Access for Ass Kiss

Do Reg reporters love the DA, or is that a banana in their stories?

It's interesting to speculate that Susan's press-management strategy was inspired by Michael, and to conclude that theirs is clearly a match made in hell. It's just as interesting to wonder if, more recently, Susan directed the Register to her husband on an unrelated item. In a July 8 story on charges Kobe Bryant sexually assaulted a woman in Colorado, Register reporter Kevin Ding turned to a source intimate with the Lakers guard—a man identified only as season-ticket holder "Mike Schroeder of Corona del Mar."

"As soon as I heard [about the allegations against Bryant], I thought that doesn't sound right," Schroeder reportedly told the Reg. "It doesn't sound like his family or anything I know about the guy."

What does Schroeder know about Bryant? Oh, quite a lot: his tickets are just "one row from Bryant's family."

It's a small point, but illustrative: the world shrinks, and soon we see only what the Schroeders and the DA want us to see. And the Register? It connives.

Such sleight of hand isn't limited to the Register newsroom. Up on the fifth floor of Register HQ, where editorial writers pound round pegs of fact into the square holes of their conservative ideology, the DA's blacklist of "certain newspapers" was deemed a "disservice to the public," possibly even "illegal." But at the Register, the June 30 editorial continued, "we generally have been satisfied with the job Mr. Rackauckas has done. . . ." Yes, they admitted, he's "a relatively controversial figure." And, yes, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer is investigating the DA's office over the specifics of that controversy—but that, the Reg said, is merely a "feud."

It's not clear that these two phenomena—that Register reporters have special access to the DA and that the Register downplays news that might ding the DA's reputation—are the result of a deal, or just a relationship that grew up organically between credulous reporters and a manipulative and corrupt DA.

What's clear is that Emard wouldn't go along with Schroeder's blacklist and, so, was fired.

"I felt horribly conflicted and terribly guilty because I was not telling [reporters] the truth, even though I knew that to do so would cost me my job," says Emard, who has since filed a wrongful termination claim against the DA. "I existed in a constant state of frustration and was embarrassed to be associated with an agency engaging in such blatant dishonesty and media manipulation."

But it takes two to manipulate, and let's be clear about this: the problem isn't that the Register's reporters get preferential treatment from the DA—that's what reporters are paid to achieve in a competitive media market. The problem is the apparent quid pro quo, the possibility that the Register's chummy, dumbed-down coverage of a dangerous public official is payment for that access. In that deal, the Register's readers are losers—and so are its reporters. I mean, guys, what's the value in kissing ass if you're not even going to write about it?

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