Tulsa blogger and columnist Michael Bates couldn't resist taking a swipe at a Tulsa World business story this week about the redevelopment of the old Mayo Hotel.
Writing in Urban Tulsa, Bates noted the "curious subtext" of reporter Tom Droege's story. On the surface, Bates notes, the story seemed positive, giving Tulsan's some ideas on how Oklahoma City saved the Skirvin Hotel and how Tulsa might save the Mayo. So far, so good.
But Bates found an ominous subtext in a "dismissive paragraph" in the story, a paragraph that noted the failure of several earlier attempts to restore the Mayo. Bates also criticized Droege's description of the hotel as "essentially empty," which Bates calls a "slam."
We love conspiracy theories as much as all the other alienated, lonely Tulsa bloggers, but let's take a closer look at the evidence for this particular conspiracy.
First, as Bates notes, the story was "prominently featured" in the World's Sunday edition—the not exactly the best place to hide the story's "surface" meaning (as opposed to its "subtext") in favor of restoring the Mayo. Also, we submit that most Tulsa readers are not so well trained in textual criticism as Bates. They might have read the story at the superficial level, bypassing the so-called subtext altogether.
Second, the so-called "dismissive" information in the story also happens to be factual and undisputed. Are we to conclude then that Droege was slanting the story against the Mayo and the Snyder family by reporting the facts? And would omitting this fact—highly relevant given the many fits and starts in downtown Tulsa—would be better, more complete journalism? We don't think so.
Third, the "essentially empty" charge is bogus, inasmuch as that assessment is essentially true. Last time we looked, the Mayo had a ballroom on the first floor and a few businesses too, but all the upper floors were completely (as opposed to "essentially") empty. Again, Bates criticizes Droege for telling the truth!
Finally, even Bates knows he's skating on thin ice—an appropriate phrase this week—writing at the end of his UT column: "Maybe I'm reading too much into this." You think?