Letters to the Editor 1/15/99

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I enjoy reporting with a 'tude, which is why I read your rag, but a 'tude doesn't become reporting just because you mix in a couple of new facts and slam the reporter who got there first. So my take on R. Scott Moxley's "Newport City Haul" (Feature, Jan. 8) is: (1) amusing and (2) wrong. How can I tell? Because it took the Newport Beach City Council two full weeks to discover that a bare majority of the board was in favor of dropping the [city manager]. If what Moxley suggests-Murphy cooked up a deal with greedy developers to throw Newport a nickel now and then from the pots of money said developers were going to make off the city's bayfront dirt-was even close to true, it wouldn't have been two weeks, and it wouldn't have been a split vote. The council would have called an emergency closed session the next afternoon and fired him outright on a 7-0 vote with about four minutes of deliberation. There would have been no resignation option. They would have just thrown the sorry SOB under the first passing bus. Indictments would have followed.

[Daily Pilot reporter] Jenifer Ragland's version is persuasive because it reads exactly like a confidence-busting, tell-all piece of the sort that reporters write when they want to spill the beans but have promised their sources they won't. You guys know full well (though most of your readers don't) that a traditional way to violate confidences in reporting is to wait a decent period of time and then write an overview piece in which, via quasi-logical extrapolation from a few known or likely facts, you come to conclusions that are-mirabile dictu-identical to what you have been told under the rose.

So here's the upshot: the Lido Marina deal may have been contributory to Murphy's departure, but it wasn't by a long shot the sole reason for it. It would pay to remember the old distinction between necessary and sufficient condition.

Yours for better ink,
-David Wilson
Laguna Beach

R. Scott Moxley responds: On Nov. 21, Daily Pilot editor Bill Lobdell described his paper's investigative strategy on the Murphy story this way: "we waited and hoped"-and ultimately concluded (with the Newport Beach business establishment) that there was "no good reason" for the city manager's forced resignation. Our investigation (in which we had no compromising loyalties) reached a far different conclusion. Despite Wilson's claim to the contrary, this is what we said: "What role the proposed lease played in his departure remains unclear. . . . But for all those citizens who were wondering if their council had had a good reason to dump Murphy, the [proposed sweetheart deal between Murphy and a developer at Lido Marina Village] suggests the answer is an unqualified yes." Wilson's entire letter of unsupported assertions built on a bedrock of hunch is best characterized by his admission that he found the Pilot's version of the scandal "persuasive" because it was a "quasi-logical extrapolation from a few known or likely facts." "Quasi-logical extrapolation"? "Likely facts"? That's funny.


Your article on Marvin Chavez ("Man of the Year," Jan. 1) didn't mention that David Herrick has sat in custody for two and a half years and still sits in prison today for "aiding and abetting" Chavez in providing marijuana to the seriously ill. Herrick also refused to take a deal. His case is currently under appeal, with the attorney general's response due this month. Supporters are urged to write to Attorney General Bill Lockyer (P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550), asking him to review the case (#G023837) and instruct his office to reflect his stated intention to follow the will of the people in implementing Proposition 215.

-Ellen Komp
215 Reporter
Grover Beach


We're glad Joel Beers regarded our production of The Last Session as "powerful and entertaining" and that he appreciated the risk we took in producing it. However, in his year-end summary ("The Year in Floodlights and Grease Paint," Jan. 1), he stated that we "intentionally downplayed the AIDS angle in advertising and promotion because [we] feared alienating the white-haired core audience." This is just not true.

Our spring-season subscription promotions included mention of the AIDS theme (and it didn't hurt sales, since subscriptions are up this season). However, when the writers saw this, they urged us to discontinue doing so because they felt the play's multiple themes were more universal than just AIDS. You really can't blame artists for not wanting their work pigeonholed in any category-no less one that might limit its audience reach. We complied, but only in part: we continued mentioning the AIDS theme in the ads we placed in Southern California gay publications. We also worked closely with AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County in promoting the show and educating the Laguna Playhouse audience about the AIDS epidemic locally.

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