Mountain Xpress reporter: My story about bad landlord was delayed, so I’m publishing it online


David Forbes, a reporter for Asheville’s alternative news weekly, the Mountain Xpress, published a story about a bad Asheville landlord that he said has faced a months-long publication delay by his bosses. The move comes as Forbes is embroiled in a labor dispute with his employer. 

Forbes published his story, “Home, bitter home: The housing story Mountain Xpress’ publisher killed,” on the website Forbes contends he researched and wrote the story last year, and that it was fact-checked by an editor. The story was literally laid out and ready for publication when Xpress Publisher Jeff Fobes pulled the plug, citing a lack of space, according to Forbes.

Forbes reports that both Fobes, his publisher, and Margaret Williams, his editor, demanded a major re-write to reframe the story around difficulties faced by landlords. Forbes said he refused.

More from Forbes:

I’ve worked as a journalist for over a decade and while I haven’t always seen eye to eye with editors, I have never seen a case like this happen.

I worked on the other story ideas, racking my brain for some ethical resolution to this situation. But on March 14, Williams insisted I respond in detail to each of the story ideas. That weekend, I did. I refused to overhaul “Home, bitter home” in the unethical manner they required, and expressed my serious problems with their order and the thinking behind it.

On March 20, Williams again insisted that I change the story to portray landlords positively, warning that reporters who don’t conform to Xpress’ “direction” might be terminated. Again, I refused.

It’s clear at this point that they refuse to run the story in any ethical form, so I have set up this page.

Forbes publishing end-around comes as he seeks to unionize Xpress employees, and follows a complaint issued against Xpress last month by the National Labor Relations Board. Forbes took to Twitter to announce that the NLRB had registered a complaint in the firing of former photographer Max Cooper, detailed here: Mountain Xpress photog to editor: Xpress is bleeding.

More as it rolls in.


John April 5, 2014 - 6:16 pm

Seems like the reporter is telling his own story: angry man with authority issues finds fault, then blows up a minor matter into a petty drama, hoping to gain points and justify his anger. Ends up with him stomping out, blaming everybody, and telling the world he’s a victim.

huh April 1, 2014 - 9:28 pm

There are neglectful and sketchy landlords just as there are neglectful and sketchy tenants. There are honest, law-abiding landlords just as there are honest, decent tenants.

The Blunder Years April 1, 2014 - 9:51 pm

What a revelation!

huh April 2, 2014 - 2:43 pm

Point being, you can find examples of good and bad on both sides. This story is small potatoes. The bigger potential seems to be what is happening in the MtnX newsroom.

Z April 2, 2014 - 3:51 pm

LOL. Now that’s laughable. The general public could care less about the going ons at MntnXpress. Their website sucks and the publication is full of ads. Its been on a downward spiral for years now.
Affrodable housing that is unaffordable and living conditions in Asheville should take precedent over all that nonsense.

huh April 2, 2014 - 6:15 pm

Journalism in a downward spiral for years isn’t a story?

NFB April 1, 2014 - 10:05 am

How on earth is MX supposed to find room for an article like this amid the 4,000 food articles it has every week and with all the front page puff pieces it runs.

So sad what has happened to a once solid, investigative reporting paper

Media Watcher April 1, 2014 - 9:41 am

Why does Forbes continue to work at MX, if he finds it such a toxic environment?

Jason Sandford April 1, 2014 - 9:43 am

Good question.

Jessie April 1, 2014 - 12:53 pm

Maybe some people prefer to improve a place rather than simply abandon it?

Media Watcher Watcher April 1, 2014 - 10:01 pm

Forbes can’t leave. Others are counting on him. He’s the only one who is addressing the problems at Xpress.

Media Watcher April 2, 2014 - 3:28 pm

Can one employee of a tiny, privately-held company prevail and change the vision and policies of its sole proprietor? Are there stock holders in Mountain Xpress who might have some influence in the direction of the company? If MountainX were a public enterprise, funded by taxpayers, or even a non-profit funded by community supporters and with an independent board- as with WCQS – Forbes might have a chance.

Who are the “others” who are counting on him? Why don’t he and these “others” leave, as indeed”others” have, and undertake a new media venture. Maybe they could call it The Greenline and hope for a benefactor angel. Or maybe they could follow the example of Jason Sandford and make The Asheville Blade into a strong, independent, public-spirited (but privately owned) blog that has 5,000 followers. Or join forces with Angie Newsome and try to make Carolina Public Press into a relevant media force for Asheville.

A media watcher can admire David Forbes’s tenacity, but when does tenacity turn into self-wounding stubbornness? What editor of another news/investigative journal, however highminded, would hire a reporter who refuses to be edited and self-publishes his story on his blog, while throwing daggers at his employer? Is Forbes making himself unemployable? Jason Sandford had the good sense to not openly criticize the Asheville Citizen-Times on Ashevegas as long as Gannett was paying his salary.

orton April 3, 2014 - 9:17 pm

Why don’t he and these “others” leave, as indeed”others” have, and undertake a new media venture. Maybe they could call it The Greenline and hope for a benefactor angel. Or maybe they could follow the example of Jason Sandford and make The Asheville Blade into a strong, independent, public-spirited (but privately owned) blog that has 5,000 followers.”

Maybe because they’d rather not subsist on food stamps?

JTC April 1, 2014 - 8:30 am

so many rough, crooked landlords in this here town.

Murphy April 1, 2014 - 7:46 am

Looks like the management of the Xpress continues to dig it’s own grave.

Nate April 1, 2014 - 7:30 am

Sorry, but when the roommate/girlfriend of the story’s main complainant won’t even go on the record to support him (“Like many renters, Pace has declined to comment on the situation”), I totally understand the paper wanting to get a more balanced perspective. This is the story of one guy’s crusade against an inattentive landlord in a harsh rental market, but it’s written like some sort of investigative expose and at this length would probably only fit in the Mountain Xpress’ front page slot. In my opinion, this is not a front page story.

Jason W. April 1, 2014 - 10:40 am

I agree. It does sound a little “he said, she said.” Maybe if there was more about other complaints against Phoenix properties, or other landlords in general, the story might have more substance.

Katherine April 1, 2014 - 12:22 pm

I’m with you. The story could have included the Phoenix Property side and usually the truth can be found somewhere in the middle.

LEW April 1, 2014 - 2:43 pm

It is curious that Sherrie Pace whose health was supposedly effected refused to comment on this story. And didn’t Mountain Xpress print another of David Forbes’ stories about mold last October?
Just saying …

smytty April 2, 2014 - 7:29 am

Yes, and in the intro to this story, he references and links to that one. Mold can be really terrible.

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