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By Gina Channell-Allen

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About this blog: I am President of Embarcadero Media's East Bay Division and the publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly, Dublin TriValley Views, San Ramon Express and Danville Express. As a 25-plus-year veteran of the media industry, I have experience...  (More)

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Citizen editors: New solution to an old problem?

Uploaded: Jan 29, 2014
I've heard of citizen journalists, and now there are citizen editors. Or at least that's the descriptor I'm using for the folks in a program Delinda Fogel, publisher of the St. Augustine (Fla.) Record, has launched. It's called "Catch the Typos" and is a contest to help Fogel achieve her New Year's resolution -- "to eliminate the typos and grammar mistakes in the newspaper."

Apparently the paper has had a run of bad luck when it comes to catching the typos that inevitably show up in page proofs. At the Record, as well as most other papers, the proofs are read by multiple people before the paper is "put to bed" and sent to the press. But typos still get through.

It happens all the time… and some are so funny they end up on late night talk shows. A somewhat funny one happened to a local newspaper, The Novato Advance, earlier this month. The headline in the January 9, 2014 paper was "Horney boys, Mustang girls split." It was a game played by the Hornets. A Facebook commenter wrote, "I think it's a mistake, but maybe not."

Ouch, that stings.

Fogel understands that all mistakes are embarrassing and is trying her best to correct the problem despite having a very small staff. In a January 19 column, Fogel wrote, "I hear from some readers that part of the entertainment value of The Record is counting the number of errors. I'm not proud that we have a problem. It is very humbling, but it seems to take an army to help turn this tide. Lord knows, it's something I've been battling since last summer."

She wrote, "To all of you who have extended me an invitation to come down here and help me fix this, here's your chance. I need your help. I'm going to hold a contest called 'Catch the Typos.'"

The volunteers report for duty every night between 8 and 11 p.m. at the newspaper's office. The Record rewards the volunteers who catch the most typos by entering them in a drawing for a dinner for two.

The overworked, "lean" editorial staffs endemic in today's newspaper business model is not a secret. Back in the "good ol' days" before the late 1990s, newspapers had "copy desks." Editors did a "line edit" to look for bias, completeness, accuracy and so on, and the copy editors checked for typos and grammar problems. Copy editors also wrote the headlines and cutlines (the information under the photos). Copy desks are mostly gone, or they have been combined with design and / or line editing.

In our operation, the journalists write, edit and proof pages. Well, everyone is responsible for proofing pages - even our business manager and sales reps get involved! It is much easier to spot problems in another person's work, which is why the copy desk concept was perfect, but then financial reality hit.

In a later email explaining the move to some critics who thought Fogel should just hire copy editors (obviously they don't work in media), Fogel said a dozen readers, including retired English teachers, have volunteered in what she said is a "temporary exercise aimed at process improvement, with help from the most important people – our readers."

"We'll pay them for the inconvenience of sitting in on our production times for a couple of weeks, and we'll buy them dinner to discuss their experiences with me and the staff, once the exercise is complete."

I admire Fogel's resolve to fix the problem but, in my humble opinion, I don't see it as a permanent solution. It will be fun for these volunteers to "play newspaper" for a while, but eventually I predict people will not want to continue unpaid. And it sounds like Fogel feels the same.

I look forward to hearing how the "exercise" goes – and how long it goes. Innovation is the key to life in media nowadays.

Comments

Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 29, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Just curious, Gina. How many African Americans belong to your stable of writers and editors? Who is responsible at your newspapers for covering events/issues that may affect racial or ethnic minorities? Is this person or persons minorities themselves?

Do you and your colleagues routinely sit down and discuss matters of bias, intentional and/or unintentional, and ways to curtail it? Do you and your colleagues discuss how you might approach even a semblance of objectivity given your paper's heavy reliance upon advertisers? Do you and your stable of writers and editors even think that objectivity is a desirable goal? Does objectivity figure into your thinking, at all, when you select what stories to select and prioritize?

Have you and yours discussed the ratio of kinds of sources your paper uses in its stories? Have you ever determined what the ratio is between officials -- DA's, Police Chiefs, political party heads, company owners/administrators -- versus eyewitnesses on the street, ordinary Joes, community activists, wage workers?

Or are you content to continue sounding like a High School sophomore who's in charge of the school newspaper? Typos? Indeed. Whoooooooosh!


Posted by Gina Channell-Allen, president of the Pleasanton Weekly,
on Jan 29, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Gina Channell-Allen is a registered user.

Noam,
The makeup of the staff reflects the makeup of the community as best as it can. Minority journalists are few and far between and the few there are usually go to jobs that pay quite a bit more we can.

Yes, we do discuss objectivity, and we base our story selection on journalistic principles of timeliness, prominence, importance, etc. (J-school, first semester.)

As far as advertising, if you can come up with a better way to fund an independent media source that employs professional journalists, let me know. And before you say the "PBS model," I invite you to visit SupportLocalJournalism.com/Pleasanton and become a member.

As far as everything else, WHOOOOOSH! I believe I hear someone volunteering to go to city council, school board and planning commission meetings, hang out at the police station at all hours day and night, and read fun and exciting board packets 2 inches thick ... FOR FREE .... so you can provide your expert opinion on what exactly we should be covering. If you have a journalism degree, and are willing to work long, strange hours FOR FREE, you can put in some long hours writing the stories to go with all those tips. Let me know when you\'re available! Then you can share in the glamorous lifestyles and gushing expressions of appreciation we journalists enjoy.


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 29, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I see. So, since Pleasanton is the Idaho of the Bay Area (predominantly white), no reason to attempt to diversify one's stable of writers and editors, eh? And, besides, minority journalists just demand too much money! So, given the homogeneous composition of the newspaper, we'll simply have to rely on the white newspaper's point of view.

Timeliness, prominence, importance, which you imply you 'learned' in journalism school, have PRECIOUS LITTLE to do with objectivity. (You seem to be conflating objectivity with popularity of themes.) These simplistic 'criteria' you offer might easily reflect a newspaper's unreflective conformity to what it THINKS its community desires. More pertinent criteria, I would think, would entail a diversity of viewpoint and critical reflexivity which is going to be difficult to cull from a stable of homogenized workers/staff.

The question isn't about advertising per se, as you simplistically suggest. It is a matter of to what extent the journalists, editors, and owners internalize the advertisers' values. For after all, it is your advertisers who are paying your bills. That you're seemingly unable to recognize this as a problem, wedded to your simplistic -- better said, wrongheaded -- idea of objectivity, reveals quite a bit about yourself and the paucity of standards underlying your newspapers' practices.

Your comments about me volunteering to do your work for you appear scatter-brained, and off the topic. Maybe you should censor your remarks in this regard?

So, here's what I gather from your response. To sum up: your idea of objectivity is simpleminded at best, if not outright wrong. It is clear enough that any mature concept/standard of objectivity does not figure into your own thinking or the practices of your newspaper. "Prominence?" "Importance?" I think not. Instead, you suggest strongly it's okay to bow to what you assume are the values/beliefs of a largely homogeneous community, and your silence on how you attempt to address the information needs of Pleasanton's minority population is pretty loud and clear. All this becomes even more troublesome given that you must cater to the values of your advertisers as a function of running a business rather than a newspaper.

Your censorship practices, frankly, are a revealing tip of this rather sizable iceberg. I don't think you and your staff have much of a clue as to what you are doing; and thus any promise of improvement along lines of objectivity, diversity of viewpoint, critical-inquiry-in-the-face-of-possible-community(advertiser)-disapprobation appears to be nil.


Posted by Gina Channell-Allen, president of the Pleasanton Weekly,
on Jan 29, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Gina Channell-Allen is a registered user.

You are welcome to attend an editorial meeting and enlighten us on what you think we should cover, how we should cover it and how to run a newspaper - without advertisers. Really, I'd love to hear. Call my office - 600-0840.

Oh, but you can't be anonymous if you have to come to the office, can you?


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 29, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Yes, I have no intention of forfeiting my anonymity; nor do I have any desire to give up my day job.

You don't need me at your meetings. There are plenty of alternative models out there. Yes, they'd require that you read a book or two. But you might also take a gander at how various African American newspapers function in the world of white majorities and advertisers. Take a look at, say, the Chicago Defender, New York Amsterdam News, New York Beacon -- all available thru easy accessed search engines. This should be in your interest on many levels. You do realize, don't you, that ethnic minority newspapers in California are now reaching a larger subscriber readership than are so-called mainstream, white majority-based newspapers?

One of the things ethnic newspapers seem to do so much better than white homogeneous newspapers like the PW, is that they take very seriously their sources. In fact, a quick read of any of the black newspapers I've mentioned will show something of a reversal in source selection. In white homogeneous newspapers, officials are interviewed at approx. a 2-1 ratio over people from the street; in black newspapers, 'street people' -- eyewitnesses, neighbors and family members of subjects, community activists -- are interviewed at about the same rate 2-1, in their favor. Now, in a democracy that purports to uphold an equality of voice, it strikes me that a newspaper would want to emulate the ethnic minority newspapers in this regard. For, after all, do we ALWAYS need to hear 2 officials for every one "common" person? And how might you think that might have a bearing upon matters of objectivity?


Posted by Local, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:56 pm

We, the residents of Pleasanton, are pretty much all 'editors' of sorts, as I see it. We exchange observations and opinions of happenings in our town...presumably 'representative' of Pleasanton's natural makeup of people, activities, and opinions. We have a large representation of Asians in town, and I suppose they make up a large representation on this site, but how would I know? How could I tell?? Do I 'need' to know?? I don't think it should matter. Our opinions should be color & culture blind. I assume posters would sort of 'naturally' represent the appropriate 'mix' according to our population.
PW is certainly NOT a national, state, or even county paper. I pay to subscribe to some of those. PW Town Square is as the name implies, "TOWN" square... where locals 'sit and chat' about thoughts for that day....
NOT complicated, NOT structured. IF that starts happening that's when PW becomes history & disappears.


Posted by Local, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 12:33 am

'News' articles in the PW 'paper' are reasonably 'objective. But this on site 'running' exchange is anything BUT objective. It's usually a discussion, debate, or even a 'shouting' match, of sorts. It could well be two extreme positions for days, without 'objectivity'. This site is for the people, and does not need to be as rigid as subscription 'papers'. . .In my humble 'opinion' which is what is offered on this site.
You are free to offer anything. It might be replied to, or it might not.


Posted by BG Grough, a resident of Danville,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 7:56 am

It is rare to find a troll who consistently hits the tri-fecta of self-importance, tone-deafness and neediness. "Chumpsky's" point could have been constructively made in one paragraph, but that would've sacrificed several opportunities for the perceived self-aggrandizement, errant pedantry, and attention from others that are sought above all else.

On thing about trolls, though: they are all insatiable -- feeding them only makes them want more. I think a simple "thanks for sharing" may be the best response, in case any is needed, at all.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 8:06 am

Noam, I do not think it is Gina's fault that Pleasanton is a predominantly white community.
I am looking forward to the first issue of "The Pleasanton Defender" hitting my mailbox...


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 9:39 am

When I become a blogger, use multiple names to shore up the (self-induced)illusion that people are reading and commenting on my blog, use other multiple names on other blogs in order to defend my boss, and do all this without having anything to say, then I'll plead guilty to "self-aggrandizement ... and attention from others above all else." Really, Citizen Paine, how foolish you sound.

I've made several points, all underscoring the problems that inhere in being an all-white, advertiser-fed, politically biased newspaper. Unless some of these problems are honestly addressed, the paper is destined to have a low readership, with its Town Forum reduced to a highly censored comedienne and a local racist (who rarely gets censored -- gosh, go figure!). These two contributors, combined with the two bloggers whose addictions can only be fed by commenting on every possible blog site under the sun, probably constitutes, what, maybe 95% of Town Forum commentators?

I try to point out trouble areas, and offer recommendations. In response, the clowns inevitably spill out of the Volkswagen. File this under: No good deed goes unpunished.


Posted by BG Grough, a resident of Danville,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 10:01 am

Thanks for sharing.


Posted by jake, a resident of Alamo,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 1:19 pm

I don't see anything wrong with all white advertiser-fed with a point of view just as I don't see anything wrong with predominantly of one race sports league that is advertise-fed with its own agenda. Don't like this publication go elsewhere or start your own. We all have the freedom and the means to avail ourselves to a variety of sources. quit whining!


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 1:46 pm

A key difference between (most) white newspapers and (most) ethnic newspapers. The former claims an adherence to objectivity, and thereby disguises its biases (see Gina's unfortunate effort to discuss objectivity); the latter promulgates its biases so that readers and advertisers know what it is they are reading and/or patronizing. Neither are objective, but only one has the honesty to admit it.

Not quite sure I'm familiar with any 'one race sports league that is advertise-fed with its own agenda'. I doubt Jake is familiar with such either. More likely, he sees African Americans participating in a sport and, being the frightened and insecure person he is, immediately assumes a 'one race league'. I think it is highly revealing (as well as mildly amusing) that the town racist is defending the PW.


Posted by Barabbas, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Jan 30, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Noam,

Where is all of this coming from? Why blindside the PW with non-specific accusations of racism? Are there "black" stories not being told because of a "white coverup?" I've seen plenty of stories that reflect the diversity of our town, Chinese, Indian, Arab, Scottish, etc. This really looks like trolling at its worst and most puerile, and I'm somewhat taken aback to see Gina even try to answer your antagonism seriously.


Posted by LocaL, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:46 am

I agree Barabbas, After pages and pages of general opinion and comments comparing papers and racism, Noam has not offered any situation or anything specific about racism, just general attacks. She, at any point, could have introduced any specific situation, and still can...not, just generalizations. If anybody thought there was something that needs to be brought up anybody could have, including Noam. This is not a 'paper' with limitations.
In my Pleasanton fitness class, I am often just 1 of 2 whites, other 38 an assortment of everything else.,I just never thought that was newsworthy....I guess maybe it is.


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:42 pm

When a community excludes certain points of view, certain experiences, that belong to a minority of its members, it is then relatively easy for the majority to be blinded to the exclusion and its possible effects. We then get thinly veiled racist platitudes as: Well, what's the big deal, we live in a free society ... a colorblind society ... a diverse community with Scots, Indians, and Swedes. Such platitudes, of course, serve to deny the validity of other people's (a minority's) experiences, values, and world views.

How many PW pieces have looked at with any seriousness the experiences of African Americans living in Pleasanton? What does it mean to be black in this town? What kinds of discrimination, intended or unintended, are there? What kind of view of certain newsworthy events is perhaps (likely) seen differently from a minority point of view? When a newspaper complacently hides behind -- yeah, we're mostly lily white but we're just reflecting a mostly lily white community -- then of course news will be selected/interpreted/written/disseminated from a predominantly white point of view. If you believe points of view are not racially tinged, I invite you (again) to look at many African-American newspapers. If the community is racist (as Pleasanton most assuredly is), it will tend to remain racist without most even being aware of it.

What stands out in the black press is that African Americans value such things as freedom more so than whites, who tend to take freedom for granted. Being African American MEANS having experiences of freedom that are highly problematized; it is highly unlikely that a white majority (or even other minorities with different historical experiences) can appreciate this.

For a newspaper to dwell on matters of punctuation (and censorship) while minimizing issues of race and how such issues bear on news reportage, diversity of interpretation of the news, and hence quality of information, is to do everyone a great disservice. For if we truly value such concepts as freedom, individualism, rights, democratization, we will want to learn from those whose experiences with such have been far more problematized with these, thus putting them in a position to teach us a great deal that we might not otherwise learn.

If you think coverage of, say, a town meeting where low income housing is being discussed is going to be reported on relatively similarly by white and black reporters alike, you are simply being naive and, most likely, intentionally so. I could name dozens of other 'kinds of news', reported and not reported, where an assured prevalence of a dominant (white) perspective will seriously skew a community's overall perception of the world.


Posted by BG Grough, a resident of another community,
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Huh. Now, that's a comment that is informative and challenging -- and nearly devoid of noise. 'Grats, man -- here's hoping for more like that. You have raised the bar on yourself.


Posted by Barabbas, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Jan 31, 2014 at 6:25 pm

So in other words, no, there is nothing specifically you have a beef with. It's pretty much, "Hey, racism exists!"


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Well, I wouldn't word it quite like that, Barabbas. For after reading your trenchant, thoughtful comment, I'd say not so much "Hey, racism exists!" but rather, "Hey, racism and dirt-dumb stupidity tend usually to co-exist!"

The challenge of African-American discourse has always been to use various rhetorical devices to bring readers/listeners to their senses. Of course, it's nice when an audience is receptive, and shows a willingness to understand and learn. But as your post testifies, the union of racism and stupidity forms a rather formidable obstruction to any reasoned effort that aims to achieve shared understanding by discursive means.

Don't worry, I don't expect you to understand what I'm saying. But thanks oodles for offering up your witless reply as exemplar of a stubborn and willful ignorance.


Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Feb 1, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I blogged on the local Patch site for 18 months, posted 100 blogs. At that time I was and continue to be an absolute amateur when composing words into a sentence. I had typos, bad spelling and poor grammar. However, my blogs were read by a lot of people, not just in Pleasanton, sometimes nationally. As a result of my blogs, I was contacted by law enforcement agencies to help resolve lingering questions, I was contacted by our County District Attorney for assistance in an investigation, I was contacted by our local County Commissioner to assist with providing information to the BAAQMD, I was contacted by a family in Texas that asked if I would help them to determine the cause of death of a family member thirty years previous. My point, criticism is good, writing is far better.


Posted by Jake, a resident of Alamo,
on Feb 1, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Noam: you have been educated but learned little. Through your race colored glasses everything has a special tint of victimization. You don't know me, my race, or for that matter anything about me yet have the all knowing wisdom of calling me a racist; the last resort of a desperate small mind. I suspect your real name is Moan! Wake up, you live in a country with an elected black President, black Attorney General, a black Supreme court justice, national pastime sports leagues that are well participated by all especially blacks, good representations in the congress, the list is a long one. Yet you go on with your victimization diatribe. You have defined yourself as a victim and you will be such until you free yourself of it; no body can do it for you. I wish you enlightenment.


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 1, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Jake, you may change your name all you want, but my comment directed toward you-as-Barabbas holds equally for you now as it did then.

Michael Austin, it's hard to know exactly what you are talking about, beyond offering up a certain self-adulation. But more to the point: Think you might try to explain how writing is "far better" than criticism as you seem to attest? I was trained to appreciate how virtually all good writing contains critique; and that a very useful form of critique is delivered via writing.

Your dubious distinction between writing and criticism, also, implies a wont to exclude the critic who, you imply, is not as deserving as the writer who attempts to placate extant authorities and/or institutions. This tendency -- i.e., the exclusion of the critic -- is found far more frequently in white ghettos like Pleasanton, with its predominantly white institutions, than in more vibrantly diverse communities such as, say, Oakland or San Francisco.

Now, as for your penchant for name dropping, Michael. When I drove taxi in Chicago I once had Harmon Killebrew in my car and we talked baseball for over twenty minutes. There! I bet that leaves you about as impressed as we were to hear you passing along gossip to various institutional agencies.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 2, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

What is it about Gina that attracts the trolls. She wrote a perfectly innocuous column on public proof reading, hardly a subject of controversy, and was attacked in vitriolic replies for not including enough content for minorities in Pleasanton.

Does that mean minorities can't proofread, or just don't want to? Why is the Express attacked for not being what it was never intended to be? If you don't like it, don't read it. If you want news that presents a minority point of view, start your own blog. Those are easy these days.

Gina commented to one of the trolls, "I believe I hear someone volunteering to go to city council, school board and planning commission meetings, hang out at the police station at all hours day and night, and read fun and exciting board packets 2 inches thick ... FOR FREE .... So you can provide your expert opinion on what exactly we should be covering."

Gee Gina, that's exactly what I did from 2002 to 2009 when I wrote, published, reported, commented, and posted my personal "San Ramon Observer," website. Only it wasn't for FREE. It cost me about $2000 a year, not counting how many hours I invested in it.

I did have a "volunteer" proofreader and Editor. As I mentioned in my blog "Here's to the Victors," Victor Peterson monitored and critiqued my reporting of City Council meetings. Web Link

This was all off line over the phone or in email, and he helped me be more objective and comprehensive in the "news" part of my website. I kept my commentaries (now called blogs) on the Commentary page, which was designed for my opinions.

Councilman Scott Perkins was my proofreader. He would email me corrections when I misspelled or misnamed a speaker at a City Council meeting. He also caught typos and punctuation errors. I always made corrections in RED, so early-bird readers would see where I made the corrections.

If Noam or Elizabeth or any of the other complainers don't like the Pleasanton Weekly or online Expresses, write your own. It's much easier now to start a blog and it won't even cost you anything.


Posted by Barabbas, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Roz,

I think you're missing the point: trolling.


Posted by wow, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:13 pm

gina, so that is how you respond to criticism? by childishly stomping your feet while extending a disingenuous job offer with no pay? way to stay professional.


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 2, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I decided to comment because it rankled a bit to have a newspaper owner who is able to wax so eloquently on matters of business, censorship (her own), and punctuation, but who apparently has no clue, and hence no vision, as to what a good small-town newspaper might best look like.

The owner's vacuous statements regarding matters of race and objectivity further rankled (as well as confirmed). (That said, kudos to Gina for keeping this thread alive.)

A community, it seems to me, has a descriptive sense and an aspirational one. It appears Gina is content to simply have a mediocre, small-town newspaper that reflects the community in its descriptive sense. She doesn't need to hire minority staff, nor have a minority point of view among her reporters. She appears to not concern herself with issues that may be pressing to a minority, because gee whiz we're just not that kind of town. Exactly. And, with her admission, so the town's newspaper embraces the status quo, as she absolves her newspaper from having any real role in moving the 'community' from its descriptive status quo to its potentially aspirational one.

Is the town sufficiently integrated? Do minorities feel integrated? Do minorities feel their point of view is represented in the newspaper's coverage of issues? Does the newspaper do a good job of raising and following up on questions regarding, say, police treatment (targeting) of minorities, or the city's hiring practices, or its housing policies regarding how minorities are treated?

The town, Pleasanton, is demographically pretty homogeneous, even compared to, say, Dublin or Livermore. Oakland? Don't make me laugh. Do Pleasantonians want it to be that way? Why or why not? Is the paltry percentage of African Americans living in Ptown a consequence of economics, or is it a consequence of a community's members not wanting African Americans as neighbors? Or is it both? How so?

Like I say, to ignore minority viewpoints, and to exclude them from such things as community newspapers, is to ignore how we as a community remain incomplete. Do PTown parents want their kids to grow up to be country bumpkins in the mold of one or more of the PW's bloggers? Without diversity, or representation and voice in key institutions, such bumpkinism is pretty much guaranteed.

Roz, it seems you're incapable of engaging me in any substantive argument. All you seem good at is talking about yourself, gossiping about others in the community, and telling posters to go somewhere else if they don't like the status quo. Your responses point to that willful ignorance I mentioned above.

Barabbas, and the fifteen other names he posts under, Jake and countless others, is another local country bumpkin, no doubt raised in a way that isolated him from minority viewpoints and subcultural life expressions. His racism, undergirded by hatred and fear, selects against the possibility of a better community. He wants us to look at a very fortunate Barack Obama, or the Uncle Tom Clarence Thomas, and somehow think that that's supposed to make us forget about Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, and so many other victims of police brutality. It's supposed to make us forget about the statistics on black homelessness, comparatively low educational attainment, high unemployment, high incarceration, and the list goes on.

I start with the premise that a community desires more of itself. It has aspirations to be better. This is unlikely to occur, however, when its newspaper is content to simply reflect the tastes (and prejudices) of its white majority readers. From the contents of some posters' remarks here, there appears to be a willingness on the part of (some) Ptown denizens to keep the town white -- physically and ideationally -- even if it ensures continuance of a town's mediocrity as it is linked, inextricably, to racist exclusions of other human beings. Not exactly living up to our aspirations, I should think.


Posted by BG Grough, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for sharing, [apt anatomical characterization omitted].


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 2, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Aw, BG, you mean the honeymoon is already over? Wasn't referring to you personally as a bumpkin by the way.

Instead of providing your inconsistent thumbs-up, thumbs-down, how about envisioning ways the newspaper could improve itself through a plethora of possible actions?

It's what you do. Newspapers. Why not critically reflect upon it? Unless, that is, you're convinced I'm wrong or not making sense.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Feb 2, 2014 at 10:23 pm

So tomorrow you rant to the manager of Hunan Chef Wong about the fact that they only serve spicy green beans and not collard greens?
"I start with the premise that a community desires more of itself. It has aspirations to be better. This is unlikely to occur, however, when its newspaper is content…"
Your logic is flawed. The community does not own the newspaper. The newspaper belongs to Gina and it is solely a reflection of what she chooses to publish.
The community may or may not desire more of itself. It may or may not aspire to be better. Neither of those statements should concern Gina nor The Pleasanton Weekly…
We choose to read or not to read. Buy advertising here or somewhere else.


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 3, 2014 at 6:21 am

Yes, Jack, I suppose you might be right. One may find oneself living within a community of pigs who think of newspapers as nothing more than business enterprises, who think there is no obligation on the part of a community newspaper to improve its news gathering, disseminating, and analytical techniques, who think the only reason for a newspaper to report news is to make a profit from it, who would prefer all news be reported only through corporate lenses, sort of like Fox News. And of course there are some like yourself, too, who prefer that a community isolate itself by suppressing a healthy diversity of people and the diversity of their viewpoint. Your comments, for example, remind me of small-town, rural, white thinking in the South in the 50s and 60s.

So, yes, there are those like yourself who would prefer news reportage be subordinated to profit, and who like the idea of a community being as dumb and biased as is oneself. I'm happy to report, however, that the history of this country reveals, to greater and lesser degree, a dynamic interplay between newspapers and those who value a rising level of consciousness, an expanded world view, among its community membership.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:12 am

#1) You don't know the first thing about me. (I'll take some of the bait here…) In the 1990's I worked on several projects that brought "affordable housing" to Pleasanton. I believe the housing cap was wrong. And I for one, believe that Jerry Brown did the right thing by declaring it illegal and forcing us to live with the consequences.
#2) Diversity is a weakness in the fabric of our community, and I suppose many people choose to make their homes here for many of the reasons you are quick and clear to point out. (I moved here in the 1960's because my parents could afford it.)
#3) Gina was not elected by you nor anyone else around here. She does not take any of your tax dollars to publish her paper. So while you have the right to disagree with her, and perhaps question the way she chooses to operate, you are flat-out misguided if you believe she is to be held accountable to meet you informational needs.
#4) My kids are often told, "Unless you are willing to do something about it, I really don't want to hear you complain about it." Perhaps a better use of your time, energy, and education would be do something about it, rather than continue to be the victim...


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 3, 2014 at 12:16 pm

@Jack: You're perhaps old enough to have remembered when restaurant owners claimed they were under no moral or legal obligation to serve blacks at their lunch counters, when hoteliers claimed they were under no moral or legal obligation to let out rooms to blacks. Before the law overrode the owners' claims, lots of people, white as well as black, directed their moral disapprobation toward the owners. Back then, just as you're doing, people used that old "Oh, they're playing that victim card again" that you feel comfortable bandying about; and of course most people know exactly who those people are you're referring to. Wink-wink. Since society now has moral proscriptions against degrading people based upon their race or ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, die-hard racists persist in using not-so-clever and not-so-very-well-disguised racist code words. These die-hard racists think they are fooling people. They are not. Neither are you.

This is what people do, Jack. They raise questions and direct criticisms toward others' practices (and one's own) in hopes that such questions and criticisms will extend thinking and dialogue, perhaps practice as well. Gina, of course, is free to dismiss my criticisms, and she is free to run her papers the way she wants. But inasmuch as she opened up a dialogue about newspaper failings (albeit trivially in terms of punctuation), I chose to write something in hopes of raising the bar.

Why do I do that, instead of like yourself simply deferring to property rights? Because I'm open to the possibility that Gina might change her newspaper's practices in a positive way; I'm open to the possibility that other readers might reflect upon these matters in ways they haven't in the past; I'm open to the possibility that through the dialectic created in and through the dialogue that I might learn more or change my thinking.

You tell me that if I feel passionate enough to write out my criticisms, I should "do something about it." Your veiled criticism presupposes that I do not work towards such ends as I've endorsed in a number of different venues. The prescription that one shouldn't criticize unless prepared to do something about it is a hollow one. For criticism, itself, is a mode of doing, thinking, saying.

I want my kids to have a fuller array of perspectives available to them when they read the community newspaper. There are ways to do this. You seem not interested in this, for reasons that escape me. Ideological -- as in property rights over a community's need to know more than one perspective? Racism -- as in let's formulate specious arguments in hopes of steering clear of all this "victim" talk? Both? I don't know. But I do know that your arguments don't have much traction.

There more involved here than simply stating the obvious: that Gina owns the lunch counter, er, I mean newspaper.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Feb 3, 2014 at 1:21 pm

"The prescription that one shouldn't criticize unless prepared to do something about it is a hollow one. For criticism, itself, is a mode of doing, thinking, saying."
I am sure glad that Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Rosa Parks, Caesar Chavez, Billie Jean King, Harvey Milk among others did not share your view...
I agree 100% with "let's raise the bar," but let's pursue it in a forum more effective than the one Gina has provided. And perhaps we should thank her for providing it, rather than blaming her for the woes of our community and society.


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 3, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Now you've sunk from childishness into mere churlishness, Jack.

The names you mention I'm certain all shared my view. It was thought as a mode-of-doing that motivated and gave substance to their valiant actions. Their critical, self-reflexive thought and actions were influenced by many thinkers/actors who preceded them. You don't have Martin Luther King, for example, without Kant and Hegel -- both armchair theorists; he relied heavily upon their thoughts as he worked his way toward a more universal standpoint, which included victims and victimizers alike.

Until you become mature enough to think through the intricate interweavings of thought and action, criticism and change, you'll be stuck in the intellectual ruts you currently find yourself.

As for your tinny call to move this conversation to another venue, I'll humbly take that as your concession to my better arguments. BTW, I've already given kudos to Gina for leaving the thread open. It's an important topic, as those who were influenced by courageous newspaper editors and journalists in America's South would surely attest.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Churlishness? From the one who has referred to me as being "dumb," and a "racist?"
I jumped in here because I thought it was wrong that an intellectual bully was attacking one of the two or three people courageous enough to publish a local newspaper.
And I believe the concession is yours, to my "better arguments."
Four days ago you were raking her across the coals. And now, above, you are proud to acknowledge that you "have given kudos to Gina…"
Kudos that are well deserved.
Thanks for playing...


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Anything to offer regarding the arguments at hand, Jack? Didn't think so. Can't decide whether I like you better as Jake or Barrabas.

I didn't start the thread; and I would think Gina is far more equipped to respond to my concerns than you have been able to do. Very gallant of you, however, treating her as a 'victim' of what you call 'intellectual bullying', what I call confronting the better argument.

No, I do not retract any of the descriptors I directed your way. See, for example, my discussion of your attempt to reduce me to 'a victim'.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Oh yes, the arguments at hand!
I suppose you are referring back to the silly one that you started with, complaining about Gina's lack of objectivity and how her paper would reach much closer to some mythical journalistic standard of excellence that only you seem to be able to understand, recognize and appreciate? And that she should assemble the Pleasanton Weekly equivalent of an Afro-American Studies department?
Those arguments???
I will stick to my premise whereby I believe that a newspaper, though this fact seems to frustrate the hell out of you, remains a commercial enterprise. Your arguments against this, though passionate and articulate, seem better suited for street corners and council chambers.
I have long been a fan of Teddy Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech, so I will always have a problem with statements such as "criticism, itself, is a mode of doing, thinking, saying,"
But that's me…
Your turn…
(You'll start with some combination of insult/name-calling. You'll then provide some off point, mind-numbing rhetoric, and then you'll conclude with more name-calling and insults…)
Gotta go. Barrabas and Jake are waiting for me at Past Time where we're going to compare tattoos.


Posted by Pathos, a resident of Birdland,
on Feb 4, 2014 at 8:56 am

^ Winner!


Posted by Moan, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 4, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Please stop feeding the troll. "Noam" is getting exactly the reaction he/she wants. If "Noam" wants to truly be part of the solution to the problems alleged there is a way to do so. Instead "Noam" wants to moan, gripe and chastise others instead of doing the hard work. Stop replying to the troll. STOP FEEDING THE TROLL!


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Ah Gallant Jack, now appearing as crusader for the poor, downtrodden, intellectually bullied, bambi-like victims of their newspaper ownership who he gallantly assumes (no sexist implications here) are not capable of defending themselves. His passionate defense of commercial enterprise appears inextricably wedded to his consternation that an African-American perspective might find its way into the newspaper's reportage. For, as he notes, tolerating an African-American viewpoint would be akin to turning the newspaper into an African-American Studies program -- GASP.

I'll not restate what I did about hoteliers and restaurant owners once prohibiting African Americans from using the services of their commercial enterprises, and how, despite being commercial enterprises, they nevertheless proved to be well-deserving targets of a community's moral disapprobation. Nor will I remind Jack the Defender of White Pleasanton that his lack of response suggests, strongly, that he thinks the owners were oppressed by outside forces of justice.

Fact is, Jack-the-Gallant-defender-of-the-meek-owners-of-commercial-enterprises has offered no premise whatsoever. He has offered no argument. All he has offered is a statement of fact ... and a lot of gas expended on how he doesn't like me or my prose. Because, he says, my thinking and my writing really don't constitute DOING anything, though my thinking and writing seems to have done SOMETHING by way of provoking responses from our argument-deprived combatant Great White Hope.

He tells us time and again, the PW is privately owned. Thanks. He thinks Gina is not up to the task of responding to my concerns. Thanks, and I'm certain the little lady in distress thanks the Big Man for coming to her aid. Beyond that? He's offered nothing beyond not-so-thinly veiled references to his difficulties when it comes to talking about anything relating to race ... oh, except noting that our president is a Black man.

His thin "defenses" -- better said, denials: NO PROBLEM HERE, BECAUSE, SEE, NEWSPAPERS ARE PRIVATELY OWNED -- are about what one would expect in a town that seems to have fortressed itself, physically and institutionally, from certain kinds of people and the differing perspectives on things those folks might add to the larger discourse.

PS Apologies to all for my having "intellectually bullied" this fine, upstanding testament to male whiteness in our town.


Posted by Jezi, a resident of Downtown,
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Noam - at this point I think it is obvious that you need to get a life! How sad (and frustrating) to be you...


Posted by Noam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Too bad you don't know where I live, Jezi, cuz then you could show up wearing your favorite white sheet and cone hat. Before you posted your insipid little quip above, did it occur to you that I have raised a number of validity claims that might be contested? Oh, but you're incapable of putting your bigotry and hate into a coherent argumentative form, aren't you? But it's sad to be me you say? Right.

BTW, not a single poster besides myself has argued against current and continued exclusion of African-American perspectives in the PW. Could this be because other posters LIKE the idea of some people's voices being excluded? Thought so! Way to stick together Pleasantonians!


Posted by ridley, a resident of California Reflections,
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:15 am

Really Noam, Afro Americans only make up 1% of the population. I don't see how that gives them the right to have a voice in our privately owned newspaper. If they worked harder and had some education maybe they could afford to live hear.


Posted by Pathos, a resident of Birdland,
on Feb 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Noam it sounds like newspapers make you mad.

or maybe just life makes you mad.

you sound mad.

you mad?


Posted by "Can We All Just Get Along, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 9:31 am

After reading Noam's rant - I doubt you even live here. So sad you want to bring out the worse in human nature.
Is your goal really to make this a better place . Your in your face to disgrace then lets hold hands to illuminate supposes each to know the other. Pleasanton do not think our African American neighbors are represented by Noam (acronym?)


Posted by highdiver, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Appears Noam needs a job. lol


Posted by Bugged by Trolls, a resident of Birdland,
on Feb 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Noam is part of a neo-trolling campaign. Noam and his allies serve their community of like-minded trolls without pay. He/she is a first class hero for all who cannot speak for themselves. He/she helps disseminate ideals of ignorance, falsely perceived injustices, and inaccurate statements about the professionals who write for the Pleasanton Weekly and about the people who live in Pleasanton, because... why? Well, that remains to be extolled upon us small-minded, supercilious neanderthals of Pleasanton.
I can only wait with bated breath for his continuing wisdom and ballyhoo. Keep it up Noam! You will win a door prize or trinket with your name etched into its fibers: "Troll of the Year." Now that has to be more rewarding than a good paycheck to feed the kiddos at the end of the day, eh? Keep on Keepin' on!


Posted by liberalism is a disease, a resident of Birdland,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

'I do not think it is Gina's fault that Pleasanton is a predominantly white community.' This comment was made as though this were a bad thing. Having been born and raised in Oakland, I can tell there's no much that glamorous or enviable about at town like Oakland, compared to Pleasanton. Maybe Noam should troll the Montclarian newspaper and tell us how this small, local Oakland community newspaper represents the diverse area that encompasses this community. Small minded peons like noam live to drag other people down to their level (sounds like our dear leader's vision for income redistribution) rather than doing something positive to lift those 'victim's left behind by our economy. Don't waste yout time feeding his insecurities and self righteousness......he's a parasite and continues to be frustrated that he can't change our city to meet his image. Grow up, get out of your jammies and out of your basement and live life as a colorblind contributor to society.


Posted by John, a resident of Danville,
on Jun 5, 2014 at 7:56 am

Here's a comment that actually relates to Gina's piece, unlike the bizarre tangential litany above. It ain't just newspapers. Listen to national/local TV news reports: dangling participial phrase are rife. As they are in newspapers as well.


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