December 09, 2007

Thin-skinned media can dish it out, can't take it

Why do people distrust the press?

Why does the public believe that journalists are biased?

Allow me to suggest an answer that satisfies the requirements of Occam's Razor, which dictates that the simplest explanation is often the most accurate.

The reason why the press is distrusted is because it is not trustworthy, and the reason why people believe journalists are biased is because they are.

Want an example?

I'll turn to our local fishwrap, the Ventura County Star.

They ran an op/ed piece in today's paper, Howry: Justice for Judge Gutierrez? District Attorney Totten makes himself the judge, slamming the D.A. for trying to remove cases from the courtroom of a judge he believes is putting the public at risk as a result of too lenient sentences.

Go ahead and read the editorial.

Then read the comments that follow it.

You won't see what a fellow named bob100 had to say -- because "(This comment was removed by the site staff.)"

However, I nabbed a copy while it was still up, figuring it was too hard hitting, too -- what's the word? -- factual to survive the editor's delete key.

So, here's what bob100 said this morning:

When you say "It is significant that the DA's Office waited until Gutierrez had mostly completed his mission before registering a complaint" you are ignoring the fact that DA's have been objecting to the judge decriminalizing misdemeanors in this county for quite some time - on the record! This is the first time that the DA finally tried to "paper" (or exercise a 170.6 challenge) to the judge.

You ignore the fact that public defenders paper judges as a group on a regular basis and you don't report on that at all. As a matter of fact, the public defenders are currently angry with Judge McGee in Dept. 14 over security in his courtroom. As a result, they are refusing to waive recitation and reading of rights to punish him - which means that he is required to read the rights to each individual defendant - and that substantially delays and backs up proceedings in that courtroom.

If the backlog is over, it is time for Gutierrez to stop giving away the farm. The number of DAs are down and the board of supervisors has no money to get that back to realistic levels. Sure, the backlog is down - but is compromising public safety a fair price for reducing the backlog when criminals are emboldened by getting a slap on the wrist? Imagine how low the backlog would be if the DA just stopped filing cases? These crimes currently have no punishment, which means these individuals will be committing new crimes and will not be on probation as they should have been, and the crime rates in this county will suffer. A few years from now everyone will say that this used to be the safest county -what happened? What is happening is that judges are not properly punishing defendants and public safety is no longer a priority for the board.

It is interesting that you feel free to question the district attorney without knowing all the facts. If you were the district attorney (who bears responsibility for the safety of the county) and you believed that a judge was not doing his job, what choice would you have but to proceed as he did in this case? He has an obligation to represent the people of the county and followed the proper legal procedures.

Normal judges recuse themselves after a 170.6 is filed. Only Gutierrez refused, and he continues to refuse to do the right thing and give probation when he should, because just as in too many other courts, making the case go away by a plea is a higher priority than the interests of justice.

Frankly, the Star should apologize to Totten for this irresponsible and incorrect editorial. As always, half the facts, half the truth . . .

You can see a screen capture of the comment here.

Now, a little housekeeping. I am not Bob100; I always post comments under my own name, figuring anything worth saying is also worth taking responsibility for having said it. The anonymity of the web leads many people to say outrageous, reprehensible things, statements they'd never make if their names were attached. So I figure it's a speed-limiter, a governor for good behavior, and I prefer to take the extra time for a mental "ten count," cooling off before I post in haste and repent at leisure.

That being said, I also understand that some people can't speak freely, for fear of losing clients, or even their jobs. So, nothing personal, bob100.

As to the subject of the editorial -- and bob100's comment -- I haven't written on the ongoing dispute between my office and the judge because it's all too close.

But it does serve as a perfect example of the media's inability to handle well-informed criticism of its reportage.

Ask anyone closely involved in an industry or profession being targeted by the press, or people involved in an event being reported, and you'll hear a common refrain: "What is that reporter talking about?"

Because most articles are chock-full of mistakes, error after error, misinformation that seems laughable to those persons with first-hand knowledge of what the story purports to report.

In this instance, bob100 -- who sounds like he knows of what he speaks -- posts a critical comment on the Star's website, and within hours it disappears down the memory hole.

And I'm pretty certain it wasn't deleted because it was offensive.

Why do I say that?

Because the following comment by NothingButTheTruth is still available for viewing at 10 p.m., eight hours after it was posted.

Prosecutor bob100, you can take your nose out of Totten's a$$ now. He will reward you with a promotion in due course!

Interesting, isn't it? An ad hominem attack is worth leaving up, but not bob100's criticism of the Star's editor.

Hmmm. I wonder what the Star's guidelines are regarding inappropriate comments?

Well, you can always take another look at the screen capture of bob100's comment; the paper's comments policy is at the bottom.

It says:

You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy.

So, I ask you, which comment fits the above description: the one deleted by Howery's goons, or the one still posted?

What a bunch of pansies.

And two other things.

I can't be promoted by the D.A., so I'm not kissing ass.

And I don't delete critical comments.

UPDATE (9/10/07, 6:40 a.m.): The Star has deleted the comment by NothingButTheTruth.

Bottom line remains the same: a substantive critique (from bob100) was deleted by newspaper staff, while a snarky, content-free comment attacking another reader (NothingButTheTruth, that's you!) survived more than nine hours after posting.

Weak. Very weak.

Posted by Mike Lief at December 9, 2007 11:06 PM | TrackBack


I can sympathize this you, The Houston Chronicle does the same exact thing on a daily basis:

at 12/7/2007 7:14 AM CST
This story was news a week ago but the chronicle doesn't like to post articles like this UNLESS THEY HAVE TO because it doesn't support the editor's ultra liberal agenda (anti-gun,anti-war, anti-American, pro illegal immigration, etc). It is painfully obvious that the editor disagrees with many of our laws and seeks change the "social order" by whatever means necessary including misleading the readers. An example of this was Lisa's last editorial that was presented as "NEWS" (at least this one said "COMMENTARY"). At times they are about as honest & well meaning as Q-Ball X (I get a kick out of how the chronicle likes to use the term "activists").

I wish that the chronicle & the other Hearst newspapers were actually NEWSpapers. Their subscription rates continue to fall for a simple reason which apparently is beyond their editor's grasp. If they just printed the FACT, I'm sure that a majority of people already know how to make up their own minds without help.

Posted by: Hound_Dog at December 10, 2007 08:39 AM

I registered and put in a comment with a link to this post. That way people can see what they're missing.

Posted by: See-Dubya at December 10, 2007 10:40 AM

Looks like the Star has pulled all comments. Here is my post, as accurate as I could make it given what I know about the sitution. My name is now known, but I'll probably do away with the pseudonym in the near future anyway.

Posted by TimeArrow on December 10, 2007 at 9:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Howry is correct in that Judge Gutierrez did a great job. The Judge should be commended for his success in reducing the backlog of misdemeanor cases.

While Mr. Howry criticizes the DA, what he is forgetting is that judges have the ultimate power in the courtroom. They are not generally held accountable for decisions that place innocent citizens in harms way because they can usually argue that they followed the law. Thus, a means must exist with which to challenge judges who, even through well intentioned, stray from the path of true justice.

Mr. Totten is not, as implied above, the person who "...determines justice in Ventura County..."

He is, however, an integral part of the justice system, the goal of which should be public safety while protecting the rights of the accused. This is why Mr. Totten challenged certain decisions of Judge Gutierrez under a law that, in my opinion, should be invoked from time to time to keep judges on the straight and narrow.

What Mr. Howry didn't mention is that the challenged cases were negotiated plea bargains to which the offenders had already agreed. When the DA and Probation recommend probation with certain search terms, a judge should deny such only under extraordinary circumstances which should be made public. The offenders were people who were likely to re-offend, some of whom present a danger to society. Probation, allowing law enforcement the tool to search without cause, is a deterrent and definitely on the plus side for public safety.

Posted by: TimeArrow at December 10, 2007 02:14 PM

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