May 4, 2012 | The day when reporters become bloggers and bloggers become reporters is here. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
I use the term blogger as a pejorative here, since some people use the term interchangeably with reporter. It truly depends on the spirit or point the speaker is attempting to convey. In reality, anybody that independently reports the news is a reporter and a blogger and neither go far in paying the bills.
I bring this up surely as a chance to skewer elitist at tree-destroying legacy newspapers, but also because of what appears to be numerous editorial boards in the Bay Area attempting to flex their depleting opinion-making muscle when, in fact, their acts at anointing the next congressman or assembly member is based on zero reporting. Zero context and, therefore, zero credibility.
The endorsement by the Bay Area News Group of 18th Assembly District candidate Joel Young forced many in the East Bay to scratch their collective heads. One person said the article should have been published in the satirical newspaper, The Onion. Not only has Young been hounded by domestic violence allegations and troubles with telling the truth, the newspaper's "editorial board" (apparently comprised of Daniel Borenstein) tabbed him the best candidate for a single issue--reforming government pensions. Borenstein also applied the lone template to candidates for the Hayward City Council, who proceeded to trash Councilman Francisco Zermeno for a perceived lack of intelligence. Zermeno told me this week, that he didn't meet with the BANG editorial board, so the assessment apparently was based on a sole article written by its reporter Eric Kurhi. At least, the Daily Review wrote at least one story to base its recommendations.
The BANG has not covered a single issue or debate on the 18th Assembly race to this date. As the only reporter who has covered the campaign for both the East Bay Express and The Citizen, I have no trouble discerning why Borenstein fell in love with Young's charismatic ability for saying whatever he thinks you need to hear. The irony here is, if Borenstein understood Young as being the candidate to screw over public sector workers, then it proves the Service Employee International Union correct when they pulled their endorsement from Young in March after he privately trashed his Democratic opponents as being too liberal.
The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle has been no better. Their shockingly distasteful dress down of Rep. Pete Stark was nothing more than a vendetta by elitist journalists who could be heard gleefully cackling in a video posted this week as the 40-year congressman painfully searched for answers to his now-struggling campaign for re-election. Their endorsement of Eric Swalwell (although, it mentions little in terms of his qualifications and accomplishment) appeared to have been hijacked by the Tea Party Patriots who have long heckled Stark over the past two years.
Over the past three years that I have covered politics in Stark's congressional district, I have never seen a reporter from the Chronicle. Their political reporter, Carla Marinucci, recently referred to Stark as a "South Bay congressman." South Bay? As in San Jose? Two weeks ago, Marinucci wrote an article on Stark's bribery charge in past tense and it showed. To make her point, she used an anecdote about the Tri Valley Democratic Club voting to reprimand Stark for his allegations. The intent by Marinucci was to impart some sort of mutiny against Stark was taking place in his district. What she apparently did not know was Swalwell is one of its loyal members. She used the same trick to report audience members in Hayward for the now-infamous bribery charge were angry at Stark when he spoke. This is true, but as the reporter in the room would know, the group was actually Tea Party member there to support Stark's other opponent, Chris Pareja.
To push the similarities between the Chronicle editorial board and the Tea Party further, the sole intent of distributing video of Stark's meeting with Chronicle editors, was to trumpet a gaffe in the vein of Pete Behaving Badly. Stark incorrectly charged a Chronicle columnist with contributing to Swalwell's campaign and confusing Solyndra with Tesla. In the fall of 2010, Tea Party activists led by Golden Gate Minuteman Steve Kemp consistently camped out at Stark's monthly town hall meetings hoping for a similar offending soundbite and, in some cases egged him on with mouthfuls of vicious rejoinders, including one Tea Party member who vaguely threatened to hit Stark over the head with a tripod.
Why do those simpletons in the East Bay overwhelming vote for a moron like Stark, the San Francisco Chronicle asks? Stark is rude, they wrote. He publicly called someone a "whore," said the President gets off on having American troops being killed and lobbed unkind words at his opponents on Capitol Hill. News flash: these are the exact same reasons why the residents of the East Bay vote for Stark. Those words were spoken to lobbyists, President George W. Bush and to Republican obstructionists. Yes, we hate those type of people, too. In fact, Stark may be a perfect progressive in the minds of his East Bay constituents and view the extra-curricular as political theater. To make matters worse, the Chronicle focused in no way on what our representation in Congress without Stark would actually mean. Without disparaging Swalwell, his candidacy, so far, is based upon nothing. He simply has no experience in government and therefore zero accomplishments to hang his hat on. Congress is not the State Assembly and even those two East Bay races feature candidates with more experience than Swalwell. Any rudimentary assessment of the race would signal this is a huge issue and cause for concern.
People have always wondered whether newspapers endorsement really matter even before the changing dynamics of the newsroom over the past 20 years. The reasons now are more fundamental than the dwindling circulation of these legacy papers, it has to do solely with reporting. These editorials this week reveal a not-so-dirty secret, especially if you subscribe to the local papers--they contain very little local coverage. So how can these editors opine on something as important as whom their readers should elect? If there are not supplementing their candidate interviews with hands-on reporting from their journalists, what exactly are they doing? I think they like to call it blogging.
Elitist journalists often disparage bloggers for merely reading a few originally reported articles and typing away their opinions. How is what the Chronicle and BANG papers doing any different? There is very little context and eyewitness reporting in anything their paper's purport to endorse. In fact, in the dark recesses of insider information in my own brain, some of the assertions and opinions they make are truly hilarious and bound to bite them in the behind when the truth is reported.
It's kind of like this: remember when the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in 2010 Nadia Lockyer was best candidate for Alameda County Board of Supervisor? And then their columnist Chip Johnson stupidly wrote last week, Lockyer wasn't fully vetted? Of course, she was vetted. It was by a "blogger" by the name of me, who covered the race for six months and concluded something wasn't right with this inexperience candidate. Yeah, of course, now we know she was smoking crank at the time. Did the Chronicle send a reporter to cover the race? No. Does their opinion about the current crop of potential Nadia Lockyers and Mary Hayashis (Lockyashi) matter now? No.
In the meantime, keep blogging, newspaper people, I've got a candidate's forum to cover.
Friday, May 4, 2012