Guest Commentary: The Bee Tells Us, In Its Own Words, That It Doesn’t Want to Hear the Truth

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Print NewspapersBy Larry Kamer 

When I started working with Melinda Guzman on the Linda Katehi matter, one of the first things I heard from many of you (including a lot of the reporters who are getting this) is that the Sacramento Bee is hopelessly biased against the Chancellor.

Why?  Well I heard a lot of theories.

Such as…the Bee couldn’t be objective because Editorial Page Editor Dan Morain’s wife (who used to do PR for UC Davis) was herself involved in the controversial (and ludicrously named) “internet scrubbing” contracts, hence the desire for the Bee to place the blame on Katehi.

Such as…the Bee was getting fed information directly from the UC President’s office and didn’t want to jeopardize a good source.

Such as…the Bee, whose circulation continues to plummet, had adopted a more tabloid-like approach, complete with self-congratulatory headlines and overblown stories, and that the Katehi story was the perfect kind of red meat for such a newspaper.

I took all of these with a grain of salt and figured there had to be another side to these stories.  So I soldiered on with the Bee.

I’ve tried to work with the Bee, I really have.  But the Bee did something on Wednesday that convinced me – for good – that it is simply incapable of reporting the truth on the Katehi matter and unwilling and unable to accept criticism.

On Wednesday morning, the paper ran another blistering editorial on Chancellor Katehi.  I’ve been doing this kind of work for 35 years, and I’ve learned that if you’re going to call to complain about a story or editorial, there had better be a factual error involved.  That gets you in the door, and then you’ll likely be heard about bias or things you simply disagree with.

So I called Shawn Hubler, the Bee’s editorial writer who penned the condemnation.  I told her the very first sentence of her editorial had a factual error (see below) and we had a rather spirited discussion of all of the other problems contained therein.

Shawn invited me to submit something called “Another View,” which is a kind of flash op-ed that takes issue with an editorial.  Get it in by 4:00, she said, and keep it to 400 words.  Great, I said, and I wrote the piece that follows below.  This took most of the afternoon; any decent writer will tell you that it’s easy to write long.  It takes a chunk of time to write something pithy in 400 words.

ANOTHER VIEW

Larry Kamer

The Bee’s inaccurate coverage of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi deprives readers of a full set of facts by which they can make informed judgments.  Recently, the Bee has lost interest in even asking for our side of the story.

The first sentence of Wednesday’s editorial (“Some things a UC rule change cannot fix”) is factually incorrect.  Chancellor Katehi never served on the DeVry board. I called attention to this error to writer Shawn Hubler, who accused our team of “splitting hairs.”  We thought facts mattered to a newspaper.

Ms. Hubler did not call us while writing her editorial. She already knew our “narrative,” as she called it.  Shouldn’t it be standard practice to check with the subject of a harsh editorial about the facts?

Diana Lambert’s July 16 story (“UC regents consider tougher rules on outside pay for top administrators,”) was also factually wrong, and it violated a basic rule of journalism by burying the lead.

The story says:  “Eight senior managers with outside jobs, including Katehi, held three or more outside paid positions in 2014” (emphasis added). That would exceed the proposed policy’s maximum of two…Katehi sat on the Wiley board, National Science Foundation Division of Electrical Communications and Cyber Systems, as well as on the board of a company in which she has ownership, EMAG Technologies.”

Wrong.  The NSF position is NOT compensated. Chancellor Katehi did NOT hold “three or more outside paid positions in 2014”.

The real news, about the 49 UC officials who serve on outside boards, appeared in paragraph 21.  Other major papers led with this.  The Bee led with 20 paragraphs of rehashed Katehi news.

There are other examples of exaggeration or misreporting.

A July 1 story about the Chancellor’s planned donation of $200,000 to UCD claimed she was “withholding” the gift, even though we made clear that she was taking no action at all during the investigation. “Withholding”? Invented by the Bee.

A June 15 headline screams “UC Davis chancellor sent aides to Switzerland to learn image-boosting tactics,” when in fact she met with Nestle’s CEO to learn about its digital accelerator, establish one of the first such labs at a U.S. university, and strengthen the organizations’ important relationship.

The Bee has improperly become a partisan in the Katehi matter, overly fixated with sensationalizing the news and exaggerating its own role as its readership continues to decline.

Late in the day, Shawn and her op-ed colleague Foon Rhee told me they would not run the piece.  Here’s what they said:

Larry,

This isn’t an Another View. You should look at a couple we have run. An Another View is, essentially, a short op-ed that names the editorial you disagree with and then presents readers with an opinion contrary to that originally expressed. 

This is more a demand for a correction, both from the opinion and news side. If that’s the case, then the chancellor needs to reach out to us directly. We don’t publish those kinds of requests as if they were op-eds. 

If you want to submit an op-ed or an Another View, we are still happy to consider it. An op-ed on this subject would be signed by the chancellor rather than her spokesperson.  And it would affirmatively contest the assertions in the editorial.

For instance, if she takes issue with the editorial’s version of how she came to be put on administrative leave, she would offer her own version of the events. And if she takes issue with our view on the pros and cons of outside board seats, she would share her own arguments on that subject. 

Here is an example of an Another View, of publishable quality: 

‪http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/california-forum/article84202042.html

Happy to talk through this more if it helps.

Shawn

I always appreciate it when journalists tell me how to do my job.  No, the Bee is not going to get a piece from Linda Katehi herself after the way they’ve treated her.  I’m her spokesperson, and Dr. Katehi, like a lot of CEOs I work with,  has authorized me to speak for her in the media.

Does the Bee refuse comment from the UC Office of the President because Janet Napolitano herself doesn’t “reach out”?

I can accept a newspaper’s hostility toward a client.  I’m in the crisis business, and that’s a fact of life.  But what I can’t accept is the kind of disingenuousness exhibited by the Bee on a daily basis, and its refusal to hear a valid critique of its work –  even after it has asked for it.

Linda Katehi’s career and reputation are on the line here.  This is a woman who has propelled UC Davis into the top tier of public universities.  She’s raised over a billion dollars, built the most diverse faculty of any UC, the most diverse undergraduate student body, the largest number of Californians at any UC campus, the best STEM school for women in the country, and on and on.  In her zeal to show “leadership” Janet Napolitano has sought to try her in the media, stack the deck against her with a biased investigation, and has asked her to do things that no man in the UC System has ever been asked to do.

To Melinda Guzman, the Chancellor’s attorney, and me, the Bee’s biased and self-congratulatory coverage is serious stuff, and it needs to be exposed.

“Over the years, The Bee’s mission has not wavered from the journalistic principles first established by James McClatchy,” says this paper on its website.

I think McClatchy would be spinning in his grave if he saw the coverage of Linda Katehi.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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71 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: The Bee Tells Us, In Its Own Words, That It Doesn’t Want to Hear the Truth”

  1. David Greenwald

    “it’s against federal law to publish someone’s e-mail without their permission”

    No, it’s not. The Vanguard has liability insurance.

    1. Felicity

      Yes it is very much against the law. The copyright of an e-mail belongs to the person who wrote it (even if they don’t add a copyright line). And it is against copyright law to publish an e-mail without the writer’s permission in advance.

  2. ryankelly

    Didn’t Katehi also add her name and position as Chancellor to a Board for some Qatar educational organization and get paid for it?  That would be a third Board, regardless of her not having to do anything other than provide her endorsement.

    He’s missing the point.  People feel that Katehi is being paid well enough and provided sufficient benefits (housing, car, technology, staff, salary for her spouse) that we expect her to devote herself full time to the job. Why is this so hard to understand?

    1. Barack Palin

      He’s missing the point.  People feel that Katehi is being paid well enough and provided sufficient benefits (housing, car, technology, staff, salary for her spouse) that we expect her to devote herself full time to the job. Why is this so hard to understand?

      It’s so hard to understand because she’s being pinpointed for outside positions while 49 other UC officials are doing exactly the same thing.  Why is that?

      1. Marina Kalugin

        and, she got a pittance  compared to the one UCSF last year got $1mil  or something of that caliber…

        and, she actually tried to help DeVry   –     what a novel concept….does anyone think she would do something that could get her fired  (if she had and the facts even on that prove otherwise…….for $70K unless she believed she could help????

        I post all sorts of personal and inappropriate facts and truths all over the place now…..and yet, they are all facts and truth….jeesh…

        it is all to highlight some points…. my family and my higher ups are aghast..   oh well…

        1. Tia Will

          she actually tried to help DeVry   –     what a novel concept….does anyone think she would do something that could get her fired  (if she had and the facts even on that prove otherwise…….for $70K unless she believed she could help????”

          There are many ways to “help” an organization that do not involve receiving monetary compensation. Sitting on a board for pay is not the only contribution one can make. For example, Chancellor Katehi could have offered to review their educational materials and make suggestions for improvement. She could have offered to provide free seminars for their employees to improve their teaching and course writing skills. She could have made videos providing teaching tips. I have been involved in all of these activities through the years for various organizations and was not paid for any of these activities.

          Certainly Chancellor Katehi was not alone in these activities. However, when considering improving processes, one must start somewhere. I see nothing at all wrong with starting with her and then reviewing the entire system for needed improvements.

        2. SODA

          Marina

          do you think the Chancellir would have served on the 3 Boards in question if there had been no remuneration? Do we have any evidence of the probability of that? Honest question.

      2. ryankelly

        Yes, it seems unfair that Katehi is pinpointed, but that’s not his argument.

        I suggest that Chancellor pay be handled like student financial aid.  If a student secures a private scholarship or grant, their financial aid is sometimes reduced to offset the additional funding.  If a University executive receives money for moonlighting jobs, then their salary should be reduced accordingly.  That would make them reconsider taking on paid Board positions for private companies, but allow them to serve on non-profit boards.

        1. Marina Kalugin

          someone of Katehi’s caliber would make many times what she does elsewhere – many times more, and unlike some of the ole good ole boys elsewhere, including at higher paid positions at other UCs, she is actually more competitive

          it was her choice to take less money to come to UCD>>

          Have you ever studied economics or finances…she gave up way more to come to UCD>>>  she felt that UCD was ripe for greater things…and that is what she chose to give her life to…

          and look what is going on..and what is being done to her…..

          As a supposedly a “senior manager” in name only, not in pay, I could’ve made way more in many other positions even at the UCD>>>  I chose to stay in my Academic department for many reasons…

          and, yet, it was not healthy for me, nor the UCD>>>.as many incompetents were hired from outside to lead the new and better UCD>

          The Chancellor was one of the few truly brilliant ones hired….

          many of the new “administrative leadership”  turned into a disaster…

          quite a few have turned over…the better leaving for better jobs kinda quickly…and some of the others not quite making it….

           

        2. Marina Kalugin

          Mike, then the UC will not ever attract the likes of Chancellor Katehi…and then they would have to increase the pay scale to attract someone other than an internal good ole boy….not that there haven’t been some great ones over the decades…

          and not that there is anything wrong with the good ole boy networks throughout UC>>..

          but not many will be so altruistic and take less to run UCD>>>>.

          many might if it were UCB, UCLA, UCSD, UCSF, and other higher ranked UCs….

        3. Chamber Fan

          I think $400 to $500K a year plus free housing and other perks is a lure.  UC Davis is a great place and by no means the only university this year with strife at the top.

        4. DavidSmith

          If a University executive receives money for moonlighting jobs, then their salary should be reduced accordingly.

          Her university compensation is based on her 40hour/week work for the university. If she fulfilled her duty, why would her pay be reduced?

          It’s like saying that you have a day job but you also want to provide more to your family by doing some consulting work over the weekend. Then somebody tells you that your day job salary should be reduced by the amount you earned on the weekend. Would you take that kind of suggestion?

      3. Loki

        “It’s so hard to understand because she’s being pinpointed for outside positions while 49 other UC officials are doing exactly the same thing.”

        So two wrongs may not make a right, but 50 apparently will. Got it.

        1. Barack Palin

          Nope, wrong again.  The point is why is Katehi being pinpointed for what 49 other UC officials are also doing?  Do you “got it” this time?

           

        2. Barack Palin

          The real news, about the 49 UC officials who serve on outside boards

          I guess it’s 49 total, does it really make a difference if it’s 49 or 50?  It’s still a big number.

           

        3. Marina Kalugin

          don’t worry about those BP, who cannot or won’t ever see the forest for the trees….51, 49   who cares, right… the points appear to always be missed on those with their own agendas…like the paid union protestors, and others of that ilk…

           

        4. Barack Palin

          Yes Marina, Loki seems to be grasping at straws trying to make whatever point she’s trying to make.  Seriously is whether the actual number is 49, 50 or 51 a big deal?

          Maybe in her mind she got some satisfaction out of correcting me.

  3. Mike Hart

    I am glad that this was run here at least.  The lack of interest in the truth at the Sac Bee is simply apalling.  Chancellor Katehi needs to be restored to her position and this jihaad needs to come to an end.

    As a side-note.  I think that the Davis Vanguard really needs to require actual identities from anyone who uses the platform.  The trolling is amusing at times, but we are dealing with the career of someone who has been a key player in the success of UCD.  I think that having some random shill take a cheap shot at her is just lame.

    1. Marina Kalugin

      good call Mike…those of us who use real names get attacked for “saying things that are not pc for a manager” and other such nonsense….while those who spend 24/7 hear promoting their spin behind fake monikers are “protected”….and why is that???

      I always use my own name…and have nothing to hide…wonder what the others are hiding?

      1. Misanthrop

        They spelled her name right. Back in the day when newspapers were great that was all people expected was for the paper to spell a person’s name correctly.

  4. ryankelly

    The facts are fairly simple and a short investigation should have resolved this.  Katehi’s team is making this linger as much as Napolitano’s extremely poor handling of it is.  Kramer could do as suggested – write a short op-ed that names the editorial you disagree with and then presents readers with an opinion contrary to that originally expressed or Katehi’s team needs to stop its battle with the Sac Bee and focus on moving this forward to a resolution for Katehi and the University.

     

    1. Marina Kalugin

      and, ryan….the others have already been corrected on their spelling of Kamer….

      it is not the Seinfeld character…..and why does everyone need to write short things….are you of the ilk that has a hard time with more than 180 characters?

      if one would actually bother to read and duplicate what has been spoonfed for months now,  I doubt that this would still be anyone’s party line……of course, if the unions are paying some to continue to act dumb, well mea culpa

       

  5. Frankly

    The downfall of the Bee, like many “news” papers has to do with the leftist tilt that than became a slant that then became a new normal.  There are many places to get left or right opinion and commentary, but few places to get actual unbiased news.   Instead of doing the latter, the Bee seems to just stubbornly double-down to the “journalism” practices that have doomed it… reporting editorial bias instead of news.

      1. South of Davis

        Eric wrote:

        > What do you consider to be some of the “few places to get actual unbiased news”?

        Check out Zero Hedge:

        http://www.zerohedge.com/

        Unlike the mainstream media that gives you either RNC “talking points” (e.g. Fox, WSJ) or DNC “talking points” (e.g. CNN, WaPo) Zero Hege gives you stuff like this (from a single recent article):

        “They literally don’t care if you get blown up or shot and it doesn’t matter if they’re Democrat or Republican.  They don’t care if you live under a freeway overpass…

        Jeb Bush has never apologized for giving Driver Licenses to the majority of the 9/11 hijackers in Florida because he doesn’t care.  What he cared about was making sure that illegal immigrants could roof houses during the housing bubble so his buddies could make money.  That 3,000 Americans died as a plausibly direct consequence doesn’t matter to him.

        Hillary Clinton knows damn well that during the Benghazi attacks there were military resources available to interdict them.  But she has famously said “what difference does it make” and, in her view, she’s right.  She’s not evil, she’s indifferent — to the lives lost there and to any other collateral damage including the arming of what has turned into Daesh!  Her goal is globalism, socialism and statism, all for her own personal aggrandizement.  That you are harmed or even killed doesn’t matter to her.”

        1. Frankly

          The only paper newspaper I read in addition to the Davis Enterprise.  I read the NYT, the SFC and the Washington Post online.  I subscribe to them online and get feeds.  But I don’t buy their paper and read it.

          1. Don Shor

            Oh, I see. That makes more sense. I recommend the Christian Science Monitor online for international news coverage. They’ve always been outstanding.

        2. Marina Kalugin

          I read the Enterprise cover to cover…though for many months last year they piled up…boy was I surprised when I sat down and caught up months later…..sighh…

          I read that rag to see what the CC is doing, which of my long time friends and mentors had passed, etc….and so on….got a little out of touch, missed way too many funerals…and we coulda saved Deann Quinne….

    1. South of Davis

      Frankly wrote:

      > The downfall of the Bee, like many “news” papers has to do with the

      > leftist tilt that than became a slant that then became a new normal.  

      The downfall of the Bee was not its left of center slant is was the ability of everyone to be able to read all the news they want on line for FREE and the ability to buy and sell a car or rent an apartment for FREE with Craig’s List.

      The heirs of M.H. de Young sold the SF Chronicle in 1999 (the year before Craig’s List expanded outside the Bay Area) for $640 million to Hearst.  About a year ago I saw something with the current classified ad revenue for the Chronicle and it was just a tiny fraction of what it was (way) back in 1999.  I’m pretty sure the Bee has seen a similar massive decline in classified revenue.

      1. Barack Palin

        SOD, there’s something to be said for newspapers alienating a large percentage of their audience by either being too left or too right.  I cancelled the Enterprise home delivery because as I told their editor they needed to be more fair with their editorials and have more right leaning articles.  That’s why Fox News does so well, most of the mainstream media is tilted left so conservatives don’t have many choices so they flock to Fox.  This country is evenly divided so why would a newspaper decide to swing left and lose a major part of the market?

        1. South of Davis

          BP wrote:

          > SOD, there’s something to be said for newspapers

          > alienating a large percentage of their audience by

          > either being too left or too right.  I cancelled the

          > Enterprise home delivery because as I told

          > their editor they needed to be more fair with their

          > editorials and have more right leaning articles. 

          Since I have never met you or Frankly that means I have never met anyone (not a single person) in Davis that has self identified as a Republican (or admitted to voting for a Republican) so I don’t think the Enterprise is going to increase their subscriber base in a town that was second only to Berkeley in the percentage of people that voted for Obama by moving to the right.

        2. Barack Palin

          Good point, but why not be more neutral and throw the Davisites on the right a bone to keep their readership also?  Do you think if the Enterprise was more neutral they would’ve lost many home delivery customers?  Maybe, but I doubt many and they would’ve kept more conservatives.  Obviously what they’re doing now is barely working.

        3. Barack Palin

          God bless Roger Ailes for his work building up Fox News! What a mensch!

          There’s always cads in every network.  Take the shamed names of Brian Williams, Dan Rather, Keith Olbermann, etc.

          Anyway that’s not the point, we’re talking about liberal news vrs. conservative news, not the players involved.

      2. Frankly

        Agree that online resources have hurt the old newspaper business model, but the Bee slanted far left of its readership.  I know a lot of people in the region that started referring to it as a Commie Rag.

      3. Marina Kalugin

        that is why I call the “media’ industry pimps and prostitutes…to stay alive now, they support whoever pays them the most ad dollars….  lol…..  it could be the governor, the state, the UAW, and all of the IE folks  who got millions during the recent primary….no difference or same difference….

         

  6. SODA

    I have suggested this before but today’s article and author’s affiliation remind me again how useful it would be to have a short 1-2 sentence ‘bio’ about guest authors. Most of us know who Mr Kamer is in relation to the investigation but not all might. It always helps put the words into perspective.

    Coukd the Editorial Board take it as a suggestion going forward?

  7. Alan Miller

    Frankly (because I’m not), I’m appalled at all the Katehi apologists here who go along with her lawyer’s spin.  I’m not saying the Bee got all the facts right, but the lawyers, the only side here that can speak, are trying to bend public perception of the “truth”, and y’all are defending the lawyer truths hook, sinker and li(n)e.  I believe when all is said and done, the gleaming bronze Katehi will be quite tarnished.  We’ll all see.

    1. DavidSmith

      No need to be appalled AM. Facts have been presented. The fact that you can’t see or understand them doesn’t mean that others can’t. We have already seen.

  8. Jerry Waszczuk

    THE TRUE IS :
    BY VIRTUALLY ANY MEASURE, SHE IS A SUPERSTAR!
    Excerpts from Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef’s May 1 message to the UC Davis Family:
     
    I can’t imagine a more perfect next chancellor for the Davis campus than President Yudof’s recommended choice—Linda Katehi, currently provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.” By virtually any measure, she Is a superstar!

    1. The Pugilist

      The truth is that she is a flawed individual.  She did somethings well, she had a complete lack of common sense at times that was mind boggling.

      1. Alan Miller

        My mind was boggled in 2011, and never unboggled, or deboggled.  I called for her firing then, and never let down that call.  Karma is a — well, I won’t say it, lest I be accused of genderism.

        And I say without hesitation:   SUPERSTAR my ass!

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