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Sunshine Week: the Watch Dog Vs. the Attack Dog

Who has the responsibility of ensuring that the press is upheld to the same standards as our local government in terms of transparency?

Dear citizens of Gilroy,

Most of those who have come to know me soon find out that I’m a huge fan of our 33rd President, Harry S. Truman and that many times, when I write, I will lead the information with the statement, “The Truth,” which is  something that was very important to President Truman and a key part of his character.

“The Truth” is something that readers expect from those who provide news to the citizens. To many of us, the press is expected to be the “Watch Dog” that we depend on to keep the playground of politics fair and level. Same as we expect when we depend on umpires to call a baseball game, or referees at football and basketball games. Stringent rules and remedies are put in place when an umpire or referee is found to unfairly call a game or cheat.

When reading the news we would like to feel comfortable that the information is honest, truthful, without bias, and fair. We expect the newspaper to be a fair and unbiased Watch Dog that we can depend on to help us form our personal opinions. 

But, what happens when the editor of a newspaper abuses their position by hiding the truth, and tries to unfairly attack and destroy someone for the sole purpose of managing the outcome of a political contest? What happens when the “Watch Dog” becomes the “Attack Dog”?

This is exactly what our city is witnessing during Sunshine Week—a week dedicated to transparency, open government and freedom of information—and the question needs to be asked, “Who has the responsibility of ensuring that the press is upheld to the same standards as our local government in terms of transparency?" 

Obviously one has concerns when deciding to take on the responsibility of exposing the truth on those who buy ink by the barrel and paper by the truck load. We've already read degrading comments in the Gilroy Dispatch like, “FrankenKirkish” or “Puffy Chested Little PR Guy,” designed to mock and intimidate the messenger. But, it could be much worse should that newspaper decide to throw out all the rules, standards and guidelines of ethical journalistic behavior.

So, what is a citizen like me and others to do, knowing that the average citizen is uninformed and easily swayed when reading news articles or opinions with headlines using political spins like: “In practicing to deceive, Dion Bracco weaves a tangled web.” The purpose of the headline itself is to lead the uniformed reader to automatically believe that this person is already guilty of trying to hide and deceive (which many of us know isn’t true) when in reality it’s being used as a political ploy, or attack, with the purpose of aiding another political candidate.

One way to try and bring out the “truth” is to try and expose the strategy used by the attacker. This can be difficult to do as most citizens hardly pay attention to the day-to-day banter of the local press. Their day is filled with other more pressing issues like work and caring for a family.  

The editor of the local newspaper knows this and in effect can take advantage of his/her position by creating outlandish headlines like we have seen above, making the task of informing the citizens to the truth even more cumbersome.   

It takes someone with a passion for the truth, who  is fully informed, to try and educate the public about the unethical reporting that has become common in our city, and expose the editor for what he/she really is. This is the task that I have embarked upon.

Over the last year—with the announcement of councilmen Perry Woodward and Dion Bracco’s  intent  to compete in the mayoral race—there has been a subtle, but steady campaign by the editor of the Gilroy Dispatch to ridicule Bracco (and Mayor Pinheiro) at every opportunity.  

Here are just a couple instances for your consideration:

  1. At the last city council retreat, the agenda included discussion regarding issues surrounding the Department of Parks and Recreation. Citizens and constituents of Gilroy had previously approached Councilman Bracco regarding a sport called Bocce Ball, and asked him to bring this issue to the other elected members for their consideration. The whole discussion took less than six minutes, however, when the editor of the Dispatch reported the event in his opinion piece, titled “The Word,” he claimed that the time of discussion was over 45 minutes. A difference of 40 minutes may not seem like a big deal, but the bottom line is that it was inaccurate. The writer also ranted and railed, criticizing that any discussion of Bocce Ball had taken place. He did this to attack both Mayor Pinheiro and Councilman Bracco, who were doing what was requested by fellow Gilroy citizens. My thoughts at the time were, “Who in the heck does the editor think he is for trying to control what’s on the council’s agenda?” It was just another attempt to chip away at Bracco’s character.
  2. This next incident wasn’t reported in the Gilroy Dispatch, but was just as alarming. When attending an art function in downtown Gilroy, Bracco was asked to take his turn to speak on issues surrounding the arts and city hall. There were several citizens of Gilroy in attendance, and Mark Derry was also one of those invited to speak at the event. Bracco stated that the city’s general fund and the overall economy of the nation seemed to be improving significantly, and that he felt now could be a good time to consider using money from the general fund to aid the arts in hopes of beautifying our downtown. Mr. Derry (in the attack mode) decided to yell out (in a very red and angry face), “I’m going to hold you to that Mr. Bracco!” A totally out-of-place attack and in front of the whole arts community, this even caused our own city administrator, Tom Haglund, to shout out an angry and negative quip at the editor in response, who is typically very controlled in his demeanor.

I could go on using several examples over the last year, but this would make this article even longer, so I just wanted to give you readers a couple of examples of how this editor has been using every opportunity to attack Mr. Bracco, leading up to what we see today.

In conclusion, It’s important to have “sunshine” in open government, but it’s just as important to have it in the media. The citizens must demand the same from those we trust to be the Watch Dogs of our community. The press has to be worthy of our trust and when they’ve proven to not to be, then it’s folks like you and me that have to bring it to the attention of the public—that’s our job as the Watch Dogs over the press. And one thing I know for sure, is that we have to insist that a healthy distance remains between our elected officials and media.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Ronald L. Kirkish, citizen of Gilroy

Ron Kirkish March 18, 2012 at 06:43 AM
Folks, For those who took the time to read the article I want to say thank you. I also thought that you might like to read what Mark Derry wrote in his last opinion and on 3/13/2012.......these are his own "ugly" words that I copied and pasted for your consideration: "Well Dion, how about some straight talk and direct answers or are you going to continue to let some little puffy-chested PR monster cough out ugly innuendos and spin phrases while you hide in the shadows? What are you intending to do in the coming candidate forums, have someone in the audience hold up cue cards or text you answers? I would like to remind you readers that President Truman when asked by others to "Give them Hell Harry; President Truman responded, "I just speak the TRUTH and they think it's HELL". Mr. Derry Sir, the only one coughing out ugly innuendo's and spin phrases is you! Like President Trumans opponents, the Sunshine of truth is Hell sir, and both you and Mr. Woodward are the benefactors. Ronald L. Kirkish, Citizen of Gilroy
Ron Kirkish March 18, 2012 at 07:00 AM
And Mr. Woodward, Please know that your turn in the Sunshine is coming. "HST-The Truth" Ronald L. Kirkish Citzen of Gilroy
LaPulga March 18, 2012 at 09:17 AM
Derry has been doing this and hasn't followed the"Code of Ethics for Journalists" for at least the past 10 years. The only surprise to me is that people still buy that paper and that he still has a job. He has continuously omitted facts from articles so he can push his own agendas. I find it funny when you call him on his "yellow journalism" he immediately closes down the comments and bans you from ever posting again. But when someone "trashes" the public service, city government or agrees with his ideas - he keeps the comments on there no matter how vulgar the comment is.
LaPulga March 18, 2012 at 09:19 AM
And in case your wondering what the "Code of Ethics for Journalists" are: here are a few.. -Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. -Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing. - Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context. -Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief — Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance. — Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage. And my favorite.. - Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.

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