Home All Blogs Last Blog on Earth | NewsSDGLN publisher rejected column, then used columnist's words?
July 20 2011 12:00 AM

Correction: Writer says he did not plagiarize in Letter to the Editor

Yesterday we sent lawyer-turned-copywriter Arlon Staggs an email asking for an explanation as to why his letter to the editor in CityBeat challenging mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher's record so mirrored that of a message sent via Facebook by SDGLN publisher Jonathan Hale, partner of mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, to a Fletcher supporter. We didn't receive a response and published a blog post on the matter, suggesting that Staggs used Hale's words in his letter to the editor. In an email seven hours later, Staggs said he never received our email.

In an adamant response, Staggs provided evidence that he wrote the text a day before Hale wrote the Facebook message containing the same verbatim language. In light of that, we wholeheartedly apologize to Staggs for suggesting he behaved improperly. 

As Staggs explains it, he submitted a piece on Nathan Fletcher's LGBT voting record to SDGLN. He says Hale immediately rejected it. But Hale's Facebook message indicates that the publisher used Staggs' research and wording to attack his partner's opponent in the 2012 election.

Staggs writes: 

Because I was surprised by Fletcher’s appearance at the Harvey Milk breakfast, I thought it was important that our community be reminded of his LGBT voting record, so I compiled my own research based on readily available public information, wrote an article detailing my concerns, and proposed it to SDGLN on June 7. (See attached and feel free to check the document history.)

SDGLN's publisher, Johnathan Hale, called me immediately upon receiving my article and said that SDGLN was taking a pass on it. Hale explained that SDGLN had already established protocols for how they want to cover the Mayor's race, that the piece did not fit within those protocols, and he wanted to avoid any appearance of conflict that could result from publishing the piece.

Coincidentally, your editorial about Fletcher appeared the following day, on June 8. After seeing that, I repurposed the piece I had originally written and sent it to you as a letter in response to that editorial.

He attached a document that did, indeed, include a draft of a column.

This response from Staggs brings into question an editorial published recently by SDGLN editor Ken Williams two days after Staggs submitted his column. CityBeat had questioned SDGLN's coverage of the mayor's race, in which Hale's partner, City Councilmember Carl DeMaio, is a candidate. Williams took umbrage at the remarks and stated: 

As with any media, SDGLN has erected a huge wall to separate the editorial and business sides of the company. 

Not only that, but Hale and I do not even work in the same building. Hale does not tell me what to publish and I do not tell Hale how to do his job.

At the very least, Staggs' account indicates that Hale is far more involved in editorial decision than Williams suggested. 

I have deleted the text of my original blog post, since it is now moot. But I present below a side-by-side, color-coordinated comparison of the message sent by Hale on June 7 to an LGBT activist and Staggs' letter to the editor.

Johnathan Hale June 7 at 6:52pm 


You are aware of Nathan's voting record yes?


Here are some things you should consider before you state he's "been here" for the LGBT community.


In a September Voice of San Diego interview, Fletcher confirmed he believes marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman because of his faith. But, he said, he voted “no” on Prop 8 because he believes that it’s not the government’s job to interfere in these matters.


Fletcher may have voted no on Prop 8 at the polls (we'll have to take him on his word I guess), but he was conveniently absent the day the assembly voted on a resolution in opposition to Prop 8.


Fletcher also voted no on SB 54, the bill to recognize out-of-state, same-sex marriages in California. Only 29 assembly members including Fletcher voted against the bill.


But the vote that really takes the “pancake” in light of his recent breakfast appearance is the vote Fletcher cast against SB 572, the bill that recognized Harvey Milk Day in California. This time, Fletcher was one of only 28 members of the assembly to go on the record demonstrating that they do not believe we should honor one of California’s most influential civil rights heroes.


I'm surprised your so steadfast in supporting him given he stood you guys up at your event at Bamboo Lounge. And I'll be even more concerned if you continue to do so now that you've been advised of his voting record.
Fletcher’s LGBT record

About your June 8 editorial, “How you doin’, Nathan?”: Congratulations on your new relationship with Nathan Fletcher. But if you’ve paid attention at all, you may want to reconsider your choice of suitors. I tend the same warning to some of our most prominent LGBT community leaders who have welcomed Fletcher to some of our recent community events—not the least of which was the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast in May.


Although I believe this whole “gay thing” is going to be a non-issue in the mayoral race (a real symbol of true progress for our city), you did open the door for this discussion in your piece about Fletcher. So here’s the voting record your readers should know about your new boyfriend.


In a voiceofsandiego.org interview in September, Fletcher confirmed he believes marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman because of his faith. But, he said, he voted “no” on Proposition 8 because he believes that it’s not the government’s job to interfere in these matters.


Fair enough. So now he’s on par with a lot of our gay-tolerating, smaller-government, fiscally conservative Republican friends, right? Not exactly.


Fletcher may have voted no on Prop. 8 at the polls, but he was conveniently absent the day the Assembly voted on a resolution in opposition to Prop. 8.


Fletcher also voted no on SB 54, the bill to recognize out-of-state, same-sex marriages in California. Only 29 members of the Assembly, including Fletcher, voted against the bill.


But the vote that really takes the “pancake” (in light of his awkward breakfast appearance) is the vote Fletcher cast against SB 572, the bill that recognized Harvey Milk Day in California. This time, Fletcher was one of only 28 members of the Assembly to go on the record demonstrating that they do not believe we should honor one of California’s most influential civil-rights heroes.


The list goes on. In fact, according to Equality California, Fletcher has supported the group’s interests only 29 percent of the time since taking office.


One can only surmise that in some bizarre politics-and-bedfellows relationship, Fletcher is finagling his way in and now wants us to believe that he suddenly cares about the LGBT community—more so than the two gay or lesbian mayoral candidates, Bonnie Dumanis and Carl DeMaio—and that perhaps we should consider him for mayor because he’s tolerant enough to come nibble on the Harvey Milk snack. Not so fast, Nate. The LGBT community knows better.


Arlon Jay Staggs, Hillcrest

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