COMMENTARY: The truth about Prince Harry and Sandy Duerr

March 3, 2008


The major media’s collegial conspiracy to hide the fact of Britain’s Prince Harry’s frontline military service in Afghanistan says much about the sad state of journalism everywhere.

And what, you might be wondering, does that have to do with, say, Tribune Executive Editor Sandy Duerr? The correlation will become apparent if you, dear reader, will bear with me for a few hundred words. The truth, as we in the news biz like to say, will out.

About the prince, consider this: For no reason other than simple male machismo, this royal family member decides he wants to go to war, to “do his duty.” So to cater to this whim, he is assigned to the war zone and – God help me, this is true – the entire mega-media monolith agrees to play along with the folly. For nearly three months this self-imposed information gag succeeds, until finally an obscure Australian magazine, and then the Web-based Drudge Report, break the news.

Naturally, the Drudge Report as messenger was reviled by the mainstream media whose lips had been sealed by mutual but silent agreement, and subsequent commentary on the obvious scheme has been non-existent. Why would that be, we must wonder?

Yeah, yeah. Harry and his cohorts would have been targeted by al Qaeda, everyone would have been in mortal danger, ad nauseum. Here’s the real line: Harry shouldn’t have been there in the first place to further endanger his mates for his own self-satisfaction and wartime public relations hype. And he wouldn’t have been, if just one big news outlet had said “no” to this buffoonish international ruse.

God save the Queen? Why not save the truth?

It’s as though the entire world’s reporting staff is embedded. But with whom? To what end? Who is pulling these strings? How can it occur that such a secret, one without a shred of national security value to anyone, is treated like a sacred covenant by the people who have somehow been anointed as editors and other decision-makers in the world of big media?

Local media finds itself unchallenged by healthy competition and grows soft, and becomes malleable by outside influences like advertising revenues. But this media sterilization goes much deeper than the threat of diminishing dollars; this is much more ominous. For if we can be kept in the dark about a boy-prince playing out his fantasy of combat and heroism, what else serious is being kept from us? How can it be that local media – the one in which this Website toils – chooses to ignore, obfuscate, sanitize, and sometimes kill, news of significant importance to the community? How did the bond between the reporter and the reported-upon become so institutionally entwined?

One doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see the trickle-down darkness in all this. Local media, here and elsewhere, has found it easier, more community-conscious, even more American, to print or broadcast only the news that neither offends nor informs. This, though, creates a brew poisonous to self government.

About Duerr, consider this truth: This editor who has presided over the extensive neutering of a once-proud local newspaper wanted to teach our children journalism. She applied for the chair (the top professorial job) in Cal Poly’s Journalism Department. Yes, Mustang insiders: Pulitzer Prize-winning George Ramos is history. Duerr’s bid to replace him is, well, also history. Upon learning of her not-even-in-third-place rejection, Duerr was said to have tossed a genuine hissy-fit, and made the mistake of having it front of some who still love to report.

Hoping to change the subject, I called Duerr today to probe a more general subject: Which is the larger journalistic crime, absence of truth by commission, or by omission? But as luck would have it, I got a bit distracted and started off asking her if she knew why she was passed over for the Cal Poly chair post.

A long silence ensued. Then: “That search is confidential. They are still working on their finalists.”

Uh-huh. But about being passed over…?

“I was given a reason for being disqualified from the search,” the Ph.D.-less Duerr said, citing a lack of current teaching experience.

“I was given a reason for being disqualified from the search,” the Ph.D.-less Duerr said, citing a lack of current teaching experience.

Asked if she had been “demonstrably unhappy” upon learning of the university’s decision, she pointedly inquired about the source of my information and then said, “Absolutely not.” Also, she noted she is not planning on leaving her current post: “I love The Tribune.”

So there you have it. The truth, according to


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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 3/10/08

Great! Take all the loser lefty loons out of the news business and put them in our colleges? NOT!

Let em get a real job and get their noses out of the tax trough!

These loons let the industry die as their reporting went into the tank…now they want our kids? Not mine! no way!

By: Anonymous on 3/9/08

Pam Fine, who is leaving her post as managing editor of The Indianapolis Star to teach at the University of Kansas, said she has heard from numerous other editors who say they want to make a similar move.

"I've gotten dozens and dozens of notes, which I really appreciate, including some from editors who seem to convey their own interest in possibly leaving their own newsrooms for academic jobs," she told E&P. "That sentiment is the result of perhaps both a life stage, but also because these are very difficult times to manage."

Fine, 50, said budget cuts and other industry-wide problems also played a role in her decision. "It is hard and it has gotten harder to do the kind of work here we want to do," she explained. "The demands have grown and the staff hasn’t."

By: Anonymous on 3/7/08

If I'm not mistaken, everyone in England is required to do service in the military. Didn't Prince Andrew fight in the Falklands War? And I believe Harry's brother William served in the British Army too.

I think Harry's volunteering to go to war in Afghanistan was admirable. Unlike the super rich of the U.S. the British Royals are not afraid to shed their own blood for the kingdom that has been so good to them for so long.

I doubt many Senators and Congressmen in the U.S. have children serving in the war zones. Prince Harry should be congratulated not put down. And since when do terrorists and murderers need an excuse to attack their sworn enemies? Harry no more put his fellow soldiers in harm's way than any other foreign soldier does in Afghanistan or Iraq for that matter.

Try to get a grip on who the real bad guys are OK.

By: Anonymous on 3/7/08

Harry is the son of a deeply disturbed spoiled brat, with some serious emotional issues and a father that would rather be married to a horse!

Who gives a hell what he does?

Do you all need a hobby?

By: Anonymous on 3/5/08

The most interesting aspect of the story to me is the obvious conflict of interest between the Tribune’s responsibility in presenting news accurately and truthfully and Cal Poly’s need for positive press.

At a recent Executive Committee Meeting of Cal Poly’s Academic Senate, I was informed that Sandra Orgen — Cal Poly 'Development' (read: fund raising) – allegedly made a reference to having regular meetings with the Telegram Tribune regarding coverage (& containment?) of Cal Poly stories.

None of this surprises me. Cal Poly has always been the 800 lb. gorilla that ruthlessly pushes their weight around our community… just ask the late, great Bello’s Sporting Goods Store.

Congratulations to , you are making a difference one story at a time!

Roger Freberg

Tilter of windmills

By: Anonymous on 3/5/08

I haven't seen this paper bash anyone. They are reporting the news that we don't get from other papers.

I haven't seen one instance where anyone could substaciate any lack of truth that has been wrote by these two journalist.Great Job. You sure have some interesting sources!

By: Anonymous on 3/5/08

All the lefty loon news rags suck! Most are, or soon will be, bankrupt. So be it.

You can't tilt the news and expect folks to hold you in high esteem.

If want a fair and balanced approach tp news try the Fox News Channel. They have won every award and have the top rated shows on cable.

By: Anonymous on 3/5/08

I had to chuckle at the development of this story. The only entry that appeared to be in bad taste was that of Prince Harry. It is lucid he has a dislike for Mr. Blackburn, yet this site is where he comes for his news.

When a University is in the process of hiring a professor, there are pros and cons associated with each applicant.

The interviewing board at Cal Poly should receive accolades for years to come.

For Sandra Duerr to teach hungry for knowledge journalism students, pack journalism, would be an ignominy to society.

One of the entries referred to a boring newspaper. I think it goes a step further. Those that Sandra and Chip have hired as free lance writers, should all take Free Lance 101. The dismal souls write her (Sandra’s) topics, her opinions, dance to the beat of her drum and they have a delusion that they are fooling the community. Excluding one free lancer that has parallels with Mr. Blackburn, in the no fear for truth concept. There is a vast difference in bashing and printing truths, something the Tribune has yet to figure out!

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

Will you whiners please get a clue. The first word in the headliine of this piece says COMMENTARY. Hello!

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

I agree — the people of this county need an alternative to the Tribune. It's a shame they won't get it on this pathetic site.

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

Good reporting, though I have to agree with the reader who suggested you keep your opinions out of your pieces. True, great investigative journalism sticks to facts and keep opinions out. Regarding the Trib: It amazes me how a newsroom that big, with sooo many people toiling away, can't come up with more than a few local stories every day. What do they all do? And I have to agree the paper is biased/slanted – even though they deny it – and I blame the "editors" for allowing it. With a staff as large as theirs, we could (should) have a great paper here. But competent leadership lacks (understatement). The next editor will probably be another incompetent who's given the job as some kind of corporate award…like the "publisher" Chippy.

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

Do you think there is a chance that the Tribune will turn into a newspaper with any valdidity?

I have been a victim of the Tribune's reporting and my requests to report the truth, which was documented, was ignored. My letters to the editor have been edited before printing. Can you believe that? When questioned about that I was told it was done to make it easier to read. Funny thing is that the part of my letter that was omitted was regarding the Tribune. When I'm away from home I really enjoy reading a fair and balanced newspaper. Maybe we will be getting one here in the future. Please, someone give this lady a job.

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

I think a good question here is if she's actively job-searching, or if this is the one job she'd consider leaving her current one for. Has she applied anywhere else as well? Sometimes, people aren't planning to leave their current jobs, but might run across an opportunity they see as too good to pass up.

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

When Warren Baker went looking for a job in Colorado a few years ago, the Tribune considered it front page news. So why isn't it news if the main editor of our main newspaper goes looking for a job?

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

Run, I think the "truth" comment was tongue in cheek. If you've read Dan's columns over the years, you would have heard the irony in the tone (I'm not trying to slam you — I just wanted to point out that I laughed when I read it, so I interpreted it differently).

And Prince Harry, I think you missed the point. When the editor of the Trib is looking for a job — it's news. Sorry if that upsets you.

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

Forgot one point: Dan, you might want to take yourself just a wee bit less seriously:

"So there you have it. The truth, according to"

Whew. Even the Danny Devito character in "L.A. Confidential," the editor of "Hush Hush," had better taste.

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

The irony is that Sandra Duerr does not lack teaching experience. She's taught our community all the finer points of turning out a vacuous, boring newspaper, and how journalists tend to be the most thin-skinned folks around.

The substantive omissions in Tribune reporting are always disappointing, but what's really amazing is just how boring the paper is. They could be responsible, thorough and interesting at the same time, and I'd be interested in any theories as to why they aren't. Is it our largely conservative community? Is it an elderly readership? Young people famously don't read newspapers, and one imagines this is true in spades for the T-T. Or is it just that smart folks either don't work for a paper like that or don't last very long?

Ms Duerr's handling of feedback is, to say the least, revealing. My friends and I have occasionally emailed serious criticisms as well as praise to Ms. Duerr, and found that compliments always get a reply, but complaints never do. The Tribune editors' blog addresses one petty complaint after another, but never serious issues, such as: the paper's conflicts of interest; completely missing the housing bubble; laughable business reporting consisting of puff pieces and quotes from self-interested parties; coverage of marine reserves that consists solely of weepy quotes from fishermen; etc.

— former 15-year T-T subscriber

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

Blackburn…get over it. Stop being jealous of others.

BTW, Long life the Prince! I'm glad that he was able to be there for at least a few months.

By: Anonymous on 3/4/08

Here's a thought: Since Duerr wants to move on, can her ass and hire George Ramos to be the new editor of the paper.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

Ms. Duerr was probably trying to keep the job application secret because it obviously will affect morale once her reporters find out. I'm glad I don't work in newspapers.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

I noticed that your Cal Poly story ended up in the LA Times and has now gone national. They took your story as their own and gave you no credit. To Hell with them. Go to the SF Cronicle next time.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

Let me say first of all that I'm willing to put my name to my post, unlike the rest of you. George's Fingerprints is obviously a Tribune reporter, but I appreciate the fact that he has time to listen to my radio show.

Let me be clear: the first time I heard anything about Sandy Duerr applying for the Cal Poly job was Monday around 4:15 when Mardi Hall put the article up on the screen. Believe me, if I had had this story first, I would have announced it on my show at 3:05.

And sorry GF, but when the editor of the local paper goes job-hunting, that is news. Sandy obviously realizes the handwriting on the wall. Upper management at The Tribune are all living on borrowed time.

I wish Sandy well, but let's not use her failure to get the job as an excuse to attack George Ramos, a class act. But this wouldn't be the first time a reporter got the facts wrong.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

you have just shown yourself to be the Travis Armstrong of San Luis Obispo. Congratulations. It's a dubious honor.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

If the widow is just trying to do better maybe she should have done the right thing in the first place. Maybe she would have found that she didn't have to change anything. Honesty is the best policy. I know that sounds outdated but it goes a long way with the public. We are simple people but not simple minded. We read. We deduce. We see the bias. Shame on her. I hope she finds a new job, I can vouch for her "creativety".

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

To George's Fingerprints

The facts are the facts and the truth is the truth. Whats your problem? Sandy is looking for a job. Why? Whats up? Is the Tribup for sale? Are her days numbered? get off the rhetoric. I want the news. i agree with with the "appreciates person". This is news. There is change in the wind and I welcome it.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

I'm new here and I'm a Cal Poly student. The last person I would want as a Prof in my lecture hall is Sandy D.I believe that she has TRADED her heart and I know about her paper. To the person that called the reporter here soulless (well take a psych course) and you'll figure out who your really talking about.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

Well, well, a story about Sandy Duer. Let's see, she can't get a job at CalPoly because she doesn't have a phd. Does George Ramos have a phd? Has George been able to get cal poly its accreditation back? Nope. So George is out. George goes on kvec and talks about journalism to Dave Congalton the next thing you know Dave's buddies are "breaking" the news of Sandy's application. I can see George's fingerprints all over this. I don't believe for a minute that Sandy made a fuss about this in her newsroom. I see George Ramos gossiping about this to the on air gossip columnist Dave Congalton. Hmmm…I smell a rat and its name is George, and Dave too. It's all petty, and it's not news.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

I work very hard to pay tuition to Cal Poly for my daughter. I don't live in SLO but I pay rent there and I want my daugher to have the best education. Her minor is in journalism and I'm glad it's not her major because your whole county could use some honest reporting. I have been reading this .com paper and I think it has great potential. Don't give up before your miracle happens. I believe it will and so do my daughters student friends.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

So the Prince has an ego and the widow has been "sticking it" to us with a paper that is no longer worth reading. Oh Boo to Who? Cheers Dan, keep on keeping on.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

I appreciate your commentary. The fact is that the Tribune has been doing bias reporting for too long and Sandy D. has neglected her responsibility. The why is easy? Its because the Tribune is doing poorly and it’s fiscal bottom line is at a critical low. Sandy D. made a decision to boost THE BOTTOM LINE BY GOING AFTER THE ADVERTISING $$$$, rather than recognizing that readership was dropping off because of “slanted reporting”. For instance they have slanted every WalMart column and even attacked Mike Brennler with biasin an effort to gain WM advertising $$$. There is a valid rumor that the Trib is up for sale. Sandy obviously see’s that her day’s as Editor are numbered. This means there will be change and THIS IS NEWS. I have no personal opinion of Sandy and wish her well but I also wish her good riddance. Thanks Dan keep telling us what's up.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

Please keep reporting on the issues that the others fear to report. What's going on in Atascadeo with the FBI? You had over 50 hits on that one issue and no follow-up.There appears to be corruption in Atascadero and nobody is talking or reporting.

What's happening with the sex discrimination case in Atascadero? If it's true something like that could eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court. These are the important issues that we want to hear about that no one else report on.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

Editor: You have a great opportunity to make this thing really, really good. BUT you need to keep your opinion out of the report. I know that's hard for a guy like you, but no one really wants to hear what you think about it. I'm serious. People want to hear hidden facts that have not hit the street for one reason or another. You don't have to deliver a paper every day, so if you don't have any newsworthy dirt skip a day or two. Sandra D. has gutted the TT and Harry went /came back from the war. Not newsworthy enough for your nitch! Enough of your ranting, stick with the facts or I'm taking you off my "favorites" and you'll be lost forever.

By: Anonymous on 3/3/08

You've done the impossible. You have made me sorry for Sandy. Sometimes the "Truth" is personal and not really pertinent to the public. I agree the Prince should not have been allowed to sate his blood lust and the media should be ashamed for their complicity, but Sandy's job search is not of real public import. Just as your boozing, soulless and unemployed self are not really publicly important.

Perhaps she is a widow, working too hard and trying to make a more stable and better life for her family. Glad we have to rub her nose in it. I feel so much better for this knowing this "Truth"

A new low for you Blackburn…a new low.