Monthly Archives: September 2002

Toogood is News.

Wow. This blog’s stats have shot up noticably due to an amazing number of visits from people wanting to know more about Madelyne Toogood. Weirdly, several of them appear to be looking for nude pictures of her. I still don’t really think this story is worth the ridiculous amount of coverage it’s been getting, but I’m beginning to understand…

Not Toogood News.

If I ran a big-time news service, one of my policies would be to only run items as news that are really news. Here’s an example:

Why is it news when Madelyne Gorman Toogood allegedly beats her daughter? She’s the Indiana woman who got caught on a parking lot video tape apparently punching her daughter in the backseat of her car. Child abuse is obviously a bad thing, but as these cases go, this one looks pretty routine. The violence was not extreme or unusual, just a mother beating on her kid. Lots of people beat their children, and lots of them get caught, so that’s not unusual either. This isn’t even a case of a common event happening to famous people: Neither Ms. Toogood nor her daughter Martha were in the public eye before this incident.

The story of Madelyne Toogood is news only because it was caught on video and played on network television. Thus, we’ve reached the sad situation where a subject is news only because it is news.

The Modern Business Relationship

Modern customer relations can be pretty strange. My wife bought a Dell laptop a few years ago, and that model turns out to have some problems with the batteries. Some unforeseen interaction with the charger can cause them to overheat and catch fire. It’s only actually happened once, and no one was hurt, but there was a class action lawsuit that has now reached a settlement. She just got a letter from Dell with the following salutation:

Dear Settlement Class Member and Valued Dell Customer:

Only in America.

The Bigger Fool.

John Kass’s explanation of why Bob Greene had to be asked to resign is a little overwrought:

She was in high school, brought to this newspaper by her parents. They trusted and respected him. They were in awe of him.

And he did what he did with their daughter.

I don’t care about sex lives of reporters or politicians. That’s not my business or yours either, as long as they’re grown-ups and as long as they don’t use the institutions they represent to close the deal.

Her parents trusted the Tribune enough to bring their daughter here to interview a top columnist. A bit later, the columnist and the girl were in bed together.

Technically, she was of legal age. And at that age, and just before, young women begin to learn of the power their bodies have over men.

But she was a kid, and he wasn’t a kid.

They were in awe of a journalist? So what happened? Did Bob Greene used his Journalist Super Powers to cloud her mind and seduce her? Kass is complaining that he brought her to the Tribune Tower, and used its atmoshpere of…something…to seduce her. Oh yeah, I’m sure that really turns on the ladies. (“Dear Penthouse Forum: A young lady was visiting me in my office at the newspaper. As our meeting wore on, I could tell she was turned on by all the sounds and smells of a major newspaper in the heat of the day. Coyly, she asked if we could go down to the press rooms and feel the vibrations of the…”) Get a grip, man. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies, but I would have expected half the male journalists in the building to try to make time with her, and half of those would try to finagle the parents into buying the drinks.

As Eugene Volokh points out, much of Kass’s argument hinges on the woman acting foolishly out of youth and inexperience. So what was Bob Greene’s excuse? A man in his mid-40’s getting all bothered over a high school kid is also acting foolishly.

This is a like those do-gooders who, when a pair of college students get drunk and get it on, want to prosecute only the male for rape. From what we’ve heard so far, Greene’s the one who’s paying a heavy price. He’s the bigger fool.

To be fair, it may yet turn out that the young lady suffered from this encounter, but unless it was illegal suffering, I don’t see how it becomes an employment issue. I’m not saying Greene is a nice guy here, not someone I’d want to be associated with in public, but I can say that about quite a few people I know, and they still get to keep their jobs.

in Gossip

Bob Greene

In an amazing bit of local news, Chicago Tribune Columnist Bob Greene has resigned under pressure for “inappropriate sexual conduct some years ago with a girl in her late teens whom he met in connection with his newspaper column.” I quoted last part exactly because as fellow blogger and actual journalist Bill Dennis points out, Greene’s activities aren’t spelled out too clearly. Had it been anyone other than one of their own, the Tribune would have been much more explicit.

I tried to look up Illinois law to figure out what sort of legal trouble he might be in. These laws are clearly not written for non-lawyers like me. I think that Bob Greene is old enough that he’s in big trouble if the girl was under 17.

(What a mess! If I were a teenager in this state, I wouldn’t have a clue what activities are prohibited by these laws. There are age cutoffs for the victim at 9, 13, and 17, and a variety of different definitions of conduct that overlap in complex and seemingly contradictory ways. Most of the applicable stuff is in the Bodily Harm section, although some of the Sex Offenses might apply as well.)

I wasn’t a big fan of Bob Greene’s because his subjects usually didn’t interest me, but he always seemed like a nice guy in his columns. I’d like to think that this is all just some over-reaction, but…Bob Greene was huge around here. I’m cynical enough to believe that the Tribune management must have tried pretty hard to interpret its journalistic ethics and standards in some way that would keep him on the job. I’m afraid it means something that they decided to ask for his resignation.


Perhaps I’m underestimating the Tribune’s commitment to their ethics policies, and therefore overestimating Greene’s transgressions, but it’s hard to believe they would nail him for personal misconduct that doesn’t rise to the level of criminality or affect the credibility of his writing. However, if his credibility is in doubt, the Tribune owes us enough of an explanation for us to perform our own re-evaluation of his writing.


According to a new Tribune story, Bob Greene had a dinner date with a high school student who had visited his office for a school project. She was old enough to consent to sex, and they apparently got it on. No big deal, and certainly none of the Tribune‘s business because she wasn’t a source or subject of any story. However, Greene later wrote a piece about her, presumably without describing his relationship with her, and that’s what hung him up with the ethics policy. The more we learn, the smaller this story gets.

[Note: This article has been updated to remove dead links.]

in Gossip

InstaPundit Number.

In the spirit of the mathematicians’ Erdos Number, I got the idea to introduce an InstaPundit number. I was going to call it a Reynolds Number because that sounds more scientific, but it turns out that designation is already used by fluid dynamics folks. Actually, it also turns out that Erik Jones at The Bind invented the InstaPundit Number a few months ago, but since he’s apparently stopped maintaining that site, maybe he won’t find out.

My InstaPundit number is 3, using this path:

InstaPundit –> No Watermelons Allowed –> Bill’s Content –> WindyPundit

(There is a webring link from Watermelons to me, but since the owners of sites don’t choose their webring relationships, I don’t think it should count.)