Dec 22 2017

OPINION: Good Journalism vs. Bad Journalism in Piedmont

A Tale of Two Ledes…

from The Piedmont Post newspaper cover story of 12/20/2017:
“At a meeting on Monday, December 18 the Piedmont City Council voted 3-2 to approve a conditional use permit for the Piedmont Center for the Arts’ sublease to the Piedmont Post after 90 minutes of deliberation.”  The rest of the front page goes on to explain how the Arts Center functions, never mentioning the opposition to the application.  The story makes no mention of the opposition of several School Board members to the application.
from The Piedmonter newspaper and online cover story of 12/22/2017: 
“Despite objections and numerous calls and emails to the city, the Piedmont  City Council approved – by a split vote – a conditional use permit to the Piedmont Post weekly newspaper to move its offices into the nonprofit Piedmont Center for the Arts.”   The rest of the front page goes on to explain the vote (McBain/King/Andersen in favor, Cavenaugh/Rood opposed) and the failure of the Post editor to respond to calls from the reporter to respond.  The story explicitly mentions written comments from a School Board member opposing the application.

One of those stories is good journalism (> Permit OK’d for newspaper to move into Piedmont’s nonprofit arts center), the other buries the story.  Chalk the latter up to “editorial policy” or just bad journalism?

by Garrett Keating, Former Member of the Piedmont City Council and Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

3 Responses to “OPINION: Good Journalism vs. Bad Journalism in Piedmont”

  1. Resigned Mayor Jeff Wieler was given considerable weekly space in the Piedmont Post for years. His column included characterizing Moraga Canyon residents who opposed the Blair Park conversion as “bomb throwing” in a column headed as “Piedmont Taliban.”

    Recently when residents were outraged at Wieler’s hateful, misogynist Facebook posts and spoke out strongly against them, the Post reported in total in the next issue as follows: “A large number of people attended Monday’s council meeting and some spoke about personal facebook posts by Wieler.” Someone with no familiarity of this low-point in Piedmont might presume Wieler was being praised.

    When Wieler resigned a week later, the Post on its front page stated they were discontinuing Wieler’s column because it was space for the sitting Mayor. In fact Wieler had been publishing his weekly column for at least several years before he became Mayor.

  2. Thanks rick – I wasn’t aware of that post-resignation side step by the paper. Yes the Wieler columns ran for years before he was mayor. I’m told the paper gave no coverage of the Planning Commission hearing when this matter first went public. Surprising that a paper that loves to turn the spotlight on PUSD won’t report on its own affairs.

  3. Yes, there was no coverage concerning the Planning Commission’s positive recommendation to the Council. Given the narrow findings they were presented with to rule on, they came to the correct recommendation as content of the Post could not be acted upon in their decision.

    Conditional Use Permits (CUP) require that the use is primarily to serve Piedmont residents. In this regard the Planning Commission found that “The Piedmont Post . . . provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and public engagement.” According to staff and Planning Commission Chairman Ramsey, the CUP correctly “Should not be decided based on the content of the Piedmont Post.” Therefore by this City finding, it is valid to examine whether the Post provides a forum as this finding is not an examination of content and does not infringe free speech rights.

    Does the Post provide an equal forum for all residents is a relevant and legitimate question.

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