New AFP Editor Responds to Controversy, Misleads on APN

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(APN) ATLANTA — Xanna Don’t, the new Editor of the Atlanta Free Press, Atlanta’s controversial new GLBT publication, wrote a three page editorial responding to last week’s scandal concerning AFP. The editorial appeared in the third and latest print issue of the magazine.

Previously, Atlanta Progressive News reported that Zack Hudson, the then-Editor of AFP, had been terminated from Southern Voice magazine for fabricating sources. When APN asked Hudson about the issue, he then lied to Atlanta Progressive News by stating a legal settlement prevented him from discussing the matter; yet, no lawsuit or settlement ever existed.

After APN revealed Hudson’s prior, and more recent, fabrications in an article, Hudson resigned from AFP. While AFP did not initially accept the resignation, they eventually did. Then Contributing Editor Xanna Don’t was promoted to be Editor.

This week’s issue contained no news content. Don’t’s recent editorial, “The Landscape is Changing,” made up the majority of content in the print edition this week, alongside a review of new albums by Tori Amos and Lady Gaga. Still, the paper had several advertisements and appeared to be generating some revenue.

In the piece, Don’t took issue with many parties involved in Hudson’s AFP resignation incident, including Atlanta Progressive News. Essentially, Don’t accuses Atlanta Progressive News, Project Q Atlanta, and former Southern Voice staffers of working together with the intent of sabotaging AFP.

However, the implied conspiracy theory rests on at least two factual assertions made by Don’t in the article about APN which are not true.

“My accidental ascent into this temp job is not comparable to the other players editing gay news in Atlanta,” Don’t wrote. “They’ve been doing this here for years. And while they deserve respect for their experience and longevity, perhaps that longevity has been detrimental to Atlanta’s gay media forum overall.”

“The two news outlets that have reported on the rocky start of ATL Free Press owe their roots to SoVo; their editors worked there at some point,” Don’t wrote.

Presumably, Don’t is referring to the present writer, Matthew Cardinale, of APN, and Matt Hennie, Editor of Project Q Atlanta, although Patrick Saunders of Creative Loafing Atlanta wrote about AFP on the Fresh Loaf blog as well.

Yet, while Hennie did previously work for Southern Voice, it is not true that the present writer worked for Southern Voice at any point. While the present writer has authored two published columns for Sovo, so have dozens if not hundreds of opinionated people in Atlanta over the last several years. That does not equate to working for Southern Voice or owing one’s roots to the publication.

“They already knew about Zack’s fall from integrity before it was announced he would be ATL-FP’s editor,” Don’t continued.

However, that is also not accurate. Atlanta Progressive News did not learn of the circumstances behind Hudson’s termination from Sovo until preparing to write an article about the first issue of AFP.

“Like the monopoly that SoVo and David represented, this continued incestuous quality in our media may not be ideal to facilitate the free flow of information to the public. All of the other glbt news entities in town, current and pending, had the luxury of capriciously waiting to time any publication of his transgressions. APN chose it to coincide with the publication of our second issue,” Don’t wrote.

Again, APN did not choose it to coincide with any date other than the date upon which all the facts, documents, and interview notes were sufficient to create a complete story, ready to be presented to readers.

“If being a qualified editor means strategically sitting on information pertinent to the public and waiting to ‘play it’ when it will benefit the launch of a new publication and destroy an undesirable upstart, I don’t want the gig. I don’t want to be a part of that club,” Don’t said.

Presumably, Don’t is referring to GA Voice as the upcoming new publication to be launched, and AFP as the undesirable upstart. As previously reported by APN, many former staff members from Southern Voice are working to launch a new publication, GA Voice.

“SoVo’s computer archives have been offline since their sudden shut down over a month ago, so no online copy could be found. It is not difficult to imagine that APN’s trickery was aided by an inside source from Southern Voice with access to a tangible printed copy of Zack’s published termination notice to provide accurate details, creating a perfect storm of deception,” Don’t concluded.

It is not clear what Don’t is referring to as the alleged trickery and deception of APN, and Don’t has not clarified the statements per APN’s request.

To be sure, APN did obtain the documentation showing Southern Voice’s printed statement regarding Hudson’s termination from a confidential source. Sometimes, media outlets do rely on confidential sources to provide readers with the most information possible.

In addition, APN has a strong record of maintaining source confidentiality when it is promised, and it was absolutely appropriate for APN to obtain documentation of Hudson’s termination if possible. However, that is not deceptive; it’s merely maintaining confidentiality in the process of investigative reporting.

Atlanta Progressive News emailed a correction request to Don’t, as well as AFP Co-Owner Chip O’Kelley, on December 24, 2009, and received no reply. APN sent a second email reminding Don’t and O’Kelley of the correction request on December 26, and still received no reply.

APN emailed a third notice regarding the correction request on December 29, and has still received no reply. APN also left a voice message for Don’t and received no reply.

APN contacted O’Kelley by telephone regarding the incorrect information appearing in AFP, and he replied, “Talk to Xanna.” When APN notified O’Kelley that Don’t had not replied, O’Kelley said, “You’re gonna have to talk with Xanna about that.”

When asked whether O’Kelley is concerned about the accuracy of statements appearing in AFP, he reiterated, “That’s up to Xanna.”

To be sure, Don’t made it clear that she has no experience as a news editor.

However, she seems to be familiar with the notion of a correction request. In fact, Don’t asked APN to change one of the quotes attributed to her in APN’s first article about Hudson and AFP.

“Matt, I was partially misquoted,” Don’t wrote in an email to APN dated December 16, 2009. “‘Zack and I met and I liked his experience…’ should be: ‘Zack and I met and he had more newspaper experience.'”

“I took notes while we spoke, too. I’m sure of this and would appreciate the correction,” Don’t wrote. APN edited the statement out of courtesy within minutes but did not publish a formal correction because we had not emailed the story yet to our subscribers.

As they should, most readers of a publication assume that there is some accountability in the editorial department to make sure that the content they’re reading is accurate. Most publications, like APN, have some protocol for responding to correction requests.

AFP’s lack of protocol for dealing with such requests, or lack of accountability for the accuracy of content, raises continued questions about accuracy, honesty, and transparency with the publication, even after the previous editor was already replaced for repeatedly lying and fabricating.

(END / 2009)

Editor’s note: In full disclosure to our readers, noting AFP’s need for substantive news content to appear in the publication, APN had offered Don’t and O’Kelley the opportunity to syndicate two of APN’s recent articles of concern to the GLBT community. We had thought AFP had turned a new page with the resignation of Hudson and the ironic part is that APN wanted AFP to thrive and succeed. Since the publication of Don’t’s editorial and AFP’s refusal to address our correction request, APN has since retracted the offer to partner with AFP in any way.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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