JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools header image 2

Score one more for citizen journalism or What Bainbridge Island and FEMA have in common

September 20th, 2005 · 3 Comments

Former FEMA director Michael Brown had some discrepancies in his resume, and one of our mayoral candidates on the island for tomorrow’s primary election seems to suffer from the same problem. Which is the bigger surprise though: the fact that candidate William Peddy appears to have lied when describing his past or the fact that Bainbridge Buzz staff are the ones who discovered the discrepancies? Our island has two newspapers, one with a long history and the other with a large coverage extending across the county, yet it is the citizen journalist site Buzz which breaks the big campaign story. Once again, at voting time, I am looking to Bainbridge Buzz for the best information. Blogger Philippe Boucher wrote, It is telling that the Buzz is so obviously better than the Review and the Sun/Islander.

And now that the two newspapers, the Bainbridge Review and the Kitsap Sun’s Bainbridge Islander (and the county-wide Sun itself) have published the story, many others will be reading the Buzz and seeing the power of citizen journalism.

Using as a basis statements made in an interview, on resume and also at a mayoral debate, the Buzz researched the history of Peddy – and the other three candidates. It appears he misrepresented his education credentials, claiming he attended UC Davis, when no record exists of him at the school. He also claimed another position, which Buzz researchers learned did not exist at the time.

[Note: the Islander published a rebuttal letter written by his manager, James M. Olsen. The Review piece contained comments that Olsen made on the Buzz site but were removed by editors. ]

After the report was published, the Peddy campaign, in letters posted from the manager on the Buzz site, claimed that the information given on Peddy’s educational background was an error and accused the Buzz of distorting other facts.

According to the Buzz (prior to the publication), Peddy declared that “no one who is voting for me cares” about the discrepancy between his claim of attending UC Davis and the lack of records. [Note: so why does campaign manager Olsen seem to care now?]

Since the report was posted at Bainbridge Buzz, I’ve watched the comments (now numbering 134!). The conversation has become complicated by the involvement of Peddy’s campaign manager who has threatened a lawsuit and posted complaints about campaign signs.

Cathy Nickum in the Review article mentioned that the Buzz also has an attorney. Yes, it seems those who dare to be citizen journalists must also at times prepare themselves for legal action to defend their work.

Others are wondering whether Peddy, currently an employee of the City of Bainbridge Island, also lied when he was hired.

Before the Buzz’s research, Peddy’s campaign was marked by two distinctions, easily observed by the average citizen, in my opinion. One was the use of campaign signs. No other candidate for mayor has used signs this fall. Peddy by contrast has plastered the island with his blue and yellow ads for weeks, applying them to stop signs, the fire department property, intersections etc. I confess I found the ubiquitious signage to be obnoxious, to the point that I would consider not voting for him based solely on this pollution. [Note: today I noticed one sign lying in the road near the intersection of Sportsman and Madison with 305. ] Second, Peddy chose a campaign manager who is controversial due to his previous history in the community, someone who already lacks credibility in the eyes of many islanders. Both these issues appear in the comments as the discussion continues.

Soon the report appeared in first the Bremerton Sun/Islander and then on the front page of Saturday’s Bainbridge Review. The Review article contains a further aspect of inaccuracy in Peddy’s resume concerning his affiliation with the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council.

It was interesting to me that the newspapers only seemed to report what had happened between the Buzz and the candidate as if relaying a story. Neither seemed to get involved with investigations or verify the Buzz’s findings, except for the Review’s mention of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council.

Also see posts by Bainbridge Beat, first to bring the story into the blogs, Chris Holmes who wrote extensively with his usual sharp wit, and Philippe Boucher, who lamented the downfall of local traditional media and did his own reporting on his campaign financing research (Peddy and incumbent Darlene Kordowny have raised funds while the other two candidates did not accept contributions – see Boucher’s report for details.).

Update: In the process of polishing this piece, I noticed that the Buzz posted a subsequent article, outlining what may happen next to City employee and candidate Peddy, including a “Loudermill” procedure, based on this case.

Last spring, Cathy Nickum described how she had been inspired to pursue citizen journalism through the years, quoting Bill Moyer in Yes magazine citing Dan Gillmor’s book We the Media.

I imagine that Dan Gillmor, Lisa Williams and others in the citizen journalist community would be proud of the Buzz’s work. Thanks to Cathy Nickum. Althea Paulson and the other Buzz staff for their courage and research! I’m excited to see what will happen next with citizen journalists on the island…

Tags: Uncategorized

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jim Thomsen // Sep 24, 2005 at 12:49 am

    Hi, Julie:

    Long time no talk. As an editor at the Kitsap Sun, your points here are well-taken.

    No question, the Bainbridge Buzz kicked our butts. As an explanation — NOT an excuse — I should say that the Peddy revelations came at an awkward time for the Sun. We were in the midst of a major personnel shift that, among other moves, saw us changing Bainbridge reporters and covering in occasionally frantic fashion for being one reporter short in our newsroom for the month of September. Equilibrium is being restored as I speak with new hires, and I can assure you and your readers here that as a Bainbridge native, I am committed to the idea that the Sun invests as deeply in covering the island as our resources permit. This recent lapse notwithstanding, we’ll be covering Bainbridge more intensely than ever.

    But it’s great having the Buzz — and other blogs — keeping us on our toes. It has two good benefits for the people of Bainbridge: It makes us work harder to do better, and makes the Bainbridge blogosphere absolute must-read material. I look at more than a dozen Bainbridge blogs every day, and wouldn’t feel I had any chance of testing the pulse of the island if I didn’t.

    And, of course, I’ve been a fan of Seedlings and Sprouts for a long time. And hopefully a long time to come.

    Jim Thomsen
    Local news copy editor
    Kitsap Sun

  • 2 philippe // Sep 28, 2005 at 7:34 am

    Hi Jim,
    Thank you for saying good things about local blogs but the most important move the Sun could do as far as I am concerned is to join the blogosphere: provide blogs to all contributors and -why not- to the community (as does the french newspaper Le monde and others).
    This request is not going away: as I am going to press the city to adopt blogs to communicate I am going to press the local mainstream media to do the same.
    Have you ever considered hiring bloggers?
    Take care

  • 3 Steven Gardner // Oct 28, 2005 at 11:53 am

    I’m only now getting to the comments section. Excuse my delay.

    Jim’s comments above are part of the story. The bigger answer, however, is I missed it. The Peddy resume should have been raised in August. As it was, even the Bainbridge Buzz got the news out there too late for some voters. What this incident taught me more than anything is to get these resume and qualification statements verified early in the process. Had I done that, we might even have been able to get the deposition document (and documents are what drive the Web site “The Smoking Gun”) out in public before ballots arrived.

    And to echo Jim’s statement, we are committed to providing quality journalism, which includes adherence to the Socity of Professional Journalists code of ethics, to all of Kitsap County. Part of that means embracing the Web. Stay tuned to see what that looks like.

    Props to the bloggers, props to the Bainbridge Buzz for breaking the Peddy story, and props to anyone being a watchdog for the community.

Leave a Comment