Paid media

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 61 views 

Riff Raff, by Michael Tilley
[email protected]

We FOI’d ourselves this week about secret correspondence we’ve been having with the city of Fort Smith. After our attorneys argued with themselves as to what information we could release to ourselves, the following is what we were able to release.

23 MAY 2011

Mayor Sandy Sanders and members of the Fort Smith Board of Directors:

It has been brought to my attention that The City Wire is nothing more than a paid tool of the city of Fort Smith; that essentially a portion of our operations include being a propaganda machine to push the view of the world according to the city board and staff.

To be sure, we find this disconcerting because, as you are each aware, the media has clear rules and regulations about this sort of thing.

We checked our records and find no payment or tribute of any kind from the city of Fort Smith, with the exception for advertisement promoting downtown Fort Smith. Considering some of the things we’ve written in the past few years about city board incompetence, we were, frankly, surprised the city has continued the downtown Fort Smith advertisement.

Please check your records and advise.

Michael Tilley, editor and co-owner of The City Wire


May 25, 2011

Mr. Tilley:

Our records show no invoices from The City Wire, other than for the downtown Fort Smith advert. However, we do show The City Wire on our list of “Paid Media.”

Also, we were able to accommodate your request to put the license plate number for your truck on our “Do not ticket” list with regard to downtown parking. We have your plate number as (this info REDACTED). Please let me know if this is incorrect.

Unfortunately, we were not able to provide your home with free sanitation service. The sanitation department works as an enterprise fund and Sanitation Department Director Baridi Nkokheli was not willing to provide the free service you requested. He’s proven to be a real stickler for following the rules, and not much of a team player, so to speak.

On another matter, we do show that you ate one of our boxed lunches during the board retreat at Lake Fort Smith. We are including in this response an invoice for $72.39 for the lunch. That may seem a bit steep for a boxed lunch, but it had a relatively larger cookie than most lunches, two mayonnaise packets, and the lunches were delivered by the Fort Smith water department, which requires the time of two field workers and one supervisor.

Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders
cc: Ray Gosack, Fort Smith City Administrator


27 MAY 2011

Dear Mayor:

Our records show that in November 2010 we sent our invoice to the former city administrator. We suspect that is the cause for the confusion, but are troubled that we are listed on your “Paid Media” list but have not been appropriately compensated.

Following are the monthly charges for being “Paid Media” of a government, business or non-governmental association. You should know that the charges are based on current national industry standards for the “Online Media-Local/small market” category.
• Pre-approval by city staff of all comments posted on The City Wire: $1,000
• Favorable story or editorial: $100 each
• Advance promotion of city event: $150 per event
• Ignoring opinions contrary to city policy: $250
• Investigative “gotcha” stories about people who oppose city policies: $500 (with expenses if a private detective is employed)
• Pre-approval by city staff of all stories posted on The City Wire: $500
• Pro-city piece that includes a half-truth or outright lie in each paragraph: $1,000 each

Please know we offer a 15% discount for a package deal totaling more than $5,000 a month.

We realize that the local newspaper doesn’t follow the industry standards nor seeks “Paid Media” status, but that is because they are owned by a large financial company that handles most of the city’s bond underwriting. Because that is an incredibly beneficial relationship for the newspaper and the city, we are hoping you will at least consider generous “support” of The City Wire to level the playing field.

Michael Tilley, editor and co-owner of The City Wire
cc: Tom Kirkham, publisher and co-owner of The City Wire

P.S.: Some of our other “clients” include Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, most major electric and gas utilities, and X-Mart Adult Supercenter.


June 2, 2011

Mr. Tilley:

Am in receipt of your May 27, 2011, letter to Mayor Sanders and his notes from the June 1 phone conversation in which you “encouraged” Mayor Sanders to “quit stalling around and cut a check” before a story appeared about the “special massages” provided daily in the Mayor’s office. He also said you’d go so far as to reveal that the convention center runs a deficit because the money is funneled for numerous special deals afforded the mayor, certain city directors and top city staff.

In light of this development, we have decided to make you aware of an arrangement with the Fort Smith Police Department. Each month, the department acquires a surprisingly large amount of cash, drugs, alcohol, weapons, lingerie, NASCAR trinkets, exotic animals, computer hard drives packed full of porn — and that’s just from what we collect during surprise inspections of city employee lockers. You should see the stuff we get from criminals!

The FSPD also warehouses the city’s 24 pallets loaded with rose petals.

Anyway, we prefer providing you and your staff at The City Wire access to this stash in lieu of payment for being on our “Paid Media” list. This keeps “clean” our respective financial ledgers. Other media have readily accepted this method of conducting business.

We agree to the package deal with a 15% discount if you are willing to agree to accept payment in the form noted above.

Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack
cc: Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders


5 JUNE 2011

City Administrator Gosack:

Our attorneys have reviewed your offer and advised us to accept, although the greedy bastards want a cut. Can you believe that? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

We indeed accept your offer and look forward to a great future relationship. We already have experts lined up who will say the fall of the Roman Empire began when scribes began disseminating text from the “citizen’s open forum” portion of meetings between the Emperor and Roman Senate.

Also, I was most impressed with having two mayonnaise packets and have no problem with the charge for the boxed lunch. You’ll find an enclosed check, plus a $100 cash tip for the water department employees.

Thanks for your time and consideration in this matter.

Michael Tilley, editor and co-owner of The City Wire
cc: Tom Kirkham, publisher and co-owner of The City Wire


We’re not especially proud of any of this, but because of our belief in maintaining the highest ethical standards, we thought you should know. It’s this type of investigative, open and honest reporting we believe you, Kind Reader, have come to expect from The City Wire, and we trust this meets your expectations.

Also, if anyone is interested, The City Wire has partnered with the Franklin Mint to be the exclusive seller of a limited edition “Life’s Worth Living in Fort Smith” rose petal key-chain fob covered in a mix of 14-carat gold and a gold-looking substance that is not likely to contain asbestos. If you order before Labor Day, we’ll include one of the following items with your shipment: drugs, alcohol, weapons, lingerie, NASCAR trinkets, exotic animals, or computer hard drives packed full of porn.

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