Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ads By Google… Misreporting By Frank?! Money-Grubbing Commences at Perugia-Shock

Posted by Skeptical Bystander

Money turns Sforza’s head

Sales and ad revenue is really what is driving so much of the very haphazard case reporting.  And not only that of the newspapers. Also ad-driven websites, for example.

Frank Sforza of the ad-driven Perugia-Shock site must have paid close attention when Candace Dempsey’s ad-driven site hosted by Hearst’s Seattle-PI noted the obvious: that Amanda Knox sells newspapers.

Frank’s latest post first describes the most recent case witnesses to emerge. He tells us why they should be discredited, even before they testify. The main reason, it seems, is that Frank is suspicious of them.

And all Frank-watchers know this: they must question everything he tells them to question, and accept all he says as gospel, or face some petulant wrath.

A phony interview

Perhaps not coincidentally, some of the new case witnesses were encouraged to come forward by journalists from one of the local newspapers Frank has somehow got on the wrong side of.

The pièce de résistance in Frank’s blog entry is his “interview” with Amanda Knox ““ a genuine scoop, it seems. Ms Dempsey told her readers it was “actual comments” from Amanda… the first she has seen.

With this claim in mind, I read the post, noting first that Frank said he “sent” questions to Knox in the Capanne jail. By carrier pigeon? By smoke signals? By a birthday cake with a tape recorder inside? He doesn’t specify.

And he presented the results in the form of a verbatim interview…  in broken English!

Seemingly overwhelmingly obvious to any native speaker of English - any except Ms Dempsey, it appears, who claimed this to be “the first [interview] I’ve seen in English, and not through a politician”  in a post on 3 December.

Rather more astute readers immediately asked Frank what on earth was going on.

He gave some of his trademark evasive and irritated replies - and he even wrote at one point that if readers were confused, then that was good.

Slippery “journalism”

Still, he has steadfastly maintained throughout that, in keeping with the blog’s philosophy, “sentences get reported as they are, they don’t get cleaned or improved or corrected or made understandable.”

How can we square that with the circumstances apparently surrounding the interview, as reluctantly conceded by Frank? If anyone out there can reconstruct this process based on what Frank has revealed under duress, we’d appreciate hearing from them.

Frank insists the interview contains (sic) “just the things she said, she didn’t write them, it’s sentences thrown there in the hurry about the end of the visitation. It’s not that we could record, she said them and then, we came out of there and after the second check point we tried to reconstruct the exact words, correct or not. And that’s exactly what she said, for what it may count.”

Wow. If anyone still feels confused, Frank offers this helpful insight: “Obviously I can’t speak about that and I have to confuse details and movements on purpose.”

Confusion is deliberate!

He then has the gall to ask readers to trust that “what she said is what she said,” and asserts that “the words she said were reconstructed right after, mistakes included, since it was real language and I like to report real language.”

So! Is everyone thoroughly confused by now? I hope so, because that apparently really was Frank’s purpose here.

And what about the actual puffball questions, any actual delivery mechanism aside? The strangest one, added to the original post as an afterthought, concerns a vibrator.

Ms Dempsey has claimed, on more than one occasion, as usual sans proof, that many of the journalists covering the case are males with mid-life issues. Does that also apply to Frank? 

Or perhaps it was added because details even remotely related to Amanda’s sex life sell? Did Frank simply decide to stick with what sells?

Perhaps making it all up as he went along?

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/09/08 at 08:51 PM in Crime hypothesesFrancesco Sforza


I have been following Perugia-shock from the beginning.  But this last post made me decide that I will not read that blog anymore.  The fact that he is trying to confuse his readers really confused me!  First he says that he sent the questions, then he says that he asked her the questions, then he says that he sent the questions with someone else, then he says that the last part with the vibrator was cut and he did not notice!  And he says it was the best part.  The best part and he did not read the post again and notice that it is missing!  Anyway I would like to understand what happened on the night Meredith was killed and not what Frank is inventing.  I think that he has got infected with the Knox syndrome – lying and trying to make others believe him.  I am sorry but I don’t find him credible anymore.

Posted by onlooker on 12/09/08 at 10:11 PM | #

Whether the interview is true or whether it came to him in a dream, why would he want to be the only European apologist for AK at this late stage? It seems increasingly suicidal to me. The Italian officials and the European and American publics and media could all turn against him for this.

Posted by Anne on 12/09/08 at 10:45 PM | #

Only relatives can visit? is that not the case? if yes, then an actual Frank visit seems out.

Leaving us with the choice of carrier pigeon, the smoke signals, the cake, or a neutral and unbiased relative.

Maybe I’ll take the cake… Any further insights, readers in Perugia?

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/09/08 at 10:58 PM | #

Could Frank have asked her lawyer or one of her relatives maybe? It’s unlikely, but….errrm…..Okay…in fact it’s VERY unlikely!

Posted by Socrates42 on 12/09/08 at 11:53 PM | #

Fast Pete Wrote:

“Only relatives can visit? is that not the case? if yes, then an actual Frank visit seems out.

Leaving us with the choice of carrier pigeon, the smoke signals, the cake, or a neutral and unbiased relative.

Maybe I’ll take the cake… Any further insights, readers in Perugia?”

Yes, questions smuggled in in a fishcake I would think, as it all smells very fishy to me…quite whiffy. Great article Skep 😊

Posted by Michael on 12/10/08 at 12:05 AM | #

Frank wrote “under fire” that the intermediary was not related to AK or a member of her legal team. Aside from prison guards, religious personnel, physical and mental health staff and fellow inmates (i.e. anyone who might get close enough to have a conversation), I can’t imagine who could have delivered these questions and “memorized” the verbal replies.
In the comments section of his blog, Frank referred at one point to multiple checkpoints. It made me wonder if he was the last man on some kind of relay team.
If that was the case, can you imagine the possibility for distortion at each subsequent step?
The last “question” about the vibrator is the most disturbing of all, because the “scribe” actually provides us with AK’s reaction to the question (she laughs).

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/10/08 at 12:09 AM | #

Thank you SB for a brilliant post!

Is extremely hard to believe or to appreciate anything Frank writes, he can pretend as much as he likes that he gets “Scoops” on the case but is all fantasy on his head and to top it he is a terrible writer.
Once upon a time he was writing things like this on the case:

“After all we know Amanda doesn’t have problems in accusing someone unjustly, as she did with Patrick. Why should she cover the fourth man, than?
The reason can be only one. He’s the witness of the murder. And the author of the murder is Amanda, eventually with the help of the two men.
And that’s what happened.”

Posted by Jools on 12/10/08 at 12:11 AM | #

Timing is everything! 

In this November 26, 2008 local interview with Seattle’s KING TV (NBC), Curt and Edda were in a “living room in Seattle” and talked about Thanksgiving.  They were grateful that the holiday fell on Thursday, the one day Amanda Knox is allowed to call home for 10 minutes.

Frank, in his December 2, 2008 blog entry said:

“I’ve sent Amanda some questions and a map of the neighborhood so she could give us her own version.”

Perhaps Frank was confused, and meant to say that he’d sent Amanda’s parents some questions to be asked of her when she called home on November 27,2008, Thanksgiving Thursday.  Since he denies that the questions were answered by family or legal people, maybe a guest/friend at the holiday dinner took down the answers…then quickly got back to Frank!

Since Candace Dempsey and Frank have noted how they appreciate the publicity with references to their blogs, it needs to be noted that THIS kind of publicity is anything but positive.  It only negates their credibility and integrity.  But, then again, those qualities disappeared a very long time ago in my opinion.

Skep, thank you for this revealing post uncovering more thought provoking issues happening at the 2 defense blogs writing about this case.

Posted by Tara on 12/10/08 at 01:13 AM | #

Tara wrote:
“Since Candace Dempsey and Frank have noted how they appreciate the publicity with references to their blogs, it needs to be noted that THIS kind of publicity is anything but positive.”

Actually, they insist on seeing it as free publicity. If the goal is traffic, then maybe it is free publicity. But I think it works against them on a more fundamental level.

Incidentally, both blogs (ostensibly for different reasons) delete all links to this not-for-profit site.

My own feeling is that information in the public domain is there for everyone to share, argue over, weigh, etc.

I would like the widest possible public to see what is being said and done everywhere with respect to this case. Unfortunately, in the case of the PI Reader blog, so many posts get deleted, often well after the fact. I recently tried to find some of the posts I made almost a year ago, when I posted there. Nearly all of them had disappeared. I found one reference to one of them though. I guess Candace was remiss in her clean-up.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/10/08 at 01:58 AM | #

Looking back at Candace Dempsey’s initial blog post back in November 2007, one can see how much she’s changed her stance.  Here’s the very first comment on the very first blog which stands today:

“#65044Posted by unregistered user at 11/10/07 5:01 a.m.

I say give this Amanda Knox five years of hard time for being an utterly worthless human being - standing by while her roommate was being assaulted and murdered.

Just another rich kid with zero values and no moral compass.

Bear in mond I say five years IF she had no active involvment in her roommates death… If she was otherwise involved and/or lied to the police about it, throw her in Rikers Island for life - she can have all of the exciting and forcible sexual encounters she can handle.”

There are a total of 38 comments including 3 by Candace Dempsey and 1 by funnycat.  Most of them are NOT favorable towards Amanda Knox.

You really wouldn’t recognize it as the same blog it’s evolved into today.  Just another thing that makes you go hmmmmm!

Posted by Tara on 12/10/08 at 02:15 AM | #

Without getting philosophical (too late already), as the Internet nudges out the other media such as television and newspapers, there will only be blogs.  Since anyone can start one, people will gather round the ones that say what tney like to hear or the truth (like it or not). 

That is what we’re seeing here.  This blog - nicely done, btw - publishes the truth.  Others, like Perugia-shock, tell its readers what they want to believe is true - especially if it is very much open to interpretation.

Posted by Easy Ed on 12/10/08 at 03:37 AM | #

I think Ed makes a great point about blogs and old media.

Some blogs are clearly propagandist, but many do strive for a real truth in their fashion. My own hunch is that the blogs that strive for a truth run rings round the propagandist sites in terms of reader commitment and effectiveness. I suspect the two grief-for-profit blogs we keep exposing actually have a pretty low effectiveness ratio. They are really just pinatas now.

In places like China blogs are having a real effect. The huge Daily Kos political website got behind Obama very early on, and helped to get a lot of money and eager young guys moving.

There was a PBS segment last night on the bankruptcy of the Chicago Tribune group, and one commenter said again and again: do QUALITY journalism instead of cost-cutting, and you will survive - maybe even without ads.

That both Seattle papers have lost 10% of their readers this year (the national average was about 4%) with this GREAT story in their laps shows just how much both editors have REALLY bombed out.

Poor Seattle. You do deserve better.


Great points by Tara and Jools above, too. Tara’s second really made me laugh. That should be a post.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/10/08 at 04:39 AM | #

Easy Ed wrote:  “Without getting philosophical (too late already), as the Internet nudges out the other media such as television and newspapers, there will only be blogs.  Since anyone can start one, people will gather round the ones that say what they like to hear or the truth (like it or not).”

I agree with Ed that the ultimate choice lies with the people. They choose to gravitate toward what makes them feel good and/or comforts their world view or to ferret out the truth, wherever it happens to be.

Monica Guzman, of the PI’s Big Blog, began her superficial coverage of the Kercher murder with some interesting questions about the Internet and privacy, only to abandon them. Since then, her coverage has been lazy and lop-sided. Yesterday, she posted briefly on Candace Dempsey’s book deal. Incidentally, Candace shows yet again that she doesn’t understand what a leak is. News of her book deal was not “leaked” by this website. It was in the public domain (she herself called it an “open secret”) and Fast Pete found information about the deal. He reported it on this website. Now, we can only wonder when Dempsey was planning to make the announcement.

In any case, many people may be put off to learn that Dempsey makes “connections… between Meredith Kercher’s fate and her own life. Dempsey was assaulted on a date as a teen. And like Stephanie Kercher, she, too, knows what it is to mourn the loss of a younger sister.”

One of my favorite college professors taught me a long time ago about the perils of comparing one kind of suffering to another, of comparing my suffering to your suffering. Getting a hangnail is clearly not as serious as having one’s hand chopped off in an industrial accident.

But for most people, it is intuitively true that the difference between date rape and what happened to Meredith Kercher is huge, and that any comparison of this sort is an act of emotional violence.

As for the loss suffered when a sibling dies, in both cases the loved one is gone forever. But if I had to choose, I would not choose to lose my sister in the way Stephanie Kercher lost hers. Nobody would. Again, the comparison is obscene.

I suspect I’m not the only person out there who stopped contributing to the PI Reader blog out of sheer frustration. The subject of the blog was misleading. It was supposed to be about Meredith Kercher, but it seemed to me that it was more about Candace Dempsey. In my opinion, her latest comments confirm that she is utterly shameless.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/10/08 at 05:49 PM | #

Well said Skeptical Bystander!

But I have a confession to make:

Out of frustration at my ever-growing pile of work which I’ve been putting off, and sheer boredom, I decided to finally go visit this Candace Dempsey blog!

Every second blog entry is her own, and she keeps repeating the same monotonous mantra:  “I see the world through rose-tinted glasses; the world is EXACTLY how I want to see it…I don’t like Cliff…I mean, Clint…Oooh..he’s a nasty man!”

Within minutes of reading the drivel on her website, I was sooo bored that the idea of returning to tackle my own work, which I’d previously been putting off, seemed all of a sudden like such an exciting venture!

This sums up my experience of Candace Dempsey’s journalistic talent: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw1QalG6P-M

Posted by Socrates42 on 12/10/08 at 06:15 PM | #

I suspect she is having a tough time keeping going. Tara showed above how the blog has been all over the map, and the strong new play for sympathy seems a sign it is now biting her in the tail.

The news-room of the Seattle PI is said to have pretty limited respect for her reportings, and to wish that the whole story had been handled in a very different way, one that could have seriously boosted the paper’s circulation, not help to kill it. Poor editorial decisions, obviously.

Again, poor Seattle. It really does deserve better.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/10/08 at 06:47 PM | #

Yes, Socrates, it is not just frustrating to read that blog, it is also boring. Or would be were it not for the heroic attempts of two people, Frog-y-rana and Yummi, to carry on a disinterested and truly open discussion. Candace is clearly currying favor with Yummi, so he gets a pass most of the time. Not so for Frog-y.
Let me venture an educated guess here: Candace’s deleting policy is really about keeping the Knox/Mellas family and Friends of Amanda happy. They have become important sources and have a history of turning against media they perceive as hostile. They are calling the shots now. This will make it more difficult for Candace to approach the Kerchers and get their buy-in for the book, but she will try and is certainly already trying. And after all, the Kerchers probably don’t see what gets deleted and why.

I have seen evidence of quiet ex post facto deleting on the blog, not just real-time actions. Kelly 13’s comments about the Kerchers, which Candace took quite lightly until we called her to task here, are examples of the kind of offensive viewpoints that have been quietly deleted well after the fact. It would have been reassuring to read some kind of explanation for the late decision to delete those comments, or some kind of public condemnation of them.

Who is Kelly 13 that he has to be tolerated and placated (as opposed to Frog-y, who is practically run off the premises every time he stops by)?

Why is Funnycat allowed to shoot from the hip with impunity?

Why would Candace tell her readers “who” Frog-y is on other blogs and accuse new posters of being someone else while pretending that she would never divulge the identity of a poster? 

Why are Tufa’s sophomoric attempts at insulting Frog-y and Cherchez indulged?

Why is Ferdi’s hypothesis about Giacomo being the murderer allowed to stand while Frog-y’s 5 hypotheses (one of which assumes that AK had nothing to do with murdering Meredith) are deleted as “libelous”?

These are all relevant questions. They probably all have relevant answers.

P.S. I like your youtube link.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/10/08 at 06:48 PM | #

Thanks SB for above info.

I am now convinced, from what I read on her blog (e.g. putting Frog-y down, and hailing Funnycat a champion, criticizing Clint from Dateline, etc.), and other things you’ve mentioned here, that Candace Dempsey is not in the business of journalism, but propaganda.

Instead of publishing facts, she publishes what she thinks will serve her own self-interests & objevtives. She should be a public relationist, not a journalist.

Posted by Socrates42 on 12/10/08 at 07:44 PM | #

If you don’t have adequate virus protection do not go to the awful Perugia shock website.

My security software keeps picking up the “1.blogger.gmodules.com” intrusion, which is a known vehicle for attack when clicking on a webpage.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/10/08 at 07:48 PM | #

Thanks for the warning, Deathfish! Just one more good reason to stay away.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/10/08 at 08:08 PM | #


I’ve scanned Pergia Shock with LinkScanner Online:


It reports Perugia Shock as being clean. Maybe it’s a false positive, DF2K?

Posted by Michael on 12/11/08 at 12:59 AM | #

I believe 1.blogger.gmodules.com (with a suffix) is a server address for “gadgets” that Google keeps on hand for Blogger websites to call up when they want some effect to start running.

Virus and worm experts are suspicious of it as it could be used to call up a worm or virus. I wouldnt touch it, but we use much better software anyway.

Sounds like Frank should be doing a code upgrade, in between the seances with AK.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/11/08 at 01:47 AM | #

Maybe it is a false positive Michael, but I’m just going by my software which I will trust in this case.
I reckon Fast Pete is on the money here:
“Frank should be doing a code upgrade, in between the seances with AK”!

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/11/08 at 03:02 AM | #

Just been to Franks to check and it seems to be clear now.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/11/08 at 03:06 AM | #

Socrates42 (OT: I wish Bill n Ted never happened…I still pronounce it So-crates in my head, even when reading the driest of classical literature!)

Sorry! I think that your comment about propaganda is correct.  Candace is the mouthpiece for the Knox PR machine, if she isn’t the whole PR machine.  Her blog twisted on a sixpence once the Knox Klan ‘hired’ a PR company, which is why I cannot understand why SPI are still hosting the blog.  If the Seattle PI are unhappy with the way the story has been reported, why don’t they just change the reporter and start again? Am I being naive to think this could happen? Especially if Hearst start to think the “Knox is a killer” stance sells better than the current ‘Forget the evidence, poor lickle innocent Amanda” position.  The only barrier from what I can see is an editor that has publically backed Candace, he’d have to call her out as a liar to get rid which I cannot see happening. *prays for opposite to happen*

Posted by DS on 12/11/08 at 06:31 PM | #

“If the Seattle PI are unhappy with the way the story has been reported, why don’t they just change the reporter and start again?” DS

It is important to remember that Candace Dempsey is not reporting on this case for the Seattle PI. She has a reader blog that is hosted by the Seattle PI.

The PI’s reporting on the case is totally separate and, in my opinion, has been very good. The stories have been filed by someone who is actually based in Italy (or at least files from there).

It was the Seattle Times, not the PI, that ran the fluff piece earlier this fall, which was totally driven by information from the family and not counterbalanced by any other sources.

The media that do this kind of work should be called out for their lazy and lop-sided work.

Where the PI erred was in allowing Candace’s blog to morph into a “true crime” blog from the “food and travel” blog that it agreed to host. The blog is still listed under the food section.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/11/08 at 07:46 PM | #

We have emails in claiming that the Seattle PI editor, David McCumber, makes the decisions to kick so many registered readers off the PI website.

They must be up in the many dozens by now, and quite possibly in the hundreds. (Email us if you are one.)

There are captures of the Comments threads which clearly show that of the comments they made were attempts to set the record straight.

So the editor kicked them off!

At the same time, Skep has a good point: some of the Seattle PI’s real reporting has been among the most penetrating..

Spin off the peculiar blogger, and her peculiar book deal, and Hearst could be proud of the result. Go for it, David.

You know your newsroom wants you to.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/11/08 at 08:17 PM | #

He is so sexy.  Just let him be won’t you?  Stop basting him, he will not sizzle for you on your grill to become some garnish on your plate of devilled souse.  Higher preparations are due him than those scrambled macerations and pressure-cooked parboils you all concoct for him.  He is a shining example of a true friend and an intrepid, brave investigative journalist.  Your petty jealousies are just like whisked foam raised to dress and froth up your eviscerated carbonado forced down others throats like some poached sweated saute of blackened dry-roast hash.  Basta.

Posted by Julienne on 12/12/08 at 12:24 AM | #

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