Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thanks, Oregonian! Wait, Nevermind

I have a friend who I talk to now and again, who isn't really any kind of "insider." But he gave me 3rd hand information that suggested 27th HD candidate Domonic Biggi, who I'd mentioned earlier for overhyping his bio, had recently been found in contempt of court. That was the only detail.

Thanks to OJIN, which is $300 to start unless you're lucky enough to be near a county courthouse (in which case access is free) the job of verifying an idle rumor is a much simplified task: type in BIGGI, hit enter, and scroll through the listings. Friday at lunch I did that very thing. I was able to indeed find what I recall were five listings in WashCo and two in Multno. Most were all either speeding tickets or other things I don't think qualify as pertinent campaign issues.

The one I was looking for was at the bottom of the list, and indicated domestic court and the charge. The OJIN system, while effective, appears to have gotten its last technology update in 1978, but after several page-throughs I was able to verify a conviction for contempt, and judgement on punishment. I copied the case number with the help of the lovely staff at Room 210 (they lent me a pen and I stole some of their flyers as paper), and passed the baton to Carla, who got out to Hillsboro for the actual documents.

And that's what we reported: Dom Biggi was cited for contempt based on willful nonpayment of support. Here's the charge, here's the paperwork on the judgement, here's the restitution, boom. The entire point of the post was to introduce--from fully public documents--that after being nominated to represent the Republican Party (and the residents of District 27) in the Oregon Legislature, the nominee was found guilty of contempt. We think that's relevant in a campaign. Not the divorce, not whether he's now current (more on that in a minute). But it was clearly not known to the general voting public that this had happened, and it should be. We make no apology for that.

What Carla didn't mention in her piece was that Holly Danks, the Washington County Courts reporter for the Oregonian, arrived at the courthouse shortly after Carla had tipped the paper to the story. It was our intent to have the story become known, and as we were confident that all the facts needed to publish the story would be available to us first, we wanted to get them started on the story as well, ASAP. So Carla was glad to see her.

Ms. Danks flexed the new power of the paper in its online politics blog section. She reported the story after having attempted contact with both Mr. and Mrs. Biggi, something we did not do because it appeared the documents spoke for themselves. I wish I could link you to the story as we did earlier, but it's no longer there. After I saw what was written on the story, I immediately drafted an email to Ms. Danks and cited what we thought were inaccuracies--first of all, I believe the headline was "Candidate's Ex-Wife Disputes Child Support Story."

Forgive us for taking that a little personally! We're named as the source of the story, and here it's being said that Mrs. Biggi disputes it. What Danks had done was to ask Ms. Biggi whether her ex husband owed any money. From the time of the initial judgement in May, it turns out that he had caught up to his obligations. Now, would that have been interesting or useful information to have and report? Yes it would have. But being current after getting held in contempt for not being current, strikes us as about the least he could do (under penalty of imprisonment one surmises).

So it's great news that Biggi's children now have what they need and deserve to be cared for, financially speaking. Reporting that point would have been a good way for Danks to advance the story while magnanimously giving LO the credit for breaking it (which we are grateful that she did, nonetheless). But we never said he wasn't caught up; we never asked.

So how can Ms. Biggi be 'disputing' us? We said her husband had been found in contempt in May for not paying support. Not only did she not dispute us, she said in almost as many words, "Well, yes--but he's paid me back now." I mean, she can hardly deny that it's true--she's almost certainly seen the same documents we posted on the case. She's just defending her husband's quick turnaround, which is pretty magnanimous on her part if you ask me. Carla later did actually speak with Ms. Biggi, and explained that we never came close to claiming that Biggi was still in arrears. Carla tells me she thinks Biggi accepted that explanation.

Having made all this clear to Danks, we also sent our concerns to members of The O's editorial staff, who contacted us--and afterwards pulled the entire piece Saturday afternoon, apparently for review but without a withdrawal notice. Which means The O's staff gets kudos for being very responsive to uppity bloggers like us, but in a sign of their relative newbieness to blogging, they failed to leave a "we pulled something" sign to occupy the space as netiquette dictates. (Ironically, they commented earlier in the day on a Blue Oregon contributor pulling a cartoon nobody liked, and BO staff commenting on that comment. So they really should know how it's properly done.)

We do hope the paper will return with a more developed story--perhaps even in print this time-- which we would be happy to credit them for and cite in this space. And Ms. Danks, should you be reading this, we'd love to talk to you, too. We can help each other, I bet. We welcome your response in comments, or via email at loadedorygun -at- gmail -dot- com. (That goes for everybody!)

Update, 315pm--

As helpfully noted in the comments, the story is back. The inaccurate headline is gone, but the rest of the story is almost exactly the same. I think there is still some slant to the presentation of the article, so as to make it seem like everything's OK because Biggi has paid his wife and kids like he was ordered to--but the principal facts of the story are rendered correctly, and it doesn't say we've been disputed anymore, so we'll stop bitching now. Thanks to The O for correcting the headline.