Talk:Rob Todd

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Notability of Rob Todd[edit]

I did a Gnews search that came up with over 100 hits, almost all of them being about the subject of this article. Houston Press, Chicago Tribune, Rocky Mountain News, Dallas Morning News, San Antonio Express-News, Los Angeles Times, New York Times... It goes on and on. His notability is unquestionable despite only being a city councilman. -- Atamachat 19:36, 30 July 2009 (UTC)


User Deaftruth (talk · contribs) has repeatedly removed from the article information about Todd's extramarital affair. [1][2] The affair is notable because Todd, while in office, went to remarkable extremes to enforce "family values", while at the same time conducting an extramarital affair. That's why the affair was the subject of a multipage article in the local alternative newsweekly, the Houston Press. Deaftruth claims in an edit note, "Macwhiz, I followed this story when it first started. The Houston Press article is a local, free, weekly gossip page basically. No where in the story is Mr. Todd quoted. is Gossip only." This claim has several problems.

  1. Aside from Deaftruth's allegation, I have no basis to believe the Houston Press does not meet the reliable source requirements. In fact, it has previously been found to be a reliable source. [3]
  2. The affair was also mentioned in an editorial in the Houston Chronicle. The Chronicle is a reliable source beyond any reasonable doubt, and I doubt that the editors of that newspaper would have published the affair as a statement of fact, [4] even in an editorial, without being sure that it was true and would not cause them to be sued for libel—especially given that Todd is an attorney.

I believe that the affair is a notable event in Todd's life, and its omission from the article violates WP:NPOV. It's also troubling for WP:BLP, which requires an accurate portrayal of the subject as seen in reliable sources. // ⌘macwhiz (talk) 00:58, 7 June 2011 (UTC)

I have opened a discussion on this topic, along with other edits by Deaftruth, at WP:BLPN#Rob Todd. // ⌘macwhiz (talk) 01:24, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
I've readded the material, as the source appears reliable. I invite further discussion here on the talk page, of course. Dayewalker (talk) 01:36, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
I've deleted another paragraph that was added because it doesn't appear to actually be about Todd; it's WP:COATRACK. It cites two sources that don't substantiate the claim, plus one circular reference to Wikipedia itself, which isn't allowed. Plus, that paragraph was breaking refs badly. // ⌘macwhiz (talk) 02:38, 7 June 2011 (UTC)

I'm currently unpersuaded that this material belongs in his biography, and in the current form it appears to go beyond the sources as well as importing editorializing from the Houston Press.

First, we say that he "admitted to an affair" - but that doesn't seem to be backed up by the source... particularly the word "affair" is problematic once you read the full story. What we have is that Mr. Todd started dating the "estranged wife" of a colleague. The colleague himself, even, doesn't refer to it as an affair. He does say that Todd called him to tell him about it, and he terms himself as "saddened" by the news.

Second, while the Houston Press reporter seems to be trying to eek out criticism from the colleague of Todd's "family values" stance, the colleague doesn't take the bait. It seems pretty slim.

The Houston Chronicle editorial refers to "city cell phone records obtained by the Houston Press" but oddly, the Houston Press doesn't mention that at all. Again, it seems slim.

I could be persuaded that this material should be included, but I think Wikipedia should refrain from editorializing by connecting the dots between his comments about Clinton and his own personal life. What I'd like to see is more and better sources. But the first thing I think we need to do is tone the section down to match what the sources say.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 09:51, 7 June 2011 (UTC)

Regarding the cell phone records: The Press does mention them, just not in the cited article. The article Rob Todd Unredacted from December 7, 2000 discusses them in detail. [5]
I agree that the Press articles are hardly unbiased. When I first reviewed the article and went looking for additional information on Todd, I found the Press article and initially dismissed it because of the bias. However, the Chronicle editorial confirmed the basic allegation of the affair. As Todd is a local politician of no national note, I can't reasonably expect to find a wide variety of sources for a story like this; a mention in the two major Houston newspapers is as much verification as we could really ask for.
Next, was this something worthy of inclusion? I would have omitted mention of it as rumor-mongering, except for its connection to Todd's political career. Both sources tied the affair—and I note that the Chronicle as well as the Press used exactly that word to describe it—to Todd's stance on family values. From the Chronicle:
In 2000, conservative Houston City Councilman Rob Todd, who had separated from his wife, admitted to having an affair with the estranged wife of fellow conservative councilman and good buddy Bert Keller.
What he didn't confess to, but which city cell phone records obtained by the Houston Press disclosed, was that the two had begun their relationship before she left Keller.
The scandal was elevated by Todd's self-promotion of family values. He was a vociferous critic of Bill Clinton after the Monica affair, and pulled such stunts as trying to get the vice squad to close a shop called Condoms Galore.
When the vice squad found nothing illegal about the shop, Todd sent in health inspectors, apparently hoping to find the shop selling edible panties without a food license, the Press reported. [6]
I chose not to cite the Chronicle article as it was an editorial. (Note, editorial, not op-ed, which makes a difference under WP:RS; a newspaper editorial is the opinion of the newspaper and therefore legally actionable against the newspaper, whereas op-ed pieces are the work of others, and therefore newspapers have less exposure and are more willing to run pieces that make questionable claims as op-ed pieces.) However, I believe the Chronicle editorial is worded such that it is making a statement of fact, not opinion, with the newspaper's editorial authority behind it, and therefore it's reasonable confirmation of the Press claim—even if it is largely reporting on what the Press reported. By running this editorial, the Chronicle lent its weight to the Press claims.
Because of the obvious bias in the Press reporting, I tried to confine what I wrote to those things that were either confirmed by the Chronicle editorial, or which could reasonably be expected to be true because primary sources would exist for them (e.g., the bare facts of the open-records request for Todd's cellphone records, as opposed to the editorializing about the same).
I felt that the fact would appear WP:UNDUE if the article didn't put it into context. Both sources contrasted the affair to Todd's family-values stance, and both sources pointed out the same example of the lengths Todd went to in projecting that stance: the food-license anecdote. I researched that event, and found it to be very well confirmed in sources. I didn't cite all the sources I found, just enough to establish the fact. Because it established the contrast quickly, I felt it was the best way to get the point across without undue emphasis.
It's possible that someone in Houston can find more sources that aren't available to me from the other side of the country. Given that the Chronicle and the Press seem to be the city's two largest newspapers, and that this is local politics, I'm not sure we can find better sources. A city councilman's infidelities just aren't going to make the national news.
So, what's there now is my best attempt so far at trying to cover something politically significant in the subject's life, confirmed by the two biggest local newspapers, in a neutral fashion without undue emphasis—while still providing enough context to explain why it's relevant. Without it, we don't represent sources and we omit a major event in the subject's life... and for a politician, one that is important to understanding the man. How can we improve it? // ⌘macwhiz (talk) 12:12, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
Note: this conversation continued on Jimbo's talk page. // ⌘macwhiz (talk) 20:30, 16 June 2011 (UTC)
I think that a useful rule for dealing with BLPs would be that editorials have the right to speak in their own voice. In other words, when citing an editorial, we should say who is saying it, and explain their overall point, rather than just mining it for particular facts. It's a bit like a less harsh version of the rules dealing with primary sources, where you're supposed to stick to their overall conclusions. The facts they state can then be presented as reasons they give for what they say, distancing Wikipedia from the specific political viewpoint. This applies especially when the BLP is the author of the editorial, but seems reasonable to do in general. Wnt (talk) 19:55, 16 June 2011 (UTC)
Looking over the editorial mentioned [7], I have to admit, it's uncommonly hard to see its point. I guess the author is saying that Houston's sex scandals are pathetic compared to those of New York and don't involve three-ways or $4000, and maybe Democrats are better at sex scandals. I don't really know. It seems to be saying this is no big deal, which would be worth citing in the interests of fairness to a BLP, but I can't figure out how to say it. Wnt (talk) 20:05, 16 June 2011 (UTC)
Wnt, I think maybe your thoughts were being psychically resonated while you were typing; I think I made an edit along those lines while you were posting. Have a look and see what you think.
As for the Chronicle editorial, yeah, I think that was its point: to a New York City guy, Houston's 2008 sex scandals seemed awfully picayune compared to Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, but they did happen. // ⌘macwhiz (talk) 20:43, 16 June 2011 (UTC)

An opinion[edit]

Please keep in mind that I am working here simply as an editor, not setting policy or anything like that.

I was asked my opinion, on my talk page, of this edit. I think it is a good edit which improves the article. Other than snark from columnists, we have nothing to suggest a relationship started before both parties had ended their previous relationships. Indeed, even the ex-husband of the woman in question doesn't assert this, quite clearly saying that while he is sad about the situation, he believes what his wife told him. Simple attention to human dignity would suggest that there is no reason for us to further tabloid-y and politically motivated "gotcha" (on Mr. Todd's family values stance) speculation.

I originally thought that this entire matter should be removed from the article entirely, as not particularly relevant or important. Macwhiz convinced me otherwise, and I think we are drawing close to a thoughtful resolution of the matter, sticking to the facts and avoiding speculation by columnists.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 21:00, 18 June 2011 (UTC)

While I'm not fully in agreement with you on this one, Jimbo, I do see—and concede to—your point. I wish that there were better coverage of Houston events available; I suspect both of us might feel on firmer ground if there were better citations. I get the impression, looking into the Chronicle and the Press, that Houston's newspaper industry had a bit of a shake-up in the late 1990s that might have resulted in some coverage gaps... and definitely some archive gaps. (Apparently the Chronicle bought the Houston Post and then killed off the Post's online archives; the Post content is only available on microfilm in local libraries—but it all precedes this event anyway.) // ⌘macwhiz (talk) 16:31, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

Seeking thoughts on other possible relevancies[edit]

I see two other items related to Todd that may merit inclusion:

  • There's the whole thing about his use of the city cellphone. Not from the point of view of "was there an affair, and if so, when?" but from the point of view of "wow, that's a huge bill." I am disinclined to include it because the main source is Fleck from the Press, but if anyone sees a collaborating source that establishes it made the news, we might want to consider whether it merits a mention.
  • Over at WP:BLPN, Pinkgurugal (talk · contribs) mentioned the Chronicle accidentally publishing a memo about an editorial agenda that indirectly referenced Todd. While Pinkgurugal's BLPN allegations were, in my opinion, rather overstated, I did look into the issue. It is covered in our Houston Chronicle article. It makes me wonder if it should be mentioned here. I think mentioning it by itself would be WP:UNDUE, but possibly it indicates that the Houston Light Rail kerfluffle was a bigger political event in Todd's life than we currently make it out to be. If so, and if it can be expanded with reasonable sources, then it may merit mention—or possibly some form of See also? // ⌘macwhiz (talk) 16:31, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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