I thought I would follow up my post Wednesday on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s controversial, colluding and quid pro quo relationship with oil and gas companies by commenting on and promoting Patrick Riley’s take on the same issue.
Riley is the founder and main energy source behind the widely popular and excellent local media outlet, The Lost Ogle, which publishes on a wide range of topics with refreshing and rejuvenating satire and wit. Sometimes, it misses the mark or makes me cringe with its blatant, some would say sexist, “hot girl” material or its focus on goofy, stupid local television news “personalities” I could care less about, but The Lost Ogle has taken on a new significance lately with its enduring community presence and the tragic intellectual decline of the Oklahoma Gazette.
(That’s Riley and I with a couple of friends outside the Hilo in the 1950s in the picture on the right.)
Let’s face it: The Lost Ogle IS the real alternative media outlet in the Oklahoma City area and has been for a few years now. It speaks truth to power. It possesses the biting, satirical edge now, not the Gazette. That’s what matters, and it’s vitally important. The Gazette is trying to find its new niche in an uncertain and changing media market, but its new business model limits substance and sustenance for open-minded thinking people here. It has become what The Oklahoman wants it to be: A freebie no one really reads anymore. If that’s what it takes for it to survive financially, then so be it, but it still makes me sad.
I digress. Here’s Riley’s post on the Pruitt affair. Pretty much, Riley’s views on the Pruitt scandal mirror my own. Here’s my post on the controversy. Riley and I didn’t collude on this story. I haven’t talked to Riley in months. We both responded to Pruitt’s unethical actions organically and energetically as The Oklahoman issued its apologia for an immoral attorney general that uses taxpayers’ money to basically serve the interests of oil and gas companies and to sue the federal government whenever it might make a good story for The Oklahoman. The circle of media life here. Nothing real new there. Life on the plains.
Riley and I referenced a New York Times article published last weekend that led with the discovery that Pruitt once sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency under his own name and office that was actually written by an employee of the Devon Energy Corporation, an Oklahoma City-based company. The letter argued the EPA was overestimating the pollution caused by new gas well drilling.
Leave aside the gas well issue. Here’s what matters: Pruitt passed off someone else’s writing as his own. He did so for the benefit of one industry. He has received campaign contributions from that industry and, specifically, from Devon’s political action committee, which I noted in my last post. It’s quid pro quo. The Oklahoman then published an editorial actually DEFENDING Pruitt and even encouraging more plagiarism, favoritism and what I would describe as political bribery.
Riley makes the point in more creative and contemporary relevant language than I can muster these days. Here’s just a taste of his sardonic voice:
The Oklahoman followed their report of the Times story with an editorial on Wednesday that defended Scott Pruitt with the intensity of a pre-2003 Mike Stoops defense. It’s so fair and balanced that it reads like Devon Energy wrote it for Scott Pruitt, who then sent it to The Oklahoman for publication, who then actually published it because that’s what the paper does for their cronies and BFFs.
Like most Oklahoman editorials, it reeks of hypocrisy, contains fallacious arguments and jumps to insane conclusions. . . .
My overall point is that when Riley and I, without any collusion, get animated and sort of rhetorically angry and expend a lot of intellectual energy exposing the latest unethical politician in this place, then people should take note, or alas, I hope they take note. I’m not arguing Okie Funk has the reach or will ever have the hits of The Lost Ogle. What I’m saying is that both Riley and I are heavily invested in this community, and though we have different approaches and backgrounds, we do our best to try to keep things honest. What Pruitt did and is doing is WRONG.
Here’s some honesty: Riley is a former student of mine, who has told me I was only his second-best professor. My former wife, Kelly Dyer Fry, is the top editor of The Oklahoman. We divorced in 1995. She’s the mother of my two grown children, one of whom is Sam Hochenauer, a local musician who often played music at the now-closed VZD’s, still owned I guess by Chad Bleakley, the son of Bill Bleakley, who owns the Gazette. I have written commentaries in the past for the Gazette. I could go on.
The Oklahoma City area is a small world, which sometimes for me is a suffocating small world filled with the anxiety that any day now the local power structure will drop its sledge hammer on me. I think Riley and I are doing our best to speak up and help other Oklahomans to feel free and comfortable to speak up, too. Pruitt probably won’t suffer any political consequences because of his unethical actions and The Oklahoman continues to be the worst big city newspaper in the country, but Riley took the time in a longer, extensive commentary to note all this with acerbic wit and style. I’m proud of him. He IS the reason God made Oklahoma, people. At least I think that today.