This is More About Context than Coffee

by John LaFollette
The ‘Ville Voice Correspondent

Here’s a head scratcher.  A story about local iced coffee runs in the Courier that includes a quote from Lynn’s Paradise Café manager Ashley Brossart that doesn’t cast the restaurant in the rosiest of lights.  Shortly after the story is published, Brossart is fired from her post after two and a half years at Lynn’s.

Lynn Winter, the restaurant’s owner, said that since the issue was personnel-related she couldn’t talk about the specifics of why Brossart was fired. “I get a lot of press—some of it’s accurate, some of it’s not,” she said, “but I would never fire a person over a quote.”

Not so, says Brossart, who recalls that Winter told her she was fired for “misrepresenting the restaurant,” and “disregarding [Winter’s] feelings regarding coffee.”

The quote in question is in the sixth paragraph of the story:

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe on Barret Avenue serves an iced coffee made with espresso, but front house manager Ashley Brossart says her customers are looking for a different kind of jolt. “A lot of people don’t come here asking for specialty coffee. Honestly, we specialize in mimosas and Bloody Marys.”

But here’s the rub: Brossart says she wasn’t quoted properly in the first place.  The quote that ran, she says, came at the end of a longer conversation with C-J reporter Larry Muhammad in which she said Lynn’s staff would bend over backwards to meet any and all customers’ drink requests.

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“I told him we would make anything for anyone at any time,” Brossart said, after noting that she repeatedly referred Muhammad to Lynn’s PR department because she wasn’t trained to deal with reporters.  “I interrupted him and said, ‘You need to talk to Patty [Schnatter] in PR’,” she said.

Brossart concedes that, yes, she did say the words that were attributed to her.  But she never said anything about “a different kind of jolt.”  Brossart’s quote, placed after Muhammad’s set-up, makes Lynn’s patrons sound like booze fiends looking for a hair of the dog that bit ‘em, which is (if Brossart had meant it that way) a fire-able offense.  Muhammad wouldn’t comment on the record, except to say that the quote is accurate.

So what we have, it seems, is a classic case of a newspaper printing what a person said, just not what a person said.  From Brossart’s account of the conversation, it sounds like the line about the mimosas and the Bloody Marys is probably the most colorful thing she said.  But it wasn’t the only thing she said, nor was it the most important.

The most important, most relevant thing Brossart said was that iced coffee isn’t a hot item at Lynn’s, which should have been clue enough to Muhammad to scrap the paragraph in the first place.

For the record, Muhammad’s reporting in the iced coffee story was first questioned on the website of Zach Everson, who wrote the article that was quoted in Muhammad’s story.  Everson complained  that Muhammad’s story quoted his opinions without attributing them to him, liberally revised his quotes, and failed to make the distinction between iced lattes (which is the only drink Everson’s article reviewed) and iced coffee.