Final Analysis: A Look At Media Coverage in 2010 Council Elections

citycatOn April 27, we ran an article entitled, “Slow Council Campaign About to Heat Up.”  Up until that point, the council election had draw a handful of stories from the Vanguard and not much attention.  From April 27 until today, about a month and a half period of time, the Vanguard has published 43 articles, commentaries, and other stories about the Davis City Council election.

We extensively covered every single candidate’s forum.  We have had extensive analysis of the election after the fact.  That does not even include numerous analyses that we did about issues that were vital to the campaign.  I do not want to harp on this point for too long, but the Davis Enterprise continues to disappoint with regards to covering local issues.

That is the primary reason why on July 30, 2006, the Vanguard was founded.  But it seems to be getting worse.  For instance, in 2008, the coverage was not great, but at least they had a weekly question that they would ask each of the candidates and the voters could compare them side-by-side.  This year, they all did a single op-ed on the issue of bikes.  I like bicycling as much as the next guy, but that was not the most important issue facing the city this election cycle.  We had a great candidate’s forum hosting by Davis Bicycles and the Enterprise did not cover it.

The Vanguard covered all of the candidate’s forums.  The Enterprise covered the Chamber Forum, combined CHA and the Sierra Club into a single article, and covered the League forum as part of a story with both the issue of Measure R and Measure Q.  That is it for forums.  They also ran a couple of stories summarizing campaign finance reporting, and they had a feature interview with each of the candidates.

Since June 1, there were two stories written on the campaign, one was the final financial disclosure and the other the day after the election.  There was no analysis by the Enterprise in the days leading up to the election, there was no post-mortem by the Enterprise.  Bob Dunning did some of that, but not a reporter.  By and large the story of the campaign was not on the front page of the Davis Enterprise where the most people read.

As we pointed out yesterday, the Enterprise’s failure to report on the election created some misperceptions both within itself and the public.  A member of the public mentioned that this was a campaign that has not really had any substantial issues.  Really?  How did that individual deduce that.  I went to every council candidate’s forum and let me tell you, there were substantial issues raised and answered in each and every one of those forums.

I can only conclude that the problem was not the campaign but the campaign coverage.  In short the Davis Enterprise missed a very interesting and hard fought campaign.  There were moments of dirt flying and moments of good exchanges and moments of heat.  Like all campaigns this one came down to mistakes and taking advantage of key moments in time.

I think the local paper owes it to the public to cover the election far more extensively than it did.  And by cover it, I do not mean on page 2, and I do not mean in the letters to the editor or with endorsements by the newspaper, I mean on page 1.  A coverage of all of the candidate’s forums.  A coverage of key issues.  Actual analysis.

There was a moment in time when the reporter for the Enterprise told me how busy she was trying to write up the interviews she did with each of the candidates and the fact that she had done one story a day.  I have written at least one story a day, often two, sometimes even three, for every day but 20 since October of 2006.  Think about that.  I don’t have support staff.  I don’t have an editor.  If I don’t cover something for the Vanguard, with rare exceptions it will not get covered.

What I would like to hear is some healthy feedback on the Vanguard’s coverage.  I understand not everyone agrees with my views, and that is fine.  It would be boring if people did.  We try to reasonably provide everyone with an opportunity to express their own views, to correct mistakes, errors, omissions, but most of all we try to provide the public with in-depth coverage of the campaign and for the most part especially during our interviews and the candidate’s forums, I tried to allow the candidates to speak for themselves.

So my question to my readers is to evaluate our coverage this past two months.  What would you like to see that we did not do?  What could we improve on?  What advice would you give me for the next set of elections?  And beyond that, as an everyday thing, what would you like to see that we are not doing right now?

Barring something unforeseen this will be the last of the post-mortems on the recent election.  We have issues coming forward and we will be monitoring the new council among other things in our community.  I cannot guarantee anything, but I will listen to what people have to say and do my best to improve our coverage as needed.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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20 Comments

  1. SODA

    DPD, thanks for asking!
    The side by side same question answered by each in one article would be good. It doesn’t detract from the extensive single interviews you did, but gives the reader a perspective of comparison. I don’t think you did that. If so, I apologize. Sometimes hard to digest it all on an iPhone!

  2. David M. Greenwald

    The closest I came to that was the original five questions, I never put them “side-by-side” but they were in the same article.

    Here was that article ([url]http://davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3333:council-candidates-on-the-issues&catid=50:elections&Itemid=83[/url])

  3. davisite2

    David: Your commitment to the Vanguard project has been and still is obviously “a labor of love”. There is no other explanation for the herculean work-ethic that you bring to the Vanguard. The Vanguard is a great addition to Davis’ political culture that embraces a populism grounded in an educated,thoughtful and politically engaged electorate who have ready access to in-depth and wide-ranging information and diverse opinion on issues that impact their community.

  4. SODAToo

    DPD, You did an excellent job. I love the Enterprise, but the candidate coverage was poor. If the energy and attention paid to local youth sports was applied to the city council race, the electorate would have been much better served. SODAToo

  5. E Roberts Musser

    Your coverage was excellent DPD. My only suggestion is a personal preference for same questions asked of all candidates, with responses provided for direct comparison. It gets a bit confusing to wade through all the material when different questions were asked of different candidates, which was one of my main objections to some of the forums themselves.

  6. Rich Rifkin

    Elaine, I think David did just that with this piece ([url]http://www.davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3483:city-council-candidates-on-the-top-ten-issues-facing-davis&catid=50:elections&Itemid=83[/url]). Included are the ten question David believed were the most important in the campaign. For each one he has every candidate in his own words on that topic.

    I realize that your complaint is that he did not ask the exact same questions in his one-on-one interviews with each of the candidates. However, I think David’s judgment on this was correct. Each candidate has a different background, different strengths and weaknesses and different priorities in his campaign. On every big issue in town, he elicited (or reported) what every candidate had to say about every issue. But when, for example, Jon Li is stressing his “Viable Systems Model,” it makes no sense to skip over that and ask him some generic questions he is asking to the others. At the same time, it’s pointless to ask Joe Krovoza about the “Viable Systems Model.” If Sydney Vergis would have consented to an interview, he would have rightly asked her about the ethics of her campaign manager’s mother creating an independent expenditure committee. Yet asking that same question of Daniel Watts would not have made much sense.

  7. Crystal Lee

    Actually, I said I was writing at least one, sometimes two, sometimes three stories a day — in addition to my other responsibilities as a staff writer. That brings up another point, which is that as an actual journalist, it’s important to me not to misrepresent what’s said or what’s happened. Clearly, you’re not held to the same standard. Hell, it’s easy to churn out stories if you can write whatever you want, true or not, biased or balanced, whatever. Your stories tend to reinforce your readers’ beliefs or misinform them.

  8. biddlin

    Crystal Lee, everyone brings their own prejudices to work. David does a better job of maintaining objectivity than most. While I frequently disagree with his or The Vanguard’s P.O.V., I never find intentional misrepresentation. Obviously The Enterprise and The Vanguard serve different purposes, and in many cases, different readers. I read The Vanguard for the broad range of views expressed by David and all the other posters. While you strongly hint that David is not “an actual journalist” and is held to a lower standard than you, I would suggest, based on the roasting he regularly gets from posters that you are mistaken.

  9. Crystal Lee

    I never said his misrepresentations were intentional or otherwise. But I don’t appreciate his implication that I could be doing a better job.

    “There was a moment in time when the reporter for the Enterprise told me how busy she was trying to write up the interviews she did with each of the candidates and the fact that she had done one story a day. I have written at least one story a day, often two, sometimes even three, for every day but 20 since October of 2006. Think about that. I don’t have support staff. I don’t have an editor.”

    I do the best I can, given my time and resources. I work OT that I’m not paid for, yet I sense David would boast he works for no pay. Well, good for him, but not everyone has the luxury to do what he does.

  10. Siegel

    Crystal: I got the impression that the criticism was leveled at your editor, not you. You don’t make the decision on how many articles or whether or where to cover something.

  11. Josh Fernandez

    David does a good job of being a community blowhard/egotist (who is a master at patting himself on the back). But there’s more to journalism than that.

  12. E Roberts Musser

    JF: “David does a good job of being a community blowhard/egotist (who is a master at patting himself on the back). But there’s more to journalism than that.”

    Actually David started this blog for good reason, to shed light on some of the hidden processes that go on in this city, that fly under the radar screen. He has done a great service to the citizens of Davis. He doesn’t pretend to be a news reporter, but is a bloggest/columnist with his own point of view. I do not always agree w him, but then I am free to express my disagreement.

    This blog serves the same purpose as the Letters to the Editor section does in the Davis Enterprise. It is just in a different medium with a bit more freedom to say what one thinks. As such, Crystal Lee was able to express her opinion of David’s opinion of her newspaper’s decisionmaking process. As we know, one of David’s pet peeves has to do with process, or the lack thereof. And at times rightly so…

    If you read this blog, because people are a bit more frank, one has to grow a bit of a thick skin. I know my opinions have been roundly criticized – some of it warranted, some not. None of us is perfect. But I enjoy the give and take of the discussions on this blog; I learn a lot I didn’t know; and the investigations that David undertakes often reveal the dark underbelly that does indeed exist in Davis…

  13. Josh Fernandez

    Yeah, I was actually here at the inception of this blog. Since then, I’ve watched David grow into an egotistical, self-important windbag who is infatuated with the royal “we.” I get it, he (THE VANGUARD) preaches to the choir. You are his choir. And your songs are predictable and boring.

  14. Siegel

    I don’t always agree with David, but I do think he provides a good service. I don’t know what your beef is, but having met David, I think he’s pretty unassuming in real life.

  15. Don Shor

    Hi Josh,
    David asked for constructive criticism, so please keep your comments focused on content and not on personalities. For the record, there are many instances where I disagree with David. No choir here. But again: no name-calling, please.

  16. David M. Greenwald

    Crystal: It was not my intention to put down your work or otherwise criticize you. My beef was with the Enterprise’s lack of coverage, not your work per se. Please accept my apologies, I probably should not have even mentioned you.

  17. E Roberts Musser

    JF: “Yeah, I was actually here at the inception of this blog. Since then, I’ve watched David grow into an egotistical, self-important windbag who is infatuated with the royal “we.” I get it, he (THE VANGUARD) preaches to the choir. You are his choir. And your songs are predictable and boring.”

    How am I his choir, when many times I do not agree with him and say so? And, I might add, you were allowed to freely express your opinion of his editorial style. If you think he is a “windbag”, I don’t quite understand why you bother with this blog… or is there still something in it you find useful? In which case you do in fact find it of some value, no?

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