Saturday, March 10, 2007

Paper Wars Getting Old, And Ugly

I'll be the first to admit to having little patience with some of the criticisms commentors on the Humboldt blogs make against local newspapers and their reporters.

Many of those criticisms often seem to come from nowhere and I can't help but wonder if they're simply made by people who have nothing good to say about anyone anytime.

I think most of you know the types I'm referring to: People whose only comment(s) insults someone for reasons that aren't often clear. We've seen plenty of such comments right here.


That said, I've found some of the past dueling between the Eureka Reporter and Times- Standard of interest. I've even found it amusing at times. Now I'm thinking it might be getting out of hand, at least if this keeps up.

Once again, charges of unethical conduct are leveled. This time against the Times- Standard by the Eureka Reporter. Regardless of the merit, or lack thereof, of such charges, I think it would be in everybody's best interest for the papers to just stick with publishing their own paper and stop the finger pointing.


Eeeenough! Leave the finger pointing to the Humboldt blogosphere.

42 Comments:

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen to that, Freddy boy.

 
At 10:28 AM, Blogger Anon.R.mous said...

It's good to know that the T-S plays loose and fast with the rules.

 
At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I'm sure that ER makes sure that all the other news papers are invited to all other news events that someone may have paid to have happen. Understand that the big missing point is that HWC would have paid for the phone conference with or without the TS being present. The "perception" of unethical conduct is only the spin of the ER.

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does a phone call provided by Lovelace affect reporting of the legal proceedings? Did the ER show that the TS was biased in its reporting? No. It threw insults, leveraging an organization it doesn't even belong to. ER doesn't belong to SPJ does it? If they don't belong, it's hypocritical.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Fred said...

I think I'd prefer to have a reporter listening to the proceeding directly, as Driscoll apparently did, than have him get a second hand report on it from Lovelace, or anyone else for that matter.

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I don't see it that way. Sure, some reporters (just like all the rest of us) have personal feelings on issues.

I don't see how personal feelings will be any more affected with Driscoll listening to a meeting on Lovelace's phone, or whatever it was, than if Driscoll listened to it at work and then went hiking the next day with Lovelace and discussed the issue.

There's always going to be reporters feeling one way or another on many issues. They don't live in caves.

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Ooops. Sorry, Rose. I accidentaly deleted your post while deleting the post above yours. Please feel free to resubmit.

I deleted the post above yours if for no other reason than it was off- topic.

 
At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Fred but ugly and nasty is the nature of war. Its the liberal/reactionary culture war that HumCo seems to revel in. And thats the real situation. You're as eager a participant in it as anyone else.

Lately you RedneckLoggerheads have had some unprecedented tactical defeats. So now Fred wants to cry 'uncle'. But you're just trying to get the other side to relent until you can regroup to come back with a fresh attack.

What you might think about is how much moral support the Bush administrations policies have given to encourage extremism here in HumCo? Preemptive and eternal war with ideological certainty and not parlaying with the "enemy". Those would normally be considered extreme tactics bordering on desperation. But the current administration has recast them as legitimate and moral. I think those ideas bleed down to us, right here.

Sure, I believe you're sincerely tired of the battle, for now. But mostly you're unnerved by the setbacks. After you're "rested up" and have licked your wounds you'll be back for more, like a pit bull.

There's real, visceral, abiding and deep hatred between the factions in this dispute. They are both religiously inspired and call the other side "evil". IMHO its really more fundamental, just a quest for power by equally intolerant megolomanical misfits, unable to adapt their worldviews to the modern definition of civilized society.

I'd equate the HumCo war to the Israeli/Palestianian conflict but with less physical violence. The intent by both sides is the same: Anniliate the opposition, marginalize them socially, economically, and politically and relegate them to a subjugated class.

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger Fred said...

That's pretty good, 1:33. You can read as much, or more, into some things than even I can.

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger Rose said...

Thanks, Fred.

The Times Standard is in bed with the activists whose sole goal it the destruction of Palco, pure and simple. There's no excusing this... Using Driscoll allows Lovelace to influence every detail of the reporting, allows him to irrevocably influence public perception and opinion, to "control the debate." It's a cynical use of a reporter as a propaganda tool, and Dricoll's credibility is nothing more than collateral damage.

It is an unforgivable breach of journalistic ethics, and an incredible disservice to the readers who trust the Times Standard to present them with factual unbiased information.

Very sad.

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger Rose said...

And, I have to add this:

One (from the New York Times Ethical Journalism Guidelines...

Personal Relations with Sources

22. Relationships with sources require the utmost in sound judgment and self discipline to prevent the fact or appearance of partiality. Cultivating sources is an essential skill, often practiced most effectively in informal settings outside of normal business hours. Yet staff members, especially those assigned to beats, must be sensitive that personal relationships with news sources can erode into favoritism, in fact or appearance. And conversely staff members must be aware that sources are eager to win our good will for reasons of their own.

23. Even though this topic defies hard and fast rules, it is essential that we preserve a professional detachment, free of any whiff of bias. Staff members may see sources informally over a meal or drinks, but they must keep in mind the difference between legitimate business and personal friendship. A City Hall reporter who enjoys a weekly round of golf with a City Council
member, for example, risks creating an appearance of coziness, even if they sometimes discuss business on the course. So does a reporter who joins a regular card game or is a familiar face in a corporation’s box seats or who spends weekends in the company of people he or she covers.

Scrupulous practice requires that periodically we step back and take a hard look at whether we have drifted too close to sources we deal with regularly. The acid test of freedom from favoritism is the ability to maintain good working relationships with all parties to a dispute.

 
At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listening to a proceeding on the same line as someone is not drifting "too close to sources we deal with regularly". Rose to accusing someone of "bias" in reporting is certainly calling the kettle black.

 
At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly, she's like a mouthpiece for extreme right wing kooks.

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger Rose said...

And if Driscoll had been sitting with Maxxam execs? You'd be fine with that? Ok. Embed another reporter with them. But tell both sides.

Problem is, this is a legal proceeding, and anyone related to Maxxam cannot (or should not) comment, in this bizarre and twisted litigious world. Knowing this, Lovelace is able to present his spin, analysis and talking points in a virtual vacumm. Driscoll is a good reporter who just thinks he has a good and reliable source. On his own he would never have had the time to research and digest all that complex financial and legal information.

 
At 5:27 PM, Blogger Steve Lewis said...

Politically managed news in other words.

 
At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, to summarize, the ER cannot show bias over published reports, so it insinuated bias with sleezy distraction.

What happened? Some environmentalist let ER's competition listen to phone calls that cost money, so ER cries foul over ethical guidelines set by an organization that ER doesn't belong to and therefore ER has not sworn to, in order to try to make the competition look bad. Except, there's nothing bad involved. No bias in the reporting. If there was any, ER would have talked about it. Oh My God that is disgusting.

Have you no shame, sir?

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger Jennifer Savage said...

Anyone reading John Driscoll's stories over the years should note that he has always been a solid reporter with not only a fine grasp of the English language but also a real understanding about what he covers. He walks the walk.

That said, his coverage of Palco-related news, as well as any else related to the environment, has never had the slightest "liberal" tone to it – ever. That he would be characterized as "in bed" with "the activists whose sole goal is the destruction of Palco" is ludicrous.

(And, no offense, Rose, but I've yet to meet anyone in Humboldt County whose beliefs that would accurately describe – outside of maybe the standard nutjobs who commandeer any convenient political issue to draw attention to themselves.)

If Driscoll's stories had any evidence of Palco-bashing, then perhaps the ER's column would have a point, but since they don't, then GFS comes across as a sore loser, especially as has been pointed out, the ER doesn't even belong to the SPJ.

But having two papers in town has been a good, good thing for the community overall – and the idea of media being called out is absolutely valid. The success of the blogosphere and its impact on printed media attests to that. But whether in blogs or on paper, an opinion still needs to be based in fact to mean anything.

A name attached helps, too.

 
At 8:31 PM, Blogger Anon.R.mous said...

And, no offense, Rose, but I've yet to meet anyone in Humboldt County whose beliefs that would accurately describe – outside of maybe the standard nutjobs who commandeer any convenient political issue to draw attention to themselves.

Uh, are you living in the same Humboldt County as the rest of us? Not talking about Humboldt County NV here, we are talking about Humboldt County, CA, home to crazy people pushing issues in your face all the time.

You of all people should understand that the "fringe" have almost free reign here in Humboldt.

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Rose said...

Well, I'll tell you Jennifer, as I was reading Driscoll's coverage of the Palco Chapter11 filings, my overriding thought was "Geez, it's like he's getting the talking points straight from Salzman himself." It's exactly what I have come to expect from the Times Standard.

Mark Lovelace is a nice guy, an intelligent articulate and persuasive speaker, with a calm and quiet manner. He is also well-prepped on the intricacies of - all of a sudden, stocks and bankruptcy proceedings.

Anyone who has listened over the last year to Mark Lovelace expound on his theories regarding Palco and the then-impending, and now-actual Chapter 11 filing recognizes his particular finesse of the points.

You all think it is perfectly acceptable for him to use Driscoll in this manner.

I don't.

But then I do not see "Humboldt Watershed Council" as a legitimate "group" either. Nor do I think the general public, who sees "Mark Lovelace, President of Humboldt Watershed Council" quoted, time after time in the paper as an authority, has any idea what the history of "Humboldt Watershed Council" is, what it's connection to Palco activists, to Ken Miller, to the DA's lawsuit IS. No reporter has ever connected the dots, or questioned anything about the legitimacy of this kind of activism. I think they should be clearly identified as a Palco attack group whenever he is quoted on Palco matters. But by sitting in with Driscoll, he can get his points across without even being quoted.

It'll be interesting to see what Driscoll has to say about what steps he may or may not have taken to try to avoid being used, influenced or biased by this affiliation.

 
At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're crazy.

 
At 9:18 PM, Blogger Jennifer Savage said...

I appreciate the discourse, Rose.

First, I wouldn't equate Salzman and Mark Lovelace at all – I have respect for Mark and the work he's done. Calling HWC a "Palco attack group" seems inaccurate to me; I would say that their position is to defend the watersheds that they feel have been "attacked" by Palco. But I also think that which organization one views as the aggressor and which organization one views as the victim is influenced by one's basic politicals leanings – and anything having to do with Humboldt County and nature seems to inevitably fall along party lines.

Point being, from everything I've heard and read (and forgive me for stating the obvious), the Palco issue is a huge complex issue with environmental, economic and emotional ramifications that incite a lot of passionate debate among Humboldt's citizens. So while I disagree with your assessment of Mark and the watershed council, I want to make it clear that I respectfully disagree.

Second (or maybe fourth or fifth by now), just as Mark doesn't come across as dishonest or exploitive – he's hardly some puppetmaster – I don't see John Driscoll as being someone who would allow himself to be used as a mouthpiece for any organization, especially an environmental one. If anything, the T-S' coverage has been historically anti-activist; the perception of their "slant" only shifted when the ER came on the scene. Kinda like how Earth First! makes the Sierra Club appear moderate, or how Fred Phelps makes Focus on the Family seem legit.

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger Eric V. Kirk said...

I especially agree with that last point Jennifer. Activists have referred to TS as "Slime and Slander." It's about framing and moving "the center."

I share your thoughts about Mark L. as well. Certain folk have been falling all over themselves trying to spin the "agenda" of last week's bankruptcy education forum. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar.

 
At 10:43 PM, Blogger Rose said...

I agree, Jennifer, for the most part. And my heading about being "in bed" with the activists is probably just as outrageous as framing this as a spat between two newspapers. Deliberately so, and in reaction, probably more to heraldo's trying to brush it away as nothing of importance than anything else. My role seems to be saying "Hey, look, there's more than one side to this story, there's more here than meets the eye, and you can't keep ignoring the history of this (and other) groups."

Mark Lovelace's personal charisma and ability to communicate his point of view does not change the fact that "Humboldt Watershed Council" is exactly what I have said it is, the latest in Ken Miller's string of "organizations" with a singular purpose. The history is very clear.

I often wonder how Marks' personal integrity allows him to continue to be Ken Miller's tool.

 
At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the history seems very clear in your mind, I'm sure. It must be hell living with all these conspiracy theories.

 
At 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Follow Rose's logic and you get what you pay for. She often quotes garbage from right wing front groups for big industry like ActistCash. Here is one of her mentors:

Berman & Co., a Washington, DC public affairs firm owned by lobbyist Rick Berman, represents the tobacco industry as well as hotels, beer distributors, taverns, and restaurant chains. Berman & Co. lobbies for companies such as Cracker Barrel, Hooters, International House of Pancakes, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Steak & Ale, TGI Friday's, Uno's Restaurants, and Wendy's. It also operates a network of several front groups, web sites, and think tanks that work to keep wages low for restaurants and to block legislation on food safety, secondhand cigarette smoke, and drunk driving.

According to a July 31, 2006, profile of Rick Berman in USA Today, Berman and Co. has 28 employees and takes in $10 million dollars a year, but "only Berman and his bookkeeper wife" know how much of the $10 million ends up in their own pockets. [1]

In a 1999 interview with the Chain Leader, a trade publication for restaurant chains, Berman explained the focus of his lobbying efforts, which mirror his non-profit groups' activities. "In effect, our work is restricted to and focused on issues that affect shareholder value," he said. "These big issues include labor costs as they relate to health insurance and the minimum wage." He also stated that he attacks activists more aggressively than other lobbyists. "We always have a knife in our teeth," he said. Since activists "drive consumer behavior on meat, alcohol, fat, sugar, tobacco and caffeine," his strategy is "to shoot the messenger.... We've got to attack their credibility as spokespersons."

Rose is our very own Bill ORielly

 
At 3:09 AM, Anonymous Nathan Rushton said...

When it was obvious to me that John was listening in with Mark, I told John that I respected him AND his writing, but disagreed with his judgment that it wasn't an issue.

I just think it would be better to disclose where and how he arrived at hearig the first-hand information he reported on.

It isn't sour grapes for me or the ER. When we learned that the CourtCall option was available, my editor and publisher didn't bat an eye at spending the potentially hundreds of dollars per day to make sure we could have a presence covering the important proceeding.

That was before we knew that the T-S was getting a freebie from Lovelace.

And as a reporter who has strived to work hard to report fairly and accurately in a climate where many discount my writing simply becuase I work for a newspaper owned by Rob Arkley, I support a policy of openly disclosing any percieved or real conflict of interest.

I truly believe if it had been reversed and John had been out of the loop and relied on second-hand accounts about a Humboldt Watershed Council hearing and I was invited to a teleconference paid for by PALCO, he might have seen it differently.

If the issue is about money and the exhorbitant costs of being able to fairly cover the bankruptcy proceedings for the community that has a huge interest, but can't be there, then I think that is an argument for why the proceedings should be moved to California.

If the law allows PALCO to have the bankruptcy held in Texas, perhaps there should be a collective approach by all of the area's media to share the costs at a neutral area where everyone can benefit.

The community would benefit.

I truly like John and will admit he has been friendly to me in the "newspaper war," even taking his time on numerous occasions to help me understand issues that he has considerable knowledge of that I am clueless.

While the ER goes overboard to cut and past the Arkley disclaimer into stories it is a stretch to believe we could be in conflict over, we do it to cover our bases and let the readers know in case they care and because it is the right thing to do.

I just think others should be held to the same standard.

 
At 3:16 AM, Blogger Steve Lewis said...

Rose is our very own treasure of information gathering. I have seen Humboldt Watershed Council in action since it's inception and Rose is absolutely right about it being a very heavy duty anti-corporate political organization masquarading as environmental protectors.

I am an environmental protection activists and HWC members are pols. What is the difference? Pols use environmental issues to attack the corporate target but it is the capitalist ownership that is their primary concern--not environmental protection of watersheds. That is just cover.

If HWC really was concerned about protecting watersheds they would be all over their homestead funders as all who are knowledgeable about eco-damage in Humboldt County agree (even EPIC in private) it is the unregulated homestead subdivision pollution of creeks with too much sediment and taking too much vital dry season water away from indigenous watershed wildlife. HWC only continues the politicalization of environmentalism as it joins EPIC and Earth First! in misdirecting Humboldt citizens towards the wrong environmental target.

And this is on top of HWC's founder Bob Martel and Ken Miller's vile attack on our Bear River tribal Heartlands Project in 1997 where these two went out of their way to sabotage our Project's funding attempts.

 
At 3:23 AM, Blogger Steve Lewis said...

Mark Lovelace is just Humboldt Watershed Council's window dressing and thinking their coverage of the Palco bankruptcy is just good community information sharing is like thinking those Greeks sure have given Palco workers a swell horse.

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger Jennifer Savage said...

Hey Nathan,
What you wrote in your column and what you posted on this blog makes sense and, most importantly, is written in a matter-of-fact way that lends itself to better discussion of ethics, etc., than the editorial that ran in the ER.

Because you explained your professional concerns in a personal, thoughtful way, you make a better case for that concern than the editorial quoting the SPJ – which made for lousy reading and seems particularly silly given that the ER doesn't subscribe to the SPJ's ideals enough to commit to becoming a member (or hadn't last time Simmons quoted them – correct me if I'm wrong). I mean, if he thinks something's wrong, just say why it's wrong from his own brain, not by quoting the rules of a game he's not playing. That's what you did, and it works much better.

I still don't believe Mark Lovelace influenced John Driscoll's reporting any more than any of our connections influence ours. It's a small town; we all use who and what we can to put out the best stories for our readers, right? Speaking of putting out stories, I've got a Bay District meeting to write up, so I'm bowing out of this discussion now and buckling down to deadline.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger Fred said...

"It's a small town; we all use who and what we can to put out the best stories for our readers, right?".

Good point, Jennifer.

 
At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems a I read an article in Sunday's ER that relied on an anonymous source for information regarding the county's lawyer's departure. Who is that source? Is the source biased and trying to present a selective picture? Oh wait, the source provided a document. How is that different from Lovelace providing access to listen the entirety of a teleconference call? It's not. Both sources are not speaking about the subject at hand, only providing third-party content unfiltered. Oh wait, no. That's not right. The ER relied on its anonymous source for some interpretation. Ooops. Gee, isn't that unethical? Oh wait, it's called journalism.

The ER sorely needs journalists who understand the profession or it will continue to stumble over itself when it accuses its competition of doing perfectly normal and acceptable things. The knowledge vacuum in the Er offices must bring a rush of air inside every time someone opens the door.

 
At 11:19 AM, Blogger Steve Lewis said...

Both Don Brenard and I were very impressed with E.R. reporter's Heather Miller and Kara Machado's dedication to accurate reporting when they interviewed us about our Heartlands Project and the Bear River tribal political situation.

Kara's won awards for her journalism and I watched Heather refuse to go to print a couple of times because she couldn't nail down facts she thought critical to the accuracy of her report.

 
At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of disreputable journalists, looks like Shawn Warford of the defunct Advocate has raised his ugly head with more of the typical 'Hoover/Sims is Satan' slander at 'what's happening humboldt' a fake blog by a failed publisher who since moved to New Mexico.

 
At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's that TS motto, "without favor or fervor"...something like that.

 
At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovelace's personal integrety is bought and payed for.

 
At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me why Lovelace - who makes banjor's - has any specialization to be spouting about housing, the environment or bankruptcy proceedings with PALCO?

Seems that he appointed himself and expert and the usual followers just fall into line.

 
At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, that should have been "banjos."

 
At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard he puts date rape drugs in peoples drinks, then can easily have his way with them.

 
At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who are these people who are still defending Pacific Lumber's actions, after all these revealing years. Why don't you talk to some PL employees? They hate Maxxam and Hurwitz. Anyone who would dare to defend those criminals has another thing coming.

 
At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Lewis and Chris Crawford, they love palco,still.

 
At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems that the only fact they got wrong was that it was another org paying for the call...Redwood Forest Foundation Inc.

So doesn't the original point remain
though? Who exactly is the

"Redwood Forest Foundation Inc"

A quote their website:

RFFI's purpose is to acquire, protect, restore and manage forestlands for the long-term public benefit of the region's citizens.

Not saying that it isnt a noble or good purpose, but its the same point as if were HWC.

 
At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris Crawford has no personal integrity.

 

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