Michelle Shocked Interview: No, Todd Vogt Does Not Tell SF Weekly What to Publish
Never let a good story die, apparently:
Black-faced and white and read all over
ABC 7's Dan Noyes is running a story with a tantalizing claim: That Todd Vogt, president of the SF Examiner, SF Bay Guardian, and SF Weekly, planned for SF Weekly to run a cover story on Michelle Shocked in exchange for her buying an ad. As evidence for this, Noyes cites an email from Vogt to Shocked in which Vogt basically says as much.
But here's the thing: At no point was SF Weekly ever planning to run a cover story on Michelle Shocked. We thought the matter of what happened between us and Shocked was more or less settled by the long story we ran on it earlier this week. But since apparently it isn't, here are the facts:
- SF Weekly never planned to run a cover story on Michelle Shocked.
- Todd Vogt never told SF Weekly to run a cover story on Michelle Shocked. He never told SF Weekly he expected a cover story, or wanted one, or anything like that.
- SF Weekly came up with the idea to interview Shocked after Vogt told us about her being interested in an ad. We tried to talk to her for a (non-cover) story. The interview, as we explained, did not happen. We ran a lengthy (non-cover) story anyway.
- Todd Vogt did not and does not dictate the editorial content of SF Weekly. Yes, Vogt signs our paychecks and owns a large stake in our parent company. He walks around the office and casually talks with us. Sometimes we even talk about the stories we're working on! But, as is traditional in this business, editors direct the content of their editorial pages. This also is the case at SF Weekly.
On Friday afternoon, after we heard ABC's Noyes was doing a story on the Shocked thing, SF Weekly editor Brandon Reynolds and music editor Ian Port called him. Apparently Noyes hadn't talked to Vogt, and he certainly hadn't talked to anyone on the editorial side of SF Weekly. He said he had read all the stories written about it. Noyes had unsuccessfully tried to reach Vogt for comment by phone, and on Thursday he dropped by our office with cameraman in tow (ambush-style), again asking after Vogt, who wasn't around.
Yet on Friday when we called, Noyes asked no questions. He said tonight's report was already pretty far along, took down Brandon's number, and said he might call back.
Now, call us crazy, but if we're working on a story, and someone involved in it calls us out of the blue, we do this thing: We talk to them. We try to find out why they called. What they have to say. What they know about this story we're reporting. Often that complicates our story. Sometimes it ends up killing the story. But by talking to people, we generally get closer to the truth.
If Noyes had asked us questions, or even let us talk, here's what we would have said: Vogt doesn't dictate what runs in SF Weekly, and we don't dictate what runs in his emails. We never planned to do a cover story on her, were never told to do a cover story on her, and in fact we already had a cover story planned for this week's issue months ago. (In case you think we found four transgender Latin@ immigrants, interviewed them in Spanish, translated and edited their interviews, and then photographed them -- as a hurried replacement to a supposed Shocked cover story -- let us assure you: We didn't.)
There's a saying reporters have for salacious but inaccurate journalism: "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story." Unfortunately, that's exactly what ABC 7 "investigative reporter" Dan Noyes did.