13

Regrets, I’ve had a few…

…but then again, too few to mention.

Well, dear Political Blotter readers, all good (?) things must come to an end.

The question mark is for you, because there’s no question that it’s been very, very good for me. I launched this blog in late 2006 to create a space for some quicker-hit, snarkier, insider-baseball items for which a full story might not be warranted, but which would make some of you out there say, “Well, how ’bout that?” (My original proposal for the blog’s name was “The Political Junkie,” but an editor didn’t like the drug connotation. Whatta stiff.)

Whatever the situation with my other work, I’ve always found more fun than frustration here on the Blotter. I’ve loved the interactivity of it, both in my ability to use links to original information, photos, videos in a more creative way than our website has allowed, and in your comments.

So I offer hearty and sincere thanks to all the most persistent, longtime readers and commenters, notably including JohnW, Marga, RRSenileColumnist, Willis James, Tom Pyke, GlenThePlumber, DanvilleDemocrat and – yes – even Elwood. (Apologies to anyone I missed.) Thanks for helping to create a community here, the most fervent wish of any blogging journalist.

Now it’s time for me to bring my contributions here, and my 24 years as a daily journalist, to a close. I’ll be starting a new job in a few weeks; I wish I could share all the details right now, but circumstances don’t permit that just yet. (And in the meantime, I shall neither confirm nor deny…)

God knows I’ve never been in it for the pay, and I still believe the work of journalism is important to a healthy community and society, but I’m just not having fun the way that I used to. I anticipate doing meaningful work and having more fun in my new career. Some consider journalism like a priesthood, from which one can only fall; I’ve never believed that, but I assume that even those who do would agree it’s no job for the half-hearted.

I hope our time here has been as good for you as it was for me. Thanks again.

P.S.: Watch this space. There’s a good chance my successor will take over the blog…

2

On the retirement of a journalism icon

I attended a surprise retirement party this morning at KQED in San Francisco for Belva Davis, whose last episode of “This Week In Northern California” will air at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Belva DavisI’ll not recount her long, storied career here; we’ve already carried a great story this week about her amazing contributions to journalism. But I’ll tell you what I told her today: Whatever I’ve done so far in my career, and whatever I do in the future, having worked with Belva Davis will always be among the honors and privileges of which I’m proudest.

Calling her a trailblazer – while certainly true – doesn’t adequately describe the honesty, integrity, professionalism and kindness she has brought to her work every day over these many decades. As some speakers at today’s party said, she embodies the “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” credo of journalism, but never in a mean-spirited way – she has had a keen sense of the right questions to ask, and the unerring bravery to ask them.

Her retirement, while so very well-deserved, will be a loss felt by so very many journalists and viewers all over Northern California. She can be succeeded, but never replaced.

7

A lawmaker’s daughter goes over to the dark side

The grapevine tells me Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, recently accompanied her daughter on a trip to the University of Missouri, Columbia, who’ll soon be starting there as a freshman; apparently Stephanie Sierra is interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Mizzou’s renowned journalism school.

You’d think someone with Speier’s rhetorical skills could’ve talked her daughter into pursuing some line of work more honest and popular than journalism – maybe, used car sales, or perhaps ambulance-chasing tort law.

In all seriousness, however, Sierra appears to have had a distinguished record at Mercy High School, the same Catholic girls’ prep school in Burlingame that her mother had attended. As juniors, she and another student founded a “P.S. We Care” foundation to raise money to help people with autism; as a senior, she served as the student body’s secretary.

Mizzou was transformative for me, not only for the practical journalism education it offered but also as an expansion of horizons for a coastal kid suddenly dropped into the Midwest. I hope Ms. Sierra has as positive an experience there as I did.

7

Clash of the ‘citizen journalism’ titans

Fresh from his bail hearing, James O’Keefe – the conservative activist whose surreptitiously recorded videotapes sparked a firestorm of criticism against ACORN, and who was arrested Monday for allegedly trying to tamper with a U.S. Senator’s phones – will address the Commonwealth Club of California at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, in the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Club members get in free; tickets are available online for nonmembers at $18 and for students with valid ID at $7.

This all assumes that a federal court officer will give O’Keefe permission to come to California for the event, per a U.S. Magistrate Judge’s order issued Tuesday; I’d say it’s a good bet.

The moderator of this discussion of “undercover journalism” will be UC-Berkeley journalism graduate student, blogger and freelance journalist Josh Wolf, himself widely known for being jailed for contempt of court as he refused a federal judge’s order to surrender raw video he’d shot at a 2005 street protest of which he was part.

Meanwhile, the O’Keefe backlash begins. Labor-backed liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change today is taking to task House Republicans – including Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Rep. John Campbell, R-Irvine – who co-sponsored a resolution in November honoring O’Keefe for the ACORN tapes.

“It wasn’t too long ago that Representatives Campbell and Lungren believed that James O’Keefe was deserving of national recognition and praise – that is, before Mr. O’Keefe was arrested by the FBI for allegedly plotting to tamper with the phone lines of a United States Senator,” AUC acting executive director Tom McMahon said in his news release. “The people of California might be interested to know if these Representatives have any regrets for taking up valuable time in Congress to ‘honor’ Mr. O’Keefe’s special brand of ‘investigative journalism’ that apparently devolved into Watergate-style schemes.”

I e-mailed Lungren’s and Campbell’s press people about 90 minutes ago, haven’t heard back from them yet.

UPDATE @ 10:52 A.M. MONDAY 2/1: This event has been postponed until further notice.

0

Letters from the ether: Not the “worst” offender

Here’s an email I received today. I guess I’ll have to take comfort in knowing that I am not the worst offender although it sounds as though I may be in the running for it.

Dear Lisa,
I have followed your reporting for many years, and although you are not the worst offender, you certainly have not been as “balanced” as I would have hoped.  In reading the below article, (click here for link to article) I feel such sadness in its truth.
I hope once Obama is in office, as it looks like he will be, you and the staff of the Contra Costa Times will feel free to research both sides of important issues facing Californians, like education, health care, and our budget, not from the typical democratic side, but by asking hard questions about unions and trial lawyers and illegal immigrants to name just a few.
Papers like yours have enormous impact on public opinion, and so far our democratic legislators have gotten a hall pass from you.  Maybe now, you will work towards uncovering stories that are considered taboo by the left, shake things up a little, and give Californians a fighting chance to make the changes that will improve our state education system, health care system, budgeting process and our ability to attract and keep good businesses.
No, Lisa, we CA republicans aren’t a bunch of gay-bashing, war-mongering, rich white bigots like the papers portray us.  We are diverse in many ways, but united in THIS:  We believe our CA government is too large, too controlled by unions, overburdened by illegal immigration, unable to educate, unable to budget, reliant on too few for tax revenue, and unfriendly to business.
There are stories in that statement if you would only be brave enough to print them.
And what’s with the Obama pumpkins and Obama Barks on your Inside Politics today?  Are you a political editor or contestant for Miss Congeniality?
Sincerely,
Nancy Taylor
Orinda, CA
0

Dem convention: What are 15,000 journalists doing?

Wiht 15,000 journalists in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, there ought to be no story unturned.

Or not.

Here’s a very funny look at the press by the Columbia Journalism Review: http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/the_15000.php?page=all

Justin Peters starts the column with this:

There are apparently 15,000 journalists attending the Democratic National Convention. Here is what some of them are doing:

14,000 are wearing terrible suits.

7,500 aren’t doing much at all. This isn’t surprising. Only a small number of reporters actually have a reason to be here. The rest are conventioneering—seeing old friends, eating Democratic-themed menu items (“Barack Obama’s Turkey Chili”) in pandering local restaurants, brandishing their press passes at all comers, looking for free things, and spending about 14 percent of their time trying to rustle up enough stories to justify their presence to their editors. These reporters are the ones mostly writing about themselves, or their friends, or their experiences exploring Denver with their friends (“I was enjoying some turkey chili with David Broder yesterday…”). At least they’re open about the fact that they’re enjoying themselves.