[Cross-posted from DailyKos.]
Yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle had an infuriating opinion piece by Dick Rogers, the paper’s Reader Representative.
He is replying to the overwhelming objections of readers to a Page A1 story about a “folksy grandma” who happens to be a viscious anti-gay bigot (what I would call a “political extremist”).
In it, he quotes a “Mendocino County woman” as having written to him:
A sentiment to which I couldn’t agree more. However, Mr. Rogers seems not to even understand what “Mendocino County woman” is saying, in his rush to defend the “conspiratorial press”.
More of Rogers’ straw-men, as well as my e-mail to him, with links not included in the original e-mail, below:
–“Mendocino County woman”
To which Rogers accuses this reader of not wanting to see “the awful truth of this administration’s business”:
And then to make it worse, he goes on to state that “folksy grandma” bigot is more historically important than “the awful truth of this administration’s business”:
By that measure, the paper was not only right to tell the story of the “folksy grandma,” it was obliged to.
Obliged to! Obliged to? At what expense?
My answer was this:
Date: Fri Apr 22, 2005 10:51:45 AM US/Pacific
To: readerrep at sfchronicle dot com
Subject: Hypnotized by a conspiratorial press.
Attachments: There is 1 attachment
Dear Mr. Rogers:
I think you completely missed the point of what the “Mendocino County woman” was saying when she wrote to you that,
“The American public is being hypnotized by a conspiratorial press that markets the religious right’s agenda as being as American as apple pie and one that hides the awful truth of this administration’s business on Page A14 or doesn’t print it at all.”
There is nothing in this statement that indicates that the writer thinks the Chronicle should refrain from printing “uncomfortable” stories; only that stories about political extremists shouldn’t be marketed in “American as apple pie” language.
Further, there is nothing in the writer’s statement as quoted by you indicating that there isn’t archival value to such stories, but that other stories with far more alarming implications for the future history of these United States belong on page A1, rather than being buried on “Page A14”.
These extremely serious charges being levied at your paper, and you didn’t address either of them.
By way of example, in the same edition where your “Stories that make you see red” article appeared, there is a little story on page A6 (buried in the middle of Section A), about the Bolton nomination, and it’s only an AP wire story to boot. On Wednesday you printed another wire story on the Bolton hearing. Both these stories used the word “unsubstantiated” to describe the accusations of Melody Townsel, all while the Washington Post reports in its Wednesday edition that,
“[Senator] Biden said committee aides recently heard from a person who corroborated [Melody Townsel]’s claim…”
–“Panel Delays Vote on Bolton Nomination to U.N.”
By Charles Babington and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page A01
Page A1, Mr. Rogers.
Yet at no point did The Chronicle cover our own California Senator Boxer’s accusation that the new Secretary of State is violating the constitution and refusing to provide information to the Senate Committee charged with advising the Executive on its nominations, a pdf copy of which I attach below.
Now I ask you, Mr. Rogers, which is more worthy of coverage, letalone on Page A1:
(1) Substantiated accusations of criminal behavior on the part of the nominee for the world’s highest diplomatic position, followed by an unconstitutional cover-up at the cabinet level.
(2) A colorful story about how even “folksy grandmas” can be political extremists.
And which has more archival value?
I would argue that the Republican Party’s systematic destruction of our Constitutional Democracy is the biggest ongoing story of 21st Century American history.
You have done Chronicle readers a grave disservice, all the more egregious in your position as our representative, by not addressing “Mendocino County woman” ‘s charges directly, and by adding insult to injury with your “we’re uncomfortable” and “the great archive” straw-man arguments.
We can see what’s going on, and the sooner you address it with your editorial staff, the better for the Chronicle’s bottom line. As you say, there are plenty of other sources of news to which your local advertisers won’t have commercial access.
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