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November 17, 2010 - 8:58am

Chris Charvella Case: Putting a comment in context

posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, Chris Charvella, Jay Grasso.

Since the Batavia Daily News is not likely to run this correction themselves, we'll run it for them.

In the Daily's story about Chris Charvella's arrest, there is this paragraph:

"Charvella responded with an additional blog, according to state police. It included the comment 'I'm going to travel around the district and puncture Republican tires.'"

There are multiple problems with this one short paragraph.

First, the context is though Charvella is responding to events in November. But the quote above is from June 2. It was not a response to anything regarding election signs in November.

Second, it is not "an additional blog." A blog is a website with multiple entries on it. A blog post is an item posted on a blog. People can comment on blog posts. These are called comments.

In this case, Chris left a comment on a blog post. And there was nothing "additional" about it in context of current events. The comment had nothing to do with the sign issue and was not directed at Jay Grasso.

Third, the comment did not appear on Charvella's personal blog, as the story would lead you to believe. It was posted on The Batavian (something, of course, the Daily could never admit).

Fourth, it's completely out of context. Here's what Chris wrote:

Charlie, I'm going to do what any political hack worth their salt would do. Starting at midnight on November 2nd, I'm going to travel around the district and puncture Republican tires :)

Note, the emoticon at the end -- a clear signal, it's a joke, but the emoticon was not included in the Daily's quote.

UPDATE: As of 10:08 a.m., without acknowledging the error or putting the comment in context, the Daily has removed the paragraph from its story completely. It's possible, considering the timing, it may still appear in the print story.

For our previous coverage:

Kyle Couchman
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You know Howard I was almost victim of this back in Ithaca one time when a drunken student tried to damage some of my tenants parked cars and assaulted me. Heres the situation: Was woke up @ 2am from a loud noise, went to the windows of my Apt and saw a student yelling into his phone, the noise that woke me was him kicking a parking place sign that was hung w wire from a steel railing. While I watched he then turned and kicked a car door which belonged to my tenants. I grabbed a cell phone, called police and proceeded to yell this info to him to avoid him damaging any more vehicles. He then began to assault me and was caught in the act by police when they arrived a couple of min later. Well when thing went into court I was flabbergasted when his lawyer brought my membership in a paranormal investigative group into the questioning. Quoting out of context saying "didnt you post that sometimes you see and hear things that arent there" I took a moment and was lucky that the judge was reasonable. First I said this does not have anything to do with this incident and if you use the whole sentence in context. It stated that "I sometimes see and hear things that arent there in places that have a history of being haunted, and thats why I joined this group." A whole different spin to be sure. The judge ridiculed the lawyer right after that saying I hope counselor that you arent trying to tell me that Casper the Ghost did these things instead of your client. Seeing as how your client admitted to arguing w his gf and tenants of Kyle also witnessed him kicking a car door. That ancedote just seemed very relavant to this new twist on this incident. Especially the way actual facts can be manipulated to look very different just by removing some context.
Justin Burger
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I sent an email to The Daily, objecting to the out-of-context quote. That just seems like lazy journalism on their part.
Kyle Couchman
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I just phoned the publisher myself pointing out the misrepresentation and sloppy fact checking as well.....lets see if it has any effect
Bea McManis
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According to their site, it was updated at 10:08am, the paragraph is gone.
JoAnne Rock
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What is being overlooked in that paragraph is the phrase "according to State Police". I would agree that the comment doesn't seem to have any relevance to this current case; but it is something that was put forward by the State Police, not The Daily News, who merely reported it. Apparently there is a double standard and only Howard is allowed to claim the "don't shoot the messenger defense". In response to a father that asked Howard to correct a police blotter entry regarding his son: Posted by Howard Owens on October 21, 2010 - 1:06pm If you can get the State Police to correct the item, have them contact me. I can only report what they report. I wasn't there. I don't know. Perhaps Chris should take Howard's advice and contact the State Police to correct the item and have them contact The Daily News.
Howard B. Owens
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I'm not sure this came from State Police, since I've not seen that come from State Police. It was not on the charging document I received. Further, the comment and context could have been easily verified by a simple Google search. And as long as we're talking context, my comment quoted above was in the context of a Police Beat item, which by routine is not information we do further reporting on. We take the press releases as they come. All items are treated equally. The Daily's story was not a routine police blotter item, but a story for which some reporting was done.
Kyle Couchman
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JoAnne as Howard pointed out theres a difference from a reporters interpretation vs a statement released by police. I'm sure the Daily News (which has since edited the article ) recognizes the difference from interpretation and basically repeating a factual release, and will do the right thing. Especially since in this day and age all someone has to do is go to Chris's blog and see that the tire comment was posted in June and not in any way associated with the current issue. And to imply otherwise would lead most people with an iota of common sense that their "reporting" is trying to be favorable to one side of the issue.
JoAnne Rock
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Kyle, I don't dispute the important difference between a reporter's interpretation vs a statement released by police. I made my comment before the correction was made. At that time they attributed the statement to the State Police, not a reporter's research and interpretation. The fact that they have since corrected the article bodes well for them. I don't know if it was a case of the Daily reporting what was reported to them or just a reporter screw up...they have not, to my knowledge, indicated a reason for the correction. Both The Daily News and The Batavian rely on police reports. In this case, involving public figures, a correction was made because someone questioned the factual basis of the statement. In the case I mentioned above, of the father questioning the facts of the police statements about his son, no attempt was made to determine if the police statement was factual or not. My comment was directed toward the issue of media accuracy and an existing double standard and really had nothing to do with the specifics of either case. BTW, Chris' comment was posted on The Batavian, not his personal blog. As I stated above, I agree that it is irrelevant to the current case.
Bea McManis
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JoAnne, Unfortunately, the correction will not show up in the printed version of the paper. It was corrected online, but the story 'as is' will appear in the paper. Will the paper print a retraction tomorrow? We'll have to see. This reporter did what was expected of him. He slanted the story by adding a little of his own research (albeit not even related). Not at all surprising. It was poor journalism.
Kyle Couchman
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You are still insisting on referencing a double standard that doesnt exsist. In the case of a father complaining about the facts of a police blotter report. He does have to take that to the police as it is their statement, as Howard pointed out the police blotter is a statement release to the press not open to speculation on accuracy on the part of the media outlet. In my experience people's tend to be subjective in disputing facts with police, one side doesnt always have the whole story whereas the police as part of their routine collect facts from victim, perpetrator and witnesses. Many a time a son or daughter will tell a parent that facts arent accurate when in trouble. While a full picture of the event truly reveals otherwise, and this can be by no fault of the son or daughter just because of the stress or the drama of the actual event.
Howard B. Owens
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FWIW, the reporter on this story is a good reporter. I don't believe he has any particular bias on this matter, nor would he intentionally try to make somebody look bad. That's not the issue. The issue is the facts were wrong, and of a significant enough nature that it needed to be pointed out. I'm not saying there was a particular agenda in this matter, only that it was wrong, and a fairly important fact to have wrong.
Kyle Couchman
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Thats a very good point Howard but your original post pointing out this error gave me the impression that this was typical and probably would have just been overlooked if someone didnt ppoint it out to them. It'll be interesting if the do make a correction in tomorrow's print edition as Bea mentioned.
JoAnne Rock
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Bea, slanting a story is one thing. It is done all the time by all media outlets. If the reporter had not attributed the statement to State Police, I would have recognized it for what it was...spin. I was surprised to see the attribution to the State Police when I read it. Unfortunately, when we read a news article or blotter item that states, "according to police", people tend to accept the information as indisputable fact. I remember feeling bad for that father that just wanted the facts regarding his son to be reported accurately.
Howard B. Owens
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Kyle, knowing what I know about newspapers from a lifetime of being in and around them, I wouldn't/couldn't assume a correction.
Justin Burger
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The Daily News article did reference the State Police as a source for the paragraph that was removed. I personally would question why the police would release a statement like that, without first researching and confirming it. Of the many comments left by Chris on The Batavian, how did that particular blurb come into play? It looks as if someone may be making false or misleading statements to the authorities, and that is dirty pool.
Howard B. Owens
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For the record, since there was some question as to whether I was being fair here, I double checked with the State Police and spoke with a Sgt. Kurt Schmidt. He said, "I don't believe that came from us. It was not part of any press release that we put out." (I'm not aware of there ever being a press release on this.) The only statement made by Chris Charvella that is included in the charging document is as I initially reported, the phone message. Which was my belief this morning when I wrote this item. Sgt. Schmidt said he has seen the "puncture tire" statement on print outs provided by the alleged victim (it's possible this was provided to the Daily by an unknown State Police source, leading to the "State Police" attribution, but since I have not seen these print outs, it's not clear what context these were provided in for the State Police). He also said the the State Police checked with the District Attorney's Office before deciding to make an arrest. "We thought maybe it was (harassment), maybe it wasn't. He (the DA) felt that it was so we proceeded with the arrest," Schmidt said. The statement above, along with the other statements attributed to Chris, could be considered a pattern of events that fits the definition of harassment, Schmidt said.
Mark Graczyk
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Since some people on this site enjoy making assumptions about the Daily's intentions, allow me to present the newspaper's side of things. A clarification has been prepared for Thursday's print edition. It will also be posted on-line to coincide with Thursday's paper. Also, Paul's story was based purely on state police reports, not on his personal biases. We're human, we make mistakes. And we strive to correct them in a timely manner. Mark Graczyk, managing editor, The Daily News
Jennifer Keys
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Thank you, Howard. Thank you, Mark. We look forward to tomorrow's edition.
Kyle Couchman
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So the state police referred to Chris's comments in June in relation to this incident, thats very interesting :)
Bea McManis
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...even more interesting, Kyle, is that the DA looked at that June discussion between Chris and Charlie and determined it proved a pattern. I guess the DA isn't familiar with emoticons :(
Kyle Couchman
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Well I have looked at the website this am.... as of 4am the thur online edition is up with no mention that I can find of the error or the paper's side of things. I will go to the library tomorrow afternoon to look and the print edition, but I suspect there might not be anything there either, I hope I'm wrong but the cynical side of me thinks that I wont be.
Kyle Couchman
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lol Bea what pattern of behavior was that, typical democrat/republican relational behavior lol
Bea McManis
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lol, Kyle I don't mean to make light of this situation, but it is a farce. For the DA to look at a comment posted here in June and make the leap that it was connected to Election Day boggles the mind. That alone makes it a first right amendment issue.
Bea McManis
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Clarification...it's there, posted at 3:14am, but you had to dig down the site a bit. No doubt, it will be buried in the print edition as well: "Clarification for Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010 3:14 am Clarification for Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 0 comments A paragraph in a story Wednesday about Batavia resident Chris Charvella being charged with second-degree harassment was out of context. According to Jerome Grasso's complaint to state police, Charvella made the following comment on a blog post, ''At midnight on November 2nd, I'm going to travel around the district and puncture Republican tires.'' However, the state police report did not indicate that Charvella had made the comment in June on The Batavian website rather than his own blog. Charvella, in a voice mail to The Daily News, said the comments were followed by a smiley icon and were an "obvious joke." http://thedailynewsonline.com/news/article_dae867ca-c50a-57d7-a98b-e0565...
Jeff Allen
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So let me get this straight, now the standard is you can make threatening statements as long as it's follwed by a smiley emoticon?
Bea McManis
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Jeff, put it in the context of the discussion in June. It was light banter. Charlie and Chris (and most of us) knew that. It had nothing to do with the events that took place in November. To take that snippet of the June discussion and put it in the complaint was bogus. If he left out the date, the emoticon and the source (in other words made it look as if it was more recent and part of his blog) then it would seem to me that he was manufacturing evidence. Do you find that acceptable?
Justin Burger
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Jeff, I think the point being made is that it was an out of context comment, made months before, to an entirely different person who obviously understood its tongue-in-cheek nature. Emoticon or no emoticon, it should have no bearing in this case. To take it a step further, if Grasso and/or the DA want to use that June comment against Chris as a "Pattern of behavior", one can conclude that because Chris didn't slash any tires... then he obviously wasn't going to stick a sign up anyone's arse.
Jeff Allen
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And I'm the one who has been accused of blind partisanship? If this story had the characters reversed, the "gun clingin', teabaggin', right-wing violent extremist" comments would be piling up.
Bea McManis
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It has nothing to do with blind partisanship. It has a lot to do with leveling the playing field. Regardless of political mindset, manufacturing evidence is wrong. I would be the first to defend anyone who is railroaded by false evidence.
Kyle Couchman
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Just an FYI Jeff its not blind partisanship as I am a registered republican.....yet still I find Mr. Grasso's behavior cowardly, underhanded and an example of why todays politicians have the reputation they have.
Jeff Allen
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That's funny Bea, because it was all about blind partisanship two weeks ago in the Copolla story. The reaction to this incident drips with hypocrisy.
Kyle Couchman
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LOL Jeff 2 weeks ago everything was chaos in the politcal world as they were dealing with the aftereffects of an election. (kryptonite for politicians)

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