Is the Ellis County Observer editing reader comments to insert cheap insults?

Keith Johnson is an officer with the Dallas Police Department who lives in the Red Oak ISD. He’s been fighting his local ISD for a long time, and you can read the background on his website, Corrupt Red Oak ISD. (It’s sordid and involves police, cheerleaders, and a number of scandalous accusations. You’re darn tootin’ I plan to write that story if I get get my head around it and find the right publication for it. But that’s for later.)

Right now, the question is whether someone at the Ellis County Observer, the newspaper site serving the area, edited a comment that Keith’s posted on their web site.

It’s the first comment below the story. Specifically, it appears someone with admin access added this to what Johnson wrote:

The fact that I am a flaming homosexual and like little boys is not important.

Not even clever. I spoke to Johnson this afternoon and he told me that that was not in the original comment. “Yes it was spliced into my rebuttal,” Johnson said. I know, duh, but, you know, check everything, right?

So I did get a copy of an email from the Ellis County Observer‘s owner, Joey Dauben, responding to Johnson’s complaint about someone monkeying with his posted comments. He denied anyone had done it.

I emailed Dauben asking him what had happened to Johnson’s comments. No word back from him yet, even though Dauben told Johnson in another email he’d look into it.

There wasn’t much about online publication ethics in my journalism classes nigh on two decades ago, but I think, if it’s true, secretly adding words to someone else’s comments isn’t something an operation with professional aspirations should be doing.

Let’s see how this plays out.


  1. Matt says:

    It’s not really a newspaper, is it? I mean, it doesn’t, you know, have any paper, does it? It’s as much a newspaper as your blog is.

    My impression is this is just some punk (and notorious cybersquatter) that has a website — or dozens of them — and has never been burdened with a real job or education. Not that there isn’t some virtue in being an entrepreneur, but I think the comment editing shows just how professional this twenty-something’s little hobby is.

  2. Matt,

    It’s an operation with what looks like five full-time editors, plus contributors, and it appears to have aspirations of serving like a professional news organization.

    But you’re right that it exists only online. I corrected that in the post above.

  3. The Ellis County Press is the weekly newspaper, the Ellis County Observer is the blog.
    This is a distinction without a difference, as Joey Dauben runs the blog and he is the Editor of the Ellis County Press. “Reporter” Megan Grey contributes to this blog and is a reporter with the ECP, and the web administer of the ECO, a former gypsy cop by the name of John Hoskins, also is a “reporter” for the Ellis County Press.
    I have to believe that the owner of the Ellis County Press, Charles Hatfield, condones what is said on the Ellis County Observer or else he wouldn’t let these people on his payroll, or allow them to reference the Ellis County Press on this blog.
    The ECP and the ECO are beholden to the Red Oak Independent School District, and instead of reporting scandal they attack the messenger as evidenced in this latest incident.

  4. Matt says:

    OK, if you say so. I like your newspaper better. I consider myself a contributor. Oh, and since you changed the post above, I consider myself and editor, too. Now, if I just had an email address like “flowerchildtoday”, I could be an editor in chief!

  5. Matt says:

    If not clear, I was replying to Trey, not Keith. Though Keith has some interesting explanation.

  6. Joey Dauben says:

    First off, I’m down in Austin and have been since leaving at 9 am this morning.

    Secondly, I did not read the entire first email that Keith sent out, thus, I did not know anything had been “edited.”

    This is absolutely not the policy of the Observer (a blog) or the Press (the independent newspaper), but I can assure everyone that when I get back to Ellis County, this issue will be addressed and resolved.

    Another note, one of my contributing bloggers is in Houston today, and Megan Gray and I are down here with’s Barry Cooper.

    Plus, I had no working Internet connection last night, but I am taking my laptop to the Press publisher (he owns a computer store) to check for keystroke Trojan viruses.

    My contributors have assured me they did NOT edit anything. I was and have always been warned, however, that I need to change my passwords. I didn’t, but I will now.

    This is obviously embarassing, and I do personally apologize to Keith Johnson for this but I assure everyone that I did not do this, and my bloggers/writers have told me they, too, did not.

  7. Matt, I disagree. The direction of media is towards online only, and at least as far as I can tell from their website, this Observer is attempting to provide coverage to their area as a news organization. They may grow into the next big media thing in Ellis County, or it may go under next week. I don’t know.

    I do know that it doesn’t require traditional media trappings to be a formal, professional news organization. That’s not to say this one will be it, but I’m not willing to casually dismiss a media outlet simply because they don’t run an edition on dead trees.

  8. Brad Collins says:

    A comment to any and all who care about the seriousness involed here. I’ve known Keith Johnson for nearly 30 years now. I’ve worked with and around Keith Johnson when he was still a police officer in Decatur, IL I worked for the Sheriffs Dept.and he for the city police.. Our departments were housed in the same building. If Keith Johnson told me the sun was coming up in the west tomorrow I’d be up looking out my west window. Thats how I judge his honesty. If he says his comment was edited it was. We’ve had many examples of very poor, biased journalism this past year. This is just another example of it. Want to do something constructive? Go after the blatant corruption in Red Oak. And yes, I do know something about Dallas. My wife was born and raised there and we have four sons in the area.

  9. keith johnson says:

    I think those at the ECO are going to accuse me of manipulating IP addresses and calling myself a boy loving homo!

  10. Matt says:

    As a whole, I agree with you, Trey. I respect the hell out of what Mike Orren is doing over at PegNews. But there’s a world of difference between websites that attempt to uphold some journalistic standards (as low as I think they’ve gotten these days), and those that appear to largely serve personal agendas. Maybe we differ on which camp we think the ECO falls in.

    That reminds me — I’ve got to cancel my DMN again. Wife insisted we resubscribe through the election season.

  11. robert crider says:

    I have worked with Keith Johnson for over 20 years, he has tryed to address the problems with Red Oak ISD thru the proper legal channels as a father not a police officer. He is to be commended for standing up for her. The powers to be have tryed to cover up some bad judgements, and illegal acts of they empolyees, I do not want to believe the Ellis Count Observer edited the post by Keith Johnson but they should have some better checks in place before someone else can. There is a story here and some unanswered questions. Please looking into the actions of the school board, the ROISD officers that quit under investigation .. do so digging , are there an on going investigation going, will someone look into this, or is it just another day with small town politics protecting some employees and trying to discredit the citizen that is trying to correct a wrong. All of us look to the media to dig and give us the hole story , which doesnt happen very offen, I filed a Whistle Blowers suit against the City of Dallas after reporting illegal acts that the Dallas Police Department was involved in and they tryed there best to cover it up and make me look like the bad seed, well we went to trial for 2 weeks after fighting for years, and I was lucky and the jury ruled in my favor, there is corruption at all levels, in every city good luck Keith . I feel so sorry for your daughter and she is the real victim

  12. L.R. Wells says:

    I have been following the struggle Keith Johnson has been having with the Red Oak School District for quite a while. I recommend his web site to anyone who wants to see Good-Ol’-Boy small town corruption in action. I’m from Illinois and our state government doesn’t HAVE corruption. Our state government IS corruption. I know what it smells like.

  13. Bethany says:

    Mr. Dauben:
    Your writers said they didn’t, but could they have allowed someone else to? It’s a plausible thing, if they left their “dashboard” that allows them access to the blog up on their computer for someone else to use – even if it was unintentional.

  14. Steven B. Prowell says:

    I am really not surprised? It’s very clear what ROISD course of action is going to be whenever an employee of the District committs an offense of morale turpitude or is flat out caught breaking the law. They are told to resign to save face, their career, or face prosecution! Case Closed! It is the powers that be at ROISD that have chosen to take this course of action. It makes good since for everybody concerened. But is it right? ROISD covers up all its errors or employee mishaps and this leads to nothing but bitter corruption and the victims become even more victimized, because nothing is ever done.

    Keith and Pam Johnson, I applaud you for your courage, diligence, and unwavering strides to expose the truth that TRULY EXSIST within the ROISD school system and the ROISD P.D.

    You have legally and honestly taken on the injustices and corruption that is certainly known to be a FACT by me and many others who have faced the highly guarded and highly protected self-righteous politics of those ROISD Officials and the ROISD P.D.

    When most others would have simply have thrown in the towel long way before now! You Johnson’s say to everybody “BRING IT ON”! You have maintained the strength, courage, endurance and insight to do what is right and just! And regardless of what may or may not be popular or what people might say or think. You are true to what you believe in and you are true to exposing what injustices that has taken place and that lie beneath this core of CORRUPTION that fully exists at ROISD.

    Keith, you and your family have made great sacrifices which are to be commended and I pray your efforts will soon come to light, justly and swiftly.
    I am personally glad to know you Keith Johnson because I know you will use every LEGAL means necessary to report the news, blow the whistle LOUD AND CLEAR to let everyone know through whatever means or avenues available to report the accountability, abuse, crimes and pure corruption that occurs at ROISD and condem those who are guilty.
    Thank You!

  15. No Bethany this was deliberate. First Dauben may have had a virus, then maybe his password was compromised; When Dauben and company learned a heavy hitter like Trey was looking at this, they put their heads together and came up with the absurd defense that I said this about myself.
    Bethany, Trey states above what I do for a living. With my vocation, would I announce to the world beside my name that “The fact that I am a flaming homosexual and like little boys is not important.”
    A “flaming homosexual” that likes “little boys” is a sexual predator and a FELON!
    What’s really sad is, this little defense isn’t even original. If you go to my website you’ll see that the trouble started for my daughter after a teamate said some pretty horrible things about her, including a racial slur, on her MySpace while pictured in her ROISD cheer uniform. The girl was kicked off the team for this,and her daddy got on FOX News and said his daugher’s MySpace was hacked.
    These idiots are stealing the defense of a 7th grade cheerleader and her daddy.
    It’s surreal, like living in a totalitarian state-I go to the “press” about government malfeasance and the “press” turns on me.
    If you’ll notice on that blog, the issue of the 2 cops with the Red Oak ISD “police department” quitting under investigation has been lost in the hailstorm of vitriol hurled at me. Which of course was their intention.

  16. CB says:

    I posted two comments on Dauben’s blog regarding this situation and he removed my postings. To me, it confirms that he is guilty at changing and/or deleting comments that are posted.

  17. Bethany says:

    Keith – maybe I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t impuning you – I agree that it’s highly unlikely that you would put that in your post.

    I’ll be a little more clear: Perhaps someone there allowed someone with an ax to grind that did not work there to “edit” your post. Allowing such a thing would indeed let them gray-shade their response to their boss by saying, “No I didn’t edit or change anything.” Technically, they did not. Someone else did. Upon further questioning, however, they’d be forced to either lie or tell the entire truth.

    But since Mr. Dauben said he asked, and they said no, I’m hazarding a guess that he only asked them if they did it.

  18. Joey Dauben of the ECO is now coming after my family.
    This is a snippet from his blog. My only concern here is what he may do with incidental information he may find on my wife.
    This is getting weird.

    Then we find out today the screen name of maypearlmadman was Waxahachie ISD employee Pam Johnson, which an open records request will reveal exactly what all she has been receiving and sending in the form of e-mails from her WISD e-mail address (and yes, it was filed, and yes, I will be awaiting for the results of that request.)

  19. My deep concern is that Dauben may post some of my wife’s personal information that may or may not be gleaned from getting her work email, or that Dauben may “alter” some of her information like he or his coworkers did with me, which is the topic of this thread.
    I posted above that Hatfield is the owner of the Ellis County Press, apparantly I was wrong about that, but Hatfield is listed as the publisher/editor of the Ellis County Press.
    Hatfield feels he is not resonsible for any of this, because even though the paper itself lists Dauben as the news editor, and Dauben identifies himself as such, Hatfield maintains Dauben is free lance and Hatfield is not resonsible for Daubens actions.
    When I emailed Dauben, I felt I was emaiing the news editor of the ECP, not the Dauben of the ECO, yet Dauben splashed my email all over the ECO.
    This is Daubens signature on his email

    Joey Dauben
    News Editor
    The Ellis County Press
    208 S. Central Ave.
    Ferris, TX 75125
    Phone: 972-544-2369
    Fax: 972-544-8150

  20. My email to Charles Hatfield, the publisher/editor of the Ellic County Press

    Hatfield, Dauben already posted on his little blog an email you sent me, so obviously you shared it with him.Dauben IS the news editor of the Ellis County Press, I sent him information as the editor of the Ellis County Press, and he in turn posted it on his blog.”Freelance” or whatever is nothing but semantics with me, when I send an email to the editor of the ECP I have every right to assume that letter is going to the editor of the ECP, not the muckraker of the ECO.Dauben is now coming after my wife, and this is starting to get real, real ugly. Dauben wants my wife’s public email exchanges, which of course are subject to open record.What we are watching for now are ALTERED exchanges from her email posted on that blog, as happened to me, and we’re also concerned what personal info he may get that he could share with his coworkers, like SS#, address phone number etc that could endanger her.We have no reason whatsoever to trust Dauben or the company he keeps, some that you employ as “freelance” “reporters” with any of our personal information.Dauben’s email address, the only one I have that I have sent information to, is identified as the ECP news editor. Dauben’s signature
    He [Joey Dauben] can make or break your political career.” – Midlothian Councilman Ken Chambers

    Joey Dauben
    News Editor
    The Ellis County Press
    208 S. Central Ave.
    Ferris, TX 75125
    Phone: 972-544-2369
    Fax: 972-544-8150

    Cell: 972-891-2135

  21. Joey Dauben says:

    Well, let’s once again rehash everything:

    1) I was in Austin with one of my reporters, Megan Gray. In fact, I was on the phone with Jay Hoskins, another reporter, in Temple, on I-35 (he was on his way to Houston, and was therefore on I-45), before, on and during the time in which Keith Johnson’s post appeared on the ECO.

    2) My webmaster was on the road in West Texas.

    There are only two people with access to the administrative control panel on the ECO. One of them is me. One of them is the webmaster.

    We can keep going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, but this is what I found: a post by Keith Johnson at 7:32 a.m. That’s what it was. There was no record, no mention, nothing …of that comment being edited (and the admin panel shows if comments were “last updated.”

    All I can tell you people is that I did not edit squat. And from what I have gathered, nobody else, either.

    Those who know me and the Observer will know I am not beholden to any governmental entity. Those who also know the Observer (Ellis County’s, not Dallas, by the way) will know that it is separate from The Ellis County Press.

    Yes, I am the news editor at the ECP.

    Yes, I am the publisher of the ECO blog.

    And yes, both are legitimate media outlets.

    Keith, you’ve done this before. You have complained that you were being attacked and then when you didn’t get your way, you went griping to the media. That’s fine, you’re well within your rights to do that.

    But you and your wife crossed the line by using fake screen names to do the VERY thing you accuse those ROISD parents of doing.

    And now you are going to be made a public spectacle. Because when I’m done with my open records requests, your wife’s e-mails will be published from her work e-mail account.

    Your open records request is next with Dallas PD.

    You are simply picking a fight with the wrong newspaper and the wrong blog. You can disagree with me all day long, you can bash my viewpoints all day long, but this edited-comment thing has gone from bad to worse, and it is because you are threatening to get a lawyer involved in this.

    Well, I hope everyone gets a lawyer, because that’ll be a perfect opportunity for the discovery process, and then we’ll be able to see all sorts of good stuff.

    I’m not attacking your family, Keith. You are a public employee, as is your wife. Now you will be scrutinized as one, and anything you send, receive or mention using your work computer or work e-mail will now be privvy to the open records request.

    People don’t like the Observer because It’s The Ellis County Press on steroids, and in an hourly format.

    I launched this blog in October of 2005 and have literally built it into one of the most widely read blogs in Texas ( has the rankings…)

    I didn’t get there because I edit people’s comments, or put out lies. I’ve done more blogging for Corrupt Red Oak ISD-related stuff than anyone ever has thought about doing, so you remember that Keith.

    You seem to forget, or others seem to want to forget, that the only blog/media outlet to even give a damn was me and the Observer.

    And I’ve already mentioned, if I found out one of my contributors or editors edited someone’s comment, I would roast their ass publicly for it.

    But, I didn’t do it, and the people who have access to that admin panel were all on the highway at the time.

    Again, I want the record to show that Joey Dauben and the ECO have been the only entities who have even given Keith Johnson and his wife a platform to stand on.

    I can provide the links to that coverage if anyone would like (or you can simply put in a search in the ECO search bar.)

  22. amanda says:

    Hey, Joey, you’re playing with the big kids over here, okay? You know…professional writers and editors… I find the alterations of Johnson’s comments to be the lowest form of TABLOID tactics. You are no better than the “Weekly World News.”

    I also find your constant need to insert yourself into the news to be embarrassing…for you. I am incredulous that you asked for gas money to go to college. I went to school in NH, and let me tell you, they are going to eat you alive. What’s next? Are you planning on holding a raffle to buy your books when you get up there?

    Here’s some advice kid: decide if you want to “be” the news or “report” the news, and regardless which path you take, do it well. Put on your big-boy britches, and act with dignity…something you’ve failed to do so far.

  23. CB says:

    Amanda, I was very impressed to see that you won the Katie Award in 2008. Good job!

  24. ryy says:

    Hey Amanda I clicked on your name and found your site-winner of the 2008 Katie Award! Congratulations!

  25. jojo says:

    The editor of the publication is ultimately responsible for what goes out in print under the publication. Emotions aside, someone should read all articles and statements before they go to “print”. The observer is to blame that it was not caught, and should apologize and not make light of the situation.

    A person who has been in war with actions such as this will not take lightly any more slander. The ECO should know how his wound has not yet healed and then to take a knife and cut it open again will warrant some anger. Going after his family shows how inconsiderate, immature, and evil you are.