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Sheriff's Aide Being Investigated By FBI

Mark Naylon, an aide for Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, is being investigated by the FBI on allegations of stealing money, tampering with evidence, and helping suspects and informants. Fletcher is sticking by Naylon, calling him a good friend and an asset to the department.

The Pioneer Press and The Star Tribune picked up the story.

The challenge with this story is that it is almost a non-story. My summary is pretty much all that they know, because the investigation just started, and won't be discussed. They also had a challenge in making in balanced because Naylon was unavailable for comment and his lawyer also made no comment.

To make this long enough to be a full article, both papers did background digging on Naylon. Paul McEnroe, Mary Lynn Smith and Howie Padilla, the reporters for the Star Tribune wrote of his background and his history in the city. They talked of his business ventures and also discussed some unflattering comments made by police--interfering with investigations. This information was clear and easy to follow, and with an exception to the last part, wasn't too controversial or damning.

Mara H. Gottfried of the Pioneer Press took a different approach in the background information. She discussed a specific case that occurred in 2003. This introduced new people to the story and seemed a little confusing to me. It didn't seem to fit and I wasn't sure exactly why I was reading it.

I thought that the Star Tribune did a better job in giving me relevant background information, and facing the challenge of turning a one-line story into a full article.

Comments

It looks like the Star Trib has been kicking the Pio Press' butt on this story from the git-go. It looks like the Strib effectively broke the story. Both papers ran their first stories Feb. 3, it appears, although if you search "Mark Naylon" on Google News, the Strib gets a hit for Feb. 2 -- they may have broken the story on their web site. Perhaps Fletcher announced the investigation knowing the Strib was going to publish it, and the Strib rushed out their piece the same day.

In any case, the Strib story from Feb. 3 (http://www.startribune.com/535/story/978499.html) and the followup in the Feb. 4 edition shows they put three reporters on the story. They cite "several" "sources," whom they do not identify. Journalists should try to avoid the use of unnamed sources, but at the least they should include a sentence explaining what unusual circumstance justifies their granted anonymity to these sources. The Strib did not do that. Presumably such an explanation might have given away who their sources were. Presumably the Strib trusts that their sources (presumably someone in the FBI) know what they're talking about; and granting them anonymity was part of the price of getting the scoop.

It looks like the Pio Press was totally blindsided by this story. They have a single reporter playing catch-up. You wrote that it was odd that she referred to this 2003 case. I agree. It appears that the reporter was unable to confirm any of the information that the Strib obtained. Empty-handed, she pulled out whatever past references to this aide she could find in the archive. Because she didn't have any idea whether this background was relevant, she just dropped it in there with no explanation and not even much of a transition. The problem was, by being vague, she left the impression that this 2003 cases might have been related. Which leads to the question, how, since the 2003 stuff all deals not with the aide but with one of his friends? Perhaps she ought to have inserted a sentence explaining, "No source has said the 2003 cases are related to the current investigation."

I sympathize with the Pio Press reporter. She was in a difficult situation, didn't have the scoop, but had to fill up a story.

What makes this all the more embarrassing for the SPPP, of course, is that this is the sheriff's office of the county that includes St. Paul.