"Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government."
Hugo Black, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
It goes without saying that a free press and a free society go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other.
Right now, we're living in a period of illusion - the illusion of all-knowing connectivity. With the birth of the internet, many people have come to believe that there is more free flowing information than ever before in human history. And that is true - to a point.
But there is also a great deal of misinformation flowing freely. All of our various forms of electronic communication do indeed open up new channels for the free exchange of ideas from person to person. On the other hand, these same mediums also offer new, sweeping ways to obscure, distort and otherwise channel people away from accurate information.
So let's discus the situation in Port Angeles and Clallam County. What are our options for obtaining information? Are they unbiased? Are they accurate?
I'll focus here on our printed media, so things like KONP will not really fit into this discussion right now. (Yes, they have a website with little written reports on it, but I suspect that very few people ever go there. Plus, Dick Goodman, who writes most of what goes on their website is ill-tempered, nearly illiterate, and lets his ideology show in everything.)
First up is, of course, the Peninsula Daily News. Would you perhaps agree with me that the PDN is not exactly a standard-bearer for truth and/or accuracy in reporting? I thought so. It is the intent of starting this discussion to try to find insights into their operation that might - might - identify ways to, if nothing else, shame them into actually doing their job well, and serving the community. Now, let's examine some of the key players there.
Your call is important to me. How about if I get back to you...never. Is never good for you?
Publisher John Brewer seems to be employed to take vacations. Seriously, almost every time I've called the PDN wanting to talk to him about something, he's (supposedly) out of town. Hawaii is frequently cited. When you do get him, he's always anxious to pass the buck - or complaint - along to someone else to handle. In public, he seems to like to alternate between being the back-slapping happy fellow, or the gruff, serious "journalism" type. In either role he is laughable, as is his paper and his extremely hands-off stewardship of same. Other than that he lives in a huge house and is generally unavailable, I have no idea what supposedly qualifies this guy to run a newspaper. What can you tell us about John Brewer? Does he care? Has he no shame? Is he familiar with the notion of journalistic ethics?
Executive Editor Rex Wilson seems to be more consistent than John Brewer. Rex always seems to be angry, and always is unpleasant. No matter the subject, no matter the time of day, Rex presents as the Angry Man. Now, perhaps this is due to working at the PDN, which is sure to be a soul-killing experience. But really, it might be nice, if only for a little contrast, if Rex could be a wee bit courteous or professional every so often. Anyway, what can you tell us about Rex Wilson? Why is he so pissed off all the time? Does he realize that people he talks to are actually customers of his rag?
Managing Editor Leah Leach is kind of like a female Rex Wilson. Her motto seems to be "Misery loves company." Again, what gives? What can you tell us about Leah Leach? Is she being forced to work at the PDN against her will?
Now we come to someone who doesn't appear on the PDN's masthead or editorial command and control column, but who has a great deal of (malicious) influence on the content of the paper nonetheless. Of course I am talking about Paul Gottlieb, our own local Gollum. At the paper, Paul is primarily in charge of writing incredibly skewed and one-sided "news" stories towing the local party line, and doing everything he can to keep letters to the editor that do not tow the party line out of the paper. Want to say that Obama is a Socialist Kenyan socialite baby killer? Come on in! Want to express your concern that Nippon has too much influence over local politics? Be prepared for lots of questions about your sources and "citations." I know I'm not alone in my experience of having Paul trying to get me to rewrite my own letter to say what he wants it to say.
Extreme close-up of a cancer cell.
In his free time, Paul has had some very public substance abuse issues (and arrests). He's also run someone over. There are even those who say he's had "improper relations" with young PDN employees he was supposed to be supervising. Yet Paul is set up as the moral arbiter of all things right and proper in letters to the editor. Given his many, many public failings and problems, it is a thing of wonder that Gottlieb is still employed by the PDN. Yes, he's a dependable hitman who can churn out hit pieces, but really...Don't they realize that to the vast majority of readers he has absolutely ZERO credibility? What can you tell us about Paul Gottlieb? How does he keep his job? Does he have John Brewer's dark little soul in a box?
Rather obviously, the PDN as a printed medium suffers from a great deal of restraint - which is to say censorship. Which is to further say, they report very selectively about what actually goes on here. You are lucky if a story contains even 25% of what actually happened. For example, want to know what was really said at these recent "Port Angeles United" meetings? Good luck finding anything about it in the PDN. This restricted flow of information is extremely harmful to a community.
Liberals libeling liberals for lunatics? Huh?
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Tom Harper's blog. While it once may have been a source (however intermittent) of some good and accurate information, it has sadly degenerated into the equivalent of a gossip column. There's apparently no moderation, no attempt to weed out painfully obvious lies, and, despite Tom's professed liberal views, leans towards the right-wing party line more often than not. (For the record: I come at politics from a proud and informed liberal viewpoint on most issues. But I do not moderate comments based on political views; I do moderate comments that are libelous, clearly untrue, bigoted, or just plain crazy and add nothing to the discussion.) I know a lot of people have become disgusted with what Tom Harper's blog has devolved into. This blog is intended to be a more reasonable, more factual, and more measured forum for the community to come to.
There is also the other newcomer on the scene, the Port O Call. It remains to be seen what if any impact it will have on things in Clallam County. Yes, they have some good reporting - you'll find coverage of the "Port Angeles United" meetings there - but it only comes out once a month. I fear that when it comes in the mail, most people just throw it away. And they don't seem to be able to get people to comment or participate much on their website. Still, the fact - and it seems to be a fact - that "someone" was calling their advertisers to lean on them to become ex-advertisers is a good sign. If the hornets are buzzing, you must have poked their nest somehow.
Of course, there are also, technically, newspapers in Sequim and Forks, but being that they are all under the same umbrella as the PDN, it didn't seem necessary to delve into them here. But if you want to make them part of the discussion, have at it.