Toned down PNJ article in USA Today

The table talk around town yesterday was the daily newspaper’s Sunday cover story on the Billings’ case in which the paper called those arrested a gang of fools and mocked Sheriff David Morgan for calling the case a “humdinger.”

The News Journal’s take on the 1000 pages of documents released by the State Attorney is that “so-called polished and practiced criminal team actually was a hastily assembled collection of small-time criminals and financial failures lured by promises of a million-dollar score.”

Today the same article ran in USA Today, minus the attacks on the sheriff and the daily paper’s hypothesis that the murders were simply a botched robbery done by idiots. Read Details emerge in Florida couple’s slayings.

The irony is that a week ago PNJ reporter Kris Wernowsky appeared on the CBS Early Show to talk about Cab Tice and the possibility of a contract hit. At no time did Wernowsky say this was “hastily assembled collection of small-time criminals and financial failures.” Read Fla. Couple’s Slaying a Contract Hit?.

When Wernowsky appeared on ABC’s Nightline, he said on camera, “The documents do bring clarity but it doesn’t answer the burning question of why?” He doesn’t say, “Hey, guys, there is no big story here. It was just a robbery by idiots.”

Later in the segment when asked what question would he like to have answered, Wernowsky says, “Who put them up to this?”

Sometime between Wernowsky’s national interviews and the Sunday paper, the News Journal decided there were no burning questions.

Then today, the USA Today edits the article and seems to leave room for other motives.