By David M. Greenwald
One of the complaints that a number of our readers make from time to time is that the Vanguard is one-sided and rarely has the other side of the story. The Vanguard itself was formed as a medium to tell the other side of the story, the side of the story not often told in the mainstream media and certainly not by other local media entities.
This began in 2006 when the council shut down the Human Relations Commission over their advocacy of police accountability and our perception that the local press served largely as a mouthpiece for the council majority at that time—as well as for the district attorney’s office, first under David Henderson and then under then-newly elected DA Jeff Reisig.
While there is plenty of good journalism out there, those in the criminal justice reform arena have been increasingly critical of the mainstream press for simply relying on police and other official sources in retelling their narratives. As an example, even a large mainstream publication like the San Francisco Chronicle continued repeating the “crime is rising” narrative until they finally did their own investigative piece that found that overall crime was not rising—some specific segments were—and they realized that the narrative that they had been reporting for months was actually false (though they never acknowledged this).
To put a fine point on it: there is a good amount of good journalism out there, but a lot lacks critical analysis and often takes the releases and statements of law enforcement and prosecutors at face value.
For months (and really for years), I have been railing on the local paper for their lack of scrutiny of the Yolo County District Attorney. They have never done a critical analysis of key issues like their zero bail press release series—we did and found the implied claims by the DA’s office to be misleading at best. That is not on just the Davis Enterprise—none of the Sacramento area media have scrutinized the claims by DA Reisig either.
The Enterprise has failed to cover at all the CDAA (California District Attorneys Association) scandal and misuse of money. They have not asked DA Jeff Reisig, who as Vice President is actually in line to be President, to account for the misuse of funding. Because the DA doesn’t talk to the Vanguard, no one is asking him critical questions on the misuse of money.
A recent example is found last weekend.
On May 30, the Enterprise did publish the DA’s press release on the lawsuit filed by Anne Marie Schubert and joined by 43 other elected DAs including Jeff Reisig.
Instead of perhaps doing an article and getting both sides of the story, the Enterprise simply posted the press release.
The press release notes: “43 elected district attorneys across California, including Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, have filed a civil lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit awarding additional conduct credits to more than 76,000 violent and serious offenders.”
It also quotes Schubert.
“Allowing the early release of the most dangerous criminals, shortening sentences as much as 50 percent, impacts crime victims and creates a serious public safety risk,” Schubert said. “This lawsuit asks the court to enjoin CDCR from awarding these credits unless and until these regulations are exposed to a fair, honest and transparent debate, where the public has input on dramatic changes made through the regulatory process.”
An earlier release also had a statement by DA Reisig: “It’s one issue for CDCR to unilaterally shorten sentences which can create a danger to the public and adversely impact crime victims. But to do so without transparency, public input and without a valid and legal rationale, violates core democratic principles and due process. CDCR needs to repeal these regulations and start the process anew in a fair, just and legal manner.”
The Enterprise does not attempt to include that statement. They also fail to provide the other side of the story. There is no critical analysis here. There is no scrutiny of the claims.
Compare that to Capital Public Radio.
On May 6, unlike the Enterprise, they fact checked claims made by Republican recall election candidate John Cox who claimed that “Newsom had just released tens of thousands of inmates onto the streets.”
They could have printed this verbatim just as the Enterprise did, but, instead, they fact checked the statement that Newsom “just let 76,000 inmates out of jail with almost no warning.”
“That’s simply not the case,” they found.
You see the difference. The Enterprise just printed a press release. Capital Public Radio actually questioned the underlying claims.
Capital Public Radio pointed out, “No one has been released under the expanded program and officials estimate it will be months or years before that happens.”
But it is actually even worse than that.
The press release claims, “This lawsuit requests the Superior Court to declare the regulations unlawful and to prohibit CDCR from awarding these additional credits until CDCR lawfully complies with the regulatory scheme, which would include a transparent and rigorous public comment period.”
But, under an emergency adoption, that part is not avoided. The emergency regulations only remain in effect for 180 days during which the agency still has to go through regular regulation adoption procedures including public input.
That means that the lawsuit is largely a publicity stunt for Schubert to attack the governor and gain name recognition for her campaign, and the Enterprise just bought into it. Capital Public Radio thus does their job and provides the other side of the story, as has the Vanguard. But the Enterprise simply reprinted the DA’s press release and left it at that. It’s not that they don’t have a very capable reporter there who could have done this work.
What they have done is a disservice to local readers who may be unaware of the issue, and probably are not going to do a deep dive into the rest of the story.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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