An open letter to Sunday Paper

On November 28, Sunday Paper published a column by John Sugg about Creative Loafing's bankruptcy.

John and I are former employees of Creative Loafing. I still write a weekly column for CL on a freelance basis.

The online version of Sugg's column allows readers to post comments.

A commenter using the pseudonym Lazarus posted a comment containing several false and slanderous personal and professional allegations about my friend and former CL editor Ken Edelstein.

Edelstein flatly denies Lazarus' accusations, adding "I have no idea what 'Lazarus' is talking about."

Several biographical details in Lazarus' letter strongly suggest the author of the comment is Sunday Paper News and Business Editor Stephanie Ramage.

Lazarus claims to be a former CL writer who left the paper in 2001. Ms. Ramage is a former CL writer who left the paper 2001.

Lazarus says (s)he had a less-than-pleasant working relationship with Ken. Ms. Ramage told me the same thing during our only meeting, a lunch last Spring to discuss a story I wrote about Iraqi refugees in Metro Atlanta.

Lazarus claims to be the parent of a young son. Ms. Ramage has a young son.

Lazarus' biography resembles no other person I can recall who has worked in CL's newsroom.

In a lengthy e-mail exchange, I asked her several times directly if she authored the Lazarus comment. Ms. Ramage was evasive, refusing to deny or confirm authorship.

"If I knew who Lazarus was, there still would be no reason to think that information, in your hands, wouldn't be misused," she says. "And what would be the point of that, anyway?"

The point, as she well knows, is that Sunday Paper is a newspaper and Ms. Ramage is the paper's news editor. Newspapers and journalists are bound by a professional code of ethics venerating honesty and transparency.

If she has used her position as an editor at Sunday Paper to launch anonymous personal attacks, and she's violating more professional rules and ethics than I can count.

Reputable news organizations do not permit such behavior. Alongside the more high-minded reasons, such deception undermines the credibility of everything else in the publication.

Ms. Ramage and Sunday Paper management owe the public a clear answer to a simple question: Did Ms. Ramage author a comment to John Sugg's column using the pseudonym Lazarus?

UPDATE:

Here's my unedited e-mail exchange with Ms. Ramage about the Lazarus comment. Because my only question to her was about the authorship of a libelous public comment in a section of the newspaper she edits, I do not consider this e-mail exchange private.

From: andy@andy2000.org
To: Stephanie Ramage
Subject: Are you Lazarus?
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2008 12:38:31 -0500

Dear Stephanie-

Are you the author of the "Lazarus" comment under Sugg's Sunday Paper piece?

Andy

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From: Stephanie Ramage
Date: December 15, 2008 1:37:01 PM EST
To: andy n
Subject: RE: Are you Lazarus?

Andy,

I honestly didn't see this until now. I almost never check my [Hotmail] account. In the future, you can email me at [Gmail].

Also, I know this is really late notice, but I barely have a minute to breathe (a look at the news section should explain why), so forgive the 11th-hour invite: Our holiday party is this evening at 7 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe. If you and yours would like to come by, I'd be glad to see you. -- Very best, Steph

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On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 2:06 PM, Andisheh Nouraee wrote:

Stephanie-

Thanks for the invitation. We're busy. Christmas shopping beckons.

So, are you Lazarus?

Andy

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On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 2:44 PM, Stephanie Ramage wrote:

My shopping is almost done--there are only so many gnomes I can buy.

I'm sorry you can't make it. Apparently Patrick invited Ken, so it's not like you wouldn't know anyone. Of course, it might be kind of awkward for me. -- Steph

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From: Stephanie Ramage
Subject: Re: Are you Lazarus?
Date: December 15, 2008 2:53:46 PM EST
To: andy@andy2000.org

Are you "Max Power"?

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On Dec 15, 2008, at 3:07 PM, Andisheh Nouraee wrote:

I'm not even sure what your question is referring to.

I use my full name when I comment, if that's what you're referring to.

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From: Stephanie Ramage
Subject: what would be the point?
Date: December 15, 2008 3:53:59 PM EST
To: andy@andy2000.org

If we talk about Max or Lazarus or any of this other distracting but ultimately unsatisfying stuff, why should I trust you? If I knew who Lazarus was, there still would be no reason to think that information, in your hands, wouldn't be misused. And what would be the point of that, anyway? 2001 was nearly a decade ago.

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On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 4:10 PM, Andisheh Nouraee wrote:

There's a comment under Sugg's recent Sunday Paper column attributed to "Lazarus."

All I'm asking is this: did you write the comment?

Based on the details revealed in the comment, it sounds like you wrote it. Instead of assuming, I'm asking.

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On Dec 15, 2008, at 4:16 PM, Stephanie Ramage wrote:

Well, that's a good reporterly instinct, and I'm declining to comment.

Someone calling himself Max Powers and identifying himself as a former Loaf employee emailed me about my experience working with and for Ken. Was that you?

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From: Stephanie Ramage
Subject: do you still work for the Loaf?
Date: December 15, 2008 4:46:03 PM EST
To: andy@andy2000.org

Are you freelancing for them? Is this for a story or follow-up? (God help the poor, bored readers--I can't imagine they'd be interested.)

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On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 5:04 PM, Andisheh Nouraee wrote:

Why not just admit you wrote the Lazarus comment? In this instance, "declining to comment" is a clear admission, too.

I already answered your "Max" question in a previous e-mail, but I'll answer it again.

No. I didn't e-mail you using the name Max or any other pseudonym. I use my real name when I e-mail people. I also use my real name when I leave blog comments.

If someone named "Max" is writing to you and calling herself/himself a former CL staffer, it might be Max Pizarro (sp?). He was a CL staffer for a few months. I believe he left in early 2007. I have neither spoken to him nor communicated with him in any way since he left, so I'm only guessing.

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On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 5:11 PM, Andisheh Nouraee wrote:

I write my weekly Don't Panic column for CL on a freelance basis.

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On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 5:28 PM, Stephanie Ramage wrote:

Declining to comment is not an admission, as any reporter knows.

Jarrett has declined to comment on the Blagojevich affair, but that certainly doesn't mean she's guilty of anything. People sometimes decline to comment because they don't want to get dragged into a news story that they feel has nothing to do with them.

I've never talked to Max Pizarro and wouldn't know him if I saw him. In fact, until you said the name, I couldn't remember there ever having been a Max at the Loaf and I see no reason to think this Max is that Max.

Why does what Lazarus wrote matter to you?

And whoever Lazarus is, why should that person admit anything? Have you asked "Mr. T" to reveal himself?

Andy, you never said that this was for an article or column or blog or anything else. In fact, I asked you whether you were still working for the Loaf (freelancing or otherwise) and you haven't answered. My invite was in good faith. I would hope that you would be professional enough to say whether you're asking me questions for a story or column or blog, etc. Please be the decent person I hope you are and keep our emails between us.

-- Very best, Steph

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From: Stephanie Ramage
Subject: Re: do you still work for the Loaf?
Date: December 15, 2008 5:31:59 PM EST
To: andy@andy2000.org

So, what was this line of questioning for?

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From: Stephanie Ramage
Subject: Re: what would be the point?
Date: December 15, 2008 5:35:02 PM EST
To: andy@andy2000.org

Furthermore, as you know, I use my real name on blog comments.

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On Dec 15, 2008, at 5:55 PM, Andisheh Nouraee wrote:

I asked you because I wanted to know.

3 comments:

14:22 andisheh said...

John Sugg send me the following e-mail and asked me to paste it here:

Since I'm involved, albeit unintentionally and obliquely, I'd like to say that the Ken Edelstein "Lazarus" described isn't the Ken Edelstein I know.

Ken is certainly passionate, and sometimes that passion morphed into regrettable anger. He has gone through incredibly stressful times at Creative Loafing. His bosses have been consistently inconsistent, erratic, lacked clear direction, and clearly placed little value on what they should value most: Great content.

Through all of that, Ken tried to develop talent and put out a great newspaper. I have often disagreed with Ken -- sometimes our shouting matches were so loud they became a spectator sport. Yet, I have never known him to be intentionally vengeful.

Ken's final act at CL was precipitated by his standing up for great content and for his staff. I don't know what happened seven or eight years ago with "Lazarus" -- I wasn't in Atlanta then -- but I do know than in any meaningful sense, Ken departed CL a hero. His bosses are shamed by how they treated Ken; he has every right to be proud.

14:04 Suzanne said...

i knew as soon as i read it that lazarus is without a doubt stephanie. it's not beyond reason that ken might have given her a less-than-glowing recommendation had a potential employer called for a reference. but the assertion that he set out to financially ruin her is absurd.

10:38 Jerry said...

"Lazarus" - the name of one raised from the dead - fits Ms. Ramage perfectly.

After failing out at Creative Loafing, she held a number of low-wage jobs, which she could barely concern herself with so much as showing up on time for, and was a down and outer if there ever was one.

The Sunday Paper has in a very real way raised her from the dead, in a career sense.

Which is sad for all of us and to the detriment of society as a whole.

I've read her column. It's a train wreck of attention seeking unsubstantiated diatribe that leans so far to the Right she could have worked for Goebbels.

She's Lazarus for sure. The personal attacks and hatchet man style are pure Ramage.