Cal Skinner needs to get a more recent photo to adorn this wanted poster on his blog. The process server will never recognize him.
Blogger/gadfly Cal Skinner and I are seldom on the same page politically. The proprietor of the McHenry County Blog is a champion of the far right in local, state and national politics. I am not only a Democrat, but a local Party officer, an unabashed liberal, and the promoter of several causes that give Cal an allergic reaction.
So some might think I would be cheering on the owner of the Northwest Herald who has hauled out the heavy artillery to sue Cal for bucketfuls of money. Those folks would be wrong.
According to an article in Thursday’s paper Cal “reckless and completely fabricated” allegations that the “the newspaper received a multimillion dollar-loan from McHenry County government at submarket rates to prevent it from moving outside the county. It also challenges a comment that the loan was made “to put the paper in the back pocket of the Republican Party.”
Skinner said he believed that the paper had received a loan to build the paper’s current offices and production plant in Crystal Lake. He said he had in the past filed unsuccessful Freedom of Information Act requests to find out more, but that the request had been denied. He recently filed another request but has not received a notion. None-the-less he repeated the allegation in a June 3 blog post, almost as an aside to a longer piece on a new county lending program to be made possible with Federal economic stimulus funds.
Now Cal has been careless of the facts before. I have called him on it. He says if he was in error the newspaper should simply have called him and requested a retraction and apology, which he claims would have been forthcoming. And that would be the way most disputes of this nature play out.
But B. F. Shaw Printing Corp. attorney Don Craven, winner of the most-apt-lawyer-name-award, did not contact Cal. Instead he filed a law suit seeking at least $50,000 damages on each of three charges.
From a public relations standpoint, the suit is a head scratcher. By filing and then covering the law suit in their own paper that have repeated the “slander” and spread it far wider than an incidental comment on a local blog could ever do. Moreover, these kinds of law suits are extremely difficult to win. (Although a sister publication, The Kane County Chronicle, discovered to its dismay that it is possible to lose one.)
There is only one reason for hauling out the heavy artillery to pick off a flea. That is sheer intimidation. Just defending against this kind of law suit can bankrupt individuals of modest means and make their life a living hell for years to come.
Lord knows, nobody has thinner skin than the press. They can dish it out, but can’t take it. Folks at the Herald are more sensitive than most. I know from experience that the slightest criticism of their coverage results in whining and yowling of epic proportions. One former editor was notorious for taking revenge on his critics in the new columns. A still active editor once e-mailed me that the coverage afforded the organizations and causes for which I do voluntary press work could suffer as a result of criticism on this blog. The threat was never acted upon, but it was boldly made.
I hate bullies. I hate thugs. I hate the powerful who try to shut up their critics, even if those critics are sometimes full of crap themselves. B.F. Shaw Printing is a bully. Don Craven is a pin stripe thug for hire. The NORTHWEST HERALD is a powerful virtual media monopoly in McHenry County. They deserve the scorn and ridicule of everyone who expects a responsible press to act like mature adults and not like spoiled brats out to squelch what may be one of their few competitors in providing local coverage.
Cal, ol’ buddy, go ahead and apologize and print that retraction. If they still come after you, I’ve got your back on this one.
I suppose I should hold my breath in anticipation of a Craven attack.