Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 17, 2003

Letter writer exhibits appalling double standard

“It is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races.” ~ Mark Twain

Bill Jones’ recent letter to the editor complaining about The Dispatch’s editorial stances (he called the positions a “hard, ruthless shift to the extreme right”) had my blood boiling.

Despite Jones’ assertion to the contrary (“During this election year we need more than ever before a local news agency we can trust for balanced, unbiased reporting. The Gilroy Dispatch has stopped providing that service,” Jones opined), The Dispatch does provide balanced, unbiased reporting.

The examples Jones cites in his letter lead me to believe Jones doesn’t comprehend the difference between news reporting and opinion. Why? Because all the examples Jones cites before reaching his unsupported conclusion about The Dispatch’s reporting are opinion pieces.

The Dispatch’s news stories (they appear on the pages that don’t have the word “Opinion” plastered in large, bold type across the top) are unbiased, tell-all-sides-of-the-story articles. To assert otherwise is an insult to the hardworking journalists who toil daily to bring local news to the community.

“I’ve never had a humble opinion. If you’ve got an opinion, why be humble about it?” ~ Joan Baez

The opinion page’s editorials, columns and letters are vitally important. In addition to the editorials, which are often a springboard for debate, the opinion page serves as a forum for the community to trade ideas about issues that are important to Gilroy and South Valley.

The Dispatch editorial board (its members are listed at the top of the opinion page) meets weekly to discuss those issues and come to a consensus. The paper’s editorials are of course going to land on one side or another of an issue – there wouldn’t be much point in printing editorial after editorial that said, ‘Gee, we can’t decide what should be done in this case.’ The members of the editorial board debate the issues and come to a consensus on the proper courses of action about the topics on the table.

We don’t always agree – but more often than not we do, despite coming from widely divergent places on the political spectrum. And as a member of the board’s “Santa Cruz politics” contigent, as I’ve been called on occasion, I deeply resent Jones’ selective review of Disptach editorials to paint the group as a bunch of right-wing zealots. And as a former member of the newspaper’s staff, I challenge Jones’ unfounded charge that the paper’s reporting is biased.

“Certainly The Dispatch is within their rights to take editorial positions.” ~ Bill Jones

That one agreeable sentence in Jones’ letter comes with an asterisk, apparently. Jones seems to think that The Dispatch should only publish editorials that agree with his positions. Since he seems to be of a liberal bent, having lumped The Disptach editorial board in with Nazis and white supremacists, he ought to be ashamed of his lack of support of the First Amendment.

Equally appalling, Jones apparently chooses to ignore editorials that don’t support his conclusion that The Dispatch editorial board is a band of right-wing zealots. He forgets that The Dispatch questioned the wisdom of the USA PATRIOT Act, endorsed placing signs in libraries warning readers that their borrowing habits might be monitored by the government, thrice opposed Proposition 54, an initiative most conservatives just loved, and urged voters not to sign recall petitions, to name a few.

And then we come to what really seems to have set Jones off – the editorial board’s endorsement of state Sen. Tom McClintock for governor. Jones fails to mention – although the editorial took care to do so – that the endorsement came with just two of five editorial board votes. He conveniently omits that the endorsement came with reservations about McClintock’s “far-right social views” and with the assurance that a Democratically controlled state legislature and relatively liberal state electorate would limit his ability to advance that agenda.

Anyone who reads or writes an opinion piece would be wise to consider Oscar Wilde’s wise words: “In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane.”

Before Jones penned his missive, it would have been nice if he had held himself to the same standard of fairness he demanded of The Dispatch’s editorial board. His failure to do so undermines the credibility of his assertions. So does the fact that his letter was published.


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