Anatomy of Corruption in Journalism with Cal Coast News and Stew Jenkins
When I took journalism courses in college, I had a teacher named Mary Dodder McCorkle. A spectacular teacher and a wonderful woman. She was kind but also strict and necessarily so. She would bring out a red pen and grade students’ news articles. If someone’s name was misspelled in an article, her distinctive red pen would strike across the misspelled name. If you saw a red strikethrough on your paper, that meant you were getting a failing grade. Even if the article was well-researched and covered all the required beats, if there was more than one or two typos or grammatical errors, the author would get a B at best.
But what about conflicts of interest and nondisclosures? Mary once told me, “If I find out one of my writers is personally invested in pushing a personal-political narrative in an article and pass off the article as ‘objective,’ they would be fired.”
Not even reassigned. Fired.
Why? Because the free press easily influences public opinion. If a publication is objective and the facts presented are objectively conveyed, that’s information readers need to know about. If a publication or an author has conflicts and benefits from an article being published, those conflicts should be disclosed. That’s the ethical thing to do. The right thing to do.
But Cal Coast News doesn’t do that. In fact, they never do. What I’m about to present is a rather recent and egregious example.
This is a screenshot I took of an article Cal Coast News published by its co-founder Karen Velie on March 26 titled, “SLO County official accused of violating election law.” The article reveals that a lawsuit was filed against SLO County Clerk Recorder Elaina Cano, who was appointed last year after her predecessor Tommy Gong left. Filed by San Luis Obispo resident T. Keith Gurnee, the lawsuit alleges Cano unlawfully approved her own occupational ballot designation for herself by listing herself as “county clerk-recorder, appointed” instead of her original and appropriate designation as “appointed incumbent.”
The article reported only on the lawsuit’s allegations. No comment from Cano’s camp appeared in the story.