News & Views from 465 California Street

Editorial Boards and the Public Interest

Clint Reilly

Are you curious as to why I write this column each week? Many people are. They want to know how much money I am spending to disseminate my views; it strikes them as an expensive ego trip. They are usually surprised when I tell them that I pay nothing. In fact, the owner of this newspaper provides the space gratis as part of the settlement to an antitrust lawsuit I brought in 2006. Many readers already know the details of my battles with media companies to preserve vigorous competition among paid subscription daily newspapers in our Bay Area. In a time when consumers are bombarded by paid messages, I am happy to say that my column is not another piece of paid propaganda.

In addition to this column, the settlement granted me the right to work with this newspaper’s staff to appoint a citizen to the paper’s editorial board. This is an exciting opportunity for the community, but it is not unprecedented. The Marin Independent Journal has long enjoyed the successful contributions of citizen board members during editorial meetings. In opening up the editorial process to citizen representatives, a new voice and an outside perspective will join the important deliberations that determine this newspaper’s position on critical issues impacting your city, county, state and nation. In addition, the new appointee will be a full participant in editorial choices, ranging from local and regional planning to the endorsement of political candidates and propositions.

This three-year experiment in citizen editorial board participation will occur in all 11 daily newspapers owned by MediaNews Group in the Bay Area. Dean Singleton – the founder of MediaNews Group – and his executives at each newspaper deserve to be commended for their leadership. You will soon read an announcement which identifies the citizen editorial appointee for each MediaNews-controlled newspaper in your community.

Why is this development so important? In short, editorial oversight keeps the government honest. Editorial pages host well-informed arguments over public policy and stand up for “We the People.” In fact, the best editorial boards are ad hoc think tanks for the public interest. They sift the arguments for and against key public issues and print their best judgment in full daylight for all to read and evaluate. In many cases, they print multiple opinions from diverse sources, a practice that arms readers with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions for themselves.

In decades past, owner/publishers like J. Hart Clinton of the San Mateo Times, Tony Ridder of the San Jose Mercury News and Floyd Sparks of the Hayward Daily Review held a tight rein on editorial policy. But times change, and today they have been replaced by professional editorial page editors in many cases.

My years of experience as a political consultant for prominent public figures taught me that elected officials pay close attention to the views of newspapers on hot issues. I personally attended dozens of editorial board meetings with Bay Area politicians and interest groups as they tried to garner a newspaper’s support.

Candidates’ pre-interview anxiety is a clear signal of an editorial board’s power to significantly influence public opinion. The sessions are often as electric as important campaign debates. Well informed journalists and board members face off against candidates and quickly eviscerate the shallow platitudes of paid television commercials and mailings. In many ways, these highly attuned editorial boards are the citizen’s last defense against the phalanx of paid propaganda that passes for dialectic at election time. In between elections, they are a citizen’s most accessible and consistent public policy resource on exploding and simmering crises like transportation, housing, water and air quality, crime, fiscal accountability and more.

Newspapers keep us informed on the events that shape our lives. They offer up information, which is the raw material of democracy. Information is power. But only if we use it.

Comments (13)

  • When i was 16, I used to read the cartoons and editorial/commentary pages of the San Jose Mercury News at 6:00am (sometimes later…LOL) as a Mercury News delivery boy. One section gave me laughs, the other made me ponder the seriousness of issues that affected me. Back then the Monday through Saturday paper was 25 cents, but it was free for me…HA! Point is, it was a powerful source of information on current events and an inexpensive, ancillary source of education and knowledge.

    The weather pages outlook was of vital importance too. Those rainy days will never be forgotten… ;) …and that one rottweiler!

    Thanks for giving underdogs (yes, we underdogs are “the people”) a voice Mr. Reilly, and for protecting the public interest on one front.

    Hindsight has proven it was a sham deal.

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | February 12th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  • “Newspapers keep us informed on the events that shape our lives. They offer up information, which is the raw material of democracy.”

    Why do you use the word democracy instead of republic? The founding fathers said, “what they feared most was democracy.” Even Aldous Huxley used the word democracy when he should have said, How can we have a republic when twenty percent of the people can be hypnotized in the blink of an eye.”

    Posted by: James E. Lockwood, C.Ht | February 16th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

  • “In addition to this column, the settlement granted me the right to work with this newspaper’s staff to appoint a citizen to the paper’s editorial board.”

    What level of commitment does this entail? I work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, running two small businesses (1 brick and mortar, 1 online) and only have time to write about Environmental and Health-related issues impacting our world today. ;)

    I would be delighted to write an editorial column every other week, sharing the responsibility and obligation, if possible, with another appointee.

    Bear in mind, Mr. Reilly, what i write may be controversial at times and should be subject to censorship? But as we all know, Censorship is Anti-American, anti-free speech.

    Maybe i can share it with Will Chen, the autistic, underpaid/non-paid, pro-bono attorney?

    Respectfully submitted,


    Posted by: Don Nguyen | February 23rd, 2008 at 4:17 pm

  • How many times have we heard someone attempt to debunk a fact by attacking the messenger and whining “conspiracy theory” instead of disproving the evidence. If the following statement is not evidence of a conspiracy then words have no meaning.

    “We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine, and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected the promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to National auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”
    –David Rockerfeller, At a Trilateral Commission meeting, June 1991.

    Posted by: James E. Lockwood, C.Ht | February 23rd, 2008 at 9:44 pm

  • According to Dr. James Wardner, ambassadors to the United Nations Organization take the following oath (of blind obedience) to the U.N. (emphasis added):

    “I solemnly swear to exercise in all loyalty, discretion and conscience, the functions entrusted to me as an international civil servant of the United Nations. “To discharge these functions and regulate my conduct, with the interests of THE UNITED NATIONS ONLY, in view, and not to seek or accept instructions in any regard to the performance of my duties from ANY GOVERNMENT OR OTHER AUTHORITY external to THE UNITED NATIONS organization.”

    How can an American citizen take the above oath after placing their hand on the bible and taking an oath to protect and defend the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic?

    “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”
    – Aldous Huxley
    (1894-1963) Author

    Posted by: James E. Lockwood, C.Ht | February 24th, 2008 at 10:49 pm

  • Ignorance is truly bliss. But ignorance can also lead to what should be feared most, and that is Fascism. Our own current President, possesses character traits similar to the likes of Stalin and Lenin, but i won’t put him into (yet) the egregious category of Hitler and Idi Amin. We the people, as well as Congress, and other nations, are the checks and balances here.

    I think what Mr. Reilly is attempting to convey is that there must be checks and balances of power questioning leadership and it’s “affiliations”, and that the media (i.e. newspapers) has that obligation and duty, since it is they that can make or break a candidate’s nomination/election, and it is they that must be held accountable. Since the media packages and mass distributes ideas and questionable opinions to us, the viewer, it must do so with integrity. Or we must have an equal and opposing media on-call and available to counter those ideas (let’s fondly call them our “public defender”), else we can easily be brainwashed and manipulated into believing whatever is constantly being bombarded into our psyches.

    No different than a business having a responsibility for a product it invents, markets, and/or distributes to the marketplace for human consumption. The issue here is Integrity.

    Independent newspapers and competing media enable democracies to thrive. Take note for example those countries whose governments control their media often tend to be dictatorships, or rule by “mob” (so prevalent in communist governments).

    We really don’t appreciate Democracy until it is under attack or at risk of being “tainted”. The menaces that can undermine democracy are graft, corruption, and cronyism. You take a media that is slanted or bent, with something to gain, and no accountability of check and balance, and a great system of democracy can in short time become a “Banana Republic”.

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | February 25th, 2008 at 4:38 pm

  • Don, I agree with everything you wrote except for the four times that you call us a democracy instead of a republic. in fact you may be right, that we have been changed from a republic into a democracy.
    The John Birch Society has a slogan, “This a republic not a democracy, let’s keep it that way!”

    For some reason the words democratic and democracy have a such a good honest wholesome sound to them that I wonder if it is because the mass media has so bombarded us, all of our lives, with ‘the words’ that we have been programmed like Pavlov’s dog.
    It reminds me of a visiting speaker in a secret Communist cell meeting in Sunnyvale when he boasted that they had succeeded in changing the public’s use of HCUA TO HUAC, to make it sound as though the House Committee on Unamerican Activities, was itself unAmerican.

    Former Communist Kenneth Goff, after he left the Communist party, reprinted his Russian textbook on mass brainwashing which they called, “Psychopolitics.” In one of the chapters the word “hypnosis” was use 19 times. Incidently Pavlov and others in the field said that conditioned reflexes and hypnosis are the same thing.

    Speaking of “checks and balances” I read a few years ago that the executive branch employed 97 percent of all federal employees and the legislative and judicial branches together had the remaining 3 percent. I don’t consider that to be balanced.

    I wonder if you can find, at this late date, the difference between a republic and a democracy.

    Posted by: James E. Lockwood, C.Ht | February 25th, 2008 at 6:37 pm

  • I understand where you are coming from. This is what happens when you have a democratic system tainted by special interests and two-faced politicians.

    This is also why i am supporting Hillary Clinton. I want a rough and tough politician willing to shake things up. Controversial. Compassionate. These ingredients make a great leader. If you notice, Hillary fought hard and LOST her Universal Health Care Reform Initiative. Yet, she’s still fighting since then. Her ACTIONS revealed her true Character. She still continues to push for HealthCare reform and is willing to stand up for those that are WITHOUT health care. Remember, Hillary isn’t doing this for herself, Chelsea, or Bill, who ALL have Health Care. She is fighting for this issue because she’s compassionate, altruistic, and believes it’s the RIGHT thing to do. Again, her passionate and true actions reveal a lot about a person’s character. Elected officials like this make democracy work. The people are heard, taken care of, served.

    The only other recent candidate that ran for elected office that comes to mind that reminds me of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton is Janet Reilly, who ran for Assembly District 12 in 2006. Janet Reilly based her campaign on single-payer healthcare for all, and that is commendable. I respect that. That tells me a whole lot about a candidate’s character. Seeing beyond self.

    But the political system we have today is one often plagued with broken promises once the candidate is elected. The politician panders to special interests and forgets why they were elected. Politicians will whisper sweet nothings in our ears (partly because they really share those same values) and then so easily renege on their obligations.

    No more evident than what we saw and continue to see with the current administration. We, the people were played by the Bush administration (29% approval rating) and Halliburton. That war is not winnable without draining our resources. And the Global Human Family’s resources. “Democracies” like this will most definitely turn-off the “demos” (“the people”). It already has to a certain degree.

    How can a leader of a great democratic country like ours (the best on Earth with some flaws that need fixing) then default on his obligations to all of our young children for their future well-being by suspending and cutting crucial, early preventative health care programs? This cuts to my personal core of values having been reared by 2 awesome parents, who instilled and inculcated in me those basic, good family values.

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | February 25th, 2008 at 7:39 pm

  • “This is what happens when you have a democratic system that is tainted by special interests and two-faced politicians.”

    What do you think a democratic system is? It is a system of special interests…the deluded majority, under the mass hypnosis of the elite ruling class, think they can vote themselves a bigger share of the collective pie.

    Posted by: James E. Lockwood, C.Ht | February 27th, 2008 at 10:34 pm

  • There is no such thing as a pure Democracy. But we can dream…and work towards one. It really can’t exist since no leader can appease, appeal to, or satisfy everyone all of the time. But let’s compare our system with others.

    In this system, we can voice our opinions, take to the streets in non-violent protests, and rally, support, and vote for our candidate.

    In some other countries, you will be silenced and never heard from again.

    In this system, even though some are far richer than others, one can always find a job, buy a burger, take Muni. Find another job, save, save, save.

    In some other countries, you are resigned to toiling in the fields with no hope of upward mobility.

    In this system, if you have compassionate, accountable, uncorruptible, and responsible leaders, and a Democratic Party agenda untainted by special interest money, then you might have the next closest thing to a “Democracy”. (this is just my opinion ;)

    FDR. JFK. Bill Clinton. They all come to mind as Chief stewards who did their best to reflect the interests of the whole (country) as opposed to the “few”. Collective America was proven better off 12, 3, and 8 years respectively.

    I don’t think pure Democracy is even possible, but anything close to it is a step in the “right” direction. (no pun intended)

    As “Honest” Abe Lincoln once said, “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. Abraham Lincoln was a slaveowner who set the country on the course of abolishing slavery.

    And yes, it feels like a Republic these last few years. We, the People, have been ignored or snubbed. But we aren’t slaves. We’re disempowered Americans. There is a Republican in the Oval office, and he is conducting policy that is not consistent with the wishes of the unsilent and clamoring majority.

    I think you’re correct, we should use the term “republic”.

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | February 28th, 2008 at 11:27 am

  • Mr. Reilly’s column of March 4th, was a fluff piece on multi-millionaires, who, some say, have enriched themselves at the publilc trough, while at the same time refer to their position in (George Orwell’s) FEDGOV as “public service.”

    The one interesting thing that caught my attention was the name “Sargent Schriver.” Sometime in the 1960′s or 70′s I wrote a letter to “public servant” Sargent Schriver with the question, “Why did you appoint an identified Communist party member to distribute “War on Poverty” funds in the Palo Alto area? In his return letter he haughtily replied, “We just hire the best people we can get!”

    Posted by: James E. Lockwood, C.Ht | March 5th, 2008 at 9:11 pm

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  • You Betcha! Palin is lashing out at Family Guy…
    So did the show go too far?

    JUNEAU, Alaska – Sarah Palin is lashing out at the portrayal of a character with Down syndrome on the Fox animated comedy “Family Guy.”

    In a Facebook posting headlined “Fox Hollywood — What a Disappointment,” the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and current Fox News contributor said Sunday night’s episode felt like “another kick in the gut.” Palin’s youngest son, Trig, has Down syndrome.

    The episode features the character Chris falling for a girl with Down syndrome. On a date, he asks what her parents do.

    She replies: “My dad’s an accountant, and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.”

    Palin resigned as Alaska governor last summer.

    Palin’s oldest daughter, Bristol, also was quoted on her mother’s Facebook page, calling the show’s writers “heartless jerks.”

    “When you’re the son or daughter of a public figure, you have to develop thick skin. My siblings and I all have that, but insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent,” she is quoted as saying.

    “If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed,” Bristol Palin added in the Monday posting. “All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks.”

    Palin wrote that she’d asked her daughter what she thought of the show and Bristol’s reply was “a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make about an issue that begs the question: When is enough enough?”

    This isn’t the first time Palin has spoken out over an attack, real or perceived, on her family. Last year, she condemned a joke David Letterman made about her daughter, for which he later apologized.

    A “Family Guy” publicist didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

    Posted by: FimmepaySmear | February 25th, 2010 at 1:55 am


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