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The Weekly’s Critical Reading and Writing Skills Are … Weak (Opinion)

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.”

I was reminded of all these reasons last week when the Weekly “editorial board” criticized my story about how top city staff may have leaked information about the stadium audit.

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.

13 replies »

  1. This city has two media sources that are bias. The weekly sides with niners and some council members, itself acts as a agenda setter for certain individuals. Santa Clara News favors the political agenda of Lisa Gillmor and her disciples, 2016 election proved this when Santa Clara News was the squak box for Gillmor’s candidates in 3 council seats as well as police chief race. This was her media source as she couldn’t use ‘the weekly’. if only our city has a news source that is neutral in their reporting and telling both sides of the story without bias or hidden agendas. I noticed both sides did not cover council candidates that did not reflect their political views, something truly wrong with that. Someone has to expose the dirt of Gillmor, Davis, Watanabe, Mahan, casserta, kolstad, and O’Neil without favoritism. You can praise them but it should also fairly be critica of them

    • We actually have criticized every council member and many city staff members. We’ve critiqued Debi, Lisa, Kathy and Teresa, in addition to Caserta, Mahan and Kolstad. You’re going to see quite differing opinions between SC News Online and the printed paper that serve Santa Clara.

      We’ve covered every council member since we launched this site. Good and bad. We’ve even given kudos to the weekly and the candidates/council members that we supposedly “dislike” several times …

      We are concerned about Santa Clara’s future, as most who read this sure are. You may see that we are likely the only source that during the election allowed both the police chief and his opponent an opportunity to address readers in their own words. We’ve also allowed most of the county supervisor candidates to share an introductory Column to their constituents. We have much more to come, including researching funding of these campaigns.

      I wish there were other media outlets. Competition is great.

      Thanks for the comments.

  2. David Alexander is a solid journalist with strong ethics. But if his editor and publisher cut references in his story to the fact that the Weekly has financial conflict of interest when reporting about the Mariani development, it’s not his fault. It’s theirs.

    • I absolutely agree. I don’t know Jason or his background. The Article was one on many the referenced specific development protects – all without disclosure that Barber was a lobbyist.

  3. The rumors about the lobbyist fees are absolutely crazy. I heard some old geezer was getting 10K a month to help a hotel proprietor, only when another lobbyist (ex Councilman) had offered for a million dollars to bring it home. I hear the other lobbyists is running the show. You got to wonder what the fee is. I’m not even sure they registered yet.

  4. The Santa Clara Weekly consider a name change to The We Hate Mayor Lisa Gillmor Weekly. Issue after issue it is filled with articles, editorials and milestones hating on the Mayor. Seriously, enough is enough!! They need to realize its not increasing readership its only increasing the crafting and do it yourself possibilities for the weekly such as bird cage liners, fire starter material, paper mache, packing and shipping material, shred for pinatas etc.

  5. At least when Barber was a registered lobbyist we knew what he was up to. He’s no longer registered. But is he being paid? He’s meeting with Teresa O’Neill almost monthly. That’s really suspicious. Because Barber only cares about 2 issues. 49ers and Mariani. 49ers buy ads in his paper every week. Mariani? Is he paying him? Why else would he be meeting with Teresa O’Neill. Maybe there should be an investigation and she should be asked about the topics of the their talks. Then, we’ll know.

  6. Your columns are great. But I would like to you focus on city staff more. If Batra and Shikada leaked documents, they should be fired. Barber is a has been. No one reads his paper. It goes from my drive way to recycling without being opened.

  7. I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that the old curmudgeon and his weekly rag is just a shill for his political agenda and creating income. It’s obvious the weekly supports the 49ers, the apartment association, and all the other Chamber of Commerce crap.
    His influence with Mariani cost Lou hundreds of thousands of dollars and a couple years and he’s no further along than when he started, go sMiles. My understanding is this lobbyist took a lot of money for this and basically buried the project.

    This creep has done nothing for the city of Santa of Clara, only himself. I feel anyone following his ideals goes against the City of Santa Clara and their residents.

  8. “Robert”,

    Petty much? Some self reflection upon your own writing skills and narrative presentation would be really helpful for you too.

    You railed recently about a website monitoring a local gadfly, when this column is the epitome of such gadflyiness.

    Do better.

    • Robert are you serious about journalistic standards and objectivity! You took thousands of dollars from aynomous people for your legal woes and you constantly say city hall insiders or multiple sources and not ever mention ONE name in your reporting. Pls your standards are way below standard. No wonder you re not being paid for your work!

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