My unforgivable journalistic offense

Categories: Media

At the wee hour of 3:46 a.m., I received the first response to my profile of Jim Fetzer, professor emeritus at University of Minnesota Duluth and noted conspiracy theorist. The email came from none other than Fetzer himself. Given both the tone of the profile and what I gleaned of Fetzer's nature, I anticipated he would object to some aspect of the story. I just wasn't sure which passages in particular would raise his ire. As it turned out, it was this one:

[Fetzer] has edited three JFK-related anthologies, most recently one titled The Great Zapruder Film Hoax. In Fetzer's estimation, his work on "Jack" has been nothing short of revolutionary. "These books I have published are the most important in establishing the objective and scientific evidence of the existence of conspiracy and cover-up in the assassination of JFK. Bar none. No other books come close. Remotely. None. They're in a category by themselves," he says. "This shattered the whole goddamn cover-up!"

I know the quote is accurate because I used a tape recorder. So what's Fetzer's beef? Basically, that I failed to make it sufficiently clear that he wasn't just tooting his own horn. As he put it in his email:

I can forgive you everything in this piece except for the paragraph in which you discuss my attitude toward my (edited) books. I told you at the time that I could be enthusiastic about them because they brought together the work of other experts on different aspects of the case. I EMPHASIZED THAT TO YOU! Instead of making it clear that I am extolling THEIR virtues, you make it look as if I am extolling MINE! That was inexcusable. I ask that you make a formal apology in the paper at your earliest opportunity. You should name David W. Mantik, Robert B. Livingston, Jack White, John Costella, and others, not turn me into some narcissistic, self-absorbed turkey. That was cheap and petty and unworthy of you and City Pages. Thanks.

After contemplating this, I concede he has a point. I could and should have made it more clear that Fetzer was referring to a collaborative, not solitary, effort. That said, I'm not sure I would ever write the passage in quite the same manner Fetzer proposed in his follow up email. But I'll let you be the judge of that. Here's his preferred version:

You should have said, "As in the case of 9/11, Fetzer brought together experts on different aspects of the case, including a world authority on the human brain, a Ph.D. in physics who is also board certified in radiation oncology, a physician who attended the moribund president and, two days later, his alleged assassin, and a legendary photoanalyst. In his opinion, their work on JFK has been nothing short of revolutionary."

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