Is journalism dead in SLO County?
July 26, 2016
Opinion by Dr. C. Hite
I knew journalism was dead in SLO County the day the Tribune published a meandering feature story on the front page that morphed into speculation and innuendo. This was not news.
There was a time when journalistic ethics dictated that straight news went on the front page with feature stories, weather, sports on following pages and editorial opinion only on the editorial page. Every news source has a right to set their own editorial policy but now we have biased, manipulative, somewhat news worthy human interest stories all over the pages and written in conversational style.
A local computer major issuing a bomb threat on a crowded city bus and then being released from custody, without charge, did not make the national news. A finger tip in a salad at Applebee’s Restaurant did.
Local law enforcement having the foresight to shoot an aggressive suspect in the leg, instead of killing him, did not make the national news. Former Sheriff Pat Hedges best red-neck imitation that persons going into a legal medical marijuana dispensary did not look all that disabled, did make national news in an expose on medical marijuana.
When I think back on the parade of scandals that get written up by our civil Grand Jury and mentioned before the SLO County Board of Supervisors, I wonder what the county would be like if people were not willing to speak up.
Today I wonder what SLO County would be like without Cal Coast News.
Years ago, I went searching for Karen Velie and was surprised at what I found. I conducted an internet search, just as I would for a juror for a professional art show. I looked to see if the subject had a high internet presence, if they self promote or if they have a critic who promotes them instead.
I made this search because my ride asked if I wanted to go into the board of supervisors early one Tuesday to attend a rally for Velie. I only had to hear the words “social services” and “children” to know that Velie was in serious trouble.
All of our local social services scandals that have been printed in the main stream news and paraded before the county board of supervisors tend to go in one ear and out the other of the general public. As a public advocate, I can rattle them off in order:
1) Social services found to have mishandled over 70 percent of their cases involving children.
2) Over 70 percent of eligible families not receiving food stamps.
3) DSS almost losing their food stamp grant.
4) The county suing itself to get ahead of a rampant sexual harassment problem in social services.
5) Employee embezzlement of funds meant to help mothers move to protect their children from violent and sexual predators.
6) Foster children being placed with child abusers, resulting in death.
7) Local Adult Protective Services failing to protect a dependent adult, resulting in death,
8) The emancipation of foster children to the streets without transitional services.
The day of the rally for Velie’s grandchildren, I had a pointed historical reminder for the board of supervisors and since neither DSS Director Lee Collins nor acting Chair Bruce Gibson could read my mind, neither could squelch my public comment on the subject, although they tried.
There were persons wishing to speak at the board of supervisors with first hand knowledge of the this case and other child services cases handled by local DSS. I knew the most risky and brave thing a person could do was go public about Child Protective Services, which Velie did. But before I attended a rally in support of Velie, I decided to research and come to my own conclusions about who that person was. I was not reading my news on the internet and did not resort to just googling CCN to form an opinion.
When I googled Karen Velie, many search results popped up and I began opening them. I was embarrassed and quickly closed windows, grasping that some very emotional, insecure guy had really been hurt by Velie, like an ex-boyfriend hangs onto hurt and they just won’t let it go. Only rejection causes this kind of personal hurt and there was more than one website where the owner felt rejected.
In seconds I could asses the site owner was vehement about his hatred for Karen Velie and there seemed to be more than one obsessed with her. Don’t these people know you don’t put slander into permanent print where you can be sued? I thought to myself, disturbed by the rantings of what seemed to be disturbed persons. What disturbed them? I wondered.
Anyone within the realm of “normal” does not have that kind of emotional energy and spare personal time to devote to pure unrelenting hatred of a single individual.
I didn’t take the time to see who was responsible for the websites attacking Velie and also CalCoastNews. It was just too uncomfortable, and I knew all I had to know in a glance.
The attacks were malicious. Then an interesting ‘boyfriend betrayed’ Shredder popped up from New Times, which was humorous considering the historical context. The article bemoaned Velie, her journalism style, that she used to work for New Times, and that her publication about SLO County Administrator David Edge was premature and unfounded.
Knowing that David Edge was fired amid the scandal, I came to two conclusions; Velie had good sources and she was resented. I wanted to know if the resentment was in any way justified.
I almost gave up on my search, but persisted opening internet windows and then I found it; Velie is credentialed, she studied journalism at Cal Poly. Just some simple facts far down the list of subjective criticism. Anyone who doesn’t like “journalist’s” or recognize that studying journalism at Cal Poly is significant to being a good reporter is someone who doesn’t like math scholars because they don’t like fractions; it makes them feel stupid.
When you can separate fact from bias, life becomes a whole lot simpler when it comes to assessing information and making decisions. Facts cannot be dismissed and being able to separate fact from bias, when no one does, can also be a curse. However, not all people who study journalism are able to separate themselves from their own personal bias.
After finding Velie’s qualifications, I googled CalCoastNews to analyze news stories for bias and unprofessionalism. I didn’t find it. There seemed to be a slant against law enforcement, based on the number of expose’s that were published. If there was a slant, I was certain a story written by Velie would exploit law enforcement concerns. I didn’t find it. I found a straight forward, factual, unemotional and unbiased news story about law enforcement.
Anyone who has studied journalism or has basic awareness understands that CalCoastNews is not a “blog,” and in no way resembles or functions as a “blog,” as CCN critics like to assert. Cal Coast News layout and consistency in form makes it an online news site, which all paper press sources are becoming in order to survive.
I have done a significant amount of research, always prepared to change my opinions, and now monitor all online news sources for information. What news sources choose not to publish can be as telling as what they do publish.
What I find is that stories that CalCoastNews breaks will be published by other local sources, eventually. Of what I am painfully aware is that just being mentioned on CalCoastNews was enough to earn me unrelenting ridicule by an Adam Hill supporter and CCN critic, whom I am aligned with politically but certainly not behaviorally.
Velie has known that I am a source of information that would benefit CalCoastNews and yet she has not perused, harassed or pressure me; she has never even contacted me. There is something wrong with the local narrative that portrays a woman as shamelessly aggressive for being successful at her job as a news reporter.
Over time, New Times has changed with new management. The Tribune has changed significantly. Tolosa Press has changed and even Cal Coast News had its deviating moments. That is the nature of the business; publications compete for advertisement and readership. Let’s read them all and think critically instead of being obsessively critical.
Dr. C. Hite received honorary membership in the Quill and Scroll Honorary Society and as president of her local chapter, was the first to present author Ray Bradbury a chapter title certificate. Hite went to college on art, music, drama and journalism scholarships. She studied off-set lithography, illustrated literary publications and edited and produced a bi-weekly newspaper in the early 1970’s that went to the printers camera ready.