Judge Strickland Saffold's Lawsuit: Open Letter to the Plain Dealer

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 The Plain Dealer's Coverage Of The Law Suit Against It Raises Questions.

Dear Plain Dealer,

I understand that this is a one newspaper town, but in the age of internet news reporting, I am left with questions as to why The Plain Dealer has continued to leave out some of the same facts reported by other news outlets, particularly those facts, that in my opinion, are not favorable to the Plain Dealer.  Maybe you will print this letter in the same spot that you printed what amounted to your press release; maybe you will bury this letter; or maybe you will not print it at all.  I think that any news organization with a shred of journalistic integrity and ethics, would not only give it the same coverage, but would respond directly to the questions that I, and suspect many others have.

  • Why did the Plain Dealer report that I declined to comment after I said, "The Plain Dealer is an adverse party in active litigation and I will talk directly with your attorneys when they enter an appearance."?  Isn't that a comment?
  • Why has the Plain Dealer opted to not reveal the name of the anonymous "on-line editor"?  Was he promised anonymity?  Isn't his identity now newsworthy?  Why isn't the same right of privacy versus public interest analysis being used by the Plain Dealer when one of its own is in the spot light?
  • Why didn't the Plain Dealer seek a quote from Advance, who should have been guarding the confidential information?
  • As Judge Strickland Saffold and Sydney are disputing what the Plain Dealer reported that they said in their voluntary interviews, will the Plain Dealer release the tapes of the interviews and show all the information that was withheld?
  • Why did the Plain Dealer quote inapplicable portions of the Privacy Statement, but omit that the Privacy Statement really says that "personally identifying information is protected" and contains promises to "protect your privacy"?  Was that balanced reporting?
  • Why does the Plain Dealer continually omit that the only letter in the AOL email address used to create the lawmiss account was "O" for Oscar Saffold?  Doesn't this contradict the Plain Dealer's repeated assertion that it was Judge Saffold's "personal" email account, as you keep reporting?
  • While the Plain Dealer reported that three comments were posted using the lawmiss account while a courthouse computer was logged into the site, why has the Plain Dealer withheld that the same records showing that the computer was left on for long periods of time, including connections to Cleveland.com in the middle of the night when no one was there?
  • Why has the Plain Dealer not reported that the comments about Mr. Sims did not come from a courthouse computer, as it acknowledge to ABC News and was reported in the same article that the Plain Dealer now quotes?
  • While borrowing sections from the ABC national news report by Brennan McCord and Eamon McNiff, why did the Plain Dealer opt not to use the following sections?

Michael Fertik, author of the book "Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier" and creator of Reputation Defender, a company specializing in helping people combat libel online, cautioned against a rush to judgment in this case.

"Online forensics are tough to do right. There is certainly more investigation that needs to be done before this case can be declared closed," Fertik told ABC News. "Depending on how the judge's computers are configured, several computers could appear to share an IP address. Many comment systems can also be hacked by malicious users who would to frame an innocent party."

Fertik said so-called "impersonation attacks" are among the most dangerous to a person because it is nearly impossible to prove you didn't leave a comment attributed to your e-mail account or an IP address associated with you, both of which can be manipulated.

"All too often online, many bloggers and Internet commenters will see just one piece of evidence and rush to judgment. The pitchforks and torches are out long before anything can be verified," Fertik said.

  • Why did the Plain Dealer selectively chose not to report that in the case against Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr., who is better known as blogger Perez Hilton, The United States District Court For The Central District Of California granted Diane Wargo's motion to enforce the conditions of use and compelled arbitration, holding "courts have held that a party's use of a website may be sufficient to give rise to an inference of assent to the terms of use contained therein"?  Did you intend to mislead its readers into thinking that claim failed when it had not?

Again, if the Plain Dealer opts to "no comment", it should, in my humble opinion, at least let its readers know that it has chosen not to publically answer these questions. I am, as I'm sure are many others are, looking to see if and how you choose to move forward.

Brian D. Spitz
The Spitz Law Firm, LLC
Attorney For Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold
And Sydney Saffold

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