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The Cincinnati Beacon
Open Letter to Tom Callinan, Enquirer Editor, about Grandma’s War Blog—and Callinan’s Response!
Thursday, April 06, 2006

Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati

Mr. Callinan

At the “Grandma in Iraq” blog run by the Cincinnati Enquirer, people keep asking Suzanne Fournier to answer who at the Enquirer hired her. So far she hasn’t answered: http://tiny.bz/081/

As Editor of The Enquirer, Mr. Callinan, I presume you have some knowledge concerning these matters.

Who hired Ms. Fournier?  To whom does Ms. Fournier report?  Who has editorial oversight over her posts?

As you know, this story is gaining momentum—and I think The Enquirer would do well to share these details for those who are interested in your staff bloggers.

Thank you, once again, for your time and consideration.

Respectfully,

The Dean of Cincinnati

cc:

Craig Dubow, President and CEO
Gannett Co., Inc.

Shortly after sending this message, Callinan responded thusly:

Hello Dean:

Not sure how constructive it would be to start pointing fingers at the well-intentioned souls who were involved in setting up the “Grandma in Iraq” blog.

It sounded like a great idea but we should have poked further into her p.r. background with the military and put a disclaimer with her blog.

When the issue came up earlier this week we did that immediately.

As we step our involvement in the New Media world, we’ll need to be mindful of the sensibilities and ethics that are intuitive to us who come from the print world.

This is a lesson learned and thanks for reading - and watching - our work.

All the best,

Tom Callinan

 


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  1. Winston Smith says:

    Callinan: Not sure how constructive it would be to start pointing fingers at the well-intentioned souls who were involved in setting up the “Grandma in Iraq” blog.

    Not “constructive?” Maybe not for Callinan and the Enquirer who’ve been caught with their pants down. And now that they know she’s a PR flak, why don’t they pull the blog? Is the Enquirer going to give blogs to other public relations companies? Newspapers are constantly barraged with press releases. It’s their job to weed out the hype and publish the news.

    Callinan still won’t give up the names. Over at the Grandma blog, Suzanne Fournier wrote a long explanation, but she still won’t answer the same questions. What are they hiding?
    Editor & Publisher reported this story yesterday. So are other blogs. This isn’t going away.

  2. Ferdie says:

    Callinan says that “well-intentioned souls” are responsible for the blog but won’t say who they are.

    Their intentions are irrelevent. I want to know who they are and if they have a vested interest in putting out a positive spin on the war using a compliant major Gannett paper. I want to know if the “well-intentioned souls” are Army and/or GOP.

    It’s time for regime change at the Enquirer.

  3. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Tom,

    Shame on you for caving in to the idea that this is somehow an illegitimate blog, or that Mrs. Fournier somehow slipped through the cracks.  Have some backbone.  I know the answer to this question that is posed.  Mrs. Fournier volunteered to go to Iraq to do Public Affairs work for the Army Corps of Engineers.  She truly is a grandmother of 15, and mother of 7.  She believed the readers of the Enquirer would be interested in reading more about Iraq and the reconstruction projects from someone who is actually there, so she volunteered to produce this blog.  She obtained permission from the Corps of Engineers, and began writing on her own time.  Mrs. Fournier is not compensated by the Enquirer.  She was not “hired.”
    Further, anyone who reads the blog, even haphazardly, will see that she clearly identifies her affiliation with the U.S. Government.  Further, they will see that her blog is not about politics, or about the soldiers, or even about the war.  There is no propoganda here.  Her stories are about Iraqi children, and dock workers, and construction contractors, and the facilities the U.S. is building to improve the lives of common Iraqis.
    Dissent is healthy and appropriate, but this is not dissent.  The “Anonymous” bloggers have singled out Mrs. Fournier for personal attacks that are unwarranted and unsubstantiated. 
    I’m not suggesting that you omit any comments of bloggers, and I’m not suggesting that they should not have the freedom to post anonymously if they want to; but for goodness sakes, to say “we’ll need to be mindful of the sensibilities and ethics…” is a complete and utter cop-out.  Mrs. Fournier is among the most ethical people one would ever meet.  Her stories are honest, fair, and non-political.  Don’t cave in to a few (VERY few) rabble rousers.  This blog has been valuable.  Hundreds of people are reading it, including schoolchildren and military families accross the nation and even worldwide.  Don’t stop this rare glimpse of reality in reporting because of a few malcontents.

    Dave F.
    Full disclosure - Mrs. Fournier’s oldest son.

  4. Andrew Warner says:

    Dave,
    I haven’t read any personal attacks about Mrs. Fournier on this website. I wouldn’t count criticism of the situation as a personal attack on the writer.

    Most important in journalism is objectivity. Whether Mrs. Fournier is a great person or a terrible one, it is hard to be an objective journalist when you receive a pay check from an involved party.

    For example, in last years Super Bowl… Let’s pretend the referees didn’t show up (who are supposed to be objective), would we pick people off the Steeler’s sideline to referee the game (I know it seemed like that anyway)?

    While every journalist has their natural, built-in bias we must seek to eliminate it in the reporting. Having a member of the Army provide coverage is not a good way to do start.

  5. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Dear Mr. Dubow,
      I am granny in Iraq’s husband.  I was interviewed by the Cincinnati Enquire about how I felt about my wife going to Iraq, etc. During the course of this interview, I mentioned to the reporter that she was thinking of writing a blog.  The reporter asked me if she would consider writing it through the Enquire’s blog section.  I told him to ask her.  He called her, and he asked her if she would allow her blog to be carried by the Enquire.
      She told him she would check with her higher ups and get back to him, and that he should do the same. 
      Supposedly, he got all the permission he needed, and told my wife, and me, that he did.  At that time, he knew without the slightest doubt, that she was a public affairs officer with the Corps of Engineers in Cincinnati.  If you had read your own paper, or wish to do now, before responding, you would know without a doubt who she was and who she worked for. 
      If you read her blogs, you will see, time and again, that she openly says who she is, what she does for a living, and who she works for.  It was never a secret.
      Evidentely, the Cincinnati Enquire thought it would be a good thing to have her blog through the Enquire, for the sake of the Enquire.  And now that some anonymous radical challenges her, and more so, you, you cave in like a termite infested abandoned house.
      I was angry when these idiots started calling her a shill of the Pentagon, a liar, (even about being a grandmother???), a propagandist, someone in your employ, but my wife made me promise to keep my mouth shut.  I am breaking that promise because, after waiting for the Cincinnati Enquire to step up and tell the world that she did not work for you, you had no editorial supervision of her blog, and that she was who she said she was, I got tired of waiting. 
      I assumed that the Enquire was checking their facts, written in their own paper, before telling that YOU asked HER to blog through the Enquire.  And you let these anonymous people attack her, (read the comments if you don’t think she was attacked).
      I never, never expected you to answer the way you did.  I am sorry that my wife ever got involved with the Enquire. 
      I am asking you now to please put something in the comments of her blog that the Enquire knew from the beginning that she is who she is, never kept it a secret, and anyone who says she did is lying. 
      I would appreciate a reply.
      Sincerely, Gil Fournier.

  6. A Concerned Reader says:

    Dear Mr. Fournier,

    Thanks for your post.

    Would you please post here the name of the Enquirer reporter who interviewed your wife and suggested she write the blog? Also, to whom does she report at the Enquirer?

    Again, thanks for posting your thoughts here.

  7. Another Reader says:

    Gil Fournier:

    I don’t understand why you are writing to Gannett and/or the Enquirer via this blog. If your wife had an ongoing relationship with the Cincinnati Enquirer, why don’t you write to whomever at the Enquirer invited your wife to write the blog? (I’d certainly welcome it if also posted a copy of such a letter here.)

  8. Yet Another Reader says:

    Dave Fournier:

    People are not attacking your mother personally. She is doing her job, which is to promote the interests of the army. People are, however, attacking the Enquirer for being dishonest and incompetent, which Mr. Callinan admits in his letter. Be angry at the editors of the Enquirer, not at readers who are trying to get straight answers.

  9. D. Duck says:

    Editor & Publisher just published a second article about the Enquirer-“Grandma in Iraq: controversy.

    Some (Enquirer) newsroom staffers, who declined to be identified, also showed concern. “Everyone was aghast when they first learned of it,” declared one reporter. “The very title of the blog—‘Grandma in Iraq’—makes it sound as if her viewpoint is from some everyday person with a front-row seat. It would be like allowing Dick Rumsfeld to write a blog titled, ‘Grandpa in Washington.’”

  10. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Again, for those who aren’t paying attention: The blog was set up by Cincinnati.com. She “reports to” a person or two at Cincinnati.com, which is to say she sends them her content. 

    Note that Cincinnati.com also hosts blogs like “Roller Derby Diva” and “Pop Culture Review,” which no one pretends is reporting or journalism.  It’s fun blogging, like one might see in a small-town newspaper or… a community website. 

    And then there’s CiN Weekly: enough said.

    Perhaps someone ought to do an expose on Cincinnati.com’s “Parks Guide” or Visitor’s Guide” because they don’t mention the prostitution and drug use at local parks.  Or horse doo-doo!  Get on it, Beacon!

    People who want real reporting and real journalism about Iraq know where they can find it: elsewhere.  There’s a lot of it. 

    Gannett owns Cincinnati.com and the Enquirer, but the Enquirer is one small part of the site.  There is a lot of other information - and much of it, like “Grandma in Iraq,” does not pretend to be journalism.

  11. Annette says:

    Just another reader,

    Actually, Suzanne has been attacked on her blog. All I can say is that this whole situation is very disgusting. For all who chose to attack this woman, shame on you.

    To Suzanne’s family members, I want you to know that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Suzanne. It is real unfortunate that she was used by this media organization, then dumped on the side of the road when things went south. I am also glad that your time of worry is almost over. I have been down that road myself so understand what you have experienced every single day since she has been gone. After you give her a big hug, take time to pat yourself on the back too!

  12. Chuck says:

    Wow Dean, Great job on this one! I didn’t think the Beacon was all that consistant. The new feature shows that you are.

    Keep up the great work!

  13. Citizens Against Joe Deters says:

    Tom Callinan response to CAJD—“ma’am YOUR SON ROBBED A BANK!”

    My response—OKKKKKKay but what does that have to do with the Enquirer incorrectly quoting me?

    I’m glad to see Tom responds warmly to some.

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