Whatsoever Things Are of Good Report (Gwen Moritz Editor's Note)

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 12:00 am  

My father’s favorite scripture was Philippians 4:11: “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” I miss my dad every day, and those words are my mantra whenever I’m having one of those days that we all have.

Last week, though, words that come just a few sentences earlier in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi were stuck in my brain like a song I couldn’t shake — “...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report … think on these things.”

I know exactly what started it. A reader who wasn’t willing to sign his or her name commented on an article we posted on our website about the home of North Little Rock memorabilia dealer John Rogers being listed for sale for $2.5 million:

“AR Business has hit a new low and you have had lows in the past with some of the stories you have ran. Have some respect. Not everything should be news worthy. Your publication sucks.”

Grammar and spelling aside, the writer and I agree on one point: Not everything is newsworthy.

I know it’s a stretch to apply Paul’s words to what I do for a living. What I mean by a “good report” and what Paul meant aren’t the same thing (and newer English translators seem to prefer “praiseworthy”). But things that are true and honest and just — I actually get paid to think on these things and to decide whether they are newsworthy, whether or not they are pure and lovely and praiseworthy.

The story of John Rogers — which, of course, continues with a Whispers item in this issue — is a tough one. It’s a jigsaw puzzle made up of pieces of various sizes, but the picture that’s being assembled is far from clear.

Normally, offering a house for sale — even a spectacular one like Rogers’ — doesn’t rise to the level of breaking news. Nor, for that matter, does a single collection suit, but Arkansas Business recently reported that Rogers and his company, Sports Card Plus Inc., had been sued for failing to make the second of 10 annual payments on a $1.35 million photo collection.

It was certainly newsworthy when he bought a Honus Wagner card — the Holy Grail of sports memorabilia — for $1.62 million six years ago, when he was a 35-year-old whom most of us had never heard of. (We promptly named him to our next 40 Under 40 list.) It was definitely newsworthy when the FBI executed search warrants on his home and business back in January. If a business in Arkansas is raided by the feds and we don’t report it, you can rest assured that it’s only because we don’t know or can’t independently confirm that it happened. (News tips are always welcome.)

And that history of newsworthiness certainly weighed heavily on my conclusion that the listing of his house — the most extravagant one in my hometown, and only a few years old — and failing to make an $85,000 payment were also newsworthy. (For some context: In 2012, the Arkansas Times reported that Rogers was pulling in $120,000 a week just from selling historic photos on eBay.)

As a general rule, we wait until high-end real estate has sold before we report on the transaction. As a general rule, Arkansas Business waits until we see some pattern in the filing of collections suits against a common defendant before we report on them. We understand that two parties can cross ways over payment, but we also want to warn our particular audience about extending credit to a party that seems to be having a hard time paying.

But sometimes newsworthiness isn’t cut and dried. Last week’s revelation that a crooked business associate in Chicago had tipped Rogers to the impending FBI raids was also newsworthy, and I think it validated our continuing attention to the story, piece by small piece.



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