by Max Brantley
The Tuesday Democrat-Gazette is always one of the smaller editions of the week and I know reporters are frustrated that it can't always contain their work. It had some good reporting today, like the excellent lottery article mentioned earlier. That wasn't all. I was even enlightened by Wally Hall, who had a progress report on Fitz Hill's work at Arkansas Baptist College.
But how to explain the newspaper's failure to pick up the Associated Press' enterprise reporting on the firing of a prison officer who allowed a mentally disturbed inmate to almost die from lying in his own feces? It was a story that included other outrages -- a nurse lap dancing for the officer, lapses in patrols, potlucks in the prison kitchen. And it comes in the context of multiple prison personnel lapses.
Space was available for this story. The newspaper found room for wire copy about an academic paper by an agricultural historian, a full column on a firefighters memorial statue passing through Hot Springs, a story about combination of cancer services in Northwest Arkansas and last week's news about the naming of a UA dean.
The Democrat-Gazette is a good newspaper, far better than most in cities this size and better than those in many larger cities as well. But its lack of urgency will send people to other sources for news. Noted, particularly, is the increasing 24-hour vigor of local TV websites and instant messaging through e-mail and Twitter that brought TV station followers this prison story yesterday afternoon. Come Wednesday morning -- if the D-G catches up then -- it will be very old news.
UPDATE: I'm informed that the Democrat-Gazette did not use the AP story because it had reported the firing of the prison officer previously. Yes, that's true. On the jump, I print the entire version of the April 30 D-G story. Compare with what the AP dug up from its FOI request and tell me whether you think it advanced the story substantially -- enough to merit mention. I'd say it did. Among the things missing from D-G account: The extent of the inmate's illness; lap dancing; prison dinner parties.
FROM THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE APRIL 30
Two supervisors at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit in Tucker have been fired during an investigation into an inmate who was left in a cell smeared with his own feces for at least several hours, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Correction said Wednesday.
The cell was soiled by an inmate over the weekend of Jan. 17-18, Correction Department spokesman Dina Tyler said. A sergeant at the prison failed to clean up the mess despite being directed to do so by his supervisor, Lt. John Glasscock, she said.
The cell wasn’t cleaned until the next Monday, when other employees discovered it, she said.
Under department policy, she said, employees should have immediately removed the inmate from the cell and cleaned it.
The sergeant was fired Feb. 11, and the warden ordered an internal investigation into why the cell hadn’t been cleaned sooner. Glasscock was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 23 and was fired March 17 after department officials determined that he had lied to internal investigators, Tyler said.
She declined to name the sergeant, saying he can still appeal his firing.