Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cayetano vs Civil Beat Update: Mayoral Candidate Refuses To Talk with Investigative Journalist, Tells Reporter: ‘I Don’t Want You To Call Me Anymore’; Will Journalist Group File a Protest?

Civil Beat is an innovative online news service and well worth the monthly subscription price if you’re public affairs oriented and value in-depth reporting. CB is less than a year old and won the “Best Overall News Site” award from the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Although the site is free to occasional visitors, it’s a sure bet that the vast majority of Oahu residents don’t subscribe and therefore aren’t exposed to some of the best investigative reporting in Hawaii, including the site’s in-depth coverage of the Honolulu rail project.

Former governor and mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano – who one recent poll said is the leading candidate – doesn’t like Civil Beat’s rail coverage, which has included Fact Checks of Mr. Cayetano’s statements about rail and those of his fellow anti-rail plaintiffs in a lawsuit to kill the project.

Civil Beat gave the Gang of Four’s August 20th commentary in the Star-Advertiser a barely passing grade when it fact-checked seven check-able statements in the piece. We think a Half True is also a Half False, so Civil Beat's final tally was two True, Two False and three Half False – not a good score for a Gang that includes three lawyers.

“Don’t Call me, OK?’
Mr. Cayetano is running for mayor on one issue – rail, although he regularly denies he’s a one-issue candidate (MidWeek’s Bob Jones doesn’t agree). Michael Levine is CB’s rail reporter, so Mr. Cayetano has decided to not talk to Mr. Levine because of his inquisitivve reporting style.

CB first reported last week on Mr. Cayetano’s refusal to talk with him or answer his questions. Mr. Levine thought he’d try to get past this new “Berlin Wall” by calling Mr. Cayetano’s cell phone yesterday to offer him an opportunity to comment on Mayor Peter Carlisle’s State of the City address, which was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Thinking Civil Beat won’t mind, here’s their entire conversation for the benefit of those who don’t visit the CB website:

Levine: Governor, this is Michael Levine from Civil Beat. How are you doing today?

Cayetano: Hey, Mike. Don’t call me, OK?

Levine: Sorry, governor, I had a question for you. I’m not sure if you saw my email the other day…

Cayetano: (interrupting) No, no, no, no. I told you guys, I don’t want you to call me anymore.

Levine: OK.


Hello, SPJ?
As a former City Hall reporter who once was barred from attending Mayor Frank Fasi’s press conferences until a federal judge ordered otherwise, we think it’s a big deal when a major candidate for mayor refuses to talk to or answer questions posed by a legitimate journalist.

When Mr. Cayetano does that, he’s also shutting out the public, since journalists are the public’s eyes and ears – and sometimes the nose – of individual citizens. Mr. Cayetano’s thin-skinned response to Civil Beat’s reporting smells.

Mr. Levine’s questions in the weeks ahead quite reasonably would includes inquiries about Mr. Cayetano’s transportation plan that he has yet to articulate in anything resembling acceptable detail in the five weeks since his official campaign announcement.

Here’s a question for the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists: What's your move? Will Mr. Cayetano’s remarkable anti-transparency refusal to talk to Michael Levine prompt a protest from your organization? Will Media Council Hawaii take note? Will local media boycott the Cayetano campaign until the candidate starts talking to Civil Beat's reporter again?

The public has a stake in the Cayetano Contretemps Caper, and Yes2Rail will continue to follow its developments.

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