By Ken Stone
Updated at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 6, 2016
A veteran San Diego journalist and an amateur sleuth from Lakeside are offhand targets of criticism in a new book about the mysterious 1965 death of “What’s My Line?” panelist Dorothy Kilgallen.
Rowe’s story is an example of how the “truth about Kilgallen’s life and times has been distorted through the years,” Shaw says in the book.
Rowe had written about Gene Bryan, a retired school district landscaper who placed an ad in the Nov. 8, 2015, paper seeking information on Kilgallen’s death.
“The article, which spread through the internet, abounded with unfounded internet conspiracy theories, and it included Mr. Bryan’s comment about Kilgallen having been killed by those close to the Warren Commission without any substantiation for that theory,” Shaw says in the book.“Mr. Bryan admitted he had no proof, but that disclosure did not deter publication of the wild accusations. Efforts by this author to protect Kilgallen’s reputation by persuading Mr. Bryan and Mr. Rowe to inform readers of my investigation, of another side of the story featuring credible facts about Kilgallen and her death, fell on deaf ears.”
Shaw concluded: “So much for responsible journalism in today’s world of sensationalism.”
Rowe, 61, received at last five email pleas from Shaw, urging him to tell Shaw’s side of the story.
“Ms. Kilgallen was a remarkable woman and she deserves to have the truth told about her life and what may have caused her death,” Shaw wrote Rowe. “This is not about selling books but about making certain she is provided with the same sort of accurate reporting in death as she gave others in life.”
When Rowe asked what kind of “resolution” Shaw wanted, the Bay Area-based author wrote back: “I’d use a headline something like, ‘Book On Dorothy Kilgallen Set For 2016’ with the tie-in a follow-up on my previous story with perhaps the first sentence reading: ‘Well, perhaps Dorothy Kilgallen isn’t forgotten after all.’”
When Rowe ignored the appeal, Shaw wrote again: “I’ve tried to save you from yourself, to save you from embarrassment and ridicule but apparently you won’t take my advice.”
Shaw told Times of San Diego last week that he had promised Rowe and Bryan that he would mention them in the book “as an example of distortion of truth by Bryan and shoddy journalism on the part of Rowe not to permit me to respond to Bryan’s ‘investigation’ (in a second U-T story). “As you’ll see, I kept that promise.”
On Friday, Rowe was somewhat amused by the allegations.
The original story made sense, Rowe said, because it involved a local man “obsessed about a 50-year-old murder.” But he didn’t think a follow-up story about Shaw — who had no apparent San Diego ties — was justified.
“He told me basically that I should be publishing a story that was promoting his book,” the Kensington resident said of Shaw, 71, a former legal analyst for USA Today, ESPN and CNN.
Rowe said he’s had disagreements with well-respected journalists before, but “this is the first I’m aware of being immortalized [critically] in print.”
Contrary to Shaw’s remarks, Kilgallen death investigator Bryan says he wasn’t aware of Shaw’s work until recently.
“I was quite charmed by that [book passage about him and Rowe, which Times of San Diego sent him],” Bryan said last week. “I haven’t seen the book. … Just tell him that … I enjoyed the comment and criticism. It inspires me to continue.”
While not wanting to get into a clash with Shaw, Bryan called his remarks “bloviating” and “condescending” — since Shaw dismissed him as a “retired school district landscaper with no experience as either a researcher or investigator.”
Bryan said: “He has a right to his own opinion. He wants to be the star of the show. That’s OK. I’m not commercializing anything. I’m not competing with him.”
The Lakeside man added: “To be honest with you, I don’t think people are that interested.”
Bryan, 59, theorizes that Shaw is protecting his franchise since he has invested a lot of time and money. (The book makes a case that a New Orleans Mafia don was behind Kilgallen’s death for her poking into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy).
“But books quickly come and go,” Bryan said. “I hate to tell you that. It’s very difficult to maintain somebody’s interest.”
And he made an extra jibe at Shaw, saying: “He said something about maintaining her integrity. I found that kind of odd since he’s the one commercializing her. And I’m not.”
Bryan says his work on solving the death mystery continues, with the help of some lady friends.
“I haven’t given up at all,” he said in a phone interview. “Me and Miss Kilgallen are still walking down the path together to see what’s going to happen.”
In fact, he may replicate his U-T appeal.
“I may just place another memoriam on the East Coast next year because of this,” Bryan said.
In Shaw’s last note to Rowe — dated Nov. 30, 2015 — the author said: “I will pray for you, Pete. If this is any indication of your journalistic tendencies, it’s going to be a bumpy career.”
That enchanted the former president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
“He’s praying for me,” Rowe said. “I’m absolutely in favor of that. I’ll take all the prayers I can get.”
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