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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Morning Musings: Anonymous Emails and City Council Coverage

This has been a busy week and there are two little odds and ends that I wanted to cover.

Anonymous Emails

Whoever invented the concept of anonymous emails, it certainly makes life more entertaining for a blogger. If people realized how many emails I get every week with tips about news stories I need to follow up, they would be amazed. Sometimes I am. And frankly there are a lot of potentially interesting stories that simply have not been followed up on not due to lack of interest but lack of time.

However, there are also some that I would love to follow up on, but they give me very little to go on. I do not know if people simply do not understand what information is needed in order to do sufficient follow up.

What else is very interesting is that I was talking yesterday to a campaign manager and that campaign manager had received a phone call with a tip to follow up on, but it was so vague, all the campaign manager could have done would have been to ask random people about the incident.

I bring this up, because on Friday I got about three very interesting tips and none of them had enough information to even start to follow up. One of them communicated a four year old incident involving an individual accused of vandalism and property destruction in which the police were called. They do not tell me who the victim was only who the perpetrator was. Without the victim, I cannot even start an inquiry. Police records do not tend to be public records. Incident reports are not kept long. And if the case does not go to trial and I doubt this one has, there is little in the way of a records trail.

That means unless I get a name, I cannot find out any information about the case. And because the individual who emailed me, did so anonymously, I cannot even follow up on it. A few times on such tips, I have gotten lucky and stumbled onto something, but for the most part, if you want me to actually do follow up, you have to give me something to go on.

Davis Enterprise Article

I commend the Davis Enterprise and reporter Claire St. John on a good series of articles on the city council candidates. I do not think the Enterprise has done enough frankly in terms of coverage of the campaign--which is unfortunate for the community. That is one reason I have gotten up at 4 am twice this week to transcribe recordings of the candidates forum to bring to the public. It is a lot of work and quite time consuming as anyone who has done transcription knows.

I did want to comment on one of the Enterprise articles that specifically mentions the Vanguard. Of course it is the one about my wife, Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald. And overall I think it was a very good and fair article, but I think towards the end it goes from reporting to editorializing.

And I should state, I emphasize this because I find it amusing. I have very thick skin these days...
"Around the time the Human Relations Commission was disbanded, Escamilla-Greenwald's husband, David Greenwald, started a blog. Called the People's Vanguard of Davis, it focuses on 'the dark underbelly of Davis,' according to the site, with daily posts taking a decidedly conspiracy-theorist bent. "
The depiction of the blog as "conspiracy-theorist" caught my attention, it sounded like something more out of the X-Files than what the blog actually does. I do not think there is some grand conspiracy in the city of Davis, other than to perhaps not sufficiently cover public affairs.

The Enterprise article also rehashed the police issue, the HRC, and Chief Hyde's exit. And that's fair, it is part of the public record. And I think the article put the comments made by departing Police Chief Jim Hyde into good context.

I want to thank the Enterprise for finally clarifying that it was indeed the Buzayan case that forced the Chief to quit. They have put his famous quote about the Commission into that context, where it properly should be. It exposes the quote as a clear and obvious attempt to divert the public's attention. Hyde wanted to shift public attention from the real message--that he had mishandled the Buzayan case and public criticism, and in so doing had exposed the City to millions in damages--to the messenger--a properly outraged Commission of citizens for which its chairwoman, Cecilia, was properly speaking.

Second, I appreciate that the Enterprise article mentions that the Vanguard tries to report political events in a balanced way.
"Greenwald initially wrote that he wouldn't be writing about the City Council election since his wife is running, but he relented and tries to cover events in a balanced way, disclosing that he is Escamilla-Greenwald's husband."
That is exactly what the Vanguard will continue to do. In fact, the Vanguard, recognizing its unique relationship to one candidate, has since changing the policy had a standing, open invitation to any other candidate to submit comments about anything they want, and the Vanguard will post these comments unedited. This was conveyed personally and by email. To date, no one has taken the Vanguard up on its offer.

The article mentions recent criticism of Don Saylor. In fact, the Vanguard has been critical of several Council members about various issues, not just Mr Saylor, but as the Enterprise has seen fit to single out a Vanguard critique of this one candidate, the Vanguard reiterates its policy and invites Mr. Ssaylor to post his own response as he sees fit.

The Vanguard will continue to provide the city of Davis as well as the region with the best electoral coverage of the City Council, County Supervisor and 8th Assembly Race, in the area.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting