Thursday, August 30, 2007

Richard Jewell, the security guard wrongly accused in the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, died yesterday at 44.

Jewell had a lawsuit pending against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for its reporting on the event, and the AJC just couldn't help but to try to make its case by shouting while standing on the dead man's grave:

After (Jewell) was cleared, Jewell sued the AJC and other media outlets for libel, arguing that their reports defamed him. Several news organizations settled, including NBC and CNN.

The Journal-Constitution did not settle. The newspaper has contended that at the time it published its reports Jewell was a suspect, so the articles were accurate. The newspaper also has asserted that it was not reckless or malicious in its reports regarding Jewell. Much of Jewell's case was dismissed last year. One claim, based on reports about a 911 call, is pending trial.

However, Jewell's death Wednesday "is not a day to consider lawsuits, rather a day to pay respect," said John Mellott, AJC publisher.

"Richard Jewell was a hero, as we all came to learn," Mellott said. "The story of how Mr. Jewell moved from a suspect in the Centennial Park bombing to recognition as a security guard who averted a greater tragedy is one The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported fully even as it defended itself in a libel suit brought by him.

So, it's not a day to consider lawsuits, John -- but it is a day to insert yourself unnecessarily into a story. Nice.

I also find it difficult to reporters Mike Morris and Jeffry Scott would have put this tripe in on their own. Did AJC management have that bit about not settling all cooked up and waiting for the day Jewell died, ready to be dropped in to the obit?


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Act I, Scene I

At RISE: A young man in a Mets uniform stands in front of a boardroom filled with milled-aged men and women in suits. He shifts from foot to foot nervously and holds something tightly in his right hand. A distinguished man at the head of the table clears his throat.

DISTINGUISHED MAN: So, you say you have a proposal for us?

MURPHY: I do. I'd like you to rent me and this baseball for one year.

(general murmurs and quiet laughs from around the room)

DM: Why would we do that, Mr. Murphy? We already pay a princely sum to have the naming rights to the stadium where Mr. Bonds hit No. 756. PacBell's name has been mentioned in the news in the last seven days more than Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton combined.

We've also discussed the possibility of buying the ball from you and displaying it in our corporate headquarters, but have rejected that notion. We feel our customers would view it as wasteful spending.

MURPHY: I'm sure that's true, sir, but hear me out. What I'm proposing is a goodwill tour for the ball and myself, one that would generate immeasurable publicity and goodwill for Pacific Bell at a limited cost -- a cost of $2M.

(Startled grunts from those assembled. Murphy holds up the ball and the room settles)

DM: Mr. Murphy, did you think we didn't research the value of the ball? Todd McFarlane's ridiculous $3M purchase of Mark McGwire's 70th is a thing of the past. We feel you'd be lucky to get $500,000 for that.

MURPHY: I think I'd get somewhere in that vicinity, sir, and if you accept my proposal, that's exactly what I'll get. But I'm not selling you the ball, as I said. I'm renting it -- and myself -- to you. For one year.

See, this whole idea of putting the ball up for auction makes me uncomfortable. I know it's the best way to get the most value for the ball -- but what happens to it then? I'm a fan of the game, not some huckster. I want people to be able to enjoy it in at least some small part the way I have for the past week.

That's why I came to you. For $2M you get the ball -- and me -- for one year. We tour the U.S., Japan, Sierra Leone, wherever your public relations staff says we should go. We make a roadshow of it -- let people see the ball, get close to the ball. Maybe the Hall of Fame would get involved, make a History of the Homer caravan. Ruth's bat, Baker's cleats, Reggie's wristbands. And on the side of the semi is "Proudly Presented by PacBell".

At the outset, every newspaper and network in the country, maybe the world, would run a story about how PacBell is taking the ball around the world. Then each city's papers and stations would cover the events. You'd get one full year's worth of great publicity.

DM: Intriguing. But you said you wouldn't be selling us the ball. So you'd keep it?

MURPHY: No sir. At the end of the tour, you'd have two choices -- donate the ball to the Hall of Fame, or present it to Bonds before the last home game of the 2008 season.

It's the whole reason I'm doing this. I'd like to get some financial security out of this -- I'd be foolish not to do so. But I can also help out baseball, get the ball in the hands of someone who will deserve it and share it, and possibly help you out in the deal. Where's the downside?

DM: Why $2M? I thought you said you'd receive around $500,000 if we agreed to your proposal?

MURPHY: I would. You would also sign two cheques before I start the tour -- one in the amount of $500,000 to the charity of Barry's choice, and the other for $1M to the Negro League Baseball Players Association.

I do have one other request, though.

DM: What is that?

MURPHY: I'd like a job in your marketing department.

DM: (shakes head)

Pretty slick.

(turns to rest of room)

What do you all think?

(heads nod throughout room)

Son, I think we have a deal.

(lights fade and curtain closes)