May 04, 2005
Clevenger Clarifies, Then Vents Ad Hominems At 'Communique'
A Little Late-Evening Folderol
Since we claim to be all about the transparency, and have developed a far thicker skin than we had when we first got online more than a decade ago, it seems right and proper to pass along the latest from the previously-mentioned Nathaniel Clevenger.
In an email this evening sent both to us and to Zach Dundas of Willamette Week, Clevenger first offered an apparent clarification to the bit in today's edition of that paper regarding contracts he's had with the Portland Development Commission.
"We lost a contract for 2005," Clevenger wrote, "The PDC rejected our response to their 'request for qualifications' for marketing firms in late 2004." While the Willamette article said that he had two contracts with PDC earlier this year, Clevenger says that those contracts were from 2003 and 2004.
Beyond that response to the Willamette report and our own mention of that report, Clevenger added an extra bit aimed directly at us. Here is that part of his email in its entirety.
How many people did you employ? Or, did paying an intern to help your rumor-mongering business not factor in your parents monthly support of your hobby? But enough of this childishness, how about you and me in a public debate. You bring your slander and innuendos. I'll bring a group of friends and some chips 'cause I know you can’t really afford to buy snacks on your parent’s allowance. Oh, but you’ll have to crawl out from under that rock you live under to do it. Name the place, I'll bring my friends, you bring yours (if you have any). I'd like to see you address me in public the way you do in your site - you sissy. I'd say more, but am sure you'll print every word I write and I recognize children may be reading this. I know infants are. If you don’t set a date, I'll find you at Stumptown and we can make a big show of it. Game?
Setting aside the bizarre threat to stalk me at one of Portland's fine coffee establishments, we now feel the time has come, at last, to relate the story which led to our own less-than-fond impressions of Clevenger. We've refrained from doing so in the past in any detail because it involves (or at least references) an off-the-record conversation we once had over coffee with Clevenger and Bruce Wood, who at that time was still an employee of Opus Northwest.
We're not going to specifically divulge anything from that off-the-record conversation. But we are going to discuss its circumstances, because at this point, given Clevenger's amusing ad hominem hysterics, it's time to put all the cards out on the table.
Some number of weeks back, we were contacted by Clevenger about the possibility of our sitting down with him and Wood to discuss the Burnside Bridgehead project and the (at that time) on-going selection process.
Despite it being rare for us to do extended face-to-face conversations -- not, as Clevenger has suggested (you'll see in a moment), because we hide behind our keyboard, but because in face-to-face conversations it's too easy for the force of personality to control the discussion, whereas obtaining information or comment via email allows for us to have research and other material close at hand -- we agreed, especially once Clevenger said he would help us make sure we had access to equipment to record the conversation.
That last part is key, so remember it.
When the day and time arrived, we sat down with the two of them at the downtown Stumptown, and suddenly were surprised to be told that the entire conversation was meant to be off-the-record background. Two things to note here: First, nowhere in the preliminaries was it said that the conversation would be off-the-record; and second, the exchange about recording the conversation underscores the first point.
Right off the bat, then, we were a little wary of what was to come. Within mere moments, we had gone from walking up to what had been an on-the-record conversation sitting down for suddenly-off-the-record background.
You tell us: Would that catch you a little off-guard, and put you at least a little on alert?
As we said, we won't go into the discussion itself. We've mentioned its existence before, but we've respected it as off-the-record despite the bait-and-switch nature of how it came about, and we will continue to do so.
But here's what happened next.
Later that evening, we received voicemail from Clevenger (despite the big to-do at the end of the meeting in which we established that the quickest and best way to get ahold of me was via email, a point of which he very specifically made note at the time) whose thrust was this: He wanted to know whether or not the meeting had changed our mind at all on the subject of Opus Northwest's proposal for the Burnside Bridgehead.
Now, we've known enough public relations professionals to know one thing, no matter how much Clevenger may come to deny it: That follow-up call is the sort of thing flacks do because if they succeeded in changing your views, the background will automagically become foreground and you'll be allowed to write about what was discussed in the off-the-record discussion.
Our response to him was simple: If he and Opus wanted to know my thoughts about Opus post-meeting, then they needed to lift the off-the-record restriction and they could read about it along with everyone else.
Needless to say, said restriction was not lifted. What's more, Clevenger requested a reversal of the norm, seeking to have everything he ever said to us from that moment on considered off-the-record until and unless he specified otherwise. Typically, it's the reverse which holds sway, and a source must specifically request that something be off-the-record if that's what they wish.
Everything, at any time, is considered on-the-record unless specifically requested to be off-the-record. That's how this works. Every other source we've ever had understands that dynamic, and in the more than two years we've been publishing this site, Clevenger was the first person ever to try to establish the opposite.
All of which describes the context through which we've expressed our views of Clevenger over the past few months, and the reason we keep an eye out for anything that crops up with his name in it, such as the Willemette Week piece from earlier today.
And that piece, and our mention of it, brings us back around to the email we quoted from at the start of this item. In the time it's taken us to write this far, that email exchange has continued. In keeping his his tone, although not his ad hominems, we asked if "but am sure you'll print every word I write" meant that in this case, he wasn't going to pull another switcheroo and suddenly declare his remarks to be off-the-record.
I am dead serious about taking this debate to a public forum. Now that I am not a paid Opus or PDC flak, I'd be happy to address your specious and slanderous ravings face-to-face or does that idea not suit your delicate constitution? I realize you feel more comfortable hiding behind that key board.
And, I asked you -- politely, I might add -- to allow Bruce to talk "on background" as I wanted to be respectful to him and to you. I did the same thing with all of the other reporters. It was a technical subject and I was not very comfortable with the numbers when I first started working with Opus. I got educated fast, though.
If I seemed flip flop, I am sorry for that. Human error. You do know what that is or is your capacity for human empathy completely gone? Perhaps a lack of real human contact?
Further, your hair trigger reaction to my asking in a thoughtful way if we could just talk before we went to an on the record forum was childish, unprofessional and served only to have me and my client dismiss your relevance. I realized quickly that you were not interested in the truth. You weren't interested in fair and balanced journalism. You are only interested in gossip and innuendo. Have you once asked me what my point of view is on my relationship to my friend Matt Hennessee? Hell no. Why? That would spoil your game.
It should be noted, for the record, that we did publish a comment of Clevenger's on his relationship to Matt Hennessee. It should also be noted that in the above he continues to suffer from some sort of bout of ad hominem eruptus, while at the same time charging us with childishness and a lack of professionalism.
Additionally, it should be noted that while he's sitting around somewhere tonight sending out emails challenging us to some sort of public debate and accusing us of hiding beyind our keyboard (or "key board" as he puts it), Clevenger has never once posted a public comment to this site on any of these issues, or any other, preferring instead to (we have to say it) hide behind his email and waiting to see what we did or did not do with it.
All of that said, we see that he now says he's drafted his press release, in which he will issue a challenge to us, daring us to debate him in public. Since we have that forewarning, we may as well give our response here and now, in the form of a question.
Given the entirety of the context provided in this post, and given Clevenger's propensity to reduce himself to the use of ad hominem attacks at the same time he calls others childish and unprofessional, would you debate this man?
Posted at 10:12 PM | PermalinkComments (79) | TrackBacks (6)
More In Burnside Bridgehead, Media, Meta-Communique
PDC meltdown! on 05 May 2005
It's an amazing day. The Portland area's most roguish agency and pork pot, the Portland Development Commission, is now officially in a state of complete and utter meltdown. Even the lethargic watchdogs at The Oregonian are smelling blood. Today they...
Of train wrecks and tantrums on 05 May 2005
A man applied for a job as a railway guard.
PDC meltdown! on 05 May 2005
It's an amazing day. The Portland area's most roguish government agency and pork pot, the Portland Development Commission, is now officially in a state of complete and utter meltdown. Even the lethargic watchdogs at The Oregonian are smelling blood. To...
Who's that man behind the curtain? on 06 May 2005
I haven't posted about b!X lately, but I'm getting a kick out of the current flap over his curtain peeking. (For those of you new to this weblog, b!X is my erstwhile son who stirs up Portland, Oregon politics to...
The Pitbull PR Method on 18 May 2005
This is not an episode in the Seven Deadly Agency Types series, but it could be - except that here we're looking at an example of an apparently deadly PR person, not an agency type. Long time blogger and citizen...
Sam and Than on 23 Jun 2005
Portland Commissioner Sam Adams's website apparently includes a capsule description of each of the 100 businesses that the commish visited in his first few months in office. Interestingly, one of the fearless entrepreneurs that it lists is none other t...