The Republic's Dustin Gardner together with hapless fellow travelers Laurie Roberts and EJ Montini have unwittingly shown us the perfect formula for the journalistic equivalent of a drive by shooting.
Check out this story about Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski. (If you haven't read it, take a moment and check it out and then come back.)
The first step is for Gardner to write a long, breathless, self debunking story full of vague allegations and scary quotes from inapplicable statutes.
Next add tongue-clucking quotes from Former Maricopa County Prosecutor Rick Romley--who in an increasingly desperate attempt to seem relevant--appears ready to opine on any vague allegation of wrongdoing or special treatment that the Republic's "Investigation Team" writes about.
The next step is classic. Gardner's original story didn't have any actual allegations--just vague references to conflicts. Nowakowski's defense is that he's not involved with the issue and didn't know that his employer had made a bid. This is a perfectly rational defense. Now check out this trick. Laurie Roberts piles on by claiming that Nowakowski's (reasonable) claim that he didn't know about the issue is a sign that he is "curiously clueless." How could Nowakowski possibly defend against that charge?
The final step is to have the Republic's columnist team "Left and Lefter" simply mock the victim of the story in their childish "What the Friday" edition. (Get it? "Friday" starts with the letter "F". It's a joke--like when when your junior high school aged son and his friends say "Here's a full cup and a lid. Now shut the full cup." Of course, junior high kids eventually get tired of that joke. Montini and Roberts use it every single Friday.... I can't wait until the next stage when Montini says "Hey Laurie, pull my finger."
None of this is actual journalism...but it provides Gardner with a way to smack people he doesn't like while giving Roberts and Montini an opportunity to mock someone without having to do any actual reporting.
Just like they teach you in J School.