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

OPINION By DANIEL BLACKBURN

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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r0y

In other words, the local media treated Mr. Page like a conservative. Generally, it is only people on the left are either shocked or surprised this type of things actually happens. It is getting more defined (not better, not worse); I remember when Fox News started, they did NOT carry the left’s water, and it was so anathema to what people were used to, a lot of them just assumed they carried the right’s water. Editorially, I believe Fox is on the republican’s side; however, news-wise, they are pretty fair and balanced – but that is hard to swallow when one has been used to “traditional” news that is heavily slanted left. So much so, it’s pretty much propaganda on some outlets.


I am no fan of Chomsky, but would never want him to be silenced or ignored. I have listened to him and read some of him. I think he’s very wrong on many things, but I bet he would think the same of me. The question we have to ask ourselves is: do we want someone we disagree with to “shut up” and “go away?” If so, some self-examination is in order.


Excellent piece, Dan, but again, the general thesis is no surprise for anyone NOT on the far left.


SLOBIRD

But Roy, you missed your own key words, “fair and balanced”. I don’t mind the right to difference, the left wants socialism programs and the right wants free market, views and direction have made this Country progress throughout its history; but, I do mind the lies, deceit, and manipulation of the facts whether right or left and there is no doubt the left is much better at this. Just my opinion!


zaphod

I see no evidence of an operating left wing in this country


Pelican1

IT’S A MEDIA WAR!

In the words of John Paul Jones.. “(I) we have not yet begun to fight!”


ml1999

Noam Chomsky a philosopher?


Try a radical socialist. He is one of the leaders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton love so much.


zaphod
zaphod

one of the most popular public intellectuals in the entire world. policy critique is his main hobby, so truthfull renowned conservative William Francis Buckley threatened to smash his face during a debate one time . we should be proud to have the likes of him in our time.


cowtipper

and meanwhile, please enter the 21st century.


zaphod

Huh?


zaphod
MaryMalone

Thanks, Dan, for the great op-ed. Your comments echo the beliefs of the majority of CCN’s message board participants.


Will you be discussing this on KVEC anytime soon?


cowtipper

Whew. That must scare off the other 98% of voters.


MaryMalone

The shredder has been doing the bend-and-spread-’em two-step for the dregs of SLO’s politicians/big advertisers for years now. I don’t expect them to change course anytime soon.


Julie

The Shredder failed to read any of Otis’ half dozen opinion pieces or listen to what he said at the podium or shouting from the back of the room. He never mentions “Sex” (of any kind) and always has stated the the “cover up” is the crime. The cover up prevented he and others from entering the council/mayor race/s. The cover up used thou$and$ more public resources than those used the night of the “incident.” Then to be threatened to have a restraining order placed against him (an 84 year old man) by the very Mayor who facilitated the cover up — absurd!


The Shredder/New Times has lost all credibility. As someone who was handsomely shredded (the whole thing, not just a few paragraphs) a few months ago for not living in the community where I uncovered con-artists stealing red handed from the public. And did so right under the noses of the elected officials who hired them. I have since been apologized to and thanked by those very officials.


Shred away Ryan et.al. you know what they say, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” The New Times just isn’t what it used to be.


MaryMalone

I’ve only been a target of the shredder a couple of times, but each time my reaction was the same: “Really? My, my. I must have inadvertently poked one of the shredder’ s sacred cows.”


Then I think about how many times the same column has attacked Julie Tacker, and I realize I am in good company.


Doesn’t the shredder’ s author realize he is actually empowering thick-skinned folks like Julie and I when they stoop to calling us out by name?


cowtipper

The Shredder could spend the next decade on your misguided antics. The Shredder never slept with someone to build a development and screw the sewers.


toryrand

Media parroting local government officials and the police, writing whatever those public servants tell them, because government has become big business not to serve or protect its citizenry, but rather is only an opportunity for corrupt servants to line their own pockets and a select few of their cronies. God Bless America.


cowtipper

The Shredder definitely tackles the elephant in the room. Great column on Thursday!


toryrand

hmmmm……maybe so, but misses the herd of elephants surrounding the elephant in the room…..


cowtipper

We cannot use her name. But thanks for pointing that out.


racket

The links in the editorial need to get sorted.


The Gibson link leads nowhere (which is oddly appropriate), and the Tribune link leads to a Tribune ad (perhaps also appropriate). I don’t think either is what you intend.


IronHub

Racket — When you click on the Trib link, the ad lingers for a few moments, tests your patience, and then yields finally to the actual article.


Kevin Rice

Ad? Of, that’s right… I have ALL the Tribune ads blocked using Adblock Plus and Firefox. No Trib ads here.


catdude

Now that’s curious; a bunch of people don’t like Adblock? What is not to like about Adblock? I couldn’t handle the web without it…. I don’t agree with you half the time, but I sure am with you here!


agag1

Cat dude, it’s not the ad their giving the thumbs down to, it’s Kevin.

Probably don’t even read the post, just see his name and assume they need to automatically disagree.

No thought given to wether it’s a valid point or not, just votin’ the party line!


toryrand

nuff said.


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