Sunday, February 22, 2015

A New Project: Butte County Media Watch

I've started a new project. I've been asked by a local political guy to investigate the possibility of getting more left wing/liberal opinion into the local newspapers. As such, I have to figure out what the current state of affairs of opinion are amongst the local press.

I've always paid attention to the content of the local papers. I read most of them often (online). But I've never really tried to put it all into a consistent study. The four major papers in Butte County are: The Chico ER; the Oroville MR (which is owned by the ER and has almost identical content to the ER); the Paradise Post (owned by the company that owns the ER, but with vastly different content); and the liberal Chico News and Review (to which I am an occasional contributor). Of all the newspapers, the one with the largest circulation is the Chico News and Review.

I've been looking at the content of the opinion pages, mainly the Editorials, the Columnists and the Letters to the Editor.

I've been told by local Democratic Party activists that it is tough for liberals to get Letters to the Editor published in the right wing papers (the ER and the Paradise Post). I have a hard time fathoming whether this is true or not, after all, doesn't every editor want a lively opinion page to drive up readership?

In these non-tolerant times, people gets their panties all in a twist over reading opinions with which they disagree. Editor Rick Silva of the Paradise Post mentioned such a dilemma last week when he wrote a piece about various people who wanted to cancel their subscriptions for the views expressed on the Opinion page of that newspaper. Silva wrote:

"It seems to me that too many of us want our news to be presented in a way that exclusively reflects our own views. It seems odd to me that two opinion pieces that view the world from totally different perspectives would engender a similar response.

Even if you find one opinion objectionable, surely the presence of another with an opposing view, when presented in a fair and balanced manner, should offset your objection. The reality is that in spite of our own worldview, it is only through our ability or willingness to reach out and read views contrary to our own that we challenge ourselves to expand our understanding."

The interesting thing is that of all the newspapers around here, the Paradise Post has the fewest Letters to the Editor published. I don't know why.

As for the content of the Letters to the Editor? The Chico ER has the most lively content, with much of it swinging to the Rabid Right. As is common around here, you can find the Obama is a Communist/Muslim letters.

This letter, which I will print in full, was in the Chico ER just a couple days ago. The letter was titled: Obama's goals sound like the Communist Manifesto.

Here's the letter:

“From each according to capacity (original Marx), later changed to ability, to each according to need.”

After hearing Barack Obama’s State of the Union, I was reminded of the Communist Manifesto. Your readers might reflect on the countless millions killed to implement this failed economic agenda.

Upon hearing that Saul Alinsky was a community organizer in Chicago, I researched his book, “Rules for Radicals.” Hillary Clinton and Obama were students of Alinsky. The bottom line was the ends justify the means. The goal is political power. He remarks that such power rests not in political left and right, (Republican and Democrat), but is the independents and middle-class voters. Notice the emphasis of the “poor” middle class by Obama.

Alinsky says that leaders of organizing must frequently change the subject of interest in order to keep followers energized. Readers will no doubt note the daily shift in the White House emphasis.
Consider the State of the Union address and the current budget proposal by Obama and then reflect on the “fundamental transformation of America.” May the Almighty bless and deliver us from these Marxists and ISIS enablers and other Islamic jihadists.

— Hugh Rhodes, Magalia

Now why would David Little, the editor of the Chico ER, publish a letter like that? To show just how stupid some of their readership is? To throw a bone to the radical right? Did he publish it as a bit of local color? Did he publish it to show just how hickish this part of the state really is?

Who knows.

From a preliminary reading of the letters to the editor, it seems that the ratio of rabid right letters to more liberal minded letters is about five to one. Hopefully we can increase the left's presence a bit more over the coming years.

Why do this? Because it works more than I ever thought it would. Neighbors taking a stand on an issue has impact. You'd think that a liberal college town like Chico would have innumerous professors and academics writing letters, addressing questions of the day. That doesn't seem to be the case (although I haven't paid enough attention to firmly state that).

Measure A in Butte County, the ballot measure that severely limits the cultivation of cannabis in Butte County, was passed even though they were way outspent. Measure A people had no TV commercials. Measure A had just a few billboards and a few signs. They were outspent by the opposition by, at least, 2 to 1. But what they did do was write a constant barrage of letters to the editor which turned out to be very effective. By doing this, they managed to switch 30,000 votes and change 30 percent of the citizens of Butte County's minds. Two years previously, the pro-cannabis crowd won a relaxed measure by 10 points; two yeas later they lost by 20 points. Quite an achievement to which a letter writing campaign certainly helped.

Liberals and Lefty's should take note of that achievement and mimic it. If you are interested, I started a new Facebook page to monitor the local press. Please join it here.

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