Stop what you’re doing. One of the more important local media stories just came out and you’ll want to be among the first to read it. It’s about this paid political ad submitted to the Orange County Register — the ad that wasn’t.
Adam Elmahrek of the Voice of OC — whose journalistic chops would leave me green with envy if I fancied myself a professional journalist — has come out with a blockbuster story exposing the Register‘s buckling under to the demands of a couple of Anaheim City Councilmembers not to be criticized even in paid political advertising. This, for what is supposed to be the county’s newspaper of record, is mind-boggling. Yes, they don’t have to cover the county fairly, but not even letting you buy space to criticize public officials — and to do so factually? Pardon my having a Yakov Smirnoff attack here, but: “In Soviet Orange County, newspaper tosses you out when it’s done with you!”
I have nothing to add to Adam’s article except that if you want to see how journalism is supposed to be done, you have got to read it. I can give you a taste of the first few paragraphs:
The Orange County Register abruptly altered its advertising policy, barring ads that challenge politicians by name, after two Anaheim city councilwomen complained to the newspaper’s new owners about ads from a local activist that criticized their support of a controversial hotel subsidy, Voice of OC has learned.
The ads came from Jason Young, a City Hall blogger at Save Anaheim who opposes the council majority, which is heavily backed by Disney and other influential local business interests. In December, the Register ran an ad submitted by Young in its Anaheim weekly publications asserting that Councilwomen Kris Murray and Gail Eastman violated state law when they approved a $158-million subsidy for local hoteliers.
The ads apparently infuriated Murray and Eastman, and according to multiple sources, the two made their feelings clear during a meet-and-greet session with Eric Spitz, who along with Aaron Kushner, purchased the newspaper last year.
I’m leaving out most of the tastiest stuff, such as Elmahrek’s devastating interviews with professors and professional experts in journalistic ethics and practice — with some of whom one would think that the Register would have consulted, by the way. It’s delicious and meticulously prepared.
That Murray and Eastman made this request in the first place is bad enough. But nobody expect much of them. That the new ownership of the Register said “oh, sure, we’re not going to let someone even pay us money to explain to the public that your action was ruled illegal by a trial court Judge” is unconscionable.
Well, now that we know that the Register will back away fleeing in the face of pressure, I guess it’s time to bring some of our own. The Voice of OC story is open for comments — as is this one — as is any article that the Register prints on Anaheim from now until when this decision is reversed. Do you care about the free flow of information in OC? Then you know what you’ve gotta do.
Update – Video from PBS