A local website has popped up with the stated mission of publicly shaming journalists in Broward and Palm Beach. The site says it will also be a place for people to air grievances about bad landlords and ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, but so far, it's just journalists.
Last week, DeadBeatLink.com published a stack of information on the home addresses and phone numbers of reporters from the Palm Beach Post. Yesterday, the same site put up the info for the staff at WPEC CBS 12. Obviously, this kind of public exposure could be troubling for people in the news business -- which seems to be what DeadBeatLink is aiming at.
The website claims its goal is to "make people more honest and ethical by shaming them into better behavior." In a kind of manifesto accompanying the Deadbeat News Reporter section, the person (or persons) working the strings behind the site says, "Journalists have chosen to ignore select political figures in Palm Beach and Broward County, turning their heads while their agencies run rampant with corruption, ranging in crimes of moral turpitude, stealing from tax payers to even committing murder."
The text goes on: "We are letting the people know this is not acceptable and they need to hold themselves, and our elected public representatives, to a higher standard." The site claims they omitted reporters they feel "meet this standard."
They promise to publish the information from a different news outlet every week. As we said, they've already hit the Post and CBS 12. According to the manifesto, Channel 5 is on deck.
When New Times called up the Palm Beach Post yesterday, we briefly spoke with Randy Schultz, editor of the editorial page. He hadn't heard about the DeadBeatLink and understandably didn't sound too thrilled about its existence. No one from the Post or the paper's parent company, Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, called us back with an official comment.
A woman who answered the phone in the CBS 12 newsroom also didn't know about DeadBeatLink. She declined to comment on the situation, and Cindy Younkin, the station's news director, didn't respond to a request for comment.
So who's behind DeadBeatLink? We sent a message to the site's administrators through the page's "contact us" tab but didn't hear back by the end of day Monday. According to a domain search, the site is registered through a third-party company based in Coral Springs; when we called over, tech support said they couldn't supply information on the website without a subpoena.
Websites focusing on journalists are usually navel-gazing exercises, but not this time. You can look at the airing of journalists' personal info as troubling, especially when you consider reporters are routinely targeted across the world because of their work. Then again, DeadBeatLink seems to want to light a fire under the local Fourth Estate. It also could have the opposite effect: scaring outlets away from doing anything controversial at all. Stay tuned to see how it plays out.
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