Impunity

A Response to the Washington Blade

Kevin;

We’ve followed the Blade’s coverage of the Robert Wone murder from the beginning and have found it of great help in understanding the events of that night.  You should be proud of what your reporters have accomplished.  Thus it’s with concern we noted your most recent blog post, “Queerty Points Fingers In Wone Killing.”

Finger pointing aside, we take exception with your characterization of our efforts.  “The reality for actual journalists,” you write, “unlike bloggers, is that we can’t accuse someone of murder with impunity, which is happening on the new Wone blog.”

First – and irony of posting this on the Blade blog aside – the editors have never accused anyone of murder.  That is for the courts and the legal system.  We would ask you to cite any of our posts blaming or accusing any individual or group of murder but won’t; largely because no such post exists.  Going back to our very first post:

“This blog seeks the truth about and justice for the unsolved murder of Robert Wone. To fulfill this blog’s mission, it will compile all of the available information surrounding his murder. This blog takes NO OPINION on who murdered Robert Wone, but rather seeks to present all available evidence, information, articles which will allow reasonable people to draw their own conclusions.”

Second, while we may be new to the blog world, we’re hardly novices in journalism and media.  We’ve never found credential size contests productive so rather would only ask you to note our combined experience in leading media and journalistic enterprises: C-SPAN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Voice of America, National Public Radio, and the Christian Science Monitor.  We won’t continue.

Lastly, while true the Blade – along with other Washington gay and mainstream media – have provided coverage of the Wone murder it’s clear to any observer that the case, and it’s coverage, have largely languished over two and 1/2 years.  This hardly surprises us.  With time the case faded from reporter’s radars.  News costs money; resources for investigative coverage are scarce.  It’s hard to cover a case, no matter how worthy, once it starts to go cold.  The Wone story was an orphan that neither the prosecution or the press really ever wanted.

Enter four amateur gay sleuths.  The only resources of concern: our time and curiosity.  We’re not here to try and convict anyone; that’s for the courts.  We’re here to cite, accumulate and hopefully augment the work of other reporters following the case.

Respectfully;

Craig Brownstein, David Greer, Doug Johnson, Michael Kremin

16 comments for “Impunity

  1. Lance
    02/25/2009 at 1:48 AM

    While technically true that “This blog takes NO OPINION”, it’s also the case that the Blade’s assertion that “accus[ing] someone of murder with impunity…is happening on the new Wone blog” is more hyperbole than falsehood. As the Queerty article has it,

    The four maintain that their only goal is to get to the bottom of the case and that they have not judged the defendants or made up their minds. Although Doug pipes up, “Some of us have!”

    then citing “Doug’s latest blog post”:

    Try as I might, I cannot see how this makes any sense, even presuming the absolute best of the defendants.

    That’s not a literal accusation, but it’s not far from it; it’s certainly far, far less neutral than a newspaper reporter is allowed to be. Even “[finding] Price’s sex profiles online and decipher[ing] his online screen name” are farther than I think an investigative journalist can go: even if the former is justifiable as somehow relevant, the latter–the “deciphering”–amounts to nothing more than guesswork and speculation. (For all we know, “Culuket” is nothing more than a near-anagram of “cute Luke” and is a pseudonym that Price has used since he named his first Dungeons and Dragons character “Culuket” back when he had a crush on Tom Wopat in junior high school.)

    And certainly the recent “oh Price says he’s so poor huh?” posts have taken a tone that’s far more pointed than it is neutral, far more accusatory than merely interested in the facts.

    All of which is to say that the blog does indeed go farther, in many ways, than a newspaper can go–even, I think, in a blog on the newspaper’s site. The Blade may have exaggerated, but not without cause.

    • David
      02/25/2009 at 9:31 AM

      Lance,

      You offer a very detailed analysis of the “Culuket” name. Do you know if in fact that is the basis of where the name came from? If so, if you would be willing to confirm, we would create a post to that effect. If the Culuket name is innoucuous then we would definitely put it forward.

      David

      • Lance
        02/25/2009 at 8:54 PM

        I did offer a very detailed analysis of the “Culuket” name. I also made it up whole cloth; I have no idea if Joseph Price ever played D&D or watched The Dukes of Hazzard. (I’ve never met him.)

        My point was that I was able to devise a wholly innocuous derivation via speculation–and that it’s no better or worse than the non-innocuous derivation that was put forward in an earlier post, also arrived at via speculation.

        To pick another point that you made about the name:

        The fact that he used the Culuket name as his above board, public, regular e-mail address to chat about such mundane things as street repairs seems to show he wanted to bring his private life into his public life in a very clever, yet hidden way…

        This presupposes that (a) “Culuket” is private/sexual in nature, and (b) it was a private-life name that he took to his public life. If I were to set up a profile on, say, eHarmony, I’d probably do it under the name that serves as my email address–but that isn’t me making my private life public, it’s just me using my general public username for something private as well. I don’t see any indication that that’s not what happened here.

        Anyway, that’s my point: that in the “Culuket” posts, y’all took speculation, put it forward as fact (“the Culuket name shows Joe Price’s interest in sex and drugs”), and then drew further conclusions from that “fact” (such as the one block-quoted above). And that’s not the kind of thing a newspaper reporter can do. Nor, frankly, is it the kind of think a blog with “no opinion” should do.

        • David
          02/25/2009 at 11:29 PM

          Lance,

          All the points you make are great, and we welcome your criticism. One exception to your points is that we put it forward as fact. In the post about defining culuket we said this was the best definition that we have yet, which is not putting it forward as fact. And we ended the post by saying that if a better definition comes along, we would be willing to post that one as well. And on the entry on how Joe Price used the culuket name, you are correct that it presupposes that the culuket name is private/sexual in nature because that is the best definition that we had at that point. I don’t think, however, that it means we ever offered it as fact.

          Your idea of the anagram is a good one, but since you have now admitted that it don’t know Joe, or whether he was into D&D, or watched Dukes of Hazzard, that seems less likely, though certainly not out of the real of possibility. When I said that this definition held water we were basing our opinion on what we had that is publicly available. Because of your astute comments, we will make sure to do a much better job of prefacing our analysis with clarifiers so as not to make any analysis on the site appear as fact. Thank you. David

          • Lance
            02/26/2009 at 7:41 AM

            David,

            You’re right that “Culuket defined makes it clear that the proposed derivation is simply a theory.

            But with all due respect, the “window into his character” goes beyond saying “this theory holds water”, and it goes beyond considering what it would mean if it were true; it makes claims based on the fact that it is true. I don’t see how one can say “the Culuket name shows Joe Price’s interest in sex and drugs” without taking as a fact that “Culuket” has a sex-and-drug-based derivation, or that “because it was so difficult to determine, people would not notice its meaning in a broader e-mail setting” without taking as a fact that it has that meaning.

            • L.
              02/26/2009 at 10:16 AM

              What meaning do you think it has?

              • Lance
                02/26/2009 at 1:27 PM

                Wow, you’re missing the point, aren’t you. I have no idea what meaning it has. Neither does anyone else here, except by guesswork.

                • L.
                  02/26/2009 at 1:45 PM

                  Its a damn good guess.

            • L.
              02/26/2009 at 10:17 AM

              Joe is that you?

    • I know who did it
      02/25/2009 at 9:33 AM

      I agree with everything said by Lance. But I don’t necessarily think that suggests the blog or its editors are more or less “valuable” for the points made by Lance. fact.

      The beauty of a blog is that it is free from some of the rules of more formal print media (although presumably subject to anti-defamation laws, etc., in a similar way), you as editors have more freedom to ask open-ended questions and solicit theories, guesses, etc.

      That to me is the value of this exercise.

      Let’s acknowledge that there are maybe different roles here for different entities… the Blade has done a FANTASTIC job of reporting the Wone killing and its developments.

      This blog is doing a great job of keeping the killing at the forefront of people’s minds and may help over time to bring new theories or facts to greater light.

      Kudos to all!

    • J. Edgar
      02/25/2009 at 9:58 AM

      These guys might not be perfect Lance but I think you’re splitting hairs on this. Anyone who has no opinion on this case either hasn’t taken the time to read up on it or is blissfully ignorant.

      As to the intruder theory being ripe for discussion which I think is, the original affidavit even quotes all three roommates admitting to the detectives, “..that the ‘intruder’ theory was implausibe and made absolutely no sense.”

      • Lance
        02/25/2009 at 8:58 PM

        I know that everyone’s bound to have an opinion. (Based on the username, J. Edgar, I’m assuming you’ve wiretapped my phone and already know my opinion…wait, sorry, right, not drawing conclusions from usernames.)

        The point, however, is that a journalist is obligated to keep that opinion out of her professional writing.

  2. MissE
    02/25/2009 at 10:41 AM

    The Blade’s response to Queerty and the creation of whomurderedrobertwone.com seemed less about protecting journalistic standards and more about the Blade’s fear that another media outlet may steal the spotlight.

    Given the complicated nature of the Wone case, and the length of time that’s passed since Wone’s murder, the increased scrutiny provided by Queerty, the Blade, these bloggers, or anyone else interested in helping solve the case is welcome.

  3. L.
    02/25/2009 at 2:21 PM

    Can you post an artilce asking for people’s theories so we can help solve the crime?

  4. David
    02/25/2009 at 4:10 PM

    Too bad they weren’t a cbl (college boys live) house with cameras in every room. Hey, maybe there’s a thermal imaging film file out there somewhere! It is Washington, after all.

  5. ladydetective
    02/26/2009 at 5:17 PM

    Guess work is at the heart of what solves crime cases.

Comments are closed.