http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2007/06/29/talking-points


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - June 29, 2007

Talking points

Why did they do that? New column addresses reader questions

by Gina Channell-Allen

Newsflash! We are living in an ever-changing, evolving media climate. How we get our news, when we get our news and who provides our news has morphed into something completely different from what we knew five years ago.

"News consumers," which used to be called readers, and "news gatherers," which used to be called staffers, are finding this new information era somewhat confusing, sometimes frustrating and always challenging. These challenges, coupled with a few issues raised recently, led to the creation of this column; its purpose is to answer questions Pleasanton residents have about their newspaper and how it operates.

Have you ever wondered why the editors choose to cover one event but not another? Or why you never saw a report on the incident down the street, the one with all the police cars and people in handcuffs?

Last week, the Pleasanton Weekly's policy on identifying writers of Letters to the Editor was challenged during a City Council meeting. Anne Fox, chairwoman of the Pleasanton Planning Commission, submitted a letter to the editor and our editorial staff included her title when it was published. This is a standard policy. We would do the same if the superintendent of schools, chamber president or mayor wrote a letter to the editor. Individuals, especially those in public positions, cannot expect detachment from their titles by simply omitting it.

As journalists, we are committed to seeking the truth and reporting it as fully as possible. Just as we are obligated to correct an error or omission on our part, we are obligated to withhold, correct or note errors or omissions on the part of letter writers if we are aware of them. We would not publish something we knew was not factual. Omitting the fact that the writer of that particular letter to the editor was in fact the chairperson of the planning commission would have been a known error of omission.

I welcome your comments and questions about the Pleasanton Weekly, its Web site, the coverage and how the newspaper operates, and will tackle these and other issues weekly.

Gina Channell-Allen, a 20-year journalism veteran, is the president of the East Bay division of Embarcadero Publishing Company, president of the Pleasanton Weekly and publisher of the Danville Weekly. Send questions to gallen@pleasantonweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Anoop D, a resident of Sycamore Place
on Jun 29, 2007 at 5:41 pm

If we want people in public positions to air their views without fear of repurcussions - then it makes sense to respect one's wish to be anonymous.

If we don't - we may miss out on important opinions.

Two issues to consider are

1. What is the media's role/stand? If a source wants to stay anonymous should we respect that.

2. Are opinions/suggestions more important than the identity of the people suggesting them? If so, we should respect the request to be anonymous in the interest of airing those views/opinions.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 29, 2007 at 9:50 pm

I saw nothing wrong with identifying Anne Fox's title despite the misunderstanding that arose. Readers would not otherwise know who the letter writer was and their involvement in what they are writing about. I also saw the situation as Ms. Fox putting herself in this conflicting position by not explicitly stating she was writing as a private citizen.

Anoop, people in public positions are not always at liberty to "air their views" since they are servants of the people (can you imagine the damage if President Bush were to air his personal views?). Most public servants avoid conflict of interest by resigning their posts to pursue activities as private citizens.


Posted by John, a resident of Foothill Farms
on Jul 1, 2007 at 10:04 am

It is nice of you to sound so pompous. But how come you did not come forward to publish this policy several weeks ago when the City COuncil first accused Anne Fox of using her title. No, you waited until the damage was done and then come forward to say "Oh, that is just our Policy". BUt you are willing to run front page stories and editorials criticizing Anne Fox for doing what almost every other commissioner (Matt Sullivan, Brian Arkin, Jerry Thorne) has done in the past...that is work on initiatives that are not in agreement with the city council. How convenient for you.


Posted by John, a resident of Foothill Farms
on Jul 4, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Stacey

I agree with you. My concern is how the Weekly let weeks pass before stating their policy publicly. They should have said something right away rather than let the politics build on this thing. I wonder how objective the weekly truly is...