Letters for the week of July 12-18, 2006

Ever heard of the East Bay Dragons? Kudos for Dean Singleton package, but get Gammon off his high horse; journalists have lost blue-collar roots.

“Best Motorcycle Club,” 5/3

She smells a rat
I’m curious how you came to your conclusion of the “Best motorcycle club.” I’m wondering if any of you have ever been to a party other than the East Bay Rats’? Perhaps the East Bay Dragons’ picnics or block party they throw annually. Maybe the St. Paddy’s Day or End of Summer Party at the Oakland Hells Angels clubhouse?

Although I support the Rats with all my heart, you shouldn’t label them as “best of” … that’s your opinion … why? Because they box? So do the other clubs … many more years before the Rats were a twinkle in any eyes. Because they smash things? That’s been done, too. Maybe you should research the bike culture of Oakland a little bit closer before forming an opinion after getting turned out by one of their parties.
Michelle Neal, Oakland

“Mediocre News,” Feature, 5/31

Day of the long knives
Congratulations on your series about Dean Singleton and his greedy ambition to buy up papers without caring about their coverage, only their bottom line. I’m a near-victim of their first Bay Area acquisition, which they named Alameda Newspaper Group. My publisher, Floyd Sparks, sold to Dean Singleton and his partner Richard Scudder because of their conservative point of view, which he shared. I understand that The New York Times made a pitch to buy the three-newspaper chain (Daily Review, Argus, and Tri-Valley Herald) but they were far too liberal for Floyd.

I was a copyeditor at the Review (28 years) and had never heard the term “downsizing.” I continue to have nightmares of the day when “hatchet men” came to all three papers and promptly fired approximately 120 staffers. Our managing editor was given three hours to clear out of his office with all his personal items. We were working at our computers trying to turn out the day’s paper during “the day of the long knives.” Everyone was trying to concentrate on their tasks and hope the secretary would not tap them on the shoulder and say: “Mr. F. would like to see you.” Of course, that meant you were given two weeks’ notice.

I remember Mr. Sparks as a caring individual who paid the equivalent of Guild wages and benefits and was on a first-name basis with his employees. I’m sure if he knew of this cutthroat practice he wouldn’t have sold to this group. Subsequently, each of the papers I know about has gone downhill in terms of coverage and content. The Review is so lousy I refer to it as a fish wrap. I no longer subscribe.

Recently Singleton said he didn’t plan layoffs after acquiring the Knight-Ridder papers. That’s so much hogwash after what he’s done with other papers. He’s a ruthless businessman who’s more interested in profits than accountability. Once more, I applaud you for painting a proper picture of Dean Singleton, a callous businessman.
Cy Donaldson, Castro Valley

“Local to a Point,” Mediocre News, 5/31

Takes one to know one
I fail to see how one can soapbox about “mediocre” journalism when his story is full of personal references (i.e. touting the greatness of his friends and wife) and one-sided opinions from the standpoint of the union. No quotes, not even one scintilla of information that seems like it was culled from current operations rather than Bob Gammon’s memory of working there a few years ago. What about the standpoint of nonunion (yet okay with there being a union) employees? From this current ANGer, who admittedly rarely defends the company, this article is the victim of its own subject matter. Mediocre journalist? I guess it takes one to know one. Thanks for mentioning all of our recent awards, too.

Anonymous, Hayward

“An Inconvenient Tactic,” Water Cooler, 6/7

The advent of elite journalism
Orville Schell’s intemperate remarks about my labor union, AFSCME, display his complete lack of understanding of the power dynamics in the struggle between low-income workers and UC. Quoted in your paper that he, “find[s] it pretty unconstructive of them to be canceling graduations and things like that. I really don’t understand.” He vows never to contact the union again. “Nor would I think most people at the university would choose to speak to [AFSCME organizer Debra] Grabelle.” I hope Schell isn’t serious; I presume he likes his toilets clean and his trash hauled away.

By these comments, he not only insults the lowest-paid workers at UC, but also exposes one of the prime reasons journalism is in trouble today. Until perhaps the 1970s, most journalists were working stiffs; many weren’t college graduates. Even well-known reporters came from small and medium markets. They understood their job was to watchdog the rich and powerful. To cover the abuses of power. By professionalizing journalism at elite schools, people like Schell have reinforced the disconnect of journalism from its blue-collar roots. His students come to believe they are part of the power structure and not the working class. With the advent of elite journalism, they have joined the rich and the powerful and are therefore inhibited from covering their own class, and as displayed by Schell’s snooty comments, have lost all compassion with the working poor, and, in his words, “do not understand” the very real struggle over wages at his university.
Hank Chapot, UC gardener, Oakland

In our cover story “Meet Downtown Oakland,” we mistakenly located Mingles at the corner of 2nd Street and the Embarcadero. In fact, it’s at the corner of Webster Street and the Embarcadero.

The Critic’s Choice for Eric Bibb in last week’s issue was written by Larry Kelp.

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