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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Special Commentary: Davis Enterprise Fails to Cover Davis OPEN Presentation

On March 1, 2007 the Best Uses of Schools Advisory Task Force spent over an hour and a half presenting the results of their 18 month study that culminated in their recommendation to close Valley Oak Elementary School. This presentation was thoroughly covered in the Davis Enterprise the next day.

In pursuit of equal time from the school board, the parents involved with the group Davis OPEN requesting and received 25 minutes from the school board at the March 15, 2007 meeting. That twenty five minutes became over an hour, however, not before the Task Force received another hour of time to respond to questions from the school board. But that is fine--the parents got a full opportunity from the school board to respond to the report by the Task Force. That was more than generous from the board.

Four members of the Davis OPEN group Baki Tezcan, Fred Buderi, Rick Gonzales, and Collen Connolly spoke at length to counter the findings by the Task Force.

The Davis Enterprise article by Jeff Hudson made not one single mention of this presentation in the article that they ran last night. Not one single mention.

The public relies on a newspaper to provide a balanced account of the events that take place at public meetings. The vast majority of the public neither attend these meetings nor do they watch the proceedings on television. This bestows great responsibility on the media to be the public watch dog. When the media however fails in their responsibilities to the public, through lack of balanced coverage, democracy itself is threatened.

There can be no equal time if the local newspaper does not cover events in a fair and unbiased manner. These concerns about the Davis Enterprise coverage led me to create this blog as a means to cover what the Enterprise itself will not cover.

The People's Vanguard of Davis does not attempt to replicate the work of the local evening paper. Instead of merely covering events, we cover aspects of events that the local paper can't or won't. There have been times when the Enterprise has done a reasonable job of covering events, that we have merely focused on different aspects of the events--angles that people might not normally get by merely reading the Enterprise.

There have also been times when this blog has been criticized by some because we have been too critical of the local paper. That said, this complete lack of even a mention is among the most blatant examples of biased and faulty coverage by the Enterprise. This is inexcusable. This is an insult to the efforts of dedicated citizens in this community who spent a tremendous amount of time and energy to prepare a report and for it not to even get mentioned is unbelievable.

How can the public know about the fact that task force's findings have been challenged if the local newspaper does not print it? For 99 percent of the citizens in the community--that presentation might as well have not happened.

While we have been critical of the Enterprise's coverage in the past, this omission may very well be the worst and most blatant. It is as if there was no presentation by Davis OPEN. There was no mention about several of the findings by the Task Force being contradicted and at times nullified by further information. This would have been crucial information for the public. Throw out all of the information to the public and let the public decide what is credible and what is not credible.

What was covered in the paper? The first half of the article was the board exchange that took at most five to ten minutes where they were deciding how to proceed in terms of the next meeting and whether any action should be taken or could be taken now on making a decision to forestall a decision until the fall. Then there was discussion of the interim budget, a small discussion of Kirk Trost's statement, and then a few members of the public.

This lack of coverage is mind-boggling. As our article discussed yesterday, there was a key discussion that indicated that closing Valley Oak would in fact negatively impact students and parents in terms of distance from school and ability to walk to school--which would lead to transportation problems.

The Davis OPEN members spent a good deal of time talking about budget projections and the EL program among other things. These things were in direct contradiction to the Task Force's report.

There were some who openly questioned the district as to why they were paying for two superintendents, but those people apparently did not realize how much money the past superintendent had cost the school district, to the point that paying him not to work may have been more cost effective.

But the bottom line here is an issue of fairness, it is an issue of balance, and it is a frustration that the hard work of people is not getting reported. The public is not getting the full picture here. They have heard EXTENSIVELY about the Task Force's point of view--there have been MULTIPLE articles that have covered the Task Force and their arguments.

At this meeting, the parents and community members directly involved in this issue were given a chance to respond. To make their case before the board. This should have been THE story in the Enterprise. It could have at least been mentioned in the Enterprise. But it was not. There was not one single word even mentioning the presentation. The public as a whole has no idea that such a presentation was made or that the Task Force's findings were in question. How can they make an informed decision? How can the newspaper in good conscience claim to be serving the public's needs with such a blatant failure?

For those who would like to see the presentation by Davis OPEN please click here:

---Doug Paul Davis reporting