Journal News Spikes Interview with Robert Cox, Retaliation for Gun Map Story Falls Flat

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Journal News Spikes Interview with Robert Cox, Retaliation for Gun Map Story Falls Flat

April 21, 2014 - 15:27

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The Journal News spiked a story that it claimed was part of a series last Spring on the infamous Journal News map of pistol-permit holders. The purported series was to be tied to the 90-day anniversary of Andrew Cuomo's SAFE Act.

Map: Where are the Journal News employees in your neighborhood?

At a City Council meeting in March 2013, I told Ken Valenti of the Journal News that I would be running for school board. A few weeks later Valenti called me claiming he wanted to interview me about the school board elections. His call came prior to the deadline for prospective candidates to file petitions to get on the ballot. I informed Valenti that I believe such an interview would be premature until the ballot was established. He insisted that he needed to interview me immediately. I declined.

The next reporter who contacted me was Gary Stern. He claimed to be a feature writer for the Journal News working on a story that was intended to be part of a series on the Journal News Gun Map. In fact, he is the Education Reporter for the Journal News.

By now, the ballot for the school board election had been established. I told Stern that I would prefer to hold off on his interview request until after the election when I would have more time. He insisted that he was under a very tight deadline, that the story was part of a series due to run in May, and that the interview needed to happen right away.

Skeptical, I agreed to meet Stern at the Wykagyl Starbucks for an hour.

Stern then called back a few days later asking if the interview could take place in my home and whether he could bring along a photographer. I told him that I would do what I agreed to do -- sit for an hour interview at the Starbucks -- and that there would be no photographs taken. He agreed to those terms.

The day of the meeting, Stern was more than 45 minutes late. We got cups of coffee and sat down at a table to talk.

Within two minutes of our sitting down, another Journal News reporter, Ned Rauch was suddenly standing at the counter in the Starbucks, looking back at us, surreptitiously photographing me talking to Stern using a smartphone.

When I turned and acknowledged Rauch he became flustered and walked out.

By this point, the hour was up. I handed Stern a written statement I had prepared while waiting for him to show up and then I left.

Stern called back the next day, insisting that we set up another time for an interview. I told him I would only agree to a telephone interview. He accepted that. I also complained about Rauch. Stern stated that he had no idea why Rauch was there and that he was not taking photographs and that no photographs would run with the story.

On April 30, 2013 I called Stern on Skype and told him I was recording the call. He acknowledged that I was recording the call and proceeded with the interview.

Here is the audio from that call: Gary Stern Interview of Robert Cox on April 30, 2013

After the interview, I offered Stern a copy of my recording which he declined. He later contacted me and said he changed his mind, that he did want a copy of the recording of the call. I emailed him the audio recording of the call.

As you can hear from the audio, the Journal News did not get what they were hoping for. I come across as reasoned and principled in my decision to publish my map of Journal News reporters and gave the Journal News nothing to work with in a "hit piece".

Over the coming days, I was in contact with Stern who stated each week that the story would be running soon. By June it was apparent that not only was his story not running -- he claimed to have written it but that it was spiked by his editor -- but that the entire series was not running.

It has now been one year since Valenti and Stern were insisting they needed to interview me immediately and no story ever ran. Readers are free to draw their own conclusions regarding the integrity of Valenti, Stern, Rauch, Hassan and the rest of the folks at the Journal News.

I suspected that the real intention was for Janet Hassan, publisher of the Journal News, to exact some retribution for the Talk of the Sound map of Journal News reporters I published in the wake of their gun map.

I believed then, and am convinced now, that the idea was to publish a "hit piece" timed to the school board election. When I did not give them what they hoped -- some sort of irresponsible pro-gun rant they could use to discredit me as a school board candidate -- they dropped the idea.