Remember two weeks ago we called out the Enterprise’s editor for rushing in to defend columnist Bob Dunning? The editor’s note becomes even more noteworthy now, as it was not used on a recent letter that falsely attacked Councilmember Will Arnold.
Davis resident Glen Holstein argues that “we owe our cops a debt of gratitude,” and, while that is perhaps true, he makes his case by spinning what is largely a false narrative.
In an over-the-top hyperbolic he describes being “confronted by hundreds of out-of-town thugs terrorizing residential neighborhoods just north of campus.” He writes, “If it hadn’t been for a thin blue line of very brave Davis police officers, the terror would have been much worse. Now, incredibly, those officers are under attack and the thug behavior is justified.”
While we are skeptical of this account, the more egregious comment would follow: “Davis City Councilman Will Arnold’s attacks on our police and defense of thugs exemplify why the Democratic Party is suddenly having such a hard time winning elections.”
He concludes, “Unfortunately, a lot more than just thug victims are collateral damage as we also say goodbye to so many other things we cherish, from affordable health care to the environment.”
I wish we had an addendum to Godwin’s Law, because it seems the more frequent internet phenomena is drawing partisan politics into situations where they don’t belong.
But focus here on the Will Arnold statement. People are entitled to a wide berth of a variety of opinions, but there is no way to infer from Will Arnold’s statement last week that he was either attacking the police or defending “thugs.”
Instead, Mr. Arnold stated, “I have thus far remained silent regarding the Picnic Day incident in hopes of allowing an independent, unprejudiced investigation to take place.”
If anything, Mr. Arnold took great pains to avoid criticizing the police or commenting on the incident itself. Instead he focused completely on the investigator and the investigator’s indefensible statement.
He wrote, “But the recent on-air statements of former Sheriff McGinness are beyond the pale, reveal an ignorant and insensitive view toward African-Americans, and threaten the very independence and lack of prejudice we must preserve.”
Mr. Arnold concluded, “Therefore, I am calling for the immediate replacement of Sheriff McGinness to lead this investigation.”
Mr. Arnold was far from attacking the police, he was simply criticizing the choice of investigator, and rightly so. The council has so far attempted to avoid any judgment on the incident, pending the investigation. And Mr. Arnold only commented regarding the choice of investigator – and did not comment on the action itself.
Mr. Holstein, therefore, has falsely attacked Will Arnold in a fairly pointed and indefensible manner, and we believe that Mr. Holstein owes the councilmember a public apology.
But my comments here go beyond Mr. Holstein’s distasteful and untrue remarks, and go to the Enterprise’s editorial standard. In this case, they have posted a clear personal attack that is also clearly false. They have done so without a correction or clarification.
Compare that lack of reaction by the Enterprise editorial staff to how they responded to an opinion-based criticism of long-time columnist Bob Dunning.
A few weeks ago, a letter writer wrote, “Bob Dunning fails to cite anything from the other half of the story in the same Davis Enterprise article that disputes the Police Department’s accounts, except to say that ‘one alleged witness claims the police were at fault for not properly identifying themselves.’ Further, he mischaracterizes and tries to discredit and belittle the witness.”
However, at the bottom of that letter was an editor’s note undoubtedly written by Debbie Davis, the paper’s Editor and Assistant Publisher, who wrote, “Yes, Ms. Jones, commentary is biased. Commentary is the writer’s opinion. Bob Dunning’s job is to share his well-informed opinion on local issues, as he did in this case.”
We were critical of the editor’s note at the time because, while it is true that commentary has a bias, and newspapers intentionally and rightly attempt to separate their editorial sections from their news reporting – which is supposed to be both factual and impartial, the best commentary is fact-based and insightful.
But Debbie Davis chose to respond to that with a rather snarky editor’s note – but not to respond at all to the false and misleading attack on the councilmember.
At the time, several people indicated that they had seen an “editor’s note” several times in the Enterprise. Others claim they hadn’t seen it used to defend a columnist from criticism, but rather to correct factually incorrect statements.
Well, here’s the counter case – the clearly factually incorrect statement with no editor’s note correcting it.
—David M. Greenwald reporting