Big Boot

Columnist is the first casualty of the P-D's exposé on the sheriff's department

"I think they're trying to turn this into Watergate," says Guzy. "Unfortunately, it's 99 percent bun and no wiener."

Conspiracy theorists claim the whole series on the sheriff's office was intended to bolster the P-D's support of the home-rule amendment on the November ballot. They point to the land-speed record set by the editorial-page thumb-suckers who turned Murphy and his minions into exhibits A through M on why the city needs to adopt a home-rule charter and eliminate all these ancient patronage offices.

Soeteber says all the "fuss" about putting Guzy's column in limbo is just a "smokescreen" by the sheriff's office to obscure the revelations of Tuft's series. If so, it was a smokescreen made possible by the suspension of Guzy's column. Soeteber says the real story is "the scandal" Tuft's series revealed.

Post-Dispatch editor Ellen Soeteber
Post-Dispatch editor Ellen Soeteber

Details

Listen to D.J. Wilson at 7 p.m. Mondays on KDHX (88.1 FM). Tip Short Cuts: voice, 314-615-6711; fax, 615-6716; e-mail, shortcuts@riverfronttimes.com.

"We're doing what you guys recommended we do, some kick-butt journalism," Soeteber tells Short Cuts.

Well, yeah. Sunday's opening package was good, the kind of work a decent daily should do on a routine basis. The second day's article, citing deputies' arrest records -- including one deputy who pleaded guilty to trespassing on a police firing range when he was eighteen -- showed signs of weakness. By Tuesday, the series was running on fumes: Several deputies had infractions on their drivers' licenses. Ooh, scary.

If the series had run a fourth day, readers might have discovered how many overdue library books deputies had and which ones were tardy for their high-school phys-ed classes.

The first-day splash was reminiscent of work done years ago by retired P-D reporter Lou Rose, who once wrote a series on St. Louis building inspectors. But even that "big exposé" didn't excite the world-weary Guzy.

"Yeah, he did a big exposé once that said city workers don't work real hard. Now that was worth buying -- stop the presses, baby," says Guzy. "I'm not trying to sell the notion that we routinely have people who fall over dead from overwork. I'm just saying people do show up, they do work and they do go home. Most of these jobs aren't real demanding. It's not Interpol or the FBI or anything. It's courthouse duties -- bailiff in the courtroom, that sort of thing."

What Guzy thinks about Tuft's series doesn't matter. The city's only daily had a chance to appear broad-minded, allowing one of its op-ed columnists to haze the paper in public. As long as Guzy didn't write about anything remotely related to the sheriff's department, he should have kept his gig.

Soeteber intimates that because Guzy is in charge of internal affairs for the sheriff's office and he "handled" Murphy's printed response on the editorial page, "confusion" was created for P-D readers.

Confusion may also have been triggered when an editorial castigating Mickey McTague, a longtime sheriff's department employee named by Murphy to monitor process servers, brought a defense of McTague from another Post columnist, Bill McClellan. McClellan took pains to defend the "excellent" work by Tuft but clearly made light of the over-the-top editorial against McTague. Apparently some Post columnists can afford to have an opinion.

Either Guzy's day job or his public opinions -- or both -- cost him his column. Did his day job skew his view of divorce? Or did his take on Camus suffer because he suspected the French novelist supported home rule?

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