Saturday, January 31, 2009


I guess the Jonesboro Sun can hide behind the provincial thinking of Northeast Arkansas, thereby stalling the way to progress. What else do you expect from the Andy Griffith simpleton Roy Ockert? It is not surprising that Roy does not think it is a social responsibility to ensure folks are taken care of. He has a clear "I got mine" attitude.

What is troubling is the fact that he works for the Jonesboro Sun, the paper of record for Northeast Arkansas. Reform must come to Arkansas, but it is people like roy ockert that prevent real change from happening.

I'm calling again...Oh! got hung up on again!

1 comment:

Brian Smith said...

This is Brian Smith -- the guy you talked to on Friday night. I'm now in my off time, so I get to say what my bosses' reasoning was in not taking any more of your phone calls.

First, "off time" is key. I did my best to get you up to speed in your two calls on Friday, because I knew you were concerned about your family. But you asked a lot of questions and took a lot of my time. I wound up being 20 minutes late with the last page of which I had charge, and that affects our ability to get papers out to our carriers and our readers...and even on the Internet, since we have to check and recheck our main local news pages before we post them online.

On a related note, when you called Friday night and Saturday afternoon, we had four people in the newsroom fielding calls from everyone. If everybody throughout the world with family in Northeast Arkansas called and took up even 10 minutes, we'd never get anything else done. You can say that that's our job, to inform everyone, everywhere in the world, about everything...but your calls went way beyond "What are you seeing on the ground there?" and "Whom can I contact?" You were even telling me about your wife's stay at the Jonesboro hospital to establish that you knew the area.

Second, once you began talking about posting on your blog, and collecting information for that blog, you essentially became a reporter yourself. You've since confirmed that by announcing, "Hey Jonesboro Sun, SCOOPED YOUR A$$ AGAIN!" Our first responsibility is letting readers know how bad things are and where they can go for help; if you want to supplement that with reporting that accuses us of gross negligence because we don't answer all the questions of someone in the Pacific Northwest, then we'd be glad to know how we can improve. But we can't help you in your reporting on a one-to-one basis, for the same reason that we can't help a magazine reporter or a TV journalist who wants us to report for them without coming here.

Third, I don't think you're trying to be condescending, but you flat-out told me about the poor national reputation of the Missouri Bootheel and the Arkansas Delta, and how people needed to get the word out about all the problems here. Things are much worse in Kentucky, yet you're not railing about government corruption and poor planning and poverty there. You've targeted this region because you have family here, and I think you're angry at the newspaper now because you need to be angry at somebody.

And comparing someone to Andy Griffith is not an insult here. :)

Fourth, J.R. Rogers doesn't have nearly as much authority as you think he does. He can help get money thrown at the problem, and he's already given up his own generator for a community shelter, but he can't pick up a phone and mobilize the entire state to fix Walnut Ridge, especially when there's places like Clay County and much of Kentucky that are worse off than even Walnut Ridge and Lawrence County. The governor and the president have declared it a disaster area, FEMA and the National Guard have arrived and generators are coming in from all over the place. That's where the authority is.

Fifth, Roy Ockert lost electricity for 72 hours, and many of our staffers, including one of my bosses, still don't have power back on. I've listened to their stories and I've shared my own. This isn't a case of "we got ours" -- we're all struggling here.

Sixth, you said we should have been prepared for this storm because we've had ice storms before...but we do prepare. We also prepare for fires, floods, tornadoes and heat waves, which happen much more regularly. Heck, we're even preparing for an earthquake on the New Madrid fault. This was bigger than all of that.

But what it really all comes down to is the amount of time you wanted from us. We can't spend hours with you personally in the middle of a disaster addressing all your concerns about governmental response, any more than an employee at McDonald's could take an hour during the lunch rush to reassure you about how the burgers are made and distributed. Maybe when all this calms down we'll write the "why" stories you want to read, but until then, we'll keep writing the stories that best tell Northeast Arkansas residents where to go and what to do.