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Andy Wirth Epitomizes His Own Criticisms in Far-Reaching Media Attacks

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By DAVE ZOOK  |  Tahoe City

(Editors Note: Dave Zook is a former Moonshine Ink associate editor and a current contributor.)

Andy Wirth has launched an overabundant and troubling effort to debunk an online article — published by Moonshine Ink in August — which covered the Cal/OSHA investigation into the January death of ski patroller Joe Zuiches. Mr. Wirth sent two internal emails to his Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows staff, and penned op-eds in Moonshine Ink and the LA Times. He believes the Moonshine article misleads the reader into thinking the death came as a result of the violations, but carries out his crusade in a wholly unprofessional and error-riddled manner.

Wirth attempts to manipulate Squaw employees, the local community, and LA Times readers to think the coverage is bogus. But, critically, he fails to offer a core reason to constitute his claim. In two company-wide emails, he labels the coverage as “misleading and hatchet job journalism,” “very poorly done,” “incomprehensibly incomplete,” “disingenuous,” “inaccurate,” and “remarkably poor and incomplete journalism.”

He flings these phrases with ease, yet doesn’t so much as cite a single example from the words of the article to challenge. He never pinpoints any fact as erroneous, or even a quote that is out of context, nor does he state how the article misleads.

The six-month Cal/OSHA investigation found two safety violations that were classified as serious, one of the six types of violations the agency assigns. The one place Mr. Wirth and I may share common ground is that the article could have better stated that these citations were not found to be directly related to the accident, but still, that is not a factual error.

He then goes further. In the Moonshine op-ed, he acknowledges that Squaw was contacted for the story (although he chose not to comment in it). Then, in the LA Times op-ed, he criticizes the Southern California paper for not contacting Squaw or Cal/OSHA for its story. “Why neither entity was contacted remains a tragic and hurtful mystery,” he writes in the LA Times. He declines to comment for one paper and is then appalled that another one didn’t reach out. How can one do right in Mr. Wirth’s universe?

In his internal emails, he refers to Moonshine as a “newspaper,” and the author of the article as a “writer.” This quotation mark usage — known as scare quotes — is meant to cast doubt on what’s inside the marks. It’s an inarguably false usage by Wirth, and it’s notable that he chose not to use them in his public op-eds. Anyone can freely think Moonshine is either a terrible or fantastic newspaper, but to write the paper off as something other than it is? More manipulation, more dishonesty, from the president of Squaw Valley.

Lastly, he blasts Moonshine for even covering the investigation. “I am very disappointed with the author of this piece … for ignoring the impacts that this has on Joe’s family and friends,” he wrote to Squaw’s employees. In his op-ed he said he was bewildered as to why the article would be published.

I’m not sure what’s worse, that a) the head of a company that commonly works with the media doesn’t understand why this is newsworthy, or b) he actually does understand that it’s newsworthy and is thus lying to create a point. Ten other publications — including the LA Times and the Sacramento Bee — picked up the story as well. Are they hatchet job “newspapers” too?

To uphold objectivity, newsworthiness cannot hinge on the emotions of those affected by the story. Absolutely, humanity and sensitivity should be at play, but when the findings of a six-month investigation into a ski patrol death comes out with two violations attached to it, that is something that will, and should, be reported on.

Mr. Wirth should be held accountable for his incendiary language, and when his words are analyzed, I believe he is the one being disingenuous, misleading, and inaccurate.  

~ Dave Zook is a Tahoe City-based freelancer writer.

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Reader comments so far...

EKIHD | Planet Earth
Plain and simple Mr. Wirth has narscissitic personality traits and also displays classic sociopathic capitalistic behavior. He really isnt very well liked by most locals as he does not uphold or have similar positive qualities, integrity and ethics as most local full time residents. He is also quite a charlatan by definitian. His time will be up here one of these days and after he moves on to another area, he then will be just a distant bad memory. Trust that the directors of KSL know quite well the negative public image Wirth has created for their business, they will eventually replace him with someone who will help improve their corporate image that Mr. Wirth has so well damaged. Nice op ed btw. Straight up.

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January 10, 2019