03 May 2006

COMMENT: More on Taki Soma

x-posted from NEWSarama's ANALYZING THE ALLEGED MID OHIO ASSAULT:

Originally Posted by GODDARD
But to just make a few small points; the majority of Taki's reluctance to name Brownstien came from her reluctance to harm the CBLDF's reputation, a group that she has nothing but respect and appreciation for. While she knew that they were conducting an internal investigation, she did not know that funds from donations to protect comic's first amendment rights were used.
That is correct.

It was one of the biggest things we debated when she decided to come forward publicly, and while I understood both her and Ken's reluctance to involve the CBLDF -- especially since the Gordon Lee trial was about to start the Monday the column was slated to apper -- the fact of the matter is that there was no way around it, which is why she only revealed her own identity and not Brownstein's when she ultimately did come forward. Unfortunately, what's ended up happening is someone else called Brownstein out -- a point everyone should keep in mind; Michael Dean and TCJ outed him, not Taki -- and now her not pressing charges and approaching the CBLDF directly instead is being looked at suspiciously.

I'll be addressing the situation on Buzzscope (PopCultureShock) later this week [EDIT: Posted 6/5/06], as soon as my own investigation is completed, but until then, three things:

1) I would urge everyone to think twice about withdrawing their support, financial and otherwise, from the CBLDF. I am, and will remain, a member and value greatly the work they do on behalf of the First Amendment and the comics industry. While Taki may have not been satisfied with their handling of the situation, they are not the ones at fault in this situation, Brownstein is.

2) As some have alleged, Buzzscope (PopCultureShock) bears no ill will towards Brownstein or any of his well-intentioned, level-headed supporters. While Ronée has definitely been extremely passionate in her coverage of this story, to the point of inadvertently causing a few innocent bystanders to have fingers pointed in their direction (for which I, on behalf of PCS, apologized directly to the one party I'm aware of who contacted us about it**), she has been no more or less irresponsible than the average TV or newspaper pundit with an op-ed platform. Debate the quality of her writing until you're blue in the face, but don't let the message get lost because you don't like the messenger or how they delivered it. Unlike the TCJ article and, presumably, this one, her coverage was never represented as news and those who say there's no difference are either being naive or disingenuous. Mostly the latter, in my opinion.

3) Those who lost interest in this case because Brownstein wasn't the industry heavyweight everyone thought he was based on Ronée's original column should really be ashamed of themselves. Besides the the power and influence of someone in his position being subject to debate and perspective, the fact of the matter is if he were Joe Schmo at Random Indie Comics, Inc., this story would never have been touched by NEWSarama or TCJ. That in itself is a testament to his standing in the industry, if for no other reason than the position he holds within it. The fact that many people in the industry knew who he was and what had happened, even before Taki came forward publicly -- as Jim Valentino's awkward defense shows -- is just one example of the many obstacles Taki faced in trying to get her grievance addressed to her satisfaction.

**PS: As to references to Ronée and potential libel, that was looked into by both sides and, while her wording was unfortunate in its vague specificity, it wasn't libelous.

11 comments:

Erech said...

I sorta lost track of this story lately, and just caught up with that thread, and the TCJ stuff as well. Interesting how it's turned out, and much more different it did than some of us were made to believe from the jump. Aside from what I read in the What A Girl posts - but from email/IM conversations with Ronee as well, I gotta say I'm a bit turned off on how she "spun" certain things, ya know?

Op-ed or not, there was a certain vibe given in those early pieces that just didn't turn out to be true in the least, and that's seemed to be quite unfortunate for her (and the site, and you too I guess) credibility.

The backlash is a weird thing to watch too, though. Not so much supporters of CB, but people who have gone after Taki, that's just creepy to me - regardless of what you think did or didn't happen.

Didn't I hear you are posting a follow-up to all this soon, Guy?

Anonymous said...

So, you're saying Buzzscope is not better than Bill O'Reilly?

Erech said...

Dur, I did hear you were posting a follow up - right in this very post.

I'll go back to my dummy corner, now ;)

Kurt said...

Appropriate or not, it’s become fairly common for op-ed pieces to break news. I think people have a hard time distinguishing the two. But there’s a mile of rough road between commenting on previously released information and offering up that information as new and then commenting on it at the same time.

The real problem is not the relative influence Brownstein has in the industry, but the fact that Ronee chose to portray him (however anonymously) not as a one-time perpetrator but as someone with a history of this sort behavior and the incident as symptomatic of a pattern of harassment pervasive in the industry. At this point it has not been proven that he has such a history and this almost certainly was not harassment as it’s legally defined.

I understand your desire to stand behind Ronee and your original decision to publish the piece, but I also hope you’ll understand that many who see her name on the Buzzscope mast-head as the ”comics news editor” will expect a certain amount journalistic integrity when she is, in fact, breaking news – even vague news - under the Buzzscope banner, regardless of the forum.

You ask that we “don't let the message get lost because you don't like the messenger or how they delivered it.” But what was the message? That there’s a culture of sexual harassment in the industry which needs to be stopped? That there are people (men) using their positions of power to perpetrate this harassment without repercussions? I think these messages could very well be true but Ronee’s op-ed piece was certainly not proof of that, which if anything diminishes the message. If her aim was to somehow aid Taki Soma in an effort to seek redress then it is absolutely incumbent on her to get the facts as accurate as possible and show some contrition when she gets things wrong. Honestly Guy, I’m not sure the fallback “she had her heart in the right place” is acceptable in this situation.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I think the biggest problem is that there seems to be a huge assumption that the full story is now out there and thus, Ronée's allegations have been proven false, which is far from the truth. A lot of prominent people are going to be caught by surprise when the Brownstein bandwagon hits the inevitable pothole.

Ronée's reporting was definitely flawed, but based on the evidence I've seen and the actual status of Taki's case, once everything comes out, the only thing she'll legitimately be guilty of is presenting the story in such an emotional manner and, arguably, doing so too soon. I want to say more, but right now, I can't. Keep an eye on out for a statement soon, though.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Anonymous: Unfortunately, yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Buzzscope/PCS has never pretended to be The Comics Journal, and I've talked openly about why that is a few times here on the blog, most notably here.

I see it more like Image Comics, really, with our columns akin to creator-owned properties that we publish, some of which I recruited directly, and others which were already in place or came about via intriguing queries. My job as "Senior Comics Editor" is to pull together a variety of content that fulfills my vision of the site as an umbrella for a wide range of tastes, and as much as reasonably possible, make sure it goes up on time and free of typos.

Titles are a funny thing in the "for the love of it" world, and Ronée's being Comics News Editor is perhaps misleading when taken out of context, but IN the context of comics-related sites like ours, it simply means she's the person to whom press releases are sent to.

This is something that is on our list to address as part of our much-delayed relaunch -- as I mentioned in my last Establishing Shots column -- but the current dustup will likely force me to push it to the top of the list.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a load of bull.

I am so tired of the "it was an opinion piece". Information was presented as FACT that was either untrue or under dispute. She did not say "I feel that this incident took place in this manner" or "It is my opinion that no investigation is taking place".

But if you want to focus on the message of her article, here it is: there was a pervert out there and it is the responsibility of his employer to see he is dismissed. Which leaves the question: if you accept Ronee's message, how can you say it is not the CBLDF's "fault" that he is still working in the industry? It can't be Brownstein's -- he maintains that what happens was a prank and certainly not deserving of being fired.

If it was announced that the head of the Red Cross was a pedophile, I'd stop contributing and I'd tell others to do the same. If what Brownstein did was so wrong, why won't you put the financial screws on his employer? Were you not serious about doing "everything in my power to make the guilty party's life as miserable as possible"?

And once it became clear that an innocent party was being blamed for the incident, why did Buzzscope (you, really) only apologize directly? Isn't it the responsibility of the editors to let readers know when something went wrong? Why did Rich Johnson, a gossip columnist, have to clear his name?

Hey, while you are conducting your investigation, here are some questions:
1) Did Ronee ask for permission to print even the outline of her story given to her in confidence (even if Taki didn't say "Off the record"?
2) Do Buzzscope editors have ANY responsibility for the accuracy, tone, and content of what columnists on your site say? Or as long as some says "it's an opinion piece", that is good enough.
3) Does Taki feel that the type of "journalism" employed helped her cause? If not, does Buzzscope bear any responsibility to apologize to her?
4) Does Ronee know the difference between filing a police report and pressing charges?

If people are not reacting strongly enough to this story, it isn't because of the stature of the person involved. Brownstein is a plenty big fish. It is because when you hear ALL the facts it does not seem nearly as overwhelming as it was originally suggested. But don't worry - your site still probably got a lot of hits this week so you are still making money on all this. The only loser in this whole deal was the victim but I'm sure she is comforted by knowing you were only trying to help.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Anonymous: Keep an eye out for my statement which will answer many of these questions. A few, unfortunately, will have to remain unanswered until the case reaches its conclusion, either in court or via settlement.

One thing I will correct you on immediately, though, is the impression that someone is making money off of this situation. I'm most certainly not, and neither are the owners of PCS since almost all of its advertising is bartered. If anything, there's a good chance this could jeopardize our ability to barter given the perception in some quarters that we're milking this thing for attention.

Unless you're an idiot celebrity, I'm not a big believer in any press is good press, so the additional traffic that's been generated by this story isn't something that's brightening my day. You're reaching for something that's not there, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Well, first of all they aren't Ronee's allegations. From the way she presented them at TRUTH even though she was hundreds of miles away, I can see where you made that mistake. But it is Taki's allegations.

And I think a good portion of the people out there think that Taki's version is closer to the truth's than Brownstein's. Heck, I do.

But even then, many of these people are not convinced that someone should be fired for this sort of thing. Either they think it happened on his own time (should you be fired for doing something stupid last weekend?) or that some sort of administration penalty should be enough.

By the by, when to you think you will stop with the "if you knew what we knew" argument? Or the "I'd say more but I can't right now". Unless you have video, a surprise witness, or emails of Brownstein threatening Ms. Soma, nothing you say is going to significantly change any minds.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

One last thing: as to Rich Johnston clearing someone's name, in all of our discussions with that particular individual, he refused to make a statement about the case on the record. Had he offered us the same statement he gave Johnston, we would have happily run it.

I'd suggest you sit back and relax until the whole story comes out instead of playing telephone and getting the facts mixed in with a lot of rumors and assumptions.

Anonymous said...

I'll watch for that statement. But looking at my questions I can't see how ANY of them have a bearing on the case. There is no way that what Ronee or Buzzscope did or how Taki felt about could influence the case. More excuses.

And my bad if for the "you are in it for the money". But you have to admit it looks bad when one of your staff (perhaps an editor)says "we actually like getting the "hits" sparked by the less-refined, more volatile columns." If it is not for the money, is it simply ego?