Richard Connor: On second thought, anonymity sometimes can’t be avoided

Sometimes a newspaper column needs a solid review to see if it holds up. My latest, a week ago, needs revision.

We are walking backwards a week after dissing Instagram commentators Fort Worth Confidential and Lady Whistleworth. I said I did not respect the anonymity afforded those social media entities. Stand up and be counted, I demanded – identify yourselves.

These Instagram sites write frequently about alleged antics by Ed and Sasha Bass, owners of Sundance Square. Sometimes the postings are funny because the entire situation with Sundance is so preposterous; but often, they expose or allege a petty, alarmingly vindicative and dangerous side to all this. Scary stuff.

I need to apologize to the folks behind these sites. After all, one of them proposed a T-shirt with my likeness on it and suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that I run for mayor, only to have me write a rebuke of their anonymity.

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Actually, both sites are good sources of possible news stories and a news organization, quite frankly, is only as good as its sources.

We often tell folks that we don’t know anything until someone tells us – and rarely do we discover anything until we are pointed in the right direction.

Like it or not, many sources need to remain anonymous because they have a lot to lose and there are powerful people who want to discourage them even and hurt them in some way. These are people who want to silence their critics and suppress their opponents.

One way to do this is to pay spokespersons to do their bidding for them. That way they are not directly involved in trying to scare people.

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Just this week, there was a strong rumor about threats made to someone involved with a local news operation regarding its reporting on the possible conflict of interest resulting from Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke’s friendship with Ed and Sasha Bass and his trip to Aspen on their private plane.

The news organization, known for bragging incessantly about its independence, suddenly acted apologetic and seems to have been cowed.

Intimidating someone with threats is, at the very least, an ugly form of bullying.

When directed at the media, it is an attempt to curtail free speech and freedom of the press. It does not matter the target – when someone tries to stifle freedom of the press, all members of the media have no choice but to cry foul and speak out against it.

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And in cases such as this, with fear running rampant, we may have to turn to sources such as Fort Worth Confidential to tell us the story.

While we’re on the subject, there are still unanswered questions about ethics at Fort Worth City Hall. We need all city officials, starting with Mayor Mattie Parker and all council members, to fill out required reports on gifts and anything that appears to be a gift.

This week it was revealed that with permission from Jay Chapa, former assistant city manager, Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes flew on the jet owned by Ed and Sasha Bass to Bentonville, Arkansas, home of Walmart.

A spokesperson for the city said Noakes was in Bentonville to study security issues. We have to ask: How on earth would security issues in Bentonville be relevant to the police chief of the 13th largest city in America – and why would the chief need to fly on the Basses’ plane? On the bright side, at least Noakes got permission for his trip, a process not followed by Cooke.

And where was this incident first raised as a question to be answered to the public? First place I saw it was Fort Worth Confidential.

Actually, these social media news tips may be as reflective of the incompetence of local media as the willingness of social media to expose the truth about issues that ultimately affect the economic health and reputation of downtown Fort Worth.

As for anonymity, remember this: Watergate and the undoing of a presidency started with an anonymous news source tipping off The Washington Post.

I don’t know about Mayor Mattie Parker’s emails and texts, but I do know that those sent to me have been 99 percent in favor of exposing the bad judgment of those at City Hall and demanding that the mayor and city council show more decisive leadership.

This is a newly elected and popular mayor whose star is falling because of this controversy.

For starters, a committee independent of the mayor and council needs to be appointed to study and investigate the many ethical issues in city government and make recommendations on ways to ensure that city employees and elected officials become compliant with state ethics law.

The feedback I’m getting from the public indicates a growing lack of confidence in Mayor Parker and her council colleagues.

They need to nip these controversies in the bud. Now.