San Diego Christian College demands retraction from inewsource partner CBS 8

San Diego Christian College’s lawyer sent CBS 8, a media partner of inewsource, a letter Wednesday demanding an immediate retraction of all of our stories about the college.

Tracy Warren, the college’s attorney, did not send the letter to inewsource. However, she sent a similar letter to us last month. In neither letter did Warren specify inaccuracies in our reporting, which is required by state law.

Here’s a link to that letter and our response.

inewsource and CBS 8 have had a partnership since October 2016, with inewsource providing the television station with video packages for its newscasts and stories for its website.

Below is the demand letter sent by Warren to CBS 8 and its response.


November 29, 2017

Dean Elwood, News Director
Alberto Mier y Terán, General Manager
KFMB-TV (CBS 8)

RE: San Diego Christian College

Dear Mr. Elwood and Mr. Mier y Terán:

My name is Tracy Warren and I am outside counsel to San Diego Christian College (“SDCC”). If this station has counsel, please direct this letter to your counsel.

On October 30, 2017 Ms. Megan Wood, an inewsource  employee, electronically published an article entitled: Christian College Can’t Explain $20 Million in Expenses; Agency Cites ‘Very Sketchy Budget’. Unfortunately, the article is riddled with inaccuracies, erroneous attributions, mistaken information and non-cooberation. Ms. Wood’s approach to storytelling is below the standard of care for journalists in the community, defamatory, and inflammatory. We have informed inewsource and its counsel that Ms. Wood’s stories are inaccurate.

Other than a one hour interview with accountant Steve Chaney, no one in position of authority at SDCC, talked with Ms. Wood. She received no documents, no additional information and no cooberation from any SDCC representative. Over a month after interviewing Mr. Chaney for an hour, Ms. Wood ran with a story containing a multitude of inaccuracies, partial storytelling, erroneous attributions, false quotes, misstatements of financial reports, and unsubstantiated information.

On November 1, 2017, Ms. Wood emailed me. Her email stated:

Hi Tracy,

I'm following up to a voicemail I just left you -- I understand Mr. Jensen emailed parents and students at SDC yesterday telling them there are inaccuracies in the inewsource story we recently published. I would like to know what they are so I can investigate and determine if a correction is necessary.

I reached out to the main office who said Mr. Jensen had no comment so I'm following up with

you.

Thank you,

Megan Wood

On November 2, 2017, Ms. Wood published another article on inewsource entitled Christian College Claims Inaccuracies In Story But Is Mum On Details. The article cites to a recording made by Ms. Wood during her interview with Mr. Chaney. It offers little to no correction on the errors in her October 30, 2017 article. Quite candidly, SDCC has little interest in perpetuating the falsehoods told by unreliable witnesses.

On November 27, 2017, Ms. Wood continued her inaccurate reporting. The headline to her inewsource article read: San Diego Christian College replaces CFO amid questions about school’s finances. Again, this is false, and showcases the willingness of inewsource to publish a story without correct information.

As an initial step, SDCC demands an immediate retraction to any broadcasts repeating the inewsource inaccurate reporting regarding San Diego Christian College. SDCC reserves the right to avail itself to the appropriate legal action. To this extent, please preserve all electronic, paper,  audio, video and other data regarding broadcasts, webcasts, stories or information regarding San Diego Christian College. Please also retain all interviews, phone calls, logs, computer entries and emails regarding this matter.

Please have your counsel contact me immediately at 858-652-3019.

Sincerely,

Tracy A. Warren
TAW:cda


December 4, 2017

Tracy A. Warren
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Re: Megan Wood / San Diego Christian College

Dear Ms. Warren,

I am an attorney for KFMB Channel 8 (KFMB). We have received your letter, demanding retractions of broadcasts containing inewsource news stories aired by KFMB about San Diego Christian College. As you know, I also responded to your similar letter to inewsource on behalf of inewsource.

As with your prior letter to inewsource, while your letter says there are inaccuracies in the stories, you have not provided details. California law requires that you specify the statements inewsource and KFMB published that you contend contain false facts. We would be happy review any documents you wish to provide, as well.

Every fact in the initial story was linked to a primary document verifying the reporting. To be fully transparent, inewsource shared that version of the story and all of the documents on its website.

San Diego Christian College also still has not provided details of the $20 million in expenses incurred from Fiscal 2012 to 2014. This documentation is required by law as part of the college’s annual IRS 990 filing. inewsource requested this material repeatedly from Mr. Chaney and other school representatives but has not received it. Inewsource requests it again now.

With respect to your assertion that inewsource inappropriately relied solely on a one hour interview with accountant Steve Chaney, who was the College’s Chief Financial Officer at the time, as you are aware inewsource made at least eleven phone calls and sent 20 emails to eight school officials seeking information on the expenses and comments on the documents we had compiled. As you previously acknowledged, college representatives did not respond.

With respect to the November 27 news story with the headline “San Diego Christian College replaced CFO amid questions about school’s finances,” the College has confirmed to Ms. Wood that Mr. Chaney is no longer the CFO. You again fail to identify any false fact that was published in that news story.

It is the policy of KFMB and inewsource to correct or clarify information that is proven to be inaccurate or misleading. Again, if you wish to point out statements inewsource or KFMB published that contain any false fact, inewsource or KFMB would be happy to review them and any additional documentation you wish to provide. We ask that we receive the information by the close of business Thursday, Nov. 12.

Very truly yours,

Guylyn R. Cummins

for SHEPPARD, MULLIN, RICHTER & HAMPTON LLP

Related:


Christian college can’t explain $20 million in expenses; agency cites ‘very sketchy’ budget
San Diego Christian College, a nearly 50-year-old nonprofit school in Santee, can’t account for more than $20 million in expenses that are supposed to be detailed on its public tax returns.

Christian college claims inaccuracies in story but is mum on details
A college official emailed parents and students alleging our investigation about questionable expenses “presents information regarding SDC that is inaccurate.” However, despite requests, the college would not say what was wrong with the story.

San Diego Christian College retraction demand and our response
San Diego Christian College’s outside counsel sent inewsource a letter demanding an immediate retraction of our two stories about the college.

Still no word from San Diego Christian College; inewsource responds to allegations anyway
The college shared a list of alleged inaccuracies in our story with parents, students and alumni. Here's our response.

San Diego Christian College replaces CFO amid questions about school’s finances
Following our investigation into the finances of San Diego Christian College, an official confirmed that Steve Chaney is no longer its chief financial officer.
shadow-ornament

We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Megan Wood:

Megan Wood

Megan Wood is a multimedia journalist for inewsource. To contact her with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email meganwood@inewsource.org.