Inconvenient truths

Mark Winne, WSB

Sidestepping an inconvenient fact: Mark Winne, WSB

Mark Winne is a proud man, and he should be.  Winne does a lot of good work as one of WSB’s investigative reporters.  He’s done some of that work with the help of Terrell Bolton, DeKalb County’s police chief.  Bolton gave Winne an exclusive last year when Bolton decided he needed to arm his cops with tasers.  Winne has had other insider access to DeKalb PD investigators, doubtless with Bolton’s blessing.   And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Winne’s job is to cultivate relationships with folks who can help him break news.

But Winne’s pride is preventing him from telling the full story of Bolton’s embattled relationship with his new boss, DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.  Last week, Ellis suspended Bolton from his job.  Winne, as well as reporters from the AJC, have played the Ellis / Bolton tug-of-war as a generic power struggle.  But the essence of the power struggle is a result of a series of stories produced by Dale Russell, WAGA’s chief investigative reporter — and Winne’s professional arch rival.

Terrell Bolton with Dale Russell, WAGA

Terrell Bolton with Dale Russell, WAGA

Take this story, produced on the fateful day that Ellis suspended Bolton.  In it, Winne never mentions that Ellis is investigating Bolton’s use of comp time — the key issue that has put Bolton in Ellis’s cross-hairs.  Why not?  Probably because Russell was the first to raise that issue, based on a series of Open Records Act requests.  Russell showed Bolton had taken dozens of comp days, despite a DeKalb County policy denying such perks for higher-ups like police chiefs. Russell’s story from the same day appears here.

Russell and Winne have a competitive history in Atlanta that goes back decades.  The two men once got in a physical confrontation while covering a story and had to be separated by their photogs.  They were both much, much younger then.

Sometimes the AJC will cite original reporting done in other media outlets, but the AJC has been oddly unwilling to cite Russell’s work in what has become a major story that got feature-length treatment Sunday.  Local TV almost never directly cites the reporting of a competitor.   But the Open Records Act information on Bolton’s comp time is available to anybody, including Winne.  Winne’s refusal to fully explore the issue leaves his viewers with vagaries about a “power struggle.”

Somewhere within his über-competitive heart, Winne knows that Russell got the goods on Bolton.  All Winne has, at least on this story, is his stubborn pride.

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This entry was posted in russell, WAGA, winne watch, WSB on by .

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

2 thoughts on “Inconvenient truths

  1. Open+Transparent

    Great post. The AJC has not covered any of the specifics of the ridiculous Bolton transfers of veteran officers. It’s a big, big part of this mess. And they have ignored the whole police dept. civilian employee issue, with them getting take home cars and other perks. David Simpson has rightfully been accused of being way too chummy with Vernon Jones and TeBo (Bolton). The AJC’s coverage of DeKalb is horrendous these days.

    Reply
  2. Jay

    I second that notion of the AJC’s horrendous coverage of DeKalb. Bolton’s actions and the possibly $100 million missing from the Recorder’s Court each deserve far more coverage than they gotten so far in the AJC. In all the cutbacks the AJC has made they’ve reduced their news coverage area but sure haven’t improved their reporting in the remaining core counties they cover. Blogs by DeKalb citizens, such as DeKalb Officers and DeKalb School Watch, provide better coverage of the police and school system than the AJC or Creative Loafing.

    Dale Russell has owned the Bolton story. I guess since Winne seems to only know how to buddy up to the cops, he can’t figure out how to report something negative about them. God forbid if Rosa Quintana is ever the subject of an investigation! Kudos to Russell and the owner of the DeKalb Officers blog for keeping this story in the public eye. Adam Murphy and Wendy Saltzman should be taking notes on how to be fair, persistent, thorough, able to strike the right tone for that story, and most of all deliver the goods without the overkill. And how come WGCL isn’t asking Bolton or Judge Joy Walker the “tough questions”? And I’ll leave WXIA out of it since there’s no “poignant” angle to be had, unless they want to focus on Bolton’s diabetes.

    Reply

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