Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Shaky Journalistic Grounds, Alameda Bloggers Gain The Scalp Of Pesky Rival

Mar. 22, 2012 | When a well-known Alameda blogger and critic of city government, including its public safety agencies, was charged Monday with misdemeanor battery of his wife, knives long sharpened by members of the community and bloggers swiftly came out for his scalp. The blogger long known for being a thorn in the side of many who crossed his opinions came into unfortunate public view, but the problem lays not with the alleged horrifying act on a loved one, but whether it was actually newsworthy.

Upon reading the account last Friday in the Alameda Patch, I tweeted on The Citizen, "I don't think the allegations against the author of @ActionAlameda is news. I'm sure the police do since he's been tough on them." The blogger in question had previously written sharp criticisms of the Alameda Police Department and had been at the forefront of needling both police and fire over the tragic bungling of the Memorial Day drowning death last year of Raymond Zack.

There are questions to be asked whether the Alameda Police department, cognizant of the tenor of the blogger's past critiques made it easier for the allegations against him to come to light. Domestic violence charges are not normally readily available, yet this one was contained in mundane daily police logs were somehow highlighted. Such a finding without outside guidance is as rare as finding a needle in a haystack.

The question to be asked is whether the offending blogger's brush with the law constitutes newsworthiness. Absolutely not, I say, as would most newspaper people. In no sphere is his alleged problems with domestic violence fodder for news. While there is no legal basis against publication, editorially though , nothing about the blogger's public status rises to the level of newsworthiness.

It was my initial suspicion that the description of the man's title from mere "blogger" to "publisher" in the Alameda Patch article was meant to artificially enhance his newsworthiness. It is the reason I sent this additional tweet last Friday: "@AlamedaPatch Does one have to allegedly get rough with loved ones to get promoted from blogger to publisher?"

If the mentioned blogger had once run for public office, established a base line within the public realm where he had forcefully fought against domestic violence or had risen to public notoriety in some other form, then the question of newsworthiness might barely drift into the positive.

I can appreciate the sense of payback involved in the coverage of this blogger's personal problems. Apparently the blogger is known to have no problem with slapping a lawsuit or two on his enemies--even reportedly on Christmas. Instead, those participating gleefully in the blogger's demise should call up their friend with the news and high-five each other while stomping on his proverbial grave, but don't report it as news story, because it isn't.

The fear I would have in publishing an article like this one is what might  occur if the charges turn out to be bogus, not for fear of litigation, but because the source material provided on the police logs are so sparse. Another question is why Alameda Patch also provided a .pdf of the police logs also containing information of all other actions made by law enforcement that same day.

The criticism today of my tweets regarding the issue of the story's prominence by Lauren Do, another Alameda blogger, is totally misguided and wrongfully deflects criticism away from Alameda Patch. Although I appreciate the mention, this has nothing to do with supporting or opposing domestic violence, whatsoever, and everything to do with good journalism.


Why are you surprised at the vindictive attacks on ActionAlameda's Blogger? The news is two-fold: misdemeanor spousal abuse and the attack on the press.

How can you assert that ActionAlameda should be indemnified from electronic assaults by the poor idiot police, fire and civic leaders who are returning in a vengeance. If statements by these public officials are in fact false, ActionAlameda might get rich through a combination of crinimal and civil actions of slander and libel.

On the other hand if the scurrilous behavior by public servants are in fact true, then ActionAlameda is up Alameda Creek without a paddle and should get used to swimming in the pond with sharks. His violence towards hubby is certainly not nice. He might want to call Ross Mirkarimi to get advice on pleading nolo contendere.

ActionAlameda entered with the best intentions to expose the criminal misconduct of Alameda's Police, Fire and Public Officials. That is now remedied, now AA needs to start to take the twelve steps to finish the fight with his victims.

Besides this is more amusing than Mary Hayashi and Nadia Lokyer.

OMG...East Bay Express March Madness - Politicians Behaving Badly article is GREAT. Need to re-post where ever possible.

I would expect to see this article (or parts of) in future campaign packages of those running against the class acts mentioned in the article...if any of them actually make it to re-election?


You write that if only Howard had "risen to public notoriety in some other form" then it would likely rise to a level of newsworthiness. But he has. And not by bravely taking on public safety issues. By attacking, very publicly, numerous non-elected citizens.

In fact, about six years back, he worked to get the funding removed from the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) and taunted the organization's employees online about it. APC serves a significant population of victims of domestic violence.

A full accounting of the nasty, personal, very public stuff that Howard has done to people, solely because they disagree with him, would take too long to type, but beyond the examples you give above, they include:

Howard filed for a BS restraining order on one person, and then sent copies of the filing to the press to milk the filing before it was denied. Any coverage of his arrest is exactly the type of coverage that he himself has tried to generate against others. For that fact alone the story is newsworthy.

Howard has a long history of bullying and intimidation of many multiple people in the community, the story is newsworthy because he has consistently put himself in the public light with his personal, inappropriately aggressive tactics.

He is a constant political figure, running at least three anti-tax campaigns, including one that is currently underway. It's entire basis is debasing people, some of them for having the audacity to voice their opinions in the paper.

I think your analysis is correct, but your facts are wrong and therefore you end up drawing the wrong conclusion.

Had you looked into it, you would see that this specific case meets the very criteria you set out for it needing to meet.

As to your concern that the Alameda Police specifically put out information about this because of his complaints about them? The publicly available daily log that reported this treated it no differently than any other Domestic Violence call that the police handle. Here's the log from the day before David Howard's arrest:
(look at Page 3).

How long have you been tracking Alameda issues? As a journalist/blogger, it would be good if you can ground-truth your assertions of facts before drawing the wrong conclusion.

In this age of twitter and google alerts, most journalists/bloggers have programmed their smartphones/emails accounts to receive information about Alameda. Just ask Peter Hegarty and Henry Lee, who tracks the police and fire reports.

You write, "It was my initial suspicion that the description of the man's title from mere "blogger" to "publisher" in the Alameda Patch article was meant to artificially enhance his newsworthiness."

But David Howard himself describes himself as a "publisher." And I'm pretty sure he considers his site a news site, not a blog.


East Bay Cirizen:
Do you have an Editor to approve your "articles"

It appears this discussion is now about defining a publisher,a blogger and a news site?

Can anyone out there answer this question?

David Howard is a wife beater. Plain and simple. He choked his wife and she is pressing chargers. I do not care if he was a blogger or a publisher or the neighborhood dog catcher, this type of behavior tarnishes himself and jeopardizes his credibility. He writes on Firefighters. He blames police for feeding of the public trough, he talks BS about City Hall, he put himself in a position where people look to him for his opinion and because of that, he is in the public eye, just like a politician. I would want to know if my neighbor was a wife beating scumbag, irregardless of what he does for work, The fact that this scumbag beats up Police, Beats up Fire, Beats up City Hall, now is charged with beating up his wife just goes to show all of us where his try politics lie...inside his selfish wife beating cruel ass! I hope they burn him.

I fail to see the finely-parsed line that you do between David Howard and Joel Young. And you write extensively on Young's alleged abuse for the East Bay Express but dissed Lauren Do for writing much less explicitly about Howard's
alleged abuse. Why is your reporting so selective?

Both Young and Howard are public figures in their own right and the allegations against them are equally newsworthy, whether they hold elective office or publish a local blog.

Is David Howard attempting to represent you in Sacramento? Is David Howard attempting to make billion dollar decisions in your name, if elected? David Howard is not a public official.

It would be wise that journalists and bloggers refrain from throwing the book at each other lest politicians use the same play on them. If Lauren Do writes a provactive piece about an Alameda public official, upon this precedent what's to stop them from sullying her by publicizing something like multiple parking tickets or the like?

It's playing with fire and like I wrote, best to silent celebrate Howard's demise in private, especially when it does not rise to the level of newsworthiness.

To the commenter questioning me "tracking" of Alameda issues. I've been writing about Alameda as part of the East Bay for two years. In addition, the East Bay Citizen is viewed by more readers than all of the Patch sites and your local bloggers.

Mr. Spangler,

I laid out why Howard and Young are different. But, you just made an assertion without evidence. How are Howard and Young similar?

I think the point that the scalpers miss is what outing the abuser's name does to the abused spouse. I asked my friend who has been in the social work field for 25+ years, and she says:

- - - -

Domestic violence is a complicated issue. Victims are always blamed for the abuse and any police/ court involvement by the abuser. While adding the element of public shame, it feels like it would increase the danger for women and/ or set them up to defend the abusers.

- - - - -

In other words, arguing to bring domestic abuse out into the public info realm will actually prevent more victims from taking the giant step of requesting intervention.

We must also remember there is always two sides to a story...though there is no justification for doing someone harm (mentally, physically or otherwise)...men rarely, and I mean very rarely ever report domestic violence, though they too are victims at times...case in point may be the situation between Ms. Lockyer and her(ex)lover.

In that case there is actually some written (text) evidence, backed up by the (ex)lover's words to say Ms. Lockyer was very upset about their failed/failing relationship and he defended himself which resulted in Ms. Lockyer being injured. Was that domestic violence?

As Jack B. said, it is a complicated issue.

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