Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy has been a harsh critic of Enron and its former key executives, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling.
In their motion to transfer venue of their upcoming criminal trial, Lay and Skilling have used Steffy’s past columns as examples of the biased and negative reporting in Houston that makes it far less likely that an unbiased jury can be found here than in, say, Denver, Phoenix or Atlanta.
In his column today, Steffy responds by conceding that he has been critical and mocking of Lay and Skilling, but arguing that jurors can put aside inflamed passions and biased reporting to render a verdict based solely on the evidence presented in court.
Besides, Steffy snipes, that Lay and Skilling are entitled to a fair trial does not mean that he shouldn’t be allowed to express his outrage in his columns over what happened at Enron.
Well, it’s pretty clear that Steffy has missed the point of Lay and Skilling’s use of his columns, which is not uncommon for someone who is promoting a certain view toward a case rather than a more balanced one.
Lay and Skilling’s pleadings never question Steffy’s right to express whatever viewpoint he wants in regard to Enron or their case.
Rather, Lay and Skilling’s point is that the Chronicle and local media’s almost total failure to provide a counterbalance to the one-sided views of those expressed by Steffy and others has greatly contributed to the overwhelmingly negative views toward Lay and Skilling that are expressed in the responses to the juror questionnaire that was transmitted to prospective jurors several months ago.
As noted many times on this blog, there does exist a different view toward what happened at Enron than that which Steffy shares with the vast majority of the mainstream media.
The problem is not with Steffy’s viewpoint. Rather, the problem is with the effect on potential jurors of the promotion of that viewpoint to the almost total excluson of the contrary view.
On a related note, Larry Ribstein and Thom Lambert (of the terrific new blog, Truth on the Market) comment on the effect of bloggers expressing balancing views to those of the mainstream business media.