ZivaGate: Letter to Tulsa World Publisher Bill Masterson, Jr.

Here’s the letter from UnhappyFranchisee.Com publisher Sean Kelly to the new Publisher of BH Media Group’s Tulsa World, Bill Masterson.

Bill Masterson, Jr.

Vice President, BH Media Group

Publisher, Tulsa World

June 21, 2013

Dear Mr. Masterson:

My name is Sean Kelly. I am a Tulsa World subscriber and the publisher of the franchise industry discussion and watchdog website UnhappyFranchisee.Com.

One of your BH Media Group employees, Tulsa World Editor Ziva Branstetter, has admitted to using company resources to do Lexis-Nexis and Pacer searches to uncover information on me, my businesses and my family. She has admitted to providing the results of these searches, including my home address, cell phone numbers, family composition, creditors from a 2007 bankruptcy, names and information of family members and neighbors to an angry, unstable man who was drinking heavily after years of sobriety.

This man, a Tulsa CEO named David Rutkauskas, was actively waging a vicious legal and social media campaign against me at the time, in part because of a Tulsa World story and some anonymous comments I left on the Tulsa World website. Tulsa World’s unwillingness to protect my anonymity as a commenter and subscriber led to my being sued by Mr. Rutkauskas, and the information provided by Ms. Branstetter, including my home address and personal financial information, were publicly posted on Twitter and derided by Mr. Rutkauskas within hours of his receipt of Ms. Branstetter’s email.

Mr. Rutkauskas has apologized.  Ms. Branstetter has not.

All I have sought from Ms. Branstetter is public acknowledgement that she made a mistake sending my sensitive information to Mr. Rutkauskas, that she realizes she put me and my family at risk, and that she is sincerely sorry.

Instead, I received a 4-page letter from Tulsa World attorney J. Schaad Titus. Approximately 3 pages of the letter contained legal threats, references to coming after me for defamation and “false light publications” (whatever that is). The remaining page was an embarrassingly convoluted account of how and why Ms. Branstetter sent my information to Mr. Rutkauskas. The account was rife with obvious factual inaccuracies, and contained not a hint of remorse or apology. In fact, Mr. Titus obviously sought to intimidate me with the threat of further legal action for having the gall to question one of Tulsa World’s editors.

Mr. Masterson, I have observed that in business there are times when it’s best to ask the attorneys to leave the room, shut the door behind them, look the other party in the eye, and say “We screwed up. We didn’t mean to, but we added to your distress and we’re really sorry. We are going to take this as a learning opportunity, and take steps to ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”

I believe this is one of those times.

Ziva Branstetter is a public figure who regularly scrutinizes the words and deeds of public officials, agencies and private business owners in the media. Tulsa World empowers Ms. Branstetter with tremendous influence.  As the new publisher of Tulsa World, I would ask that you give permission to Ms. Branstetter to do the right thing, to either defend her actions or issue an apology directly without having to go through the legalistic, adversarial filter of J. Schaad Titus.

As one who preaches transparency and openness, Ms. Branstetter will be better served by practicing what she preaches, and so will Tulsa World.

All the best,

Sean Kelly



Reference materials:

OVERVIEW:  ZivaGate: Tulsa World Editor Fueled Twitter Attacks on Blogger [UPDATED]

June 5, 2013:  Urban Tulsa Weekly  Stranger than Fiction:  Silence over Tulsa World editor doing digging for CEO

June 12, 2013:  UnhappyFranchisee:  David Rutkauskas Apologizes, Will Drop Lawsuit

June 13, 2013:  This Land Press  New Tulsa World Publisher Faces Troubles in First Week

June 13, 2013:  UnhappyFranchisee  ZivaGate: Letter to Ziva Branstetter

June 14, 2013:  UnhappyFranchisee   TULSA WORLD: The Honey Badger of American Journalism

June 19, 2013:  Batesline.Com   ZivaGate: Ziva Branstetter accused of collusion in Rutkauskas offensive against blog critic

June 20, 2013: UnhappyFranchisee  ZivaGate: Ziva Branstetter’s Attorney Tells Her Side

June 20, 2013:  This Land Press  Tulsa World Attorney Attempts to Explain Email

June 21, 2013: Journal Record:  Beautiful Brands drops blogger lawsuit

June 21, 2013: UF/Journal Record:  BEAUTIFUL BRANDS Drops Blogger Lawsuit, Journal Record Actually Reports It



TAGS: ZivaGate, Ziva Branstetter, Bill Masterson, Tulsa World, BH Media Group, Schaad Titus, David Rutkauskas, Beautiful Brands International, BBI,Unhappy Franchisee lawsuit, Sean Kelly Lawsuit, David Rutkauskas lawsuit,

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