Photo by Debra DiPaoloThe Sept. 19 issue of OC Metro is on the stands absent Hugh Hewitt's regular political commentary. Hewitt told friends in a Sept. 23 e-mail that Metro editor Kevin O'Leary "spiked my most recent column on the Irvine elections" and Mayor Larry Agran, a Democrat. Angered, the former Richard Nixon aide and Republican Party mouthpiece said he has "ended my 12-year run with that publication."
"While I regret having to leave OC Metro after so many years, the choice between being silent about Larry's plans for the community and keeping a column is really no choice at all," Hewitt wrote. "It's not journalism if you can't say what you think during an election season."
O'Leary did not respond to the Weekly's questions about the column. In Hewitt's place, O'Leary inserted his own commentary about North Carolina Senator John Edwards' presidential hopes for 2004. Hewitt implied that the publication killed his column because it was too anti-Agran—who is in a bitter, re-election bid. He said Agran "is really beginning to feel the heat from his indifference to schools and the voter's distaste for the Centerline."
Christina Shea, an Agran nemesis and former Irvine mayor seeking office again, told the Weekly she is "greatly troubled" that the Metro silenced Hewitt. She blames Agran. "In my opinion, it is just Larry's way of putting pressure on folks, like he is known to do, to keep others from sharing their right to comment on his positions," she said. "I was told he was behind this."
But an unanswered question looms: Why would the Metro kill an anti-Agran column now? During his lengthy stint at the paper, Hewitt routinely berated Agran. The unpublished column did more of the same.
COMPROMISING DEALS AT THE TIMES—AGAIN
On Sept. 20, Los Angeles Times spokeswoman Martha Goldstein acknowledged that the paper has a "business relationship" with one of the most controversial entities in California: Southern California Edison, the publicly subsidized power giant. Arguably, Edison's private owners couldn't make the billions of dollars in profits that they have historically made at ratepayer expense without public-relations assistance from the state's largest paper. It was the Times—with then-Edison chairman John Bryson on the paper's board of directors—that aggressively editorialized for Edison (and the state's other two electric companies) to win their 1996 energy-deregulation bill. Deregulation turned out to be not merely anti-consumer, but also threatened to destroy the California economy.
A review of dozens of recent Times news articles about Edison failed to find a single disclosure that the paper and the energy company are partners.
But the Times doesn't want its readers to worry. "A newspaper has business relationships with many large companies, many of which we cover," Goldstein said dismissively.
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Goldstein must suffer from amnesia. In January 2000, the Times suffered a devastating blow to its image after it was forced to acknowledge a secret relationship with the owners of the downtown Staples Center. The Times had published a glowing, 164-page Sunday Magazine profile of the sports arena without disclosing it had a profit-sharing agreement with the owners of the building. Embarrassed Times management guaranteed its readers they would in the future avoid all associations "that might compromise our integrity or damage our credibility."
With news of the Edison-Times alliance, it's obvious the paper's ethics guarantee had a fine print loophole or an expiration date.
WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY? HOW?
Reporters are trained to answer a few basic questions in their stories. In the Sept. 24 Orange County Register, reporter Martin Wisckol wrote an article about the filing of a lawsuit to challenge Measure V, which voters passed in March, altering the county charter to allow local voters—not the governor—to fill unscheduled vacancies at the board of supervisors. Sadly, Wisckol forgot to say who filed the suit. Perhaps he thought readers wouldn't care. The Times reported that the suit was filed by labor interests, including the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association. Why is that important? Todd Spitzer is likely to abandon his supervisorial seat for the state Assembly after November's elections. The charter change robs labor-friendly Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, of the powerful perk. In the past, GOP governors from Ronald Reagan to Pete Wilson have screwed local citizens by naming pro-development, Irvine Co. shills as replacement supes: Tom Wilson, Don Saltarelli, Gaddi Vasquez, William Steiner, Tom Riley.
Since the Registershamelessly didn't even mention the president's most-famous-to-date boner, we'd like to point out that anyone can see a clip of the hilarious "fool me once" faux pas on the website archive of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Enjoy!