Deconstruction of a Million Dollar Story: Part I
Posted by Karl Withakay on December 17, 2009
The other day, I came across an article in the on line version of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, STLToday.com titled, “One man’s hunt for the truth behind a $1 million bill” by Todd C. Frankel that I found doubly worthy of Deconstruction. In this post, I will focus on the reporting; I may follow up with a post on the story itself on another day.
The article relates the story of Rodney Dukes, an East St. Louis man who found what appeared to be a one million dollar bill in a phone booth outside a gas station.
The article includes a sidebar regarding the article that includes the following statement:
“Reporter Todd C. Frankel spent more than two months following Dukes on his odyssey.”
Unless the reported was incompetent, he discovered that the million dollar bill wasn’t legit with less than five minutes of research on the internet, if he wasn’t already aware that the note was fake. One merely has to google one million dollar bill to find the information needed to answer the question. Additionally, the bill had the following words printed on it in the same size print as the similar words on real US currency:
I assume a competent reporter would have examined the bill close enough to discover this text.
The next statement in the sidebar is an implied admission that Frankel did indeed know the bill wasn’t real:
“As with any news story, Frankel avoided interfering with the course of events, so that the story could unfold as naturally as possible.”
As with any news story? Like the Woodward and Bernstein investigation of Watergate? What a load of self-righteous BS. Does the Post Dispatch really expect us to believe that reporters would withhold evidence in a murder or kidnapping story in order to avoid interfering with the course of events? This statement is nothing more than a self serving justification of Frankel’s withholding the truth from Mr. Dukes regarding the one million dollar note for more than two months solely so that he could have a better, longer story to report on. Journalism isn’t Star Fleet with a Prime Directive of non-interference. Occasionally, jury trials get moved to a different venue precisely because the news media does not hold their reporting to avoid contaminating the jury pool and affecting the course of events. Does the Post really expect us to believe that if there was a chance the bill was real, that the paper would not have published the preliminary story the minute they got their hands on it to avoid influencing the course of events? Sure, reporters sit on million dollar stories all the time to keep the story pure.
As much as I found the story of Mr. Dukes and his lack of reason and critical thinking itself worthy of Deconstruction, I was more strongly compelled to comment on what the Post Dispatch apparently considers journalism these days.
Shame on you to Todd C. Frankel and shame on the editors the St. Louis Post Dispatch for encouraging and publishing this shameful excuse for a story. Did you have a good chuckle in the office with the other reporters each night as you strung along Mr. Dukes in his quest for his million dollar answer which you already possessed? Where do you draw the line on this reporter’s prime directive of non-intervention you claim to have?