The Weekly’s Critical Reading and Writing Skills Are … Weak
By Robert Haugh
Our nation and community suffers because too many people have poor critical reading and writing skills.
That’s one of the reasons I started this website. Many Santa Clarans relayed to me that the Santa Clara Weekly was unreadable because of its blatantly opinionated “news” and routine support of the 49ers and development projects over the city and our residents.
In one case, the Weekly’s publisher, Miles Barber, was actually a paid promoter (a.k.a. lobbyist) for the Mariani’s development project. But they never disclosed that to readers, a serious breach of journalistic ethics. Here’s one example, a story by David Alexander.
Barber, himself, has often penned columns supporting high-density housing projects, but slyly avoids mentioning the massive Mariani’s development project. Here’s an example.
What Barber has done violates an important Society of Professional Journalists’ ethical code: “Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”
It’s okay if people disagree with me. Civil community debate is good. But as many of us know, the Weekly needs to improve its critical reading and writing.
Let me demonstrate as I answer the Weekly’s editorial.
I had multiple sources for my story, as I clearly wrote (and I reprinted a memo as physical evidence):
According to multiple City Hall sources, Interim City Manager Rajeev Batra and Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada may have been the source of the leak of the confidential City Staff memo that appeared in the Mercury News story about the stadium audit by Ramona Giwargis.
The Weekly, demonstrating poor reading comprehension, wrote:
He found one (emphasis added) anonymous source that turned his nose to two City employees, who he was quick to name.
Then, their editorial criticized me personally.
Instead of throwing City employees under the bus based on pure speculation, why doesn’t this self-proclaimed journalist actually report on something other than City Council, which he can watch from home?
That’s really confusing writing (one sentence, three non sequiturs!) and another example of poor reading comprehension. My column wasn’t about the city council, not one mention. It was about city staff. I also clearly stated that I don’t think there’s anything wrong if Batra or Shikada gave a reporter a document:
We’re less concerned about the document and the information getting to reporters. (Hey, we encourage it.) We’re more interested in all the effort people are exerting to cover their tracks, from the Weekly to City Staff.
By the way, this “self-proclaimed journalist” wrote for the Weekly for 10 years. I actually mostly enjoyed my time there, and I’m still friends with some Weekly writers – I’ve even shared story ideas with them!
Finally, let me say something about critical reading and writing. According to a 2005 study, only 15 percent of 12th graders (high school seniors) can write well-organized essays that consist of clear arguments.
That’s not good. Unfortunately, some publications are not helping the situation.