So the past month has been a pretty busy one for me.
Dylan Goforth and I broke a national story after we learned from sources that training records for Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates had been falsified and supervisors had been transferred because they wouldn’t go along with it.
For the first time ever, my byline appeared on a story based completely on anonymous sources. I knew it was correct because five sources had told us in detail what happened, but I still felt like I was sitting out there on the journalistic equivalent of a limb.
Dylan and I appeared on countless national TV shows to discuss our reporting. Just like after covering the Lockett execution, I learned some of the people who schedule guests on cable TV shows can be very pushy. For the most part, it’s pretty cool to be on national TV because all your friends and family are impressed and finally know what you actually do.
Then, I left my job at the Tulsa World after 20 years to start a new one — a digital news website that’s a totally new model as far as I can tell — along with three other reporters from the World.
Hours after we had packed up our boxes and gotten new phones, Cary Aspinwall and I learned we were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting.
Nearly at the same time, a misleading story appeared in Talking Points Memo (picked up by Fox News) that Dylan Goforth and I had resigned “suddenly” from the newspaper, implying this was due to concerns about our reporting. (Never mind that Cary and Kevin Canfield left with us, and that a URL for our new site, www.readfrontier.com, had been reserved months in advance.)
Apparently a lot of people read Talking Points Memo, even though they don’t work very hard to get the facts right, at least not in this case. After a trove of documents came out backing our initial story, we asked them to correct their story suggesting that the World didn’t stand behind our reporting — but they refused.
I was thankful that industry guru Jim Romenesko got it right in a column that same day, explaining that the Bates story had nothing to do with our departure. In fact, the World wrote a very nice editorial congratulating us on being named Pulitzer finalists, noting that many other World staffers had a role in our stories on the Lockett execution.
During the hubbub over the Pulitzer and the Talking Points Memo stories, nobody could reach us because we had new phones and no access to corporate email. So I didn’t get most of the nice texts and emails that colleagues, friends and family sent after the news broke.
About a week after all of that happened, I had the tremendous honor of covering the Supreme Court hearing on Oklahoma’s death penalty case. (Thanks to Oklahoma Watch for the freelance assignment.)
A lot of people have asked me what it’s like to cover the Supreme Court.
Basically they put the 30 or so reporters covering the hearing into smaller groups with some getting the best seats and others having no view of the justices, though they can still hear the audio. I was given a good seat with a view of three justices.
The side we were on was separated from the main gallery by heavy velvet drapes. You have to be extremely quiet and sit in a tiny chair packed in with other reporters hanging on every word. The experienced reporters know which voice belongs to which justice and that news is passed down along the line.
The justices cut off the attorneys for each side quickly, asking questions they already know the answer to in an effort to sway the swing votes — in this case a single vote — on the court.
The level of intellect in the room is dizzying. I had the feeling that at any moment, they would drag me out of there when they figured out who I was.
Whew! What a month.
Oh, also my youngest son is graduating from Jenks High School today.
More about that in my next blog.