A recent attack in an article against Odessa Headlines by a local former daily newspaper has led publisher Jeff Russell to respond.

After reading a lengthy “editorial” by the Odessa American (OA) containing several attacks by the former daily newspaper against our publication, I felt a response on behalf of Odessa Headlines would unfortunately be in order.

Two words came to mind after reading the OA’s editorial: Gish Gallop.

According to one source, the generally accepted definition of this term means it is a “rhetorical technique that involves overwhelming your opponent with as many arguments as possible, with no regard for the accuracy, validity, or relevance of those arguments.”  In West Texas parlance we would call this “talking something to death”.

An example of this is when a “person using the Gish gallop might attempt to support their stance by bringing up, in rapid succession, a large number of vague claims, anecdotal statements, misinterpreted facts, and irrelevant comments.” 

Since the purpose of talking something to death is to intentionally overwhelm, I won’t examine all the arguments made by the former daily newspaper, but there are a couple I would like to take a moment to examine.

The OA wrote that they found it curious that Councilwoman Swanner “has such a problem” with former City Attorney Natasha Brooks, writing “Swanner recently reported Brooks to the Texas Bar accusing her of backdating affidavits. If true, that is certainly an issue and should not be tolerated. But, come on, Jones (the interim city attorney) appears to have far more issues than that,” referencing how Jones was recently fined for contempt in District Court.

Perhaps the OA could elaborate further on how they believe Jones’ civil fine levied by a perturbed judge is more egregious than the felony aggravated perjury accusations presently levied at Brooks.   I find this hard to track.

Speaking of contempt, I also find it interesting that the OA sings the praises and qualifications of attorney Gaven Norris and says that he disputes the allegation from Odessa resident Tim Harry that he was also recently held in contempt.

I find this interesting because Norris posted on his Facebook timeline in November that he was just held in contempt of court, writing “I argued my clients constitutional rights under the law. I was held in contempt and the bailiff was ordered to remove me from the courtroom while the hearing took place without me. Filing emergency motions now.  Still waiting on the punishment for the contempt.”

Is there more to this story?  Perhaps, but I still do not follow the logic of how two attorneys can commit the same offense and one be so wonderful, while the other has fallen so far from grace the OA cannot believe the City Council still takes advice from him. 

But one can see how a little more information to the story can quickly change how things are portrayed.

Turning towards the accusations the OA made against our publication, which includes the implication that we are not a legitimate news outlet by calling Odessa Headlines a “spin machine” that exists only to make selected City Councilmembers look good while echoing their talking points and also falsely claiming that Headlines endorsed a candidate against Representative Landgraf in an effort to unseat him.

Whew, that is a lot of ‘gallop’ to unpack. But hey, on the bright side at least we are no longer just a “social media site” which seems to be the past code terminology used to reference us. 

First, I am proud to say Odessa Headlines is the foremost source for local political news in Odessa, and over the past couple of years our reports have been featured statewide and recognized by many prestigious news publications. I am especially proud of the engagement we receive on our stories with recent stories receiving thousands of reactions and hundreds of comments and shares.  To me this proves that the public still appreciates solidly reported, well written news.

Secondly, our journalists have always been fiercely independent and will follow a story where the facts lead them.  Period.

Lastly, unlike the Odessa American, who ironically endorsed Landgraf and are staunch supporters of him and I believe other candidates in the past, Odessa Headlines has a policy of neutrality in campaigns and does not endorse or support anyone running for office despite the continued and unfounded allegations made by the OA.

We will offer our opinion from time to time, but we clearly mark what is opinion from what is news so that you the reader can make your own informed opinion.

On a final and personal note, let me add that the OA’s recent editorial was particularly disappointing to me as, for many years, I held the OA in high regard. 

Growing up my Dad had a contract to deliver newspapers to the entire south side of Odessa and I really did grow up around the OA loading docks helping roll and distribute newspapers from a very early age.  My Uncle also worked at the OA for his entire life working his way up from circulation to being the OA’s press foreman for many years until his retirement.  

I bought my first car with the money I earned slinging papers from my bicycle on my neighborhood route with my brother.  Back then everyone read the paper (I think paid circulation peaked at around 33,000) and the newspaper was held in high regard. 

Now, paid circulation data disclosed by the OA to the U.S. Postal Service indicates they have fallen to roughly 3,500, down from 17,000 in 2012.

In the end, it is my hope that the OA will retract and apologize for their name calling and antics.  The city I love and call home deserves a lot better.