Star-Telegram business writer and chili cookbook author Barry Shlachter and local blogger Robert McKee are engaged in a bizarre battle of words involving a scavenger hunt, a trip to Scotland, a Hawaiian shirt and the meaning of funeral.
It all started over a scavenger hunt that McKee’s web site — downtownfortworth.com — held earlier this summer. McKee was delayed in posting the winner because he took a trip to Scotland to scatter his father’s ashes over a family gravesite. Though his father died last year, McKee discovered an uncle in Scotland that not even his father knew existed, and decided to have a proper “burial” (his words) in the motherland at a grave marked McKee in his family’s ancestral town. He didn’t have much internet access while in Scotland and couldn’t update the site when he’d said he would. McKee said he was frustrated that he couldn’t announce the winners on time but didn’t think it was too big a deal.
One scavenger-hunter, Kevin McCambell — who, by the way had no chance of winning the contest because he didn’t finish the hunt — was upset because the results were not posted on time. The scorned scavenger e-mailed McKee multiple times, and McKee tried to explain the situation. But eventually, he lost his normally calm demeanor, as he explains on his web site:
“At this point I realize I am dealing with one of those rare people that are just so insensitive and immune to any human compassion or feeling whatsoever,” he writes. “I broke from my normal calm and angrily responded (his emphasis) ‘I AM AT MY FATHER’S FREAKING FUNERAL’ to send a message that, while I love running the contest and I love how passionate the players of the contest are, I am overseas honoring my father’s life and this takes precedent. Sorry.”
McCambell wasn’t satisfied, and crusaded throughout the city, complaining to the site’s prize donors and to Shlachter.
According to McKee, Shlachter called and asked him how he could be at a funeral for his father who died last year. McKee explained the situation, and even sent him a picture for further proof that he was sincere.
McKee writes on his site: “I found myself now having to prove to him where I was and why I was there,” he writes. “Needless to say, this was very irritating and distracting to me, but sensing that he’s going to write something about this, I obliged and actually sent him a photo of me spreading my father’s ashes at the cemetery. Something that I should have kept private, as, really, it was actually none of his freaking business.”
Shlachter’s article, which ran last Sunday, nitpicked McKee’s story: “scattering ashes in an Aloha shirt (he sent us a picture) may not be the same as a funeral (his father died in December), but why quibble?,” he wrote.
McKee responded on his site: “Sorry, Barry, I guess I didn’t know there was a dress code or time limit on honoring a dead parent. I guess spreading one’s ashes on a gravesite must not be referred to as a ‘funeral’ unless certain conditions are met,” he writes.
McClatchy Watch, a website whose sole purpose is to act as the corporation’s watchdog, ran a story blasting Shlachter for being insensitive, and many of the comments on the Star-T site also rip him. The funniest is this one:
“… such groundbreaking hard hitting investigative journalism going after a guy who was late updating a blog website because he was out of the country burying his father’s ashes. seriously??? man, every day it seems my dear old Fort Worth Star-Telegram is looking more and more like TMZ.”
McKee demanded an apology, and received a private one from Star-T editor Jim Witt, who said they could not give a public apology. Shlachter did not comment. McKee responded to Witt in an email obtained by Fort Worth Weekly.
“…if you are unwilling to prove that sometimes a Star-Telegram writer has the capability of ‘going too far’ as Mr. Shlachter did in this case, then let it be known that ethical accountability is no longer in place at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.”