by prepackaged video news releases from public relations companies or the parent network. In addition, the hollow, human interest-oriented “wacky news” pieces that are Leigh’s specialty have become a mainstay.
Tracy maintains that WPTV-WFLX staff should be willing to publicly address their journalistic practices, especially since they borrow the public’s airways and are thus theoretically compelled to operate in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity” of the citizenries they serve.
The Huffington Post and Daily Caller also wrote hit pieces (see here and here) on Tracy for his Navy Yard blog post that appeared respectively on September 19th and 20th. Tracy contacted writers Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post and Eric Owens of the Daily Caller for comment.
Owen initially responded in a September 21 email, recommending that Tracy interview Daily Caller editor Christopher Bedford. Bedford has been nonresponsive to a subsequent query. The Huffington Post’s Stuart has been similarly unreceptive.
In June Tracy challenged the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editor Howard Saltz and his staff to a debate on the slipshod news coverage of the Sandy Hook School massacre and the Boston Marathon bombings. Saltz declined, stating,
We would not engage in debate. That’s not what newspapers do. Your suggestion confuses our reporting of positions contrary to yours with taking positions contrary to yours.
The Sun-Sentinel has repeatedly argued or implied that Tracy is unfit to occupy a faculty post at a taxpayer-funded university because of his public remarks and analysis of controversial events. The paper has also suggested on numerous occasions that he be terminated from or voluntarily resign his tenured position because of his public remarks regarding the Sandy Hook and Boston Marathon tragedies.