News

Publisher's Note: On the impact of journalism in our community

 

The value of a local newspaper is never more apparent than during an election year.

In late 2018, the Pleasanton Weekly and its sister publication, DanvilleSanRamon.com, hosted four candidate forums, reported on the campaigns, held interviews and wrote dozens of endorsements, and covered the results from the time the polls closed until the official results were in over a week later.

We continued our normal coverage of city council and school board meetings, crime, deaths, court cases and spent hours requesting public records in incidents that the public questioned, like the drowning of a high school freshman in Danville or the death of a Pleasanton man in police custody.

This is journalism. It's not sexy clickbait like speculating on which movie star is getting married or who posted what on social media, nor is it mindless entertainment like cat videos. It is a necessary service to the public -- an essential commodity, like water, schools and fire protection. But journalism is not a public service in the dictionary definition of the term because it is not provided or funded by a government or its agencies, for good (and obvious) reasons.

Some people seem to look at news as a public service because it's readily available. "Free" news, like what you find on Google, is not really free. It is Google aggregating stories produced by news organizations that employ journalists; Google reaps the revenue from advertisers and the news organizations pay the journalists.

There's no news flash here: Traditional news organizations are struggling financially and the first place many go to cut costs is the newsroom. This, in turn, is becoming costly to the public as this deficit leaves public agencies and local governments under-examined.

The number of journalists has decreased in double-digit percentages in the past decade. According to Occupational Employment Statistics data, nationwide there were 58,170 reporters in 2007. In 2017, there were 44,480, a decline of 23.5% In California, there were 6,210 reporters in 2007, and 3,960 in 2017, a drop of 36.2%.

The number of public relations positions, however, increased during that time period. Now in the U.S. there are 5.25 public relations specialists for each reporter; in California the ratio is 6.8 to 1.

So, in other words, in California there are seven people distributing information that reflects the subject matter in only a positive light, to the one person with the job to question and counter the claims in that information.

In 2012, Pew Research Center analyzed sources for presidential candidate information for that year's election and reported a "sharp rise in the influence of partisan voices, spin doctors and surrogates in shaping what the public is told about the biography and the character of the candidates," which the center's analysts connected to the "diminishing reportorial resources in newsrooms."

During the presidential race of 2016, the deteriorating state of media became more noticeable as credible organizations, weakened by years of newsroom layoffs, gave way to increased use by the public of unprofessional news sources such as hyper-partisan sites and stations and social media. Misinformation proliferated without ceasing.

The Tri-Valley's municipal elections of 2018 served as a local wake-up call about the importance of professional community journalists.

The social media platform NextDoor was used in the San Ramon race to launch smear campaigns against candidates who had little ability to counter the falsehoods with accurate information.

Also during the election, a local publication spent a huge amount of time and money creating "news" that reflected only one side of the argument -- the side the publication's owner wanted people to know.

Both are examples of why professional journalism is so important on a local level.

News organizations like the Pleasanton Weekly are small businesses, with payroll, rent and utility bills like any other business. We have two sources of revenue: advertising and support from readers.

Support from readers comes in a few different forms. For example, readers can acknowledge our advertisers by mentioning they saw the ads in the Pleasanton Weekly or on PleasantonWeekly.com and by patronizing those businesses.

There is also our Support Local Journalism program.

A paid membership subscription, starting at $5 per month, entitles members to delivery of our weekly printed newspaper and unlimited 24/7 access to all our online content and archives. Subscribers are invited to members-only events, privy to "insider" information and eligible to claim tickets to the Alameda County Fair, the new movie theater in San Ramon, The Lot, and other special events and venues. Learn more at www.pleasantonweekly.com/join.

As we start the new year, I encourage you to reflect on the impact of local journalism in your life.

Then please consider supporting us so we can maintain a strong news organization.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 4, 2019 at 10:02 am

Brad is a registered user.

VERY good points. We really need verified , unbiased, news coverage in a competent manner. Hooray for good journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Dawn Argula
a resident of Livermore
on Jan 7, 2019 at 11:11 am

Thank you for this timely and important commentary. Sadly, I suspect that this is probably not getting the attention a social media post might receive. This organization appreciates and supports the delivery of accurate, factual and timely reporting. It seems as though major news outlets have abandoned covering the Tri-Valley I-580/I-680 corridor communities leaving us vulnerable to the manipulation of factual information. Journalistic professionalism of the highest standard should be the bar by which we measure the information we use to support us in reasoned decision making. Thank you for your efforts in upholding and meeting this standard.-Dawn Argula, CEO Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce


2 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 8, 2019 at 11:59 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Hello Gina,

It's a shame that print is slowly going by the wayside. I have truly enjoyed reading and commenting here in Townhall and on the Blogs.

I've been observing our youth, my daughters in particular but also my nieces and nephews and friends kids.

I've noticed one critical thing with regards to media: none of them watch TV or read from traditional sources, its all mobile devices, primarily phones. I can only imagine the immediate impact on your newspapers, but cannot fathom what media looks like when my oldest (at 17) gets to be my age. The industry must really be in a quandary.

I don't have an answer, but I'm sure those that are able will adapt, and those that don't will either shutter or be sold off.

Sad...

Thanks for all the discussions.

Dan


Like this comment
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 9, 2019 at 10:21 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

Gina,

One further note.

After the Presidents speech last night, many in the media set about "fact-checking" every statistic he uttered.

Here is what the Washington Post had to say about his saying that 266,000 aliens are arrested every year:

"Fact-checking Trump's address: "266,000 aliens arrested in the past two years": The number is right but misleading".

Did you catch that? They say his number is CORRECT, but "MISLEADING".

Web Link

This type of reporting DOES NOT help journalism. In fact, it drives people away, wanting to look at more unbiased source for information.

Those of you in journalism (and particularly in management of journalism) should take a step back, look at reporting like the above link and ask yourselves if this sort of biased reporting is good for business. Hint: its not.

Instead, I believe that most companies are looking at where the floor is in their market and then right-size for servicing that customer base. This further polarizes both sides of our current political debate, but hey, they get to finally make something approaching a profit.

Interesting times ahead.


Like this comment
Posted by Doug
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

@DKHSK :"Did you catch that? They say his number is CORRECT, but "MISLEADING". This type of reporting DOES NOT help journalism. In fact, it drives people away, wanting to look at more unbiased source for information. "

Welcome to the real world, Dan. Trump has made some factually accurate but misleading statements. I would agree with you that this particular case doesn't seem so misleading or at least the Washington Post writer didn't make a convincing case that it was misleading. As for your "unbiased sources of information", I've seen many posters on forums talking about such sources but, curiously, they never actually say what these "unbiased sources of information" are. Why is that? What are these mysterious "unbiased sources of information" that so many posters mention but are apparently very reluctant to reveal?


3 people like this
Posted by Gina Channell, Publisher
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 9, 2019 at 12:52 pm

Gina Channell, Publisher is a registered user.

@DKHSK, I agree. By using the word "misleading," the writer introduced his opinion into the story.

This is a great example of how traditional news organizations have been hurt by layoffs and the "beat the competition" world of online journalism.

Back in my day (30 years ago) at a daily newspaper in Illinois, a reporter would have written something like, "Of the xx,xxx arrests, xxx were illegal border crossing offenses." Facts - not opinion. If a reporter did veer into opinion in a news story, an editor would have caught it before it made it to print.

Editors like the one who mentored me are a rarity now. Most organizations have reporters just out of college with nobody to teach them the ropes. (By the way, Dallas Morning News laid off 43 newsroom employees yesterday.)

Equally as disturbing is the lack of media literacy among young people. They have become so desensitized by blogs, hyperpartisan podcasts and cable shows and blatantly skewed reporting that many have difficulty differentiating news from opinion.


Like this comment
Posted by Doug
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:28 pm

@Gina

As I mentioned in my previous post, I don't think that the Washington Post write made a convincing argument that Trump's statement was misleading in this case. However, note that this Washington Post piece that we are discussing is not a regular Washington Post article. Rather, it was one in a series of short, real-time fact-checking updates that were quickly written while Trump was giving his speech last night. You can see that this particular update was written at 6:09pm in the middle of Trump's speech. I think that some allowance has to be given for that. The situation isn't directly comparable to your experiences working for a Illinois daily paper 30 years ago when articles could be written and reviewed and reviewed again at a (relatively) leisurely pace and many people were still using mechanical typewriters. The editor that you worked for 30 years ago would have been amazed by the idea of news organizations putting out real-time fact-checking updates during a Presidential speech.


Like this comment
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:47 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Doug,

So you blame technology and timelines for false reporting?

Let's say that you're right in implying that either of those two things are at fault for someone writing something 'inaccurately'.

If that is the case, then you would expect a correction, would you not?

Here we are, 20 hours after it was written and still no correction. Where is it?

It isn't coming.

Why? Because the customer on the left wants to believe that Trump was misleading, and their information source is betting that they saw past the part where they proved Trump was factually correct, but still wanted to bait their customers so that they just keep coming back for more.

The Right wing publications do this too with their customer base.

I've said until I'm blue in the face: The left and the right are using their 'customers' against each other. And they're doing so even more now because of Trump.

He represents a threat to them because he can't be bought off like past presidents and current politicians. He doesn't 'play the game'.

Aren't you tired of being lied to by the left and right career politicians and media?

Dan


Like this comment
Posted by Gina Channell, Publisher
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Gina Channell, Publisher is a registered user.

@Doug, That's exactly my point - things are changing and not all of it is good. The internet has expanded the ability of people to be informed, which is great, but it's also expanded the vulnerability of people to be manipulated.

Remember this farce? Web Link (Note that this is a blog, which is by nature an opinion piece.)

It's also altered the business model for news media and professional journalism is giving way to pseudo-news and opinion that looks like news.

There's a "beat the competition" mentality, which is not a bad thing, but also a lack of understanding on the part of the reporter that even those updates should not contain opinion.

Opinion in news stories is become commonplace because many experienced, professional journalists are leaving (laid off or for better-paying, more-secure positions) and less experienced reporters are given the work of three people and nobody to edit their work or mentor them.

This is a good conversation. Thank you for the comments.


1 person likes this
Posted by Al
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:50 pm

The Pleasanton Weekly is an advertising publication, but I would disagree that it covers local news in the community.

For example, it is all over the news that a SWAT team arrived about 24 hours ago in Pleasanton in a neighborhood in search for the murder suspect of the youngster killed at the Belmont Elementary school. SWAT and multiple law enforcement agencies roped off an entire section of a neighborhood.

The Pleasanton Weekly, 24 hours later, mentions nothing about this.

You would have to wonder whether any of the reporting or editorial staff actually live in Pleasanton or whether they all work remotely in another city.

Also, a few weeks ago, Gene's Fine Foods was closed by Alameda County for failing health inspections. Again, no mention of it in the Pleasanton Weekly.

This publication only seems to cover Rotary and Chamber of Commerce mixers.


Like this comment
Posted by Gina Channell, Publisher
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:56 pm

Gina Channell, Publisher is a registered user.

We are aware of the warrant being served in the Belmont case and are trying to get questions answered by PPD and Belmont PD.

We try to be accurate and timely, but accuracy is priority. For example, we don't know if there was a SWAT team. The ABC story got that information from "a man working in the neighborhood." And he's not even named.

Also, why didn't you send a news tip on Gene's so we could follow up? editor@pleasantonweekly.com

We have staff who live in Pleasanton or at least the Tri-Valley. Remember, we work at a news organization ... most of us can't afford to live in Pleasanton.


1 person likes this
Posted by Al
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2019 at 1:57 pm

Both the TV news, the Patch and the Mercury News covered the SWAT situation in Pleasanton ---

Web Link

Web Link

Still there is nothing whatsoever in the Pleasanton Weekly about it.


2 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 9, 2019 at 2:06 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Gina,

"This is a great example of how traditional news organizations have been hurt by layoffs and the "beat the competition" world of online journalism."

Spot on. But I would add that publications such as yours also feed into the "US vs. THEM" scenario I outlined to Doug.

Evidence? I point out your papers position on SC Judge Kavanaugh and the hearings surrounding his appointment.

Your guest opinion writer was incorrect on a lot of her assertions. Evidence to his innocence was clearly available to her and was pointed out in the comments section. No retraction was ever forthcoming even after multiple FBI investigations and other side investigations could find no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part.

After he was voted though, the issue was dropped entirely off the face of the earth. It was like nobody on the left or in the media ever heard of him.

Wonder why?

Anyway, that was rhetorical.

Thanks...and good talk.

Dan


Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 12, 2019 at 10:08 pm

I was an observer, when in 1988-1989 the Chicago Tribune bought up several small newspapers on the peninsula. Several local small newspapers were gobbled up by the Chicago tribune. Following the purchase, the tribune called this multiple local newspaper purchase "The Peninsula Times tribune".

The tribune brought in a couple of masterminds from the Seattle area to manage this operation form the Palo Alto facility on University Avenue. I personally witnessed these masterminds destroy nearly all of these small newspapers.

Out of that dust toady, we have the Pleasanton Weekly, Danville San Ramon, Palo Alto Times, Mountain View Voice, maybe one or two others. I do not have memory of Pleasanton Weekly or Danville San Ramon being involved with that initial Chicago Peninsula purchase.

Would the Embarcadero Media write and publish this history regarding the Chicago Tribune purchase of these small local newspapers that were on the Peninsula, the cities where those publications served, and what happened to them, which ones still publish?


Like this comment
Posted by Liz
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2019 at 11:59 pm

Here is part of what you may be looking for Michael

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Tunisha Rodriguez-Lee
a resident of Walnut Hills
on Jan 18, 2019 at 11:38 pm

I earned a Master's degree in Communications and Journalism.

Instead of seeing a discussion on journalism, which I had hoped to see on this neighborhood chat board, I saw a mini-witch-hunt for 'errors' in the President's speech. This isn't about journalism, it is about poking around to get peer approval on political stance. I'm for law enforcement, for supporting our country's president, for a safe, happy, prosperous community. That being said...

I doubt that in this political environment you are going to sell papers that are talking about neighborhood watch, a new brand of apple at the Farmer's Market or who won the Pic-6 at the Pleasanton Races.

Contemporary media audiences have a limited attention span. If you do not have a FB page or a mobile app with a hint of partisanship, you might not do as well as you would like. Conservative and Christians have money. I would keep that in mind before pandering to any President Trump witch-hunter.

Caio!


Like this comment
Posted by Doug
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 19, 2019 at 8:35 am

@Tunisha Rodriguez-Lee

Seems that someone with a degree in Comminications and Journalism should be able to express themself more clearly and coherently. There were multiple head scratching moments in your meandering, stream-of-consciousness post.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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