Monday, October 01, 2007

Down by the Riverside

The media circus:

Mirthala Salinas is one lucky woman.

Oh, sure, the onetime anchor for Spanish language television station KVEA
has suffered a career setback. Instead of being a rising star on the local
television scene, she is now working in Riverside where she will spend her
days interviewing the grieving families of homicide victims and sucking up
smoke chasing brush fires.

But it could be worse.

Ms. Salinas, you may recall, was caught in flagante delicto reporting on
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while having a romantic affair with
his honor. She had the audacity one evening to look unblinking into the
camera and announce that Villaraigosa was ending his 20-year marriage.

I'm guessing she and the mayor met for drinks after the broadcast.

For this egrigous violation of journalistic ethics, she was briefly
suspended then reassigned to the station's Riverside bureau.

If it had been me or any other reporter or editor I've known in a 40-year
career, we might have ended up in Riverside as well.

But instead of reporting we would have been pushing a broom, working at
Jiffe Lube or selling door-to-door.

The station she embarassed told the Los Angeles Times with a straight face
that the transfer would provide them with an opportunity to expand its
coverage of the Inland Empire, home to a growing Latino presence.

But I suspect the good people of the Inland Empire, Latino or otherwise,
will spot a fraud when they see it. And Salinas will disappear from the

The visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to New York reminds us
that, historically, the U.N. has served as a pulpit for some of the U.S.'s
most hostile enemies.

Media focus on the U.N. is never greater than when a despot blows into
towm ("The Evil Has Landed" screamed the Daily News). Because, after all,
despots give good quotes.

From Fidel Castro and Nikita Krushshev to Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad,
they have come to denounce our system of government, our presidents, our way
of life.

Why are we such willing hosts? It's not necessarily a case of good
diplomatic manners. Under a 1946 "headquarters agreement," the United States
is obliged to issue visas to world leaders and others on official U.N.

As a result, we have seen Krushchev pounding his fists, and later his
shoe, on his desk to show his displeasure over the proceedings.

We have heard Castro in what can best be described as a diatribe before
the General Assembly call John F. Kennedy a "millionaire, illiterate and
ignorant" while declaring that Richard Nixon"lacked political brains."

We have seen Chavez open his 2005 speech before the General Assembly with
these words, in reference to President Bush: "Yesterday the devil came here.
Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today."

And we have heard Ahmadinejad speak of "certain powers," "arrogant powers"
and world leaders who "sacrifice all good things ... for (their) own greed."

But if we attempted to bar leaders with whom we disagreed, it not only
would reflect badly on our cherished concept of free speech, it probably
wouldn't work.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan decided to bar Palestinian Liberation
Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat from New York, even though he had been
invited by the United Nations to speak before the General Assembly.

When Reagan refused to reverse that decision, the entire General Assembly
flew to Geneva to hear the Palestinian leader speak.

Meanwile, amid the serenity of Santa Barbara, harsh words are flying in a
different kind of venue.

There, the National Labor Relations Board alleges in a 15-count, unfair
labor practices complaint that the paper fired eight workers at the Santa
Barbara News Press who had no prior history of disciplinary action only after
they began to fight for union representation.

News Press owner and co-publisher Wendy McCaw testified earlier this week
that concerns about biased reporting and disloyalty, not union activity in
the newsroom, led to the firing of eight reporters earlier this year.

McCaw's attorney produced several e-mails and handwritten notes sent by
McCaw beginning in 2003 complaining about bias in stories, including an item
about a plan by the Hope Ranch Association to kill coyotes on the property.

"It was anti-coyote," McCaw said in explaining why she thought the story
was biased. "It was very negative toward those poor animals who are on the
verge of being annihilated."

Unforunately, coyotes are hard to interview for their side of the story.
And, according to DesertUSA, a website guide to the American Southwest, they
are anthing but endangered.

"The animals have a good sense of smell, vision and hearing which, coupled
with evasiveness, enables them to survive both in the wild and occasionally
in the suburban areas of large cities.

"...Efforts to control or exterminate the coyote by predator control
agents seem to have produced an animal that is extremely alert and wary and
well able to maintain itself."

Your witness.

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