FW Star-Telegram Is The Spin Doctor

17
Posted July 25, 2011 by Jeff Prince in Blotch

Maybe it’s coincidence, or something more sinister. Or maybe I’m just full of myself. You be the judge.

In May 2010, I wrote a story criticizing Guardianship Services in Tarrant County and the probate court run by Judge Pat Ferchill. (I’d written a similar story in July 2008.) In a nutshell, the stories describe a court system that appears in some cases to be more interested in financially benefiting itself and its support system of attorneys, counselors, and care providers rather than the local residents who find themselves sucked into the system.

Two months after my second story appeared in Fort Worth Weekly, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram countered with three heartwarming articles about Guardianship Services, the probate court, and Ferchill.  All were written by reporter Melody McDonald.

In September 2010, I wrote another story that pointed out Ferchill’s questionable courtroom tactics. That story was among those cited by the Houston Press Club when they selected me as 2010 print journalist of year for Texas newspapers under 100,000 circulation.

Two months later, McDonald wrote a piece on Ferchill under the headline “Tarrant judge collects cars and canines,” all about the judge’s love of dogs and cars. You can either click on the link or just go bury your head in a mound of saccharine and gag yourself to death.

Fast forward to June 2011. I wrote a story that questioned the tactics of 231st District Court Associate Judge Lisa Beebe.

A month later, the Star-Telegram‘s Tim Madigan comes out with this perky profile of Beebe, whose three marriages prompted the laughable headline, “Family law judge cuts through clashes with wisdom that comes from experience.”

I guess it sounds better than “Frequently married family law judge belittles litigants to feed her ego and try to one-up Judge Judy.

JUDGE JUDY

JUDGE JUDY

Madigan left out the part about Beebe being a world class musician — she played him like a virtuoso.

Based on the comments at the bottom of Madigan’s story, readers aren’t buying the hype.  “What a joke of a fluff piece to cover the stench coming out of the 231st,” a reader commented.

Madigan was selective about whom he named in his story. He pretty much identified everyone except for two people — he said Beebe was married to a “former Star-Telegram reporter” but didn’t name him. And he mentioned “a reporter from another publication” — an obvious reference to me — but doesn’t name me or the Weekly.

So, Madigan calls out everyone by name except media types? That’s rather selective.

Finally, at the risk of sounding petty, I personally object to this paragraph in Madigan’s story:

In a recent telephone interview, a reporter from another publication asked Beebe to comment on her reputation for being short-tempered and mean. She would not.

Notice how he begins with “in a recent telephone interview…?”

Why would he write that? It must be there for a reason. Madigan felt it important to point out that I had done a phone interview.

Why?

I can guess. Phone interview is code for “lazy.” It might make the reader envision a big-bellied reporter sitting in his comfy chair, feet propped up on his desk, making a phone call rather than getting up off his fat ass and going out into the real world.

In fact, I did pull my feet down from my desk and get up off my fat ass. I went to Beebe’s court unannounced and sat discreetly and watched how she handled litigants. I called her boss, District Judge Randy Catterton, and arranged to meet him in person to interview and photograph him for the story.  Later, I called Beebe to arrange a similar meeting. She wanted to know what my story was about. I responded honestly. We had a professional, courteous discussion on the phone but she would not agree to an in-person interview or photograph. The only quotes from her were gleaned during that short phone interview.

She apparently had no such reservations about sitting for an interview with Madigan and the Star-Telegram. After all, they’re the best spin doctors in town.


17 Comments


  1.  
    Don Young

    Where is a Sal Espino when you need one? I can vouch that Ferchill is a world class asshole. I once bought a car from him and got to see him up close and personal Creepy experience. He abuses his office and should be impeached. He thinks he’s god.




  2.  
    robert

    The Star-Telegram and Tim Madigan are probably still ticked about your Incredible Shrinking Star-Telegram piece.

    I think Bud Kennedy is lazy. You lazy? Not from what I can see.

    I read all the ST articles you mentioned by the way.




  3.  
    Nancy

    Forget the star telegram, I am still tickled about your shrinking story. Before and after the mayor’s election I swore to abstain from reading such garbage as the startlegram. The editorial board has been bought and Amon Carter is probably turning over in his grave. Frankly, I hope he comes and spooks Labbe et all out of town.




  4.  

    Another great FWWeekly expose. Thanks.

    Most Fort Worth citizens would never believe the depths to which this newspaper willfully sinks.

    As a candidate for the Fort Worth school board in 2010, I was pilloried three different times by columnist Linda Campbell who hinted that I was “on the take” from a tax collection firm.

    Meanwhile, she refused to acknowledge that my opponent received 80% of his money from the existsing firm during the same period, even after I pointed it out to her!

    Even after I challenged her to check the campaign reports, and after the election was over (I won by a 2-1 argin), she STILL refuses to acknowledge her dishonesty.

    The “Letters” column is a pathetic excuse for a public portal. It only prints certain opinions. Twice, after the election, when Campbell derided actions I took–without contacting me for comment–they refused to print short explanatory comments from me in the letters column.




  5.  
    Betty brink

    Great piece Jeff, and funny as hell, as usual. Loved the go bury your had in a mound of saccharine and gag yourself to death line. As an old journalist, and I mean “old” in its truest sense, my heart and soul hurts at the state of the old daily of my youth. The S-T under Amon Carter was never a “take no prisoners” rag, Carter was always promoting Fort Worth and protecting the 7th Street Gang that ran the town, but it was still a newspaper of record, wasn’t afraid to run op-ed pieces from diverse voices, and because it had competition in those days from the beloved Fort Worth Press, a scrappy rag that did take prisoners, it did a fair job of reporting what was going on, good and bad in Foat Wuth. Over the years under other owners, in particual Knight-Ridder, it did some damn fine investigative journalism. Remember Jennifer Autrey’s stories on the concrete scandal at the FWISD? Course, even then, this paper broke that story and then the daily ran with it. (We’ve been known to be the S-T’s tip sheet on many occasions.) Today, sad to say, it does little more than run fluff pieces and attack decent public servents like Ann Sutherland, Carlos Vasquez and Juan Rangel. Its pages are filled with copy from other news orgs (“filled” is a misnomer, as the stories are brief rewrites or cut to the bone.)
    The dang thing has even dropped “Fort Worth” from its name. Now that should have made Carter rise from his grave and haunt the damn place. Course if he did, he couldn’t find it since it’s even gone from its venerable old downtown spot.
    I still subscribe even though most of my friends and family wonder why. It’s habit and a golden oldie’s need to walk out to the end of the driveway, pick up the newspaper and open those black and white printed pages and read as I drink my first cup of the day. Old habits are hard to break.




  6.  
    Joe E.

    Interesting piece and comments. Guardianship Services folks are pretty tight with MHMR of Tarrant County, filling many of its so-called community advisory boards and as Directors of iCEO jim McDermott’s 501-c-3 called MHMR-Vision, which in April threw a big bash to honor Ferchill for his dedication and integrity. Hmmm.




  7.  
    Jeri G.

    Finally! Someone that knows the REAL Lisa Beebe and is not afraid of her! I was put in touch with Madigan before he wrote the article. Madigan contacted several of us that posted negative comments about Lisa Beebe online. We told him the horror stories of going before Beebe, and he ignored everything that we told him. Catterton is no better! He may not come right out and trash talk you, but it is all about money, and who has more.




  8.  

    Victim: Anna Jansen Weber
    Despite the other mishaps throughout this case, did Judge Randy Catterton of Tarrant County 231st District Court err in not fully analyzing the reasons why a court appointed Psychologist discontinued their sessions with a father and son due to them being uncooperative, and out of nowhere, magically began to cooperate when a Social Worker became assigned?
    If Judge Catterton and Associate Judge Beebe had read only one entry in the PHD’s notes, for example the following:
    PHD — Did you know your mother was married and that you have a brother?
    11-year-old Child —
    • If it was true, my dad would have told me she was married and had a child. He tells me everything. He doesn’t lie to me.
    • People don’t change. She is the same. I don’t want to live with her. No one can make me.
    • My dad has told me stuff about her. He has told me bad stuff, bad stuff and I trust him. He would never lie to me. She takes drugs all the time and is messed up…
    There is much, much more that Judge Catterton and Judge Beebe could have read. The facts would have shown the horror that the child has gone through and is still going through. If they had just read the clinical notes or really considered the letter from Dr. Otero to the judges, this child would have two parents. This was malice on the part of the judges. Obviously, if the truth had been considered a different solution would have been made. Catterton wanted it all to go away. He has erred and put the well being of the child in extreme jeopardy. These judges should not ever be re-elected.




  9.  
    D S

    Thank you for telling the truth about Judge Lisa Beebe. The Star-Telegram piece was ridiculous. I have seen this horrible judge in action. She is arrogant, condescending, and dangerous, and the LAST thing she thinks about is the best interest of the child. How does she even know what the best interest of the child is, when she refuses to let the parents or attorneys even speak? She is SO sure she knows what’s best for everyone that she fails to review the facts in each case, and she is destroying families – MINE included! And people like us, caught in the nightmare of the 231st District Court, have absolutely no recourse to protect our children. It’s bad enough we have to protect them from an abusive parent. Why should we also have to protect them from an abusive JUDGE? The Star-Telegram might find her tactics amusing and “harsh but fair”. They are anything BUT. She is a disgrace to the bench, and a danger to all families who enter who courtroom! The Tarrant County Bar Association needs to act on the complaints that it has received. Maybe other judges like her. Maybe she’s funny and tough and all of that. Maybe she’s a great person off the bench…so maybe that’s where she needs to be – OFF the bench!




    •  
      Jeannie

      you bet, she is corrupt in my opinion. what this Tim Madigan is thinking I do not know, if it’s a hollywood story they want, atleast tell the bloody truth. she has remained in that chair only because of “Her” court room victims. they are so beaten up when they leave they could never imagine what the next person will have to contend with. she shows up late if at all, has no respect for those in the court room, is notorious suspect to having back room discussions with favored attorneys, and ruling in the most biased way. we have to take a stand. Randy Catterton, why has he not done something about her. She is NOT elected, but a hired employee by Judge Catterton. She goes completely unchecked, no court reporter. Some of these familes are so abused by the time they see her, one can not imagine how she uses the same abusive line on her percieved weakest courtroom targets. It is criminal and she should be not only fired, but punished for abusing her position. Shame on Court 231 for allowing this behaviour. How can one NOT know about this ongoing abuse. She should not hold a licence much less be behind a bench. It is CRIMINAL.




  10.  
    jeff.prince

    Guess where Melody McDonald works now — she left the Star-Telegram and is the new media flak for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. Funny how those things work out.




    •  
      Jeannie

      lets not forget about J Beebe’s so called “A” team. The court appointed lazy and ignorant. Danny Wright and Dr. Norman. She calls them the “A” team and these men take weeks and months to respond to critical child abuse claims. Danny Wright is like some state of dazed confusion at all times. Even when the J Beebe finds directly he has not done his job, she pushes everything out another 3 months. Pathetic, of course she wanted to get home after working her touch 3 hours for the day as again showing up late, 10 when her docket starts at 9. leaving a back hold on litigants, but she keeps getting paid. The poor folks having to pay the attorneys are left holding the bag on missed work and more legal fees.

      On top of that, she randomly does not come to work..ask the attorneys why? check out the local wine watering hole, following her nights out, no show to work. Her delays costs 10′s of thousands of dollars and she could care less.. again, she gets her paycheck the hell with the kids and their families. Don’t worry, she savors much abuse for her less than favorite attorneys.

      Please, what can be done, the local media must take a look into this court. It is out of control. Is there no cure. Prayer for her? She needs it badly. I would venture to say she has no relationship with her own family, how can anyone tolerate abuse. She needs some serious help.




  11.  
    Mama Bear without her cub

    My case judged by Lisa Beebe:

    Father remarried and married family was seen in the better interest of our child as opposed to single motherhood.

    Father’s job and education were higher than mine, even though i sacrificed my own goals and dreams to be the traditional housewife.

    Not desiring 50/50 custody or other joint custodial arrangements, he requested and was granted custody. Step mom now being referred to as mom, and despite my desperate pleas, I have not been permitted to see my baby.

    Finding it difficult to support myself and save money for a lawyer at the same time, i had to change my situation. After a friend told me about fasfa, which is federal student loans to go to school, i enrolled in night school. My thinking was if i was able to have a higher paying job, I would be able to afford an attorney to tell the courts what has been going on.

    The court day came, and once again we stood before Judge Beebe. She questioned me why I had taken so long to come to court. I explained that I didn’t have money for a lawyer before now, but now that I’m finished with school, I have a job that has allowed for me to hire an attorney. Her snide remark to the courtroom, “Did everyone hear this? This woman can pay for college, but didn’t have money to put towards seeing her child.”

    I tried to explain that the federal loans had to be paid back, and I never was handed money in my hand. The federal loans paid the school tuition directly. But she wouldn’t listen to anything more I had to say. While I spoke, her words were, “Yada, Yada, Yada!” while making a mouth out of one of her hands, open and close.

    I think if Judge Catterton ever knew how Lisa Beebe behaved when he isn’t around, he would be appalled. Wish someone would record what goes on in her courtroom for Catterton to review.




  12.  
    Toni

    Do you people have a Governor? CALL HIM NOW!!!!! My daughter and grandbaby are being held hostage in this state with no family or friends so in “THE BEST INSTREST OF THE DAD WHO ONLY WANTS A CONVENIENCE ” and Bebee agrees CALL RICK PERRY NOW!!!!! Call him every 15 mins You people in Texas Need to get your court system back to your codes and JUSTICE ! NOT if Bebee has PMS that day. CALL YOUR GOVERNOR NOW !!! GET BEBEE REMOVED!! Only people in Texas can. I am from Iowa we dont have DIRTY JUDGES our judges know the laws abide by them and dont make as they go.Bebee needs to call Dateline ID. Maybe they can find her a Judge Judy job. Thats what she is quifilied for.TEXANS CALL YOUR GOVERNOR NOW!!!! GET HER REMOVED NOW For the good of the 231st!!




    •  
      jp

      LOL — good luck with that!!! this corruption goes to the top of the state government– look up Damon’s List — see Abbott’s name on his Collin County DA days? He’s best friends with the gov…

      Been there done that– not sure what do do… did you know there are access and visitation federal grants (mandatory state block grants) through hhs that are fueling this? It’s the dirty secret that no one wants you to know– but it’s reall just go to; http://www.hhs.gov and search for access or visitation and it will show you.Good luck tracking how many grants are in place coming into the state – they are supposed to be for neutral mediation, pickup/dropoff, and education, but are being used for case rigging — yes they want you to think it’s parental alienation so they can continue to accuse the mom’s of it against the fathers. i’m so sick of this i could scream! The funding for these programs should have been cut before other cuts — yet they cut medicaid, medicare, medical care to military etc, but this funding seems to flourish — and the result is continued abuse to women/children… very sad indeed!




  13.  
    Donna Jansen

    Dear Jeff
    I am the grandmother of a child, who was taken away from his mother almost 10 years ago by Beebe and Catterton….it is a complicated story, which Melody McDonald covered. I have been working with a news journalist to write articles about parental alienation. My goal is to make the public feel and understand the grief of the loss of a child to the non-sympathetic courts and to put an anonymous face on the child and the family. I have written two pieces, so far, which are being edited at this time by the expert. I am looking for source to get the story out there. You of course may not be interested, but after reading your articles….I think, you might want to look at them. If so, contact me, please.
    Regard,
    Ms. J

    McDonald covered on about Aug 16, 2010
    Tarrant County Custody Case Has Been Ensnarled In Bitterness And Fighting For 12 Years

    By Melody McDonald Except from a distance, Anna hasn’t seen her firstborn son in more than six years. The last time was in 2003, around Christmas, when she was a single mother addicted to prescription pills. Anna’s ex-husband, Todd, has custody of their son. For more than a decade, Anna and Todd have been in and out of court, fighting over visitation, parental rights and, lately, whether Anna should be reintroduced to her son at all. Experts say their dispute illustrates the extremes to which parents will go in cases involving children, with both sides spending….
    http://www.allvoices.com/news/6532304-tarrant-county-custody-case-has-been-ensnarled-in-bitterness-and-fighting-for-12-years
    Then a follow up on
    Which you can still access….
    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    http://angelzfury.blogspot.com/2010/09/mom-denied-direct-contact-with-son-in.html

    Mom denied direct contact with son in 12-year-old custody dispute (Fort Worth, Texas) article is still up on




  14.  
    Roy Wiegmann

    I hope readers understand that comments here (especially those knocking Judge Lisa Beebe) are presenting their facts they want to present. Beebe is a very fair judge. And starting every day she reminds people in the courtroom that THEY as parents, need to decide what is in the best interest of the children. But if they fail to do that, and fail their kids, then she will begrudgingly make decisions based upon limited info. The stories and lies she listens to DAILY is nuts. Crackhead Moms, deadbeat Dads. I have seen her preside over DOZENS of cases over the years and always found her to be fair and impartial.





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