Readers accuse me of bias in Pombo-McNerney coverage

Reader Larry Ward of Pleasant Hill writes this morning, in response to our coverage of GOP Rep. Richard Pombo’s visit to the Times editorial board.

Editor Chris Lopez’ response follows.

Here’s Mr. Ward’s e-mail to me:

How in the world is anybody to take this paper seriously? Your bias is so blatant that it has become laughable.

You make “George Miller predicts” a news story, highlighting “Pombo could potentially lose” (the sun could potentially fail to rise also). Self-fulfilling-prophecy work should not be the effort of any kind of serious journalism.

And then when you interview Pombo, you pick out the current Ken Lay of the election cycle, the man whose name is substituted for “the devil” by Democrats and insert it in the Pombo article SEVENTEEN times? Take a highlighter & hit Abramoff with it every time it appears in the article.

Then try to tell me that was not intentional. Do you understand now why Air America had to file for bankruptcy? Nobody believes them anymore, and it is just too tedious to listen to.

The same is true of print journalism. You’re all scratching your heads thinking it is just a case of the on-line erosion of advertising dollars, but you just will not allow yourselves to factor in your own bias as a reason circulation in the print media is down.

Your friend,
Larry Ward, Pleasant Hill

Here’s Lopez’s response:

Larry, it’s not intentional. We spent 90 minutes in my office yesterday with Congressman Pombo. We had a very good conversation with him. We get accused of bias to the right as often as we’re accused of bias to the left.

For us, that’s validation that our reporting is straight down the middle. We would be negligent
in our duties if we didn’t press Congressman Pombo on the Abramahoff situation. He had no problems with our line of questioning and answered all of our questions. We value the fact that we have strong relationships with all of the congressional delegation that includes Democrat Miller and Republican Pombo.

We also value readers like yourself who take the time to email us and express thoughts. That’s healthy for us. We like that you keep us on our toes. We have many readers from all stripes who do. That’s what makes Contra Costa such a strong newspaper. Never hesitate to let us know what you’re seeing in the newspaper.

Chris Lopez

Ah, but there’s more.

A reader called an editor at the Valley Times to register a complaint about my “slanted” anti-McNerney reporting as part of recent stories about Pombo, including today’s. Complaints included not writing often enough about McNerney, not acknowledging McNerney has “a chance to win,” not mentioning Modesto Bee’s endorsement stories, and so on.

And in a voice mail message on my phone a few minutes ago, a reader asked me, “Are you on Pombo’s staff now?”

All I need now is a call or an email from someone who says I am pro-McNerrney and I will have rounded out the four obvious possibilities. Perhaps that message will come tomorrow after I write about McNerney’s visit to the Times’ office this afternoon.