Mtn Democrat Suffers Compared to Respected Newspapers - Editorial
- March 12, 2014 - MD Runs first story of DA Candidate Judson Henry and prints picture of Some other person calling it Judson Henry. Paper never contacted Henry to get a picture, or to verify the picture found on facebook was actually Henry.
- March 14, 2014 - MD writes, "The photo accompanying the article 'DA candidate just arrived' is of a Judson Henry supporter, not the candidate himself."
- March 26, 2014 - MD writes, "He (Judson) cited his reason for dropping out of the race as saving his son the exposure that would accompany the campaign."
- April 16, 2014 - MD starts editorial by making fun of Judson Henry's name and goes on to write, "He now returns to his Placer County residence..." The editorial went on to boldly state that his name will NOT be on the ballot. It seems the writer simply took the word of someone without even checking with the Election department to see if it was true.
- April 18, 2014 - MD wrote, "Contrary to the editorial on April 16, District Attorney candidate Judson Henry’s name will be on the June primary ballot."
To this date, the MD continues to take for fact the claims of the DA's supporters that Judson Henry does not live at the address given in Placerville. Yet, no one has issued a challenge to the Elections department about his residency, not his opponent's supporters, not even the DA that is being challenged by Henry.
Also unreported by the MD is that a couple of weeks ago his ex-wife in Placer county had a personal emergency and needed Judson to come to her home and take custody of his son, as she is the primary caretaker. She called the Sheriff because Judson was not answering his phone. Within minutes the El Dorado County sheriff arrived at his home in the early morning hours to wake him up and let him know he needed to contact his ex-wife. The Sheriff's department had no issue finding Henry's residence, but the MD continues to print unsupported claims made by the DA’s supporters, of surveillance proving Henry does not live in the county, as if it were fact.
This embarrassing chronology is but one example of the bias of the local newspaper. Readers find the local paper replete with similar examples when reporting on candidates and elected officials that do not meet the Editor’s personal preferences. Reporting about Supervisors Ray Nutting and Ron Briggs, candidates challenging his personal friends Vern Pierson and Joe Harn, and any issue relating to the recent BOS action to eliminate the significant bonuses that his wife was making as an elected county Tax Collector, are met with biased and slated coverage that is transparent for any astute reader.
As the only printed paper in the local market, readers cannot exercise choice and are locked into the sole paper’s poor reporting. Some have simply cancelled their subscription when the paper reached a new low of name calling. One said, “I remember name calling when I was seven years old, but it stopped about the time I was ten. By ten we had grown past name calling!”
Today we see another story about El Dorado County politics, from the Sacramento Bee, not from the MD.
What a refreshment to see a well written story by a respected newspaper about an El Dorado County issues. Our local newspaper’s reputation in the journalism world of Northern California is one of "Poor" quality. Even the local college communications classes that require students to subscribe to a number of newspapers as their class work are prohibited from using the Mountain Democrat newspaper with the explanation that the students need "Good" examples of newspapers for the class purposes and the Mountain Democrat does not meet that standard!
“Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred,” Joseph Goebbels.
Too many recent stories about politics in the local newspaper are so slanted, poorly written, and replete with errors that simple fact checking would have eliminated, that the paper is on the edge of collapse as subscriptions plummet. Many decade-long subscribers have cancelled their subscriptions out of disgust with the paper's use of the rights of the press to mask clear personal and political bias. Some have placed the blame on Editor Mike Raffety explaining that he is in-bed with the government and unable to serve the public good because of his close financial ties to local government officials.
Unlike the local paper, Sac Bee writers like Peter Hecht and Cathy Locke are well respected for being fair and objective in their writing. They provide all relevant sides to a story and are known to fact-check and contact people about whom the story is related before going to press. Seldom do we ever see these reporters issuing corrections because they did not make an effort to check facts.
This stands in stark contrast to the stories appearing in the Mt. Democrat related to local politics which are one-sided and full of avoidable errors due to lack of diligence in fact checking, or much less palatable ulterior motives.
Many people feel the paper under Raffety's leadership is failing to do its job as a watchdog for the public which it serves. Good reporting is the foundation of our government's highest protections often referred to as "Freedom of the Press." This Constitutional protection is granted to give the People a counter-balance to the overwhelming power of the government to trample on the citizens rights and authority over the government that represents them.
One commenter responded to a recent story in the Mt. Democrat as "Hitler Propaganda" due to its clear bias and appearance as mouthpiece of the government.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, says that "Congress shall make no law....abridging (limiting) the freedom of speech, or of the press..." Freedom of speech is closely linked to freedom of the press.
The Constitution's framers provided the press with broad freedom. The First Amendment's protection of speech and expression is central to the concept of American political system. Free speech is an indispensable tool of self-governance in a democratic society. It enables people to obtain information from a diversity of sources, make decisions, and communicate those decisions to the government.
Rather than having the government establish and dictate the truth, freedom of speech enables the truth to emerge from diverse opinions. Concurring in Whitney v. California (1927), Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that "freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth."
Freedom of speech is also an essential contributor to the American belief in government confined by a system of checks and balances, operating as a restraint on tyranny, corruption and ineptitude. The United States was founded on the revolutionary principles of John Locke, who taught that under the social compact sovereignty always rests with the people, who never surrender their natural right to protest, or even revolt, when the state exceeds the limits of legitimate authority. Speech is thus a means of "people-power," through which the people may ferret out corruption and discourage tyrannical excesses.
Although many love our local paper and hope for its continued existence, we also welcome the Sacramento Bee in the local market and hope the market pressure will cause the management and ownership to rethink their practices and reform them to meet the needs of the people. And specifically to Peter Hecht and Cathy Locke, thank your for your thorough, fair and balanced reporting. We hope to see more of your stories about issues in the El Dorado County market.
Cris Alarcon, Owner & Editor of the Placerville Newswire.