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Hung out to dry on the blue line 

If you want evidence of bias in the newspapers, consider this: The crumbling husks of daily newspapers are filling their depleted news holes during the worst recession in American history with stories about the demise of … newspapers. I understand that newspaper writers are interested in the topic. I agree it matters to society. But does the coverage track with how important the troubles of newspapers really are compared to the scope of the nation’s troubles these days?

Typing the words “bankruptcy” and “newspaper” into Google’s news search returns 7,495 items. That’s more than a tenth of all times the word bankruptcy is mentioned in any news stories. Certainly there have been a handful of newspaper closures recently grabbing attention. Yet this isn’t a new story, it is simply the acceleration of a longstanding trend. It’s as if the other shoe that was hanging out there for the industry has suddenly fallen. Do the bankruptcies of a handful of newspapers—most of them the “other” major dailies in their regions—really compare to the scope of, say, the potential collapse of the American auto industry, the highest unemployment rates in 25 years, the massive California foreclosure debacle? Clearly, to most people, the demise of newspapers is not a tragedy. The Pew Center for Journalism (I’d comment on the name but the brave editors have implemented a no-fart-joke policy) found that 63 percent of people said they’d miss their local dailies little or not at all.

Speaking of disturbing news. This just in from the Aspen Daily News: “A part-time male model allegedly struck a chips-n-salsa server at La Contina … just after striking a pose on the runway at a Belly Up ski-wear fashion show Wednesday night.”

Why do I bring this to your attention? Next graph: “Police say William Kai Beech, 28, knocked out the waiter and bit another’s hand after slamming a shot on the bar at the Mexican hotspot at about 10 p.m.”

Need another clue? Kai Beech is the rugby-playing former New Times staff writer; he’d also worked for the Tribune and KVEC radio before moving to Aspen last year, so we can’t take full credit. He’s facing a felony charge of second-degree assault. Godspeed, Kai, whatever that means.

Now check this out: Go to Wikileaks.org. If we don’t have investigative reporting, at least we have this site, where you can find things like fraternity initiation manuals (creepy), torture documents, Scientology insider reports, and Army Ranger field manuals. Good stuff, and it just piles up more and more every day. You be the investigative reporter. Or, better yet, if you work somewhere where they have documents nobody wants anybody to see, drop them to Wikileaks: they don’t record your ISP addresses, and they fight all lawsuits compelling them to provide information. A federal judge tried to shut them down last year and failed. Here’s one on my dream list: Somebody drop them the County’s secret report into the eavesdropping done by Sheriff Pat Hedges

Speaking of, they don’t like to provide anyone 911-call tapes over at Hedges’ office, especially not when the tapes involve calls from the Hedges’ home asking sheriff’s deputies to escort Sheriff Hedges away. So how come they were all happy as Gilmore to host a crap cable television program last week all about playing SLO County’s 911 calls? The unimaginatively named cable TV show Call 911 set up at the Sheriff HQ to shoot scenes for a show focused on the Avila Beach shark attack, a girl calling 911 to get help for her dad, and the call from a person whose car was under attack.

Finally, on a Sheriff-related matter: A warning to those who would dare engage in the legislative process. It’s a blood sport.

There’s a nasty split brewing in the influential sheriffs’ union the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association. As part of that fight one deputy wrote to Sen. Abel Maldonado complaining about the potential costs of a bill that would make correctional officers, those who work at the county jail, “peace officers,” just like the guys on the street. Opponents say that move could cost the county money through richer benefits and, according to the deputies who are looking to split off from the union, carry water for DSA leaders Tony Perry and Dale Strobridge in their attempts to stay in power even after the coming coup.

That’s all backstory. Here’s what happened. One of the deputies wrote to Maldonado, from his own computer, on his own time, to object to the bill. Within hours, the e-mail had made its way straight from Maldonado to Perry, who promptly e-mailed the deputy, at work, to warn him to change his position or face the prospect Perry could “embarrass” him on the issue. The lesson was clear: Maldonado is working fist-in-glove with one side against the other. After the deputy complained, Maldonado wrote back to say it is a “common practice” to share opposition letters with the “official sponsor” of a bill, which he identifies as the Peace Officers Research Association of California. He said he never intended for the e-mail to be used in the way it was and “I do regret that these actions have been misrepresented.” Whatever that means.

First of all, if PORAC, as it’s known, is the sponsor how does that justify sending it straight to the deputy’s DSA enemies, who are not, as far as I can tell, PORAC officers? Second of all, I find it creepy as hell that senators like Maldonado don’t write their own bills and act openly as shills to special interests—just passing any complaints about the bills offered under their own names to the lobbyists pulling their strings. Something’s not right.

Bottom line: Maldonado left this guy hanging out there, and if he’d do it to a cop, he’d do it to you.

Shredder is sad that the Rotarians drank more at their St. Paddy’s day breakfast than he did all day. Write to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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