Thursday, February 18, 2010

MZ. UNDERSTOOD: Couldn't play dumb

Today was the last day for Mz. Understood on The Victoria Advocate. Her demise was brought on because of a response to an article about plagiarism. Aprill Brandon wrote an article concerning plagiarism and how it isn't a good thing, but her generation has been doing this lazy act for some time.

Mz. Understood was shocked that Chris Cobler allowed Aprill to write an article concerning this issue. Surely, he realized that this "hot topic" would garner some responses from readers.

One of the favorite bloggers on the website is known for plagiarism and yet he is allowed to post and post and post. He doesn't cite his sources and puts blogs out there. At first, Mz. Understood didn't even address this blogger, until her original comment was deleted. The original comment dealt with Chris Cobbler's past somewhat shady employment record. Taking a direct quote from an interview with Mr. Cobler and reprinting it in the comment section was all that it took for the delete button to be pushed. I have included this information on this site, as it won't be deleted:

Ultra-bizarre item of the day:
"The Greeley Tribune says it will end a years-old practice of copying stories from competing newspapers and falsely labeling them as Associated Press dispatches. "That's clearly a very bad journalism practice," admits Tribune publisher Steve Weaver. He says the practice began several years ago under editor Chris Cobler, who was just named Poynter Online managing editor."

A February 23 blog concerned an admission by folks at the Greeley Tribune that they'd routinely published reports from other area newspapers under an Associated Press byline without going through the AP. The Trib's article about this practice noted that it had begun under the editorshop of Chris Cobler (pictured), who had recently been named the managing editor of Poynter Online, the Internet branch of the Poynter Institute, a Florida school that places an enormous emphasis on ethics.
Things have changed for Cobler since then. Today, Poynter's journalism-news page, overseen by Jim Romenesko, posted a memo from Poynter Online editor Bill Mitchell noting that Cobler would no longer be coming aboard.

Here's the text of Mitchell's note:

We've come to the mutual conclusion with Chris Cobler that he should not take up his position as managing editor of Poynter Online.

Since word of the improper usage of AP material by the Greeley Tribune first came to our attention last week, we have done our best to make sense of the conflicting reports about just what happened. We have not been able to satisfy ourselves that we have a clear picture of what Chris's role may or may not have been.

In the course of interviewing many of his current and former colleagues and competitors over the last several days, we heard much that confirmed our initial judgment of Chris as an extraordinarily talented and accomplished journalist well suited for a leadership position at Poynter. At the same time, Chris agrees that our inability to resolve doubts that have arisen would make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to succeed in the job.

We appreciate the concern that Chris has expressed that his hiring not call into question the ideals that Poynter strives to reflect.

Because we found ourselves in the unusual circumstance of dealing with questions raised publicly about someone we had already hired but who had not yet reported for work, it's important that we be as forthcoming as appropriate about how we've resolved the situation. We've tried to do that above, and will not be making any comments beyond this statement. The Institute has a longstanding policy and practice of not discussing personnel matters.

We wish the best for Chris and his family.


This decision was no doubt unpleasant for Cobler, but it only enhances Poynter's reputation. There's no question that the Tribune's policy regarding AP reprints was beyond dubious, and because it happened on Cobler's watch, he would have arrived at his new job already under an ethical cloud. And when it rains, it pours. -- Michael Roberts
More Messages: Copy Cats
By Michael Roberts in More MessagesFriday, Feb. 23 2007 @ 10:31AMThe motto that's affixed to the Greeley Tribune's logo is "Your Home, Your News." But while the first part of the slogan makes sense, the second half is a bit dubious when viewed in the context of "Tribune Puts a Stop to Questionable Practice," an embarrassing article/confession that appears in today's edition of the newspaper.

According to reporter Sharon Dunn, who apparently drew the short straw and was stuck trying to put the best face on this mess, the Tribune has gone well beyond reprinting stories from other Associated Press-member newspapers with an AP byline -- something that's done routinely throughout the industry. "In some instances," Dunn writes, "the Tribune would forego AP's filter, running other member stories with AP bylines that hadn't been processed through the wire organization."

In other words, folks at the Trib would see pieces they liked in rival papers such as the Loveland Reporter-Herald; a Herald editor issued the complaints that finally brought the matter to a head. Then, instead of waiting until the AP made them available, or asking representatives there to put them in the hopper, they'd slap them in their paper and call it a day.

The problems with this methodology are off the chart, so it's no surprise that Dunn's report has generated a hefty number of comments on the Trib's website. An example: "Too bad the 'quality we enjoy' came from the Fort Collins and Loveland papers." Likewise, several journos who hang out on the Testy Copy Editors chat page have expressed their dismay, with one declaring, "Holy CRAP. I can't believe anybody did that even once."

In fact, folks at the Tribune have been borrowing from competitors in unauthorized fashion for around a decade. Moreover, the person who unwittingly began using this technique was former Trib editor Chris Cobler, who (irony alert) is set to become managing editor of Poynter online, a branch of the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based school that's devoted itself to, among other things, championing journalistic ethics.

Sounds like this incident would make a good lesson for students. Perhaps Cobler could sit in. -- Michael Roberts

News Site Credibility: Whom Do Readers Trust?
Course Instructor:
Chris Cobler
Chris Cobler is editor of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate. A University of Kansas graduate in journalism, he started his newspaper career in 1982 at his hometown newspaper, the Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal. In 2005-06, he was the first Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in community journalism at Harvard University, where he studied the digital future of newspapers.

Mz. Understood was brought up to believe that in this country the truth was important, so she posted the truth about stealing people's work and calling it your own.

When the facts were laid out by her, then the coffin was fitted, nailed down and shoved into a deep, dank hole by Mr. Chris Cobler.

Tisk, Tisk, Mr. Cobler, your paper would have been much better off leaving Mz. Understood to post. She was intelligent and forthcoming. Those two characteristics might be a bit much if you have something to hide, however, so I do understand why you had to kill and bury her. You just shouldn't have done it so obviously and you should have buried her deeper.

Mz. Understood will be heard and I will make sure of that. Her voice of reason and questioning mind is welcome here.

Banning her from The Victoria Advocate is truly your loss and blogspot's gain.


  1. Thank you, TF, for posting this information out there for the world to see. I must admit that I've taken quite a risk today, by commenting on the article by Aprill. I do understand that it was a forbidden subject, Cobler's editorial skills, but I believe in that old saying, "And truth shall set you free." Guess, Cobler believe in the setting free part as he made sure my ability to post was "set free".

    I won't miss posting on the paper, as it is such slanted news coverage, that it gets my blood boiling.

    Thanks again, for at least letting people know what happened to me. I just might have to set up an account here and keep on expressing my disdain for the scardey-cats on Constitution Street.

    Catch you later, Mz. Understood

  2. Well, I see that The Advocate has traveled down their path without you, Mz. Understood. Have you found topic to write a blog over here, yet?

    I hope that this blog has shed light on the fact that some of the editorial staff at The Advocate wants to hide their past follies. I have included the public accounts of Chris Cobler and how he lead his former paper down the path of stealing stories.

    Pretty ironic that Cobler won't let these facts come back into the light of today, but he won't get rid of facts about someone else's past misdeeds.

  3. From a posting in 8/5/10 Victoria Advocate

    We've also read in many of your articles, blog posts, editorials.., how you proclaim yourself and the rest of the Advocate staff to be the 4th pillar of our government. My question is, since we should be concerned with Ocker's past, shouldn't we also be concerned with yours, the owners and the other staff of the Advocate. Are you going to allow bloggers and commenters to dredge up your life history, so we the readers can make sound and informed decisions about the articles you put out on a daily basis?"

    The answer is not only No but NFW No. Any reference to Cris' soiled record will be immediatly deleted

  4. Hello, I found this blog on the internet relating to Herr Cobler, so I reposted it. Please feel free to visit and post any and all comments you feel inclined too.

    Dick Tracy