Another back-room romance: government and local media

October 19, 2014

Shh-1“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” — Philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky


It used to be that citizens who had the nerve to stand up to government officials got blowback only from arrogant politicians lacking the time, patience, and courtesy to listen their constituents — an ugly art form currently being advanced by San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Chair Bruce Gibson.

Now outspoken county residents have a different set of backbiting critics — local newspaper editors.

Newspapers traditionally have provided a voice for the oppressed, standing up for the little guy in the face of officialdom’s tyranny. In this funny little county, though, the print media has become entwined with the governing establishment to the point that both the daily and the weekly have shrunk into little more than cheerleaders for office holders and top bureaucrats.

Witness The Tribune’s vitriolic editorial assault several weeks ago on residents of Arroyo Grande who have been audaciously questioning the antics of their mayor, Tony Ferrara, and members of the city council over the Steve Adams- Teresa McClish fiasco.

And now the moribund New Times has chimed in with a Shredder column, penned, apparently, by the Queen of Mean, in which Arroyo Grande octogenarian Otis Page is taken to task for his comments during a council meeting.

First, a word or two about the Shredder. When the column was being written by the late Steve Moss, New Time’s founder and editor, it was a literary delight, and even while doling out its sharpest criticism remained ever clever, correct, courageous, and informative. Moss’s thought processes and descriptive abilities were so roundly developed that even his targets were often forced to laugh at themselves.

When Moss died in April 2005, Shredder should have been put to rest, also, and replaced with a newly-named column. Moss had a unique way of getting to the meat of local affairs, and his work was both widely read and praised. His kind of talent — writing with a velvet glove on one hand and a club in the other — is rare and original.

Such a retirement was suggested to New Times Publisher Bob Rucker, who promptly rejected the notion. The result ever since has been less than successful — it’s a tall task to replicate genius.

The Shredder attack on Page centered not on his comments to the Arroyo Grande Council, but on his personal thoughts regarding gays, which New Times published years ago. Apparently, to the Shredder’s thinking, Pages’ comments then negate his viewpoints now.

I imagine this kind of journalistic misconduct by local reporters and editors is partially caused by their belief that elected officials and high-level bureaucrats are celebrities of some sort, rather than a breed we need to closely monitor. As a young reporter, I felt that way, too — for about a month. And let’s not forget the attraction of ad revenues emanating from these government sources, which would surely dry up in the face of editorial criticism. It is clearly pandering.

As a people we should clamor for a free press that champions the righteous needs and desires of the populace, not of a transient band of government officials. Citizens shrink from the public eye when they are made the butt of editorial sniping by those very publications that are charged with the larger responsibility of representing the public.

It’s easy to see why the economy is not the only indicator of dying newspapers. I’m reminded of the comment by British writer Ferdinand Mount on the subject: “One of the unsung freedoms that go with a free press is the freedom not to read it.”

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  1. Ron says:

    Dan writes:

    First, a word or two about the Shredder. When the column was being written by the late Steve Moss, New Time’s founder and editor, it was a literary delight…

    Yes it was, and genuinely funny, too. (Reading that column over a beer at Gus’s, back in the day, was embarrassing, because it always had me laughing out loud.)

    However, these days? Uh, not so much.

    See, the HUGE problem I have with Shred these days (other than it’s not nearly as good/funny as it used to be) is a combination of this quote from Dave:

    “Created by Steve Moss and Tom Fulks in the early ’90s, Shred quickly became the must-read item in town every Thursday…

    … combined with my (fairly) recent blog post, that shows that local politicians, like Bruce Gibson, laund.. errrr… PAY some local, Karl Rove-type weasel named Tom Fulks, tens of thousands of dollars to sneak around and be their little “evil genius in the back room.”

    And THAT’s the HUGE problem I have with Shred, these days: I mean, it’s written anonymously, and it now slams Tom Fulks’ clients’ critics, instead of slamming Fulks’ clients (which should be its role, as Dan correctly points out), all while Fulks has this super-close (past?) relationship with New Times.

    So, you know, blehhhhh…

    And that means that my question for Bob Rucker, these days, is: Does local, highly paid political operative, Tom Fulks, still have one “shred” of connection to New Times, today?

    Uh, Bob? One “shred?”

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  2. Citizen says:

    The Tribune editorial staff did a great disservice to Paso voters by endorsing a candidate for city council (Pamela Avila) without verifying her background. They identified one possible conflict of interest–working for the Chamber of Commerce–but missed the more important possible conflict of interest–a close relative who is a long time Paso Police Officer at the management level.

    They gave the wrong age of 69 (she was born in 1943), and then blithered on about how they weren’t selecting her just because she is a woman. They didn’t check out her work history claims or her actual job (part time) with the fancy but exaggerated title “Economic Developer”.

    So, why did they endorse someone who is secretive about who she is, and the only candidate who is not a known commodity in Paso–because she is like a “breath of fresh air”, meaning, I guess, that she isn’t like other people in Paso, but more like them.

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  3. falconbh says:

    Double Taxation – New Road Tax- Grover Beach

    We are told that the roads were not done properly by County Government.
    When we look at other County Roads they seem to be doing quite well in other areas.

    GB City Council had no problems paying another outside consultant with taxpayers funds to manipulate and confuse the citizen voters in this election, spike pensions for senior administrators, and now want to rewarded for mismanaging the road maintenance budget over the years.
    If you look closely, and follow the money, you will find one Professional group who stands to gain a lot from this New Tax Increase.

    Can You Afford Double Taxation and Higher Taxes

    (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
    • falconbh says:

      New Sales Tax Increase- San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Atascadero
      New Sales Tax Extension- Arroyo Grande City Council

      A lot has been written about how these funds have been used in the past !

      It is time to balance our budgets with existing growing revenues. We need to address some of the structural budget issues that are at the core of our budget problems.
      These New Sales Tax Increases will not solve these problems.

      I submit for your consideration; that we need a’ time out ‘from New Tax Increases.
      We need to solve some of these structural problems First.
      Then return to the Citizen Voters with a real long range plan to solve these problems, balance the budgets, and restore confidence in our local governments and districts.

      Lets learn from Stockton, San Jose, Detroit , Vallejo , and so many other cities who failed to address their budget problems.

      Citizens deserve a New Fair and Balanced Plan they can Trust !

      (4) 10 Total Votes - 7 up - 3 down
      • agag1 says:

        One very good reason to vote AGAINST the Charter City initiative in AG,
        It doesn’t require the City to have a balanced budget!

        (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
  4. falconbh says:

    I continue to be very concerned with the current leadership in our cities, special districts, and the county.

    With all the New Tax Sales Tax Increases, New Buildings that are Not Needed , Special Road Tax, at a time when all the research tells us most people cannot afford more New Taxes !

    After receiving our Increased Property Taxes or Rents Increasing , add in New Increases for current Sales Taxes, because items are costing more, then add the Automatic Rate Increases for Water and Sanitation, using a unfair process, and We All Have One New Increased Tax Burden !

    ” Can We Really Afford More New Tax Increases At This Time ”

    $$$ If these New Tax Increases Are Approved By Voters, It will be a ” Green Light ” for More New Tax Increases in the Next Election $$$

    Please Vote- Inform Others- Return Your Mail Ballots

    (10) 20 Total Votes - 15 up - 5 down
    • agag1 says:

      That’s right falcon, one hand out, the other in your back pocket!
      Gotta feed the pig!

      (9) 17 Total Votes - 13 up - 4 down
    • cowtipper says:

      Some facts. Sales tax is not increasing. Measure G is an renewal of the current sales tax rate, one of the lowest in the state. The largest portion of the sales tax revenue comes from tourism.

      (-5) 15 Total Votes - 5 up - 10 down
    • falconbh says:

      New Building Taxes – Technology Revolution – Monuments To The Past

      With so many new programs going Online and a New Generation of students who are part of this wonderful Technology Revolution that is growing in so many new directions the last thing we need is to be spending this much on Monuments To The Past.

      We need new ideas that match the technology of today with the way students of the future will be learning in this new world.

      Both these New Tax Increases are” overzealous in their scope” , cost, and certainly take us in the wrong direction for the Future !

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
      • MajorityFan says:

        Call it a new tax if you must. The falcon must be flying high.

        (-5) 5 Total Votes - 0 up - 5 down
  5. agag1 says:

    Is anyone else wondering just what Ira would have to say about this whole affair?
    Sure do miss Ira, he’d be very proud of our efforts to expose “this crap”!

    (7) 21 Total Votes - 14 up - 7 down
    • doglover says:

      Damn it. Everyone in town knew about this relationship except me.
      Who in City Hall knew?

      (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down
      • agag1 says:

        I’d be willing to bet the person who writes the checks for Adams and McClish’s expense accounts would have some pretty good insight into all their travel time together.
        Hotel invoices would show room service charges, etc…

        (9) 17 Total Votes - 13 up - 4 down
    • cowtipper says:

      Dead people don’t usually have a lot to say.

      (-3) 3 Total Votes - 0 up - 3 down

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