18 August, 2007

Shedding Light on Pitch Darkness (or, You Dirty Pitch)

[This post originally appeared on my MySpace blog, which no longer exists. The date of the original posting has been lost.]

On 21 May, at 6:00 AM, a short, crude write-up about my MySpace presence appeared on pitch.com, the online version of a free Kansas City weekly. Of its perhaps five hundred words, slightly more than half are the author's own. The rest are quotes, either from this blog or from the Pitch's original article about my case (a sensationalist front-page piece ominously titled "Cemetery Plot," which appeared in the paper five years ago). The author's half, such as it is, consists of hastily-drawn conclusions and trite observations unbecoming a man who presumably boasts the title "journalist." Still, it raised some eyebrows.

The author, one Peter Rugg, first met my mother at a recent benefit for the Midwestern Innocence Project, where they spoke for a time about my case. Mr. Rugg wanted information too detailed for my mother to outline, so she handed him a flier and directed him to FreeByronCase.com to do his homework. A few days later, he sent her an e-mail requesting she call him. He wanted to discuss a short piece he was planning for the paper. She immediately left a message on his voicemail including her home and mobile telephone numbers. The next week, the piece appeared on the paper's website.

This marks at least the fourth occasion on which the Pitch has in some way referenced me or my case in the last five years. At least the prior three had the benefit of being somewhat researched. Besides falling back on that 2002 story as a source, Mr. Rugg further phoned it in (or, to be more accurate, didn't) by utterly neglecting to contact any of the people he accuses of associating with a sociopath. Evidently, crafting a well-informed piece wasn't high on his list of priorities. He even blatantly mistook the context of two of the three quotes lifted from my blog entries.

Truth be told, there are numerous details of Mr. Rugg's piece with which I take issue. Some are small and petty, such as his reference to "a chicken carcass impaled on the hood of [my] car." Others are far more substantial: I do not identify with a majority of my fellow inmates quite simply because a majority of my fellow inmates are (it may surprise him to know) murderers, child molesters, rapists, kidnappers, and, yes, sociopaths. I'm curious to know how well Mr. Rugg might adjust to the social scene of a maximum-security institution, given similar circumstances. Without knowing the man, or so much as speaking to him (might as well return the disfavor, after all), I am going to guess he wouldn't exactly turn into a social butterfly.

Due to the unexpected criticism that the piece drew, the Pitch's editor, Eric Barton, has asked whether my mother would consent to a podcast interview. She has agreed under the condition she be allowed to bring her own recording device as something of a safeguard against misrepresentation.

The question, then, is this: is the Pitch finally attempting to right its previous journalistic wrongs by presenting another view of the story, or is this just another ruse by a second-rate tabloid? We'll soon know for sure.