Journalism (and the Mercury News) Today: Much Ado About Twitter

By Robert Haugh

I’ve been working in journalism for 17 years. As many of you know, I worked for the Santa Clara Weekly from 2005 to 2015. When I started in journalism, there was no Twitter or Facebook. Social media was no big deal.

Today, social media is a big deal. And journalism is different. I was reminded of that yesterday when I read’s take on a story that we’ve written extensively about.

The story is about Mayor Lisa Gillmor being accused of violating the City’s charter by Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta and Councilwoman Patty Mahan — both strong 49ers supporters . They said that Gillmor should not have used the services of a PR firm, Banner Public Affairs, who the city hired to help communicate to the public about issues generated by the stadium and 49ers.

You can read our coverage here and here.

But here’s the short version of the story: the accusations were dead wrong. The city staff who are responsible for enforcing the charter said there was no violation. That was clear after an hour-long debate and grilling of city staff at the council meeting on November 21, 2017. Even Mahan voted to pay the Banner contract which passed 5-1.  Caserta was the lone no vote.

Ramona Giwargis of the Mercury News wrote about it before the meeting. But her story changed, at least three times online in major ways which we wrote about last week.

I like Giwargis and I know she’s done some good reporting in the past. But this was a really inaccurate story — or stories. I wish Giwargis had taken one of fundamental practices from journalism training and followed this one basic news reporting rule: “Write so facts shape the story. Don’t write facts to fit the story.“ The Mercury News still has not reported that the accusations were wrong. They haven’t even told their readers what the council decided last week. That’s pretty bad especially since it was a front-page story.

Full disclosure: Metro’s Jenn Wadsworth, one the best reporters covering local government, contacted me to get my perspective, but did not write “The Fly” that the Merc article is mentioned in.

“The Fly” got the facts right. But interestingly, the story focused a lot on Gillmor blocking Giwargis on Twitter. First, Giwargis complained about it.

Then, Gillmor changed her mind less than 24 hours later.

I weighed in too.

I have to admit that I don’t tweet much and I’m not sure how useful it is for journalism. But apparently Mercury News managing editor Bert Robinson thinks it’s a big deal. “The signal that it sends is that the journalist has gotten under the politician’s skin and the politician is being childish,” Robinson said childishly attacking Gillmor for childishly blocking Giwargis.

On a more serious issue, Robinson did stand by the Giwargis story — or stories. He said the major changes were just “clarifications.” Huh? Changing what the City Attorney said three times to make it look like the Mayor violated the charter when she didn’t are “clarifications?”

I would have thought that Robinson would have been more concerned about why a front-page story in his paper was wrong and still hasn’t been accurately reported. I would have thought accuracy in journalism was more important than Twitter these days.

Maybe things have changed. Maybe I’m wrong and need to worry less about writing stories with accurate facts and worry more about my tweets and followers and who’s blocking me.

Editor’s Note:  Please follow me on Twitter: @RobertHaugh


  1. Seems odd the Murky wouldn’t at least correct their page one blunder with an acknowledgement hidden t inside the paper.

  2. Hey, Dominic’s back with the same crap. You might want to save yourself cuz it’s going to be a long race. All the facts will come out on Dominic a little later, he has quite a history. It seems he doesn’t know he has no chance. I think it’s best for everyone to hold out until the poll kick in, this way you can see how many votes he loses every time there’s a posting. Bye Dominic.

  3. You are an impostor, Robert and being paid under the table by Gillmor which is her MO admitting so much in the 90’s. Gillmor gives CASH to people in violations of state law. That is a FACT and that is what she is doing for you! Why not cover that? That happened!

    Do not call yourself a journalist, Robert as your blog follows NONE of the journalist standards. NONE. You are a cherry picker and biased HACK who was fired by a community paper how does that happen?

    If this Banner fiasco, that has costs Santa Clara taxpayers over $60,000, was done by Mahan, Caserta, or Kolstad you would be calling for their impeachment. If Mahan, Caserta, or Kolstad were fined by the FPPC like Davis and Watanabe you would have written about that for a WEEK straight! Why have you not covered it, Robert? You don’t have the professionalism nor objectivity to answer that. If Mahan, Caserta, or Kolstad wrote such vile comments as O’Neill and Davis did about CANCER SURVIVORS you will call for the resignation of them, you have not even mentioned it. Why Robert?

    Because you a biased HACK who had a grudge with the Weekly because you were FIRED you CAUSE, and because you are being paid under the table in CASH by the disgraced, appointed soon to be one term Mayor Lisa M. “I only can be on the council by being appointed” Gillmor.

    See if this passes your moderation, I doubt it!

    • I am not being paid by anyone to manage this website. I have, however, solicited and received donations for my legal defense fund, which has been thoroughly reported here. All of those contributions have gone to pay legal counsel. I am managing and maintaining this site because I love writing and I love Santa Clara.

      ​I’ve looked into the accusation about Gillmor and cash payment(s). She and others made cash contributions to Will Kennedy’s council campaign that he completely reported on his FPPC forms. The city clerk approved it. There was no FPPC violation.

      Regarding the FPPC item​ about​ Davis and Watanabe​, both were required to re-file paperwork. This not atypical in elections. Dominic Caserta has had to file amended FPPC documents in the past as well.

      Regarding the cancer survivor thing, it is an ​interesting ​issue I will write about when I have time to do so.

      Regarding the Santa Clara Weekly, there is no grudge there, despite what some may feed you. I am friends with many who still work there, and have shared story ideas with some of them.

    • No Robert there you go lying again! Davis and Watanabe were FINED by the FPPC Caserta was never FINED by the FPPC!

      The Gillmor incident happened in the 1990s again you are cherry picking and misleading this has nothing to do with the Kennedy race and you know it! Gillmor violated the FPPC giving cash over $100 to candidates. She admitted it in court!

      And you have NO friends at the Weekly and no one there professionally respects you! Lastly, when will you write about the Oneill and Davis email as you have no job that pays you so you have quite a bit of free time?

      See if that passes your moderation…???!!!

    • There you Go…,
      You might get by the moderator but you won’t get past his readers. The rude way you attack Robert makes me wonder if you are a graduate of the Dominic Caserta School of Charm.

    • He isn’t a grad of the loser Caserta, it is Caserta himself commenting on every post with “Hate Robert” and “FAKE NEWS” alias names. Caserta is a sad little man

  4. Good story, Robert. My neighbors who read Unofficial Santa Clara City Council on Facebook say that the Mercury has switched their coverage of the 49ers to positive recently especially stories written by Ramona Giwargis. Is their someway to find out if the 49ers have increased their advertising? Just a coincidence I’m soooo sure.

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