Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sunshine Week

Today is the last day of Sunshine Week. Fortunately, for us on the West Coast, that hs been a week of great weather. Unfortunately, we are living in an age when there is so much that still needs to be done to allow a little sunshine into the dark recesses of the body politic.

Maybe the best news is that the independent media is still interested in pursuing the the public's right to know and not just because it sells newspaper. There are still a few publishers and editors who actually care about the communities in which they live. The best recent example that I know of is the fight of the Tracy Press to focus our attention on the relationship between the management at Lawrence Livermore Labs and Tracy, CA, councilwoman Suzanne Tucker. This involves the decision to implement a new bio-weapons lab at that site and the fact that they will conduct open air explosions as part of the testing process. The Tracy Press has now filed suit to gain access to Tucker's emails on the subject.

Recently, Dean Singleton's Media News Group, having recently purchased the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times from McClatchy Newspapers, has concentrated ownership of print news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some, including KTVU-TV reporter Randi Shandobil, think this might be a dangerous monopoly. (link requires Windows Media Player) I fully agree. Even though Mercury News editor Stephen Wright has spoken out strongly about sunshine laws in city government, I do not see the Media News Group papers taking the kind of action that the Tracy Press took this week.

Maybe it is rather for the bloggers to claim leadership in allowing the public to learn what it needs to know, especially when there is muck that needs raking. The case for taking action against Attorney General Gonzales, especially with regard to the firing us 8 US Attorneys, did not come from the mainstream media outlets, though the NY Times and Washington Post have taken up the story. It really began with Josh Marshall and Paul Kiel at Talking Point Memo Cafe and with Marisa Taylor of McClatchy Newspapers. The back story of how this rolled out was recently outlined by Eric Alterman at Huffington Post. Of course, Marshall was a professional journalist before starting Talking Points Memo and that has led to some very competent investigative reporting.

We must continue to oppose the increasing concentration of local media. The best way to do this is to support (subscribe to) those local, independent papers like the Tracy Press whose love of their community and for the integrity of the journalistic tradition will continue to shine some sun on the body politic.


Cheri said...

Thanks for mentioning our efforts to gain access to e-mails about the public's business. So far, however, we haven't filed a lawsuit. That will come if the city continues to refuse to hand over the documents we've requested. The city has until the end of this week...

Wes said...

Thank you for the correction. I went back and re-read you blog as well as John Upton's article. Do you really expect the City to bend easily? Next, they just might accuse you of wasting the City Budget in legal defense.

BTW, I also plugged what you are doing with Randi Shandobil at KTVU in a response to his story on the consolidation of print media.

If newspapres like the Press do not continue "pressing" issues like this, the only resort of the public are bloggers like myself and we don't have the funds to hire lawyers like Marc Connoley. Besides, at times we are an undisciplined lot.