MassLive Blogger Andrew Shelffo Stonewalls on Conflict of Interest Question

Andrew Shelffo is a resident of Northampton who has a blog on MassLive, The Prospect Perspective. Since July, Mr. Shelffo has been vigorously advancing many of Capital Video’s arguments and attacking our own.

On November 8, NoPornNorthampton asked him if he was being compensated in any way by Capital Video or its affiliates. We were expecting a quick denial, but still felt the question worth asking. To our surprise, what followed has been 20 days of evasions, bluster and counterquestions, sometimes absurd ones. Here are excerpts from our dialogue on NoPornNorthampton:

NPN, 11/8/06: Andrew, while I am impressed by your doggedness, I don’t really
understand your motivations. On July 1 you wrote on your blog,
“My instincts tell me that the proposed ‘pornography store,’ as the
Republican refers to it, won’t happen on King Street. And to me, that’s
a good thing. I drive past that location a lot and I can imagine a lot
of conversations that I don’t have with my kids if it does open.” On
July 13 you wrote,
“For the record, I don’t want the store to open, and I don’t think it
will. I don’t say that based on any inside information, just on a gut
feeling.”

Despite these sentiments, you have been trying for months to
confuse the issues, question the validity of mountains of evidence,
dispute common sense, oppose modest, well-tested adult-use regulations, belittle citizens who care about their neighborhood, sidetrack a debate about adult businesses into a debate about Wal-Mart, and minimize bad behavior
on the part of the porn merchants (e.g. Anthony Nota). Please state for
the record whether you are being compensated in any way by Capital
Video or its affiliates or agents.

Shelffo, 11/8/06: Now you accuse me of working for Capital Video. I suppose that’s the
next logical step for you after accusing people of being “pro-porn.”

My
motivation here is my hatred of dishonesty. By cherry picking evidence,
you have led people to believe that the zoning ordinances will save
Northampton from all kinds of bad things, but you know that’s just not
true. The zoning ordinances will not lessen the amount of pornography
in Northampton. Even if the correlation between adult businesses and
secondary effects can be proven, the zoning ordinances will not protect
Northampton from secondary effects; they will just move them to a
different area of town. The zoning ordinances will also likely not even
prevent Capital Video from opening a store on King St.

All
your campaign has succeeded in doing is scaring people for no reason
and opening up Northampton to litigation that could be costly.

If
you’re confused about my position, it might be helpful to keep the
words of Emerson in mind: “A foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of
little minds.” Like most people, when I first heard that Capital Video
was opening a store on King St., I was afraid. However, instead of
finding evidence to support my fears, I decided to see if my fears had
any basis in reality. I realized that my first reaction was wrong.

I’ve also realized that you’re really engaging in a lot of fear mongering, and I think that’s just wrong. As I said at the City Council meeting the other night, don’t tell me that I need to be afraid of something without solid evidence that it’s a real threat.

NPN, 11/8/06:
I note that you have not given a clear denial of being compensated by Capital Video.

You
are the cherry picker. You highlight a tiny handful of outliers in the
study of secondary effects and dismiss the clear preponderance of the
evidence substantiating them. It would appear that only 100% certainty
would satisfy you. As we have discussed before, that is an unreasonable and inappropriate standard to apply to the study of human cities.

Some of our opposition is definitely pro-porn. Look at their signs.

Shelffo, 11/9/06: You’re twisting things again. I am not demanding 100% certainty, though
that would be nice. I’ve asked for evidence that Capital Video has
impacted the towns where it has stores in the way that you say it will
impact Northampton, but you haven’t provided it. I’ve asked for
information about Hadley’s experience with secondary effects, but you
haven’t provided that, either. Your response is that your evidence is
“good enough.” I don’t see it that way, so you accuse me of working for
Capital Video. If I did work for Capital Video (and I’m not saying that
I do), would that mean that I am not worthy of asking questions? That
sounds like an ad hominen argument to me.

NPN, 11/9/06:
Capital Video’s impacts in Kittery have been obvious, resulting in court-approved legislation. Clearly many citizens of Springfield
are also unhappy with their presence. Moreover, the ordinances approved
by Northampton’s City Council don’t just apply to Capital Video, of
course, but to a wide range of adult enterprises. It is enough to show,
as we have, that secondary effects are commonly seen around these enterprises.

It
is unreasonable to expect small municipalities, let alone private
citizens, to produce local scientific studies on demand. Fortunately,
the courts agree. The evidence is in, there’s plenty of it, and
conclusions can be drawn.

If you are receiving compensation from Capital Video, then you are a web journalist
with an undisclosed conflict of interest. Paid content belongs in the
advertising section of the Masslive website, not the editorial portion.

In your public statements, you have gone to considerable efforts to portray yourself as “a husband and father who lives near the King St. location”–i.e.,
as authentic family-friendly grass-roots opinion. I imagine people
might perceive your arguments and credibility differently if you were
in fact being paid to advance Capital Video’s cause.

Capital Video is welcome to state their case, but not to present it in a deceptive wrapping through false fronts.

Shelffo, 11/9/06: If you’re going to accuse me of working for capital video and of being
a liar, please provide proof. Short of that, I will expect an apology
for your attempts to besmirch my reputation.

And
I’ll ask again: how do I know that you’re not working for Capital
Video? You’ve certainly done a lot of promotion for them over the past
couple of months.

NPN, 11/9/06: I accuse you of nothing. I asked you to state clearly whether you were
receiving any kind of compensation from Capital Video. So far you have
made no clear denial. I find that interesting.

If
you are not in fact being compensated by Capital Video, surely it would
be easier for you to affirm this than for me to monitor all your
financial transactions, something that, being a private citizen and not
a government investigator, would be hard for me to do, if not illegal.

On
my part, I can state that neither I nor my wife have received
compensation of any kind at any point from Capital Video, its
affiliates, or its agents. Considering Mr. Nota’s attitude towards us
on October 26, it’s absurd even to suggest it.

NPN, 11/9/06:
…You are a journalist on Masslive. As such, certain standards are expected of you. As the BBC puts it:
“It is essential that the integrity of the BBC and its programmes is
not undermined by the outside activities or financial interests of any
of its journalists… The onus is on the journalist to let the BBC know
if they have any interests that could give rise to an actual or
perceived conflict of interest.”

Your obligation here is to the public, to not withhold material information that has a bearing on your credibility.

Shelffo, 11/9/06: I understand now. When someone from Capital Video calls you a name,
it’s a a horrible thing and evidence that the name-caller is not fit to
be a part of the Northampton community. But when you call someone else
a name (because, to paraphrase you, no matter how you dress it up,
that’s what you’re doing) it’s okay.

I’m surprised that you would lower yourselves in this manner.

NPN, 11/9/06: Here’s the situation: I asked a journalist if he is being paid by a
company he has been vigorously defending for weeks. He refuses to give
a straight answer and responds with bluster and counterattacks. What
should I conclude?

Let’s recall last year’s controversy when it was disclosed that commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000
by the federal Education Department to promote the No Child Left Behind
Act. When journalists might be motivated by more than seeking the
truth, the public is right to be concerned.

Shelffo, 11/10/06:
I’m not a journalist. You should really educate yourself on what blogs are all about…

It’s
enlightening that the only conclusion you can come to is that I must be
working for Capital Video; that certainly shows a lack of imagination
on your part. Is this what you mean by “common sense”? Once again you
engage in fallacious thinking here, specifically the either/or dilemma,
as in, either someone agrees with you, or they must be working for
Capital Video.

And I’d also like to point out that I have not
been vigorously defending Capital Video for weeks. Instead, I’ve been
pointing out the weaknesses in your argument. It is possible to be
against NoPorn AND to be against Capital Video, another point that you
just can’t seem to grasp…

Please enlighten
me: how does one go about proving a negative? How would you have me,
someone you’ve accused of being a liar, prove to you that I don’t work
for Capital Video?

NPN, 11/10/06
You are a blogger hosted on Masslive, a major newspaper site serving our region. To me, that makes you a journalist.

Even
if you were a private citizen, it would be fair for me to ask if you
had financial ties to Capital Video. Since you are a journalist, and
Masslive profits by selling advertising next to your content, even
higher standards apply. One of Masslive’s major assets is the
credibility of its content providers. Without that, why should people
go there, if their trust might be taken advantage of?

Besides
Capital Video attorneys Lesley Rich and Michael Pill, I can think of
few people in the region who have been advancing Capital Video’s
arguments and defending their behavior as stridently as you, whether on
your blog, Your Stories Northampton, Talk Back Northampton, or in comments to this blog.

I
am not accusing you of lying. I am observing that a journalist is
refusing to clarify whether a corporation might be improperly
influencing his coverage.

To prove you aren’t being compensated
by Capital Video, it would help if you would state clearly that you are
not in fact being compensated by them. Short of that, it would appear
that this is indeed a live possibility.

Shelffo, 11/10/06: Wow. Now you get to define what I am. Brilliant. One of the criticisms
of pornography is that is objectifies people and deprives them of their
humanity. Apparently, you’re not above doing this yourselves,
preferring to define me as you would like, not as I would like.

I don’t answer to you. If the general public is interested in my line of work, they’re free to contact me.

I guess by extension, the people who work/post at MoPorn and TalkBack must be working for Capital Video, too.

If
you get a chance, please provide me with Capital Video’s address so
that I can send them an invoice. If you’re going to accuse me of
working for them, I might as well hit them up for some money.

Shelffo, 11/13/06: Now you’re going to offend me by suggesting that I’m not who I say I
am. Can you explain what you mean when I say I’ve gone to “considerable
lengths” to portray myself as a husband and a father who lives near
King St.? Are you now suggesting that I’m not a husband and father who
lives near King St.?

Here’s
another question for you: If I were some kind of a secret Capital Video
plant hire to rail against NoPorn, do you really think I would hesitate
to deny working for Capital Video?

NPN, 11/20/06 (responding to an outside comment): …I was surprised that Mr. Shelffo has not denied a financial tie to
Capital Video, and that he responded to the question with bluster and
counterquestions. For someone whose writing is presented as editorial
content on Masslive, his stonewalling is unacceptable. If Masslive does
not make it clear that its blogs are not to be used for Astroturf,
other businesses might feel free to pay bloggers to advocate their
views and products. The credibility and value of Masslive to the region
would come into question.

Citizen journalism is great, unless it’s fake citizen journalism.

NPN, 11/26/06 (responding to an outside comment): …I am having a hard time understanding Mr. Shelffo’s goals or
motivations. I would like him to rule out one possible
motivation–money. It is unacceptable for journalists to be coy about
conflicts of interest. It doesn’t matter if Mr. Shelffo doesn’t like
the question or the questioner.

NPN, 11/28/06 (responding to an outside comment: A good investigator keeps their assumptions to a minimum. We don’t
understand Mr. Shelffo’s stated motivations, since his actions could
make his neighborhood less safe for his family for little benefit. His
arguments are poorly founded in logic and evidence. His evasions and
absurd counterarguments over the past 20 days have done little to
reassure us of his authenticity.

Mr.
Shelffo is a web journalist, who enjoys the privilege of publishing on
MassLive. As such, he has a duty to disclose material conflicts of
interest. We asked him a straight question, with no bias one way or the
other, and he refused to answer. Far from doing something wrong, we’re
doing what a healthy press ought to do routinely. Must investigators
always know in advance the answer to the questions they ask? As any
police officer knows, it can be of great value to observe the reaction
to a question.

If the public doesn’t require clarity on this
issue, it opens the possibility that interested parties of all kinds,
from businesses to political factions, could infiltrate citizen
journalism on MassLive. This would subvert what we understand to be one
of MassLive’s goals for its blogs and features like Your Stories
Northampton, which is to provide a forum for authentic grassroots
reporting and opinion.

Advertising should be confined to the
clearly marked advertising areas of the MassLive site. If there is
concern that advertising has infiltrated editorial portions of
MassLive, that can diminish the credibility and value of the site. Mr.
Shelffo’s bluster and evasions raise that concern.

Astroturf,
or public relations disguised as grassroots opinion, is a well-known
phenomenon in Washington, DC. It would be a shame to see it grow in
Western Massachusetts.

Here are excerpts from our dialogue on The Prospect Perspective, conducted in Shelffo’s post, “I Have A Confession To Make”:

Shelffo, 11/20/06: …I went to their website [NoPornNorthampton.org] and asked them a question and before I knew it, they accused me of being a liar and a pornographer with connections to organized crime. Oh, and the good people at NoPorn have also insinuated that I might not be the husband and father that I say I am.

Now I guess I have to find another family to have Thanksgiving dinner with because, to quote NoPorn, I’m not really a husband and a father; rather, I’ve only been going to “great lengths to portray myself as a husband and a father…”

The NoPorn people have concocted this theory that I am in the employ of Capital Video which is paying me to post anti NoPorn material on my blog. What’s their evidence for this? The fact that I have the temerity to question their evidence and their methods…

Oh, they’ll also probably tell you, if you asked, that the fact that I won’t come out and deny that Capital Video is paying me is also evidence that I must be working for Capital Video. I won’t deny it to them because I don’t want to respond to unfounded accusations. If anyone else reading this is interested in asking me, feel free to email me at Andrew@capitalvideo.com. Just kidding; you can send me an email by using the “contact the author” link on the left.

…[T]hey’ve questioned the credibility of all Masslive Bloggers because somehow my stance has called into question “the credibility and value of Masslive to the region.” That stance conveniently overlooks how often NoPorn takes advantage of Masslive’s forums and Your Stories. I guess Masslive is only credible if it can blindly support NoPorn.

The second thing that NoPorn has done recently is misrepresent some
“reporting” on their defeat of Capital Video. They recently posted on
their website that several adult websites have “reported” on NoPorn’s
battle with Capital Video.
It’s also worth noting that these adult websites found this content [NPN’s press release of 11/6/06] because NoPorn is working with a company to get their press releases more exposure. In other words, they’re paying someone to promote their point of view, something they’ve accused Capital Video of doing…

[B]eing of Italian descent, I take offense at NoPorn’s implication that somehow I’m involved with organized crime… I think it’s a chilling effect on free speech when anyone will try to undermine someone who chooses to speak up with attacks on his credibility, his ethnicity, and his family.

NPN, 11/22/06: …We have accused Mr. Shelffo of nothing. We did ask him, a web
journalist, a straight question about whether his content was sponsored
by Capital Video. To date, he has refused to deny it. We find this
disturbing and unacceptable in a journalist, a person whose reporting
and opinion appears in the editorial portion of MassLive.com.
Mr. Shelffo enjoys the credibility and audience-gathering power of
MassLive, a major journalism site serving Western Massachusetts,
without appreciating the responsibilities that come with it. If
MassLive does not make it clear that sponsored content is unacceptable
in the blogs it features, then, yes, the credibility of those blogs
would come into question.
Mr. Shelffo has responded to our question with bluster and
counterquestions. It seems plausible to us that Capital Video might
like to have its arguments presented by a local family man to make them
more acceptable to the community. Mr. Shelffo needs to state clearly
that he is not being used in this way.

Shelffo, 11/22/06: Here’s a question: If I were the type of a person who would enter into
such an arrangement with Capital Video, do you think I would hesitate
to deny it?

NPN, 11/22/06: As we noted in the case of Armstrong Williams, the public does not
smile on commentators who are being secretly paid to advocate for an
interested party (see
http://www.csmonitor.com…). Please give us a
straight answer about whether your content is sponsored or otherwise
inappropriately influenced by Capital Video or its agents or affiliates.

Shelffo, 11/22/06: So now I’m being compared to Armstrong Williams. Not that you’re accusing me of anything, though.

NPN, 11/23/06: Your position, Andrew, is that you have the privilege of posting
editorial content to MassLive, yet you refuse to deny that you have
conflict of interest with respect to Capital Video, at a time when you
have been extensively reporting on and commenting about issues that
affect them.

Shelffo, 11/23/06: If I had to spend my time denying the accusations of everyone who
perceived a conflict of interest, I wouldn’t have any time to write
anything else. I’ll ask it again: if you can find proof that I work for
Capital Video, beyond what you read into my posts, feel free to let the
world know.

NPN, 11/24/06: Andrew, since November 8 you have gone to heroic efforts to evade
answering the simple question I posed to you. Surely, if you had no
conflict of interest with Capital Video, it would have been easier to
make a straight denial. I have looked through various posts on your
blog going back to 2004. I haven’t yet come across another accusation
of a conflict of interest. Do you really receive that many?

Shelffo, 11/24/06: Umm, you do know that readers have only had the ability to make
comments on my blog for the last few weeks. right? So, how would you
see the accusations?

NPN, 11/26/06: I’m glad you have recently added a commenting feature to your blog.
Besides that, I notice there is a link to contact you at the top of the
page, and of course people can always contact the MassLive editor. So I
ask again, how many accusations of a conflict of interest have you
received since you began blogging on MassLive?

To summarize, Andrew Shelffo has claimed:

  • That he’s not a journalist
  • That he has no obligation to answer NPN’s question about a material conflict of interest
  • That by merely asking a relevant question we have tied him to organized crime and besmirched his ethnicity
  • That in opposing deceptive PR we oppose Capital Video’s right to express itself at all
  • That we are required to know the answer to a question (have proof) before we ask it
  • That NoPornNorthampton itself could be working for Capital Video (saying, “You’ve certainly done a lot of promotion for them over the past
    couple of months”)
  • That the obligation is on the citizen to prove a journalist has a conflict of interest, rather than the journalist having a duty to disclose a conflict
  • That we have claimed he’s not a father
  • That paying a web service to distribute a press release that prominently identifies the sponsor is equivalent to secretly paying a journalist to promote a certain point of view
  • That he receives so many accusations of a conflict of interest he can’t be bothered to respond to them

On November 27, we spoke to MassLive editor Ed Kubosiak about Mr. Shelffo’s obligations. He said that he had corresponded with Andrew, and that he believes Andrew is not in fact being compensated by Capital Video. He seemed disinclined to pursue the matter further.

We ask Andrew Shelffo to clearly state if he has a conflict of interest with respect to Capital Video. We ask MassLive to clearly state that all its journalists, including its bloggers, have an obligation to disclose material conflicts of interest, and that stonewalling on the question is unacceptable.

While Mr. Shelffo won’t tell NPN if he has ties to Capital Video, he has invited the public to ask him about it. Please take him up on the offer. His blog has a Contact link at the top.

————————-
11/28/06 Follow-Up

Mr. Shelffo comments on this post in “I’ve Hit The Big Time”. He characterizes a citizen giving feedback to an editor as “they tried to tell on me”. Northampton is no schoolyard, Mr. Shelffo. Journalists, even citizen journalists, have obligations to the public. They can’t expect shelter from uncomfortable questions or from phone calls to their editors. Words, and porn shops, have consequences.

40 thoughts on “MassLive Blogger Andrew Shelffo Stonewalls on Conflict of Interest Question

  1. This posting did a better job of highlighting your childishness than any of your opponents ever could. Good job.

    Not only are your opinions about sex painfully and closedmindedly retro, but your inability to grasp the modern era of journalism shows that you are throwbacks to a former age. Grow up, or step into the present.

  2. As a former long time resident of Noho, and as someone who has worked on the First Amendment issues surrounding the purveyors of pornography, I’ve been watching this debate with interest for some time.

    Your argument against Mr. Shefflo fails on its basic premise that he is a journalist. Citizen journalist is a fine ego-boosting title usually taken on by bloggers with inflated egos, but rarely does the designation fit. Shefflo doesn’t customarily break news stories. He doesn’t do investigative journalism. He’s a blogger, pure and simple and as such is an opinion writer, not a journalist.

    He has the same right to express his opinion as you do and whether or not he’s being paid by Capitol Video is none of your business. It seems to me you protest too much in an effort to smear the reasonable counterpoints he raised against your arguments. Good for him for refusing to validate your self-serving witch hunt with an answer to your meaningless prying into his private affairs.

  3. Question: do you think this makes you look more credible, or less? Do you think it makes you look more reasonable, or less? More petty, or less? More childish, or less?

    I’ll give you a hint. When you ask someone an asinine question, and then he refuses to play ball with you, and then you make a huge federal case over it, it is you who ends up looking bad. You end up looking like a 10-year-old who’s throwing a temper tantrum. But since you have access to the internet, you do it in front of a much larger audience than your average 10-year-old. And since you went to Harvard, you do it with a larger vocabulary than your average 10-year-old. But you’re still behaving like a child.

    I suggest you get over it. Andrew Shelffo does not work for Capital Video. You’ve got no evidence to suggest that he does, because there is none. His “editor” doesn’t think he does. No one thinks he does, but you. Quit being such a baby.

  4. What the holy hell does this have to do with anything at all??Run out of things to talk about that you have to drag some resident of Northampton into all of this?You have accused me of many things also when in fact you do not know me.I found it to be very offensive the thing you accused me of hence why I have not posted here in awhile.Leave the poor guy alone.Find something better to do with you time than to accuse him,and me,of things that we may or may not be.Frankly,it’s none of your business.

  5. You guys are seriously crazy. Do you have a job? How can you spend this kind of time worrying about stupid stuff like this without being fired? Obviously you’re totally obsessed. There are better things you could be doing. Even if opposing CV is a worthwhile cause, this clearly isn’t. I noticed that you immediately swooped in on Schelffo’s blog, as though you were waiting for him to react–the first three comments are from you. How can you not have anything better to do?

  6. Andrew Shelffo may publish his views using new media, but that doesn’t mean old standards from print journalism don’t apply. He needs to clarify if his blog is advertising or editorial. He doesn’t seem to take this need seriously.

  7. Mr. Shelffo enjoys the resources of Advance Internet, a large company that makes its living from journalism. The credibility of its websites is one of its major assets, and benefits Mr. Shelffo’s blog. These benefits come with an obligation to make clear what’s editorial and what’s advertising.

    Mr. Shelffo has been reporting on local events and commenting on them, the normal activities I associate with being a journalist. The premise has been that he’s doing this as a local resident and family man, which he is. However, if he’s also being paid by a third party to advance his opinions, that is relevant information that the public should know.

    When NPN buys ads in the Gazette, they require us to put a “Paid Political Advertisement” tag on each one. The Gazette doesn’t want the public to be confused about what’s the paper’s opinion and what’s the opinion of a third party. We want Mr. Shelffo to agree to play by similar rules of disclosure.

  8. Whatever reputation American media has for being fair, objective and credible has been gained by over a century of effort to insulate journalists from the influence of businesses, political groups, and other concentrations of power. Rules developed that advertising had to be separate from editorial, and reporters had to disclose conflicts of interest.

    Mr. Shelffo’s stance threatens these rules. I’ve spoken with several journalists who find this situation more interesting than you do.

  9. Mr. Shelffo has been a prominent advocate for many of Capital Video’s arguments. If he is motivated by more than his self-professed search for logic and truth, this is relevant information the public should know. I imagine it would affect the weight many people give to his arguments.

  10. What’s at stake is the integrity and credibility of content providers on MassLive, which itself is part of one of the largest media companies in America, Advance Publications. What we’re doing here is hashing out some of the ethics rules for citizen journalists, something the Internet has made a pressing issue.

  11. Shefflo doesn’t NEED to clarify anything. His posts appear in the blog section of the site, not the news section. By inference it’s opinion, not news.

    You would do more for your cause if you addressed his arguments, which are well made, rather than attacking his motives.

    Captiol Video has the constitutional right to do business in the city. The city has the right to zone where they are allowed to do business but has no legal standing to prevent them from doing so. The case law is long established on this score.

    Attacking the messenger who points out the flaws in your arguments, rather than countering his points, does nothing to advance your cause.

  12. While it is incumbent on journalists to recuse themselves from covering stories where there is a conflict of interest, Andrew Shefflo is not a journalist.

    Sadly, this whole blog phenomenom has blurred some of these lines, but so it goes.

    The problem with your attack on Mr. Shefflo is that it is just that: an attack with no evidence. If you decided to also accuse him of being a child pornographer, or a Nazi or a terrorist, should he have to rebut those accusations as well?

    The fact that Mr. Shefflo has continued on with his criticism of you even in the face of your questions about an apparent conflict of interest can only mean two things: either he isn’t financially tied to Capital Video or he’s risking looking like a complete shill, which would certainly discredit his points with a large number of people.

    If he were employed or tied to CV, he would be a fool not to simply answer you or to have disclosed it earlier. By not answering, he is merely refusing to honor unsubstantiated charges. To me this indicates he is free from any conflict, or the biggest idiot I’ve heard of in a while.

    That said, since he is not a journalist, but a blogger, he could be secretly employed by CV and not be breaking any rules.

    Just because Masslive offers news and editorial content does not mean that everything on the site is “journalism”…folks who take (most) blogs as seriously as they do old media do so at their own peril.

    Mr Shefflo’s blog is called Prospect PERSPECTIVE…meaing it’s his point of view. Even if that POV was influenced by money, it is still his and not governed by the same rules a repoter is.

    I agree that conflicts should be made known, but since Mr Shefflo has not revealed any, I assume there are none.

    Disclosure: I am a former employee of the same company that owns Masslive, but do not know Mr. Shefflo and I’m not being paid to write this, nor did anyone ask me to.

  13. One more point: You wrote that “On November 27, we spoke to MassLive editor Ed Kubosiak about Mr. Shelffo’s obligations. He said that he had corresponded with Andrew, and that he believes Andrew is not in fact being compensated by Capital Video. He seemed disinclined to pursue the matter further.”

    Mr. Kubosiak answered your question after talking to Mr. Shefflo. Why is that not good enough for you? And why add the rather snide insinuation that Mr. Kubosiak didn’t pursue the matter well? (“disinclined to pursue the matter further”?…It seems to me he asked Mr. Shefflo; Mr. Shefflo told him there was no CV ties and Mr. Kuboisak believes him, but out of respect to Mr. Shefllo, phrased it in such a way that he didn’t actually quote Mr. Shefflo denying it (because Mr Shefflo doesn’t want to dignify your unsubstantiated accusation.)

  14. Mr. Shelffo’s stance threatens nothing. He’s willing to answer questions about whether he works for Capital Video, he’s just not willing to answer *your* questions. He’s stonewalling *you,* not *us.*

    I wonder if you’d be willing to share the comments of the journalists you spoke to. I think it would be interesting to see what they have to say, instead of what you say they say.

    And I didn’t say I find this situation uninteresting. But what I find interesting about it is not Mr. Shelffo’s obstinance or supposed unethical behavior, but rather what a baby you are.

    So here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice. Go to Yahoo! or Gmail or Hotmail or something. Make up a name and get an email address. Send Mr. Shelffo an email from that address, pretending to be someone else, and ask him whether he works for Capital Video. If he doesn’t see through the ruse, he’ll answer, and you can go back to making falacious arguments about why a porn store shouldn’t be on King St.

  15. I disagree. Shelffo’s stance tarnishes all the citizen journalism on MassLive. Much of the value of this amateur commentary is that it’s the authentic voice of citizens. If in fact some of it has a secret commercial sponsor, the credibility is severely damaged.

    Capital Video is clever, web savvy, and has a lot of money at stake. Owner Kenneth Guarino does not always behave ethically (he was convicted of conspiracy to evade taxes). People should be aware of the possbility that anonymous web comments, or comments from someone who stonewalls when asked about a conflict of interest, might in fact be speech sponsored by Capital Video.

  16. If you want to put the question of financial interests on the table then let me ask you this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but NoPorn collects money in the form of donations from the public. Obviously, your donees are people who are against the business opening – so they also have an agenda and your side is also obviously web savvy. And as I recall there was some issue about whether you were properly receiving those donations. If memory serves, you were receiving money improperly and then rectified your mistake.

    So I ask you, are you receiving compensation for running this site or for anything to do with NoPorn and if so, how much are you being paid? Who are your sponsors? Can you post a spreadsheet on how your donations are being spent? This member of the public would like to exercise her right to know so I can judge the validity of your opinion.

  17. I’m not your lackey. If you want to know so bad, you do it.

    The fact remains. He’s not stonewalling us, he’s stonewalling you. You could get a quick answer if you wanted, and were willing to believe him when he does.

    Although you didn’t mention it in your reply, I’d still like to see what those journalists had to say about all this. Please report.

  18. I don’t find your assumptions of Mr. Shelffo’s innocence compelling. He should not be left off the hook from having to answer a relevant question that speaks to his credibility on important public issues.

    Your low standards for citizen journalists are concerning. What value would this journalism have on MassLive if it was heavily penetrated by undisclosed advertising dollars? Gary Hill’s stance at the Society for Professional Journalists seems much more healthy.

  19. I’d be more convinced by Mr. Shelffo personally making a clear denial of Capital Video ties than by the stonewalling he’s been engaged since November 8. Since I didn’t witness him speaking with Ed Kubosiak, I don’t know what he told him, and I came away from my conversation with Mr. Kubosiak concerned that he demands too little in the way of disclosure and public accountability from his citizen journalists.

    The ethics rules for bloggers on MassLive seem fuzzy, and it’s time for Ed Kubosiak to clarify them.

  20. Sorry, I won’t take you up on your suggestion to deceive Mr. Shelffo.

    If you’d like to hear from a journalist about this subject, here’s Gary Hill, Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Society for Professional Journalists.

  21. We will file the required annual charity forms with the state when they’re due, and, if appropriate, publish them.

    NPN’s expenses to date exceed $21,000, and we have received just under $3,500 in contributions from the public. You could say our salaries have amounted to negative $17,500. The largest single contribution received has been $240. We are unaware that any contributor has been motivated by personal profit, beyond a desire to preserve the current value of their property and the health of commerce in Northampton.

    Here are some of NPN’s major expenses so far:

    September Open Letter to Goldbergs (29,000 mailpieces): $13,934.56

    Search Engine Advertising on Google: $2,718.71

    Press Releases on PRWeb (3): $2,052.12

    NPN Yard Signs (250): $1,141.43

    Laser Printer Toner Cartridges: $750.60

    NPN Buttons (252): $278.92

    Mailbox at UPS Store (1 year): $142.00

  22. You don’t have to apologize to me for your unwillingness to get an answer through subterfuge. I get a kick out of it when you act like a baby on the internet.

    Gary Hill’s comments are interesting. He says, “It will only enhance their [bloggers’s] credibility over time if they avoid conflicts, disclose those conflicts they can’t avoid and clearly spell out what is news, opinion or advertisement.”

    I think Mr. Shelffo is complying with Mr Hill’s guidelines, actually. Since you have no evidence, other than an obtuse refusal to understand his motives, for thinking that there is a conflict of interest, it’s not clear that Mr. Shelffo has failed to avoid an avoidable conflict. It is clear that the conflict in question would be avoidable, so he’s under no obligation to disclose an *unavoidable* conflict. And although he’s refused several times to directly answer your question about whether there’s a conflict, he’s refused on the grounds that it is offensive, irrational, unreasonable, and stupid. If it’s offensive, irrational, unreasonable, or stupid to think that there’s a conflict, then that implies that there’s no conflict.

    He’s also offered to answer questions about the conflict to regular citizens who aren’t members of NPN. That is, he’s clearly willing to answer questions about this, just not *your* questions. Like I said before, he’s stonewalling *you,* not *us.* If he’s violating any ethical guidelines, Mr. Shelffo’s infraction is infinitessimal compared to those of Armstrong Williams, to whom you have compared him.

    It would be nice, if you’re going to continue to pursue this, to know what actual, concrete evidence there is to support the contention that there is a conflict, other than your obtuse refusal to understand Mr. Shelffo’s motives.

    That’s not really evidence, though. For example, I can’t understand *your* motives. You spend so much time and money on this project that it’s hard for me to believe that you’re not crazy. But I don’t wonder whether you work for the DeCavalcante family in New Jersey, who compete with the Gambinos for control of the adult entertainment market. Actually, come to think of it, do you? Please state for the record whether you are being compensated in any way by the DeCavalcante family.

    In closing: don’t apologize, I like it when you act like a baby. Mr. Shelffo isn’t obviously violating Mr. Hill’s code. Do you work for the DeCavalcantes?

  23. I’m sure you’re aware by now that Andrew Shelffo went on the radio this morning and denied that he is being compensated by Capital Video. I’m looking forward to the front-page blog post here that will tell the world. Something like, “MassLive Blogger Denies Being Compensated By Capital Video On Local Radio Show” would work nicely. it seems to me that as long as he’s answered your question, the courteous thing to do is to publicize this fact with the same vigor as that with which you publicized his earlier refusal to answer. I know you’ll do it because I know how upset you get when people aren’t courteous enough.

  24. We have no association with and receive no compensation from the DeCavalcantes.

    You ignore the imbalance of power between us and Mr. Shelffo. It’s far easier for him to make a clear denial of influence from Capital Video than for us to prove it.

    Here’s another set of ethical guidelines to consider. Mr. Shelffo’s stonewalling and hostile attitude towards public inquiry is nowhere near in compliance with it.

  25. I’d say that since Mr. Shelffo went on a local radio show yesterday (Bill Dwight, WHMP, 11/30) and denied your spurious accusations shows that his hostility is directed only to you, your fear-mongering, your irresponsible use of “evidence,” and your insulting, spurious accusations. It is not directed toward public inquiry.

  26. I didn’t mean to give the impression we paid for NPN’s activities through borrowing. We have incurred no debt. All the invoices have been paid. The point is that NPN is not a profit-making activity. We do it because we care about our town and our culture.

  27. He can “cherry” pick the forum in which he wants to be accountable, though. If you were listening yesterday, he was accountable to you. If you want to download the podcast, he’ll be accountable to you there. I suggest you get over yourself.

  28. How interesting. It begs the question, if you’re not in debt and you only received $3,500 in donations, then who paid the rest of the $17,500 in expenses? Under your own criteria for full disclosure, it would seem to be material in establishing the credibility of your position and the veracity of the information you present, on which you ask the public to judge the issue.

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