The Better Together Crowd Now Declares Alinskyite Jihad Against Chris Nakamoto

WBRZ-TV reporter Chris Nakamoto has been diligent in covering the abysmal decline of the East Baton Rouge public school system (a decline we’re hoping will be arrested now that it has finally hired a decent leader in Warren Drake) and the excuses made for it by its kept politicians like Pat Smith.

Nakamoto has also been, unlike most of the other local media operatives, relatively friendly to the St. George petition – including reporting on some of the corrupt practices the anti-St. George crowd have engaged in. There’s a reason for that – Nakamoto signed the St. George petition all the way back in October of 2013.

It might not have necessarily been public knowledge that he did so, but it was anything but a secret. If you were “in the know,” you knew Nakamoto’s name was on that petition.

But the Better Together people, who think they’ve won since the St. George matter is currently scheduled for a hearing in Judge Wilson Fields’ court on Monday (nobody thinks Fields will actually agree with St. George’s writ of mandamus and order Registrar of Voters Steve Raborn to declare the petition valid, but there is a decent body of opinion that expects Fields to commit reversible error in denying the writ and thus giving an appellate court grounds to resolve the matter in favor of an election), can’t accept that Nakamoto was on the other side. Differences of opinion from Alinskyites simply cannot be allowed.

So last night, this happened. It’s long, but it makes for fascinating reading…

Last night, WBRZ reporter Chris Nakamoto ran another in a long history of inaccurate stories on St. George. That makes it time that WBRZ dealt with an issue they should have addressed a long time ago — a matter of basic journalistic ethics.

It was Chris Nakamoto, you will recall, who last year broke the “EBR schools cheating scandal,” with the screaming lead, “CHEATING SCANDAL ROCKS EBR SCHOOLS.”

That was the one that turned out to have nothing at all to do with cheating.

Following WBRZ’s lead, headlines went around the world and back for a few days about the “EBR cheating scandal.” The Advocate finally did a reality-check piece, pointing out that there never even were allegations of cheating, much less evidence of it; that the story dealt with more mundane matters of graduation credits and standards for records keeping. The cheating lead, though, already had its legs.

Nakamoto, for his part, stuck to his guns. Even after the State, and everyone, had confirmed that the story had nothing to do with cheating, Nakamoto ran a whole series of stories with the “cheating scandal” headline and graphic.

And here’s where things get interesting …

You’ll recall that Rep. Pat Smith and others, fed up with what they felt was a smear job on the school district, held a press conference to share a conviction that got ridiculed at the time — that the cheating story had been cooked up by St. George supporters, with media complicity, to discredit the school system and aid the breakaway campaign.

Those allegations got roundly panned at the time. The St. George campaign cooked up the story, with media complicity? How RIDICULOUS.

There was lots of commentary like this one: “The St George Backers are also to blame for Global Warming … Global Cooling … meteor showers … and solar flares with may disrupt cell phone service… Just sayin’ ….”

Nakamoto covered the Pat Smith press conference and framed her allegations as, well, simply “mystifying.” The key interview for this Nakamoto story (as with many Nakamoto stories) went to one Mssr. Lionel Rainey, who duly hit his St. George talking points. “Crazy officials, always blaming other people. One more reason to support St. George.”

Throughout all these reports, and many others on St. George, Nakamoto never bothered to disclose one rather significant fact — that he, himself, had signed the St. George petition several months earlier. He had made himself an active part of the campaign he was claiming to cover, giving unfailingly favorable treatment to the side on which he had declared himself.

(As a side note, Nakamoto didn’t wait long to get on the St. George train. He signed the petition on October 27th, 2013, only about a month after the petition drive got started. His signature is on page 66 of a petition that would eventually have 1797 pages.)

So to review …

Chris Nakamoto, in his capacity as a reporter covering St. George and related issues, turned again and again to St. George spokespeople for his leads, framing and key interviews. Months prior to covering these stories, he had become a petitioner in favor of the campaign he was covering. And despite all that, at no point did he disclose his involvement to his viewers, or even say to himself, or to his bosses, “Maybe I’m not the best guy to cover this story.”

His reporting was routinely favorable to St. George and unfavorable to its opponents and the school district. He even went so far as to cover a story that was, essentially, about himself, presenting Pat Smith (and others’) allegation that the “cheating scandal” smear, which he himself had broken, was ginned up by St. George and its media supporters as, well, just “mystifying.”

After the petition became a matter of public record, Nakamoto backed away from the St. George beat, for reasons that are presumably clear. All it would take for someone to find out the role he was playing was to do a public records request, find his name at the petition and start paying attention to his reporting.

But until that point, Nakamoto’s reporting was a poster child for what it means to breach the journalistic Code of Ethics.

And yes, there actually is such a code. It was created by the Society of Professional Journalists to articulate “the foundation of ethical journalism”. Here are a few of its mandates. Any of them sound relevant?

–Distinguish between advocacy and reporting.
–Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
–Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
–Shun political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
–Remain free of associations that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

We don’t know much about the role of the leadership of WBRZ in this affair, whether they knew about Nakamoto’s conflict, or if they did, when they found out and what, if anything, they did about it..

Whatever their role, there are two more mandates from the Journalists’ Code of Ethics, to which WBRZ ought to give some serious consideration in the coming days:

–Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.

Is Nakamoto on shaky ground having signed that petition? In the perfect journalistic world, perhaps. Does anybody really think that’s what we have?

And this is what set off the assault on Nakamoto – a story he did for WBRZ’s news broadcast last night on the argument over the signatures that were invalidated. Watch it yourself and see if you think it was slanted by today’s standards.

And then you can read this, which showed up at the Advocate’s site on Monday…

A Facebook post from April, shows St. George leaders told residents they couldn’t sign the incorporation petition unless they had been registered to vote in the area before Oct. 20, 2014 — the day the first phase of the petition was turned in to the Registrar of Voters.

This is in direct contrast to the crux of their own legal challenge, filed in state court on Friday, where St. George leaders argue that the petition to incorporate should have been validated because names were erroneously thrown out from people who weren’t registered to vote by that date. They now say there’s nothing in state law that required voters to be registered by the date the petition was turned in.

On April 13, a resident asked the group on its official public website if she could sign the petition. St. George responded, “You must have been registered in the proposed St. George limits before Oct. 20 of last year to sign. However, you will definitely be able to vote! Just make sure you register to vote.”

The group has since had a critical change of heart.

The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen wrote an entire blog post off the fact that before the registrar’s office showed itself to be suspiciously shady on the question of counting signatures according to the law, St. George actually went by what the registrar told them as to eligibility to sign a petition.

You would expect Allen to understand that a Facebook post doesn’t constitute law. If the ROV told St. George something that ultimately turned out to be false and St. George took the ROV’s word for it before having reason to doubt the assertation, that doesn’t make St. George wrong – anybody would know that.

So why is that Facebook answer news? Is the Advocate piece not a far worse violation of the journalistic ethics Better Together is whining about than Nakamoto’s piece?

Don’t expect an answer from Saul Alinsky’s illegitimate children. You’re going to get Rule #8 instead.

“Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.

They play offense. Not defense. Rebekah Allen is on her own. And Nakamoto is now the subject of Rule 13..

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.



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