Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oregonian headline goes wobbly

Headline fuzzes report
of sheriff’s old affair
with then-governor’s wife

That’s my headline for the way editors at the Oregonian packaged a stunning story on today’s front page.

The story by Arthur Gregg Sulzberger and Les Zaitz reveals (once you slog through the headline's fudge) that current the Multnomah County Sheriff, Bernie Giusto, had an affair with the then-wife of Governor Neil Goldschmidt at a time when Giusto served as state police security for the governor.

Some security.

But never mind that.

Here’s the headline (with “kickers” and “pull quotes”) as it appears on the upper left of today’s paper. See whether you can find any reference to the affair with Margie Goldschmidt— the jawdropper in the story.

“I’ve had relationships. I’ve never let them spill into the workplace.”
Bernie Giusto, Multnomah County sheriff

Giusto’s job
tangled with
his private life

Credibility/ The sheriff says he doesn’t mix his personal and professional lives; the record of his career suggests otherwise

Got that?

Okay, let’s think of the ways our own jobs might “tangle” with our private lives.

“Honey, I’m going to be late for dinner tonight.”

“Dear, I didn’t get that raise. The two weeks in Hawaii are going to have wait.”

“I know I’ve been grouchy; but this new boss is driving me crazy.”

Then there’s the word “relationships” as in “I’ve had relationships. I’ve never let them spill into the workplace.”

We have all kinds of relationships. I relate to the bank clerk, the barista, my son, the bus driver. So Bernie’s had “relationships.” Big deal. And they’ve never spilled into the workplace. Mine don’t either.

OK, listen up, editors. You put two reporters on a story. They worked hard for five months. They write in the story that they interviewed more than 100 of Giusto’s “friends, associates and critics” and “reviewed thousands of pages of public records to examine Giusto’s career.”

And what do you do, editors? You wrap the nugget of their digging in a brown paper bag of limp psycho-babble.

Makes this reader wonder what might have been cut from the copy. That, we’ll never know.

For now, thanks, Les and Arthur, for pulling the plug on the sheriff — at last.

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