Monday, April 30, 2007

Coming: Yet more Renzi

Via AZ Congress Watch, today we learn that Grant Woods has either been pushed aside or jumped ship as Renzi's lawyer, the East Valley Trib is calling on the Congressman to pack it in, and the Daily Star has come out with an interesting angle on one of his land-swap deals. Tons o'fun. I'll watch for what gets printed.

Besides, 200 is a nice round number for posts in April.

Coming: Plugging the dike

I'm looking forward to the Courier editorial responding to Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's executive order today expanding background checks for gun-seekers. Place your bets.

Background on the Luer Rocket story

In comments this morning Steve LaVigne offers an inside angle on the story from April 24 and what had gone before, including a cookie for Jason Soifer.

"The Courier refused news about the rocket in September 1984. (We had the rocket right out front of their office!) The Prescott Sun got the scoop instead! 22 1/2 years later the Courier puts together an article! Jason did a good job and researched the article. It actually seems to have a small amount of meat in it.

"Interestingly enough, The original Courier incident in 1984 made me come to the conclusion that the Courier really wasn't interested in local news!"

Those were the days of Jim Garner, who'd been on the paper since the late '50s, and nobody on the Courier now was involved then, I expect. You gotta wonder whether the office culture changed much, though.

Followup, 11:20am: Steve tells me that the the Courier eventually carried the story because Jason Soifer happens to have a family connection to the rocket's history. I kinda figured it was something like that, as that's how things usually work in smaller towns.

Amster: "Glut of information leads to apathy and confusion"

The glitch in the headline on the free version is apropos. Randall nicely restates the condition of our world that psychologists and Alvin Toffler first predicted in the '70s. But to what end? I kept looking for some suggestion, again to make the voter smarter, but I can detect no call to action here other than a sort of vague 'get used to it.'

Randall (two Ls in your name this week -- where was the other before?), as the token local leftie we depend on you to speak to the local leftie consciousness on local issues. I know you don't want to be drawn into standard ideas of oppostion and conflict, but there's no one else who can say these things. Take a position!

Editorial: "Teaching girls to fight back"

In the anodyne of the repackage-page-one-plus-"this is icky" formula, we have a repackage of page one plus "I like this." Waste. Of. Space.

A journalist, on the other hand, might have made a couple of calls and come up with a quote from the public-ed czar about adding the program to the statewide curriculum, for example, or maybe a cost estimate and options for paying for it, in other words some contribution to the public discourse that makes the voter smarter.

Editor: You have to knock out a couple hundred words a day. It might go better if you treat it as an opportunity rather than a dull chore.

A1: "Statewide tobacco compliance operation kicks off"

Let's see, you take out a full-page ad on Wednesday warning businesses that you'll be checking on whether they sell a highly addictive drug to kids, then run teenage ringers on them for four hours on Saturday and you still get a kill rate of over 20%. Yet for some reason I'm not getting from Mirsada Buric's story that anyone thinks we have a serious problem here. Rather it reads like good news that PV retailers spotted the ad and tightened up. Sheesh.

We do get some stats on why tobacco is a problem that needs dealing with, and that's to the good. But it's all pretty light.

I'll look forward to reading about a compliance operation against the bars that flout the statewide smoking ban starting this week -- holding my breath, but not for the story.

A1: "Opinions on frontage road go both ways"

Honestly, you go to all the trouble of laying tons of new asphalt for them, and some people just complain, complain, complain.

Um, exactly what makes this news?

A1: "Developer pressing Chino on projects"

From Doug Cook we learn the litany of complaints from a rich developer, and it's certainly not outside the bounds of possibility that Chino Valley is doing him dirty, but I don't see that Doug went to town officials for the other side of the story on why they're demanding so much. What's up with that?

Again, Doug, it's 'leaching,' not "leeching." You need verb agreement in the subhead too.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A1: "Call for peace in Darfur"

It's interesting to watch how the bottom of page one has become the protester's corner of late. Leafy photo of the square + people with passionate views + homemade signs = not much, really, but at least the issues are getting out there. It's like a letter to the editor, but you get a photo too.

Courier editors: The Darfur problem stopped being 'purported' genocide when the US Secretary of State publicly identified it as such. Honest, this isn't just a hippie issue anymore.

A1: "Three new principals at helm of schools"

Not sure why it merits page-one treatment, but Shari Lopatin's piece on a changing of the guard isn't bad. Educators need more props, it's hard work for low pay.

A1: "CV area residents support property tax reform"

Every year people get up in arms about their assessments. I've seen many references to this in the Courier, but I've yet to see any numbers on actual changes in the taxes we pay, and Paula Rhoden's story is no exception. We're left to presume that the taxes go up at the same rate as the assessments, which ain't necessarily so.

There's also a suspiciously extensive description of Prop 13 that leaves out its strong negative effect on California's finances. Can we look forward to a Courier editorial on the evils of property taxes, or perhaps support for the next attempt to foist TABOR (cf here and here) on us via initiative?

A7: "Rep. Groe had drugs, alcohol in system during DUI arrest"

This deeply buried AP report details some legal trouble for one of our local radical rightists. If she's removed, it's unlikely that Lake Havasu will replace her with a Dem, but it's within the bounds of possibility that it'll be someone a little more, shall we say, sober, which would be a good thing.

Cartoon: Amateur

This is just evil.

Talk of the Town: "Make drivers slow down ­ legally"

Jody Knight makes a truthy legalistic case against photo radar enforcement, citing various court judgments, at least one of which (Minnesota) wouldn't appear to apply here. Fine, well, we have an opinion, but the Courier provides no indication of who Jody Knight is or her/his credentials for giving us legal advice.

Editorial: "Contact DOT with your say on Love Field's air service"

The Courier calls us to action on the burning issue of which corporation will be allowed to chow down at the public trough while providing luxury service to rich people. Ack.

I'd have been very happy to put in my two cents, but the DOT site gave me no joy from the Courier's docket description.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Editorial: "Four rules of firearm safety apply to all"

The unnamed Courier editor (guess who) intones the gun rules with religious fervor -- I'm reminded of Heston and the Ten Commandments -- to wag a finger at the VA security guard. He rails against the world he himself creates.

Update, 2pm: He's talking about this, Lefty, from Wednesday.

Update, 6:25am Sunday: Link fixed, I hope. That was odd.

Talk of the Town: "Human error, bad bins affect alley"

Mike from Pearl's Place details a series of whiny excuses for Whiskey Row businesses turning the alley into a stinking mess. Fine, Mike. Did you at least cc this to the City Manager?

There was a time not long ago when the businesses would have got together on this shared problem and made a solution happen rather than wait for someone else to fix it for them. At the very least they would not be allowing their neighbors and employees to make it worse.

Letters: Guns are good

Sorry, Marie, the only 'crying out for help' that Cho was doing involved more ammo. We can probably have fewer of them, but we'll never completely eliminate the dangerous psychopaths among us. And as long as we tolerate so many who think like Mr Brunstein here, eagerly awaiting the chance to personally save the world using his hip-mounted manhood, we're manufacturing them faster than we can medicate them.

Update, 12:50pm: Link fixed.

A1: "D-H P & Z recommends rezone of Young's Farm"

It looks like Dewey is going to get its gated enclave on the old farm. After all, "We can't stop growth. Growth is inevitable," chants a longtime Dewey resident, doing the mental yoga of bending his desire for "nice homes" around his rural nostalgia and through his lust for property value. Whatever.

Yo copy editors, y'all clearly need a refresher on verb agreement. I'm seeing way too many of these: "A vocal group of residents still oppose the plan, ...."

A5: "Napolitano: Time is now for action on climate change"

It just steams me that the position statements of our Governor on what will surely be the most important issues of our time wind up buried in a wire story on the Business page. What are they thinking?

A9: "Lawyer says he will run for district 1 seat"

Set conveniently below the turn on the Renzi story, the first Dem declares for Renzi's seat, focusing on vet's issues. The rush is on!

A1: "Renzi insists he is not resigning"

This AP repackage of stories from the last couple of days includes a little whine from a Coconino pol about the rumor that Renzi will give it up. This is a a bit silly, since Renzi himself was the original source.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Letters: Environmental impact over breakfast

AS Russi refers to this from April 11 in calling out City Manager Norwood for doing no more than toe the legal line on water impact assessment. I think Russi may be overstating the City's position somewhat, but we've still had no fact-finding by the Courier about this, going back to the Renzi quote covered on April 3.

Following that we have a fascinating little movie script about breakfast at an unnamed local elementary school, not to be missed.

Editorial: "Wastewater treatment costs are adding up"

The unnamed Courier editor correctly points out that the numbers on City wastewater services are mounting up. Lay those numbers next to the proposed costs of diverting the base flow of the Verde River into Prescott toilets and you do indeed start to talk 'real money.' But conveying that information is a news-beat job. Editorials are about taking a position, and in this case the editor missed an opportunity. I get the feeling there's a certain unease about all this in the Courier office, but he's not willing to go further.

There are plenty of people in town who've been expressing unease about this issue for years while the Courier poo-poohed them. Now faced with the hard numbers, the Courier goes wishy-washy. Progress?

Oh, and guys, I know the Senate Minority Leader has been much on your minds with the Renzi thing going on, but our public-works director is still called Craig McConnell. You knew that, of course.

A1: "Nurse treats abused children with smiles"

Departing from recent practice, in its obligatory page-one picture/fluff space the Courier today is carrying a human-interest story that angles in on the very real public issue of child abuse. Here's a cookie for Mirsada Buric and the editors.

Talk of the Town: "Life’s not a beach thanks to council naysayers"

Earl Burden gets in a massive whine because the City isn't buying into his wacky dream of artificial beaches on our lakes. Oy.

A few years ago, when the water was almost entirely drained from Watson Lake, I hiked with a pal across the center of it. It's an impressive landscape, ringed with weird rocks, dotted with the ghostly white heads of still-rooted trees draped in lost fishing gear, all buried dozens of feet deep in stinking black muck. Why anyone would think it safe to swim in that cesspool is utterly beyond me.

Then there's Willow Lake, nothing more than a marshy floodplain, more fit for grazing pronghorn and cattle than swimming -- well, wading, really. A beach on the edge of this puddle makes about as much sense as socks on a chicken.

Thanks to the Courier for showing us just how out of touch some of our neighbors are.

A1: "Parking system strives for flexibility"

Leaving aside the dumb headline, in which a thing can somehow 'strive,' Cindy's coverage points out very clearly how short-sighted codes impede useful downtown development, and how pressure from downtown landlords and businesses may be turning that around. Good stuff.

A1: "Prescott lags behind in public transit"

No kidding.

Cindy Barks' story has a lot of good, clear info. But what's going on at the end? Of the 15 pitiful souls who managed to show up for this meeting, only one appears -- the guy who thinks that this should all be handled by private companies. I smell something missing here.

A1: "Parties float names as Renzi probe heats up"

Joanna Dodder mixes it up with the wire reports to provide a good overview of this breaking situation. What was a blog rumor early yesterday has developed into Arizona pols on both sides lining up for a possible special election. Renzi's not dead yet, but his pals have already rented the hearse.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Coming: More Renzi

Apparently Grant Woods (the former AZ attorney general, no?), now working as a lawyer for Rep Renzi, revealed a big lump of unreported cash last week to reassure prosecutors that all was on the up-and-up. Will it work?

The Hill:

"Failure to disclose a large payment properly would be a violation of House ethics rules, but more significantly, prosecutors could use it as evidence that Renzi knew the transaction was illegal and tried to hide it."

Think we'll see more on this in tomorrow's Courier?

Talk of the Town: "More than talk, water worries are in the numbers"

In a piece that for some reason didn't make it onto the free site, zoology prof Richard Clark drones on wonkishly about the basics of water budgeting, warning that because we're taking out more than is going in, we're gonna run out.

Pretty basic, I think.

Why is it that our various legislators, supervisors and Councilcritters don't get it? Maybe this piece, a difficult and stodgy read unhelped by a cloudy headline, is an example to answer that.

Editorial: "Laborer bill deserves governor's signature"

In his first words the unnamed Courier editor gives away his highest priority in this issue: "The view."

That's really what it's about, isn't it? We don't mind having the positive effects of the work these people do, we just don't want to see them. We don't even care whether they're illegal, really, only that they're brown and untidy.

Farther down we get a nice little frame for the Governor's decision: if she signs it, she's courting independent voters, if she vetoes it, she's courting Hispanic voters. Of course there's no chance that she'll decide on the basis of whether she thinks it's good law, right?

By the way, guys, it's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not "Immigration Customs and Enforcement."

Letters: Anarchy, MJ and bags of poop

The letters column today kicks off with a guy who thinks taxpayers need more say in how their money is spent. Here's you clue, Dave: it's called a vote.

In the middle we see a familiar comment from MJ, cross-posting to the Courier online comments system. Go MJ, and I encourage all readers here to do the same.

Finally a Vietnam vet confirms just how awful those peaceniks are by repeating the legend of returning troops being taunted and pelted with shit. Like everyone else I've heard these stories, but also that no one has ever reliably confirmed they actually happened. Anyone have a good source?

A1: "Bill seeks to protect Agua Fria, other sites"

The nice, straightforward information piece by Joanna Dodder comes with a light dessert. This bill has been part of Rick 'Richie Rich' Renzi's new greener strategy, but he's had to hand off to Raul Grijalva and isn't answering phone calls from the press. Awww.

A1 "Great Lakes, Mesa vie for Prescott air service"

The public contention seems to be focused on which passenger air service to use. But about halfway down we learn why it's a public issue at all: the 1.7 or 1.8 million bucks in public subsidies to provide the service.

I'd have liked to see a declarative sentence stating exactly where this money is coming from. If I recall correctly it's all federal, but readers would be excused for inferring that since the City Council is voting on it, it might involve some from our local coffer.

It would also have been interesting to read a response by Mr Lamerson, for instance, to the question of why he supports federal subsidies for business travelers.

A1: "Granite Gate annexation plan opens debate among residents"

Cindy Barks details how once again the City Council is in hot water for failing to discuss changes to a neighborhood with the neighbors before putting them on the public agenda. Architect and former Councilcritter Tom Reilly knows more about this than most, so his surprise at the reaction is likely feigned.

The story's OK, but the headline is misleading, giving the impression that residents disagree with each other, rather than pretty uniformly with the City action.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How it's done in the big leagues

An especially egregious example of editorial chicanery came to light today, involving The New York Post, operated by Rupert Murdoch (Mr Fox), "rewriting" an AP story under byline. This might be instructive for Courier readers.

Editorial: "Prop. 200 represents Arizona voter's will"

At last, a Courier editorial that is all original writing conveying a viewpoint with relative clarity. The viewpoint amounts to pointless flailing at a favorite inflatable punching clown, the Ninth Circuit, which did something the editor didn't expect, which is uphold the law -- we've grown so used to the other thing under the Bush adminstration, after all -- but the unnamed editor gets a cookie anyway.

As a poll worker I've had to deal with the effects of Prop 200 on the retail level, and believe me, guys, it's not just Dems and minorities who are pissed off about this. Those most affected among my customers have been older Republicans.

Letters: Love for Lovell

Tom Gatchell gives Terry Lovell another attaboy for facing down a whole planet of scientists with a brain so amazing it got him a job on KYCA.

Anybody else on this bus remember when those of us who understood the threat of atmospheric heating due to fossil-fuel use were the radical fringe? It's fascinating how people can deftly shift their arguments from 'we're the majority, so we're right' to 'we're smarter than the majority, so we're right.' The rub is that science may not accept a given theory, but once it does it never rejects it again in favor of the previous model, because the previous model has already proved inadequate. The boat's already left, folks.

Goodman: "Conservatives taking women out of the abortion debate"

Today's column, originally headlined "Politicians Playing Doctor," on the Supreme Court ruling is complete and only marginally harmed by the Courier's arbitrary edits and introduced errors. It slays me that the editors are compelled to 'improve' on work already done by some of the nation's best writers and editors.

A1: "Sewer upgrade costs could exceed $500 million"

So now we're getting an idea what the bills will look like for the large-scale growth the City has been encouraging for two decades. If the projections are roughly correct -- and for $300,000, they'd better be -- new sewer projects, no maintenance, no repairs, will cost $5,000 per living soul in Prescott, or $10,000 per person showing up to live here over the next 25 years. That's a fair bit higher than the impact fees on new construction, of course, but you can bet this cost won't be paid by developers.

Good work, Cindy.

A1: "Program teaches girls self-defense techniques"

Brava, PV! Shari Lopatin's story on the collaboration between PVPD and educators to teach girls about self-defense techniques demonstrates good thinking by both. I suspect it also has something to do with promoting women police officers to positions of authority.

Couple things: We learn that it's a new curriculum, and in the last graph one of the girls says it's mandatory, but we're left to infer that all middle-school girls will get this training. I'd also like to know how many girls are involved and whether girls in charter and home-school programs will be included.

A1: "Renzi steps down from more committees"

Joanna Dodder gives us a rundown on the sniff-test situations that Rick Renzi has been slowly simmering in since October, resulting in Friday's FBI raid on the Renzi business in Sonoita and his committee resignations. But she missed a couple of important details: Attorneygate and ROMP.

Update, 1pm: WSJ continues its coverage with new stuff, via Kos.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Editorial: "Tough laws better for impaired drivers"

Drunk driving is dangerous and stupid, and we need strong measures to stop it. On that I agree with the Courier editor here. Where we differ is that I think those measures should also be effective, and they should address the real problem.

Stopping a drunk driver by putting a lock on his car may stop the car from moving, but not the drunk. People share and borrow cars all the time, so while the innocent wife of the drunk is trying to get a balky machine to allow her to go to work, hubby is out in his brother's truck making mayhem unimpeded. The car is not the problem, it's the driver.

I wonder how the Courier would react to legislation proposing that the state put a breathalyzer interlock on a drunk's gun.

If a person is convicted of endangering the public with any deadly weapon because of substance abuse, that person must be prevented from doing it again until the substance-abuse problem is clearly eliminated. If that means physical restraint, so be it. The real problem here is that neither the drunk nor society takes this issue seriously enough. We're doing essentially nothing about the root cause, which is the easy availability of an addictive drug and a culture that encourages its abuse. If the Courier editor had thought to include some stats, it might have helped.

Lambro: "How did Tech gunman escape notice?"

Today's Lambro focuses like a laser on school officials for failing to have Cho illegally committed, or something. I checked the original, titled "Lessons of Virginia Tech," and while it's about 100 words longer than the Courier version, it unaccountably contains no mention of the guys who sold the weapons to this wacko. Maybe it just slipped Don's mind in the flurry of Republican talking points flying out of his ass.

Letters: PC, global-warming lies, and water

In today's letterbox -- oddly enough, all from locals -- Jeff Tate stands up courageously for the right of rich broadcasters to insult innocent women, Ronald Kotfila stands up courageously against worldwide scientific consensus, and Jim Hamm asks whether, given that we're short of water, we ought not to stop dumping so much of it in the garden. Dumb question, Jim.

B1, Jackson: "Surprise: NAU is in Prescott, too"

Jerry's inside column isn't meant to be serious, I know. But breezy folksiness can be taken too far.

I and the rest of the YC Performance Hall crew appreciate Jerry's giving us some credit, but please don't connect us to the performance on Saturday, that was largely an embarrassment. The Ink Spots did okay, but the Four Lads were losing it, Marilyn King gave us nothing but pathetic croaking, and Pete Barbutti's act was totally Naugahyde lounge.

A1: "The Luer rocket lives on"

Online readers saw this earlier in the month, and it's sort of interesting, especially to old-vehicle crazies like me. But I'm old-fashioned in another way as well: I'd much rather see actual news on the front page of my local newspaper. These regular fluffy photo pieces are a waste of valuable space that should be working to inform the reader.

A1: "Amendments help protect victims"

I suspect that the editors tried to punch up Mirsada Buric's relatively dry summary of detail changes to victim's rights legislation. Instead they punched it out -- out of bounds for a news story, anyway. The headline, lead and bits inside take a clear editorial position, soft-pedaling the downside of the changes that Mirsada details farther down.

A1: "Sunday stabbing victims are recovering"

Two guys using knives inappropriately on the same day does not make a connection between them. I beg you, Mirsada, stop knitting unrelated crime stories together, it just creates chaos on the page.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Herron: "Einstein's concept of God seems best"

Egad, Al, you must really enjoy poking that nest of hornets. Didn't you learn your lesson last time?

Seriously, it occurred to me that we'll never see a piece like this on the Religion page, where it really belongs. Pity.

Editorial: "City's hard work pays off with rating"

In which the editor repackages yesterday's story, adds one sentence to the head and one to the tail, and calls it an editorial. Whew, I hope he was able to get some rest afterward.

I'll bet it went over real well among the good 'ol boys down at the Lone Spur.

Letters: Gang sign in the Courier! (gasp!)

Today's lead letter from Beverly Jolliffe expresses shock, fear and anger that the Courier would provide a platform for the vicious, scary horribleness of a bunch of hick gangsta wannabees doing Presbyterian rap. I'm not sure which is funnier.

The second, from Michelle Harrington of the Center for Biological Diversity, attempts to spank the City Council for not stepping up to the adult table on Verde watershed issues. Hate to tell you, Michelle, but Council doesn't care. Her missive does add some accidental context to Cindy Barks' Monday rundown of the Council agenda though. Anybody else notice how much alike the names of the water groups are? Makes it sorta confusing for the casual reader. Coincidence?

Finally we have another standard out-of-town brown-peril rant, made slightly more amusing by Tom Steele's comment, in which he attempts to spell a common three-syllable word.

A1: "Granite Creek cleanup is an Earth Day success"

Doug Cook gives us a tour of the volunteer effort to clean up the creek and the park, but I've got an unanswered question: Why does it take a massive effort by students and nonprofits to get this done? Is it the City's policy to let the creeks go until some civic-minded volunteers show up? From the looks of things there was a huge amount of trash in just this small area -- granted, a flood basin that catches a lot of floating crap when the rains swell the creek, but right next to what should be our premiere recreation park and along the trail that's supposed to be a primary crosstown walking and biking route. Does the City make any effort at all?

A1: "Collapsing colonies"

Joanne Twaddell visited with the folks at The Honeyman and talked about bees, squishing a national agricultural crisis down into a nice human-interest story. It's a pity it didn't include some expert references on just how widespread, severe and sudden this crisis has been to put it in context and make the reader smarter about the big picture here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ignatius: "Rice must be in 'listening mode' during talks"

Today the Courier runs a column that I expect the editors believe is leftist at almost full length, doing a little trimming here and there for space and style, all perfectly appropriate. Except if you're going to do this, you really have to pay some modicum of attention. Take a look at the final graph, for example, in which the editor exercises the Courier dictat that the passive voice is a tool of Satan. The result is gibberish.

Ignatius, "Rice on The Right Tracks":

"Rice's past diplomatic efforts have been limited by the Bush administration's tendency to moralize foreign policy issues and to refuse the very process of dialogue with adversaries that might resolve problems."

The Courier editor:
"The Bush administration's tendency to moralize foreign policy issues have limited Rice's past efforts, and to refuse the very process of dialogue with adversaries that might resolve problems."

Letters: No theme today

In today's letterbox, Vic Pappas liked what Sen Johnson wrote on the 13th (I didn't), and Jeanette Fein calls the Courier out for spreading astroturf.

A1: "Prescott receives upgrade in financial rating"

Another cookie for Cindy Barks for good craft on a dull subject that voters should understand.

A1: "Former Senate candidate's company files for bankruptcy"

Joanna Dodder gives us what feels like a pretty complete rundown on the bankruptcy filing and related background of developer Elise Townsend. There was a lot of criticism of Townsend during her candidacy for rough business practices that this story confirms, not least the abuse of friends and employees that belies the righteous evangelical-Christian image she tried to build for herself. There was also heartburn about her staying in the primary race too long, which left her name on the ballot and buggered things up a bit for the other candidates.

Am I remembering correctly that the Courier endorsed Townsend for the Senate?

Editorial: "Culture of corruption hits close to home"

The unnamed Courier editor makes a salad of Rep Rick Renzi's trouble with the law, starting with a little iceberg lettuce on the actual allegations, colored with the supposed strength of the "Democratic spin machine" (presumably including the Justice Department and FBI), tossed with the old reliable "everybody does it" house dressing, and topped it with a Courier favorite, the term-limit cherry tomato. (Or is it a rubber clown nose?)

I rather doubt that Rep Renzi will appreciate the Courier placing him in the same bad-apple bin with William ("Mr Freezer") Jefferson, but maybe the editor is hoping to one day be admitted to that Democratic spin machine, where we all know the real money is.

Meanwhile there's some real journalism going on over at that great bastion of the Democratic spin machine, the Wall Street Journal (via AZ Congress Watch). Check it out.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A1: "Renzi takes leave from House committee"

Here's the expected AP story from yesterday with a couple of embellishments by Joanna Dodder, in the right place at the top of A1. Pity that no one seems to be answering the phone to speak for Rep Renzi, but I'm not surprised. I'll look forward to the Courier editorial on this.

It's been interesting to watch Renzi's voting record change before and after the 2006 election. By my unreliable finger-in-the-air reckoning he's been voting with the Dems and against the rest of the remaining AZ elephants about 60% of the time, and sending DM to independents polishing his green cred. What I draw from this is that he at least believes that priorities are shifting substantially among AZ1 voters.

Editorial: "Thanks to tipster for making PV safer"

The unnamed Courier editor does a repackage of Mirsada Buric and thanks the citizens who did all the work except the actual arrests. Meanwhile, over on the blog page, John Kamin provides the useful thinking and reportage that should have run in this space, and wins the cookie.

Letters: Sturm and drang about illegals

In another theme edition of Our Readers Speak, several people (half from out of state) exhort our public officials to employ illegal measures to address a non-problem. Mark my words, folks: if you get what you think you want -- and you may -- you'll come to regret it.

For the Courier: Whatever the political stripe of the letter-writer, people uniformly expect you to refrain from manipulating their words. Editing them or arranging them in time violates this trust. Strive to err on the side of the integrity of these gifts from your readers.

Reagan: "Armed students would have stopped campus shooter"

Uh-huh. Too many cowboy movies, Mike.

If you're keeping score: the original, "Gun Laws Kill," is 727 words; the Courier version: 715.

Update, 10:10am: John K provides the smackdown here.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Offline today

I'll be leaving fairly early for our gig at the Chandler Jazz Festival, so if you don't get a reply to your comment, it's not that I don't love you, I'm working and I'll get to it tomorrow. Have a great Friday!

Columns: A question of balance

The Courier prides itself in the political balance it displays on the editorial page. We report, you decide.

Today we have a love-letter to a wannabe Presidential candidate from religio-fascist nutbar Cal Thomas, originally titled "Run, Fred, Run," carried verbatim at 701 words.

Also today we have a view from Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson on the credibility or lack thereof of some of our public servants, originally titled "Are They Serious?," minus 417 of its 766 words. Now, as a topic this is a pretty easy target, but the Courier's elisions eviscerate Robinson's arguments and obscure his craft.

I'm sure these cuts were made to fit the available space, no question. But why cut one by more than half and the other by not one word?

Given the proper treatment of yesterday's column by Robinson, I'm beginning to think that at least in some cases this frequent abuse of syndicated columns is somewhat less political than it seems. Rather, the Courier page editor thinks of non-rightwing columns as filler, and treats them as such.

Editorial: "City Council advances immigration law plans"

The unnamed Courier editor damns the City with faint praise for not doing enough to sweep those untidy brown people off our streets. Presumably the editor has a proposal for how the City should go about it, one that takes into account that the City has no legal authority over immigration violations. I'd love to see that proposal, but so far all I've read is hectoring complaints and political posturing.

Letters: The Queen Bee wants to clarify ...

... and only muddies the water further.

A1: "City plans to borrow $30M for variety of projects"

Another story by Cindy Barks gives us some meat among the page-one filler. This is the sort of dry, totally non-sexy story you really need to read and absorb to be an informed voter, and should be central to the mission of any local paper.

I'd just like to hear more detail on how we're gonna pay for this. I see a little on water/sewer rates. How about some numeric projections and proposals?

A1: "Transit choice now in hands of local governments"

Props to the editors for giving Cindy Barks' story some prominence. We learn that the public "overwhelmingly" supports an extensive fixed-route bus system connecting our communities and workplaces. In the past the Courier has officially poo-poohed mass transit, but that resistance seems to be softening of late. Let's hope our elected officials can see the writing on the wall as well.

Coming: The Renzi raid

The story broke after press time for the Courier last night, so no blame for having nothing in today's paper about the FBI raid on the business of Congresscritter Rick Renzi's wife in Sonoita yesterday. I'll look forward to reading the Courier's treament tomorrow, though.

Update, 9:50am: Anonymous commenter (John K?) points us to this, posted after my A1 read. Thanks for the tip! Now: Will the Courier do any original writing on this?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More fun reading

Check out the new page on local blogs at Coyote Radio.

Open thread: a breather

I'm prepping for the trio's appearance at the Chandler Jazz Festival tomorrow night, so I'd best take the day off from the blog.

Use this thread to comment on today's articles. I notice a smackdown among the letters, a Eugene Robinson column that's probably pretty close to full-length, more posturing about illegals by the City Council, PV cops get (most of) their men, and touching disappointment in Wal-Mart on the editorial page.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Editorial: "Open space sales tax could go to road upkeep"

The Courier declares its position on the just-beginning initiative effort that's been prominently featured here and here. OK, guys, you go ahead, but we'll see how well you keep your politics separate from your news. So far, you're screwing up.

O'Reilly: "Coddling criminal illegal aliens unconscionable"

Today the Courier runs O'Reilly's complete column. Of course: it's about criminal illegals.

If you missed Bill's idea of intelligent debate on this issue on his show or the widely circulated YouTube clip, it's too late, Fox complained and YouTube took it down.

A6: "Veterans monument committee discusses contacting artists"

Master of boring meetings Ken Hedler lets us in on the planning for a new memorial in PV. I love the bit from Councilcritter Lora Lee Nye:

Nye said the monument should not mention wars or conflicts, adding, “We want it to be contemplative.”

A veterans monument that avoids mention of war. Uh-huh. Ken gets a cookie for keeping a straight face.

A1: "Big Chino Water Ranch dominates Verde coalition debate"

I know this is a story that is complex, ongoing and will be that way forever, but I gotta say that while Cindy Barks has probably covered the back and forth in Council well enough, her story doesn't do much to inform readers who haven't been following the players and stats for years. There's a lot going on here under the surface, and it deserves more regular, comprehensive coverage acknowledging its complexity.

If that's what you're looking for, check out Candace McNulty's work in Read It Here.

A1: "Focus on the planet"

A nice rundown by Joanna Dodder details a pretty broad-based group of Earth Day events, with no snark about footwear.

A1: "Pro-Wal-Mart committee pays late fine"

Maybe it's me, but I had to read Ken Hedler's story three times to get a picture from this more or less random scatter of quotes, names, organizations and allegations. There's no indication I can find in the text that the headline is true, and I still don't know whether the Wal-Mart supporters will be required to pay a fine.

A1: "Spotlight on security in wake of massacre"

Given the national focus on the VT murders, it's perfectly predictable that the Courier would send someone, in this case Shari Lopatin, to ask these questions. I just have to wonder whether it's useful or smart to detail how many officers and guns are patrolling our campuses.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Editorial: "Questions abound around shooting"

Yeah: one of my questions is why the unnamed Courier editor can't seem to spend more than five minutes writing an editorial.

For example, did anyone else notice this paragraph-long sentence fragment?

This terrible tragedy and how officials analyze the underlying motive and how the shooter, a man who reportedly went first to a coed residence hall in search of his girlfriend and shot two people then showed up two hours later at an engineering classroom building, was able to kill another 30 people and himself.

But for once the Courier editor comes up with a useful thought around a gun incident:
Who was the shooter, what drove him to do it, and what signs did people miss that might have allowed counselors or law enforcement to keep him from going through with it?

Relatively speaking, this almost rates a cookie.

A1: National news

For the record, I'm covering what the Courier does, so I'm not planning to post on dropped-in wire stories. There are occasions where a local paper really has no choice about running a national story prominently, and since it seems that everyone is focusing on this one right now, the Courier might be seen as out of step to do otherwise.

In response to this I'm sure we can look forward to an editorial defending the right of whacked-out students to keep and bear arms on campus.

Wiederaenders: "Don't be a zombie behind the wheel"

In this long ramble about paying attention when you're behind the wheel, I'm thinking I see a clue as to why the Courier has so far ignored the many calls from readers for investigation of the yellow-light and radar-camera practices in PV: Tim lives there, and he thinks everything's fine.

A3: "Analyst has her doubts about the future of healthcare"

If our local paper's mission involves informing voters on the issues that will affect their futures, Derek Meurer's story from the Arizona Town Hall should have been on A1 in place of the history talk by the Holocaust survivor.

The speaker on health care clearly pulled no punches, and we read about some of the reactions, which come across as largely skeptical. Was that really the case? No way to know without attending in person. Some responses from our local health-care leaders might be informative as well.

A1: "Police suspect same teens in second robbery"

At last, the Saturday-night story arrives, in which the same guys do the same robbery exactly one month later. We learn that PVPD has nothing on them and hopes for a tip.

Maybe I'm in the wrong line of work.

A1: "City officials agree 1-percent sales tax should be permanent"

In the followup on the announcement on Sunday, Cindy Barks once again firmly soft-pedals the impact on open-space acquisition from Rob Behnke's initiative. Clearly City officials have some reservations about it, but we don't learn much about why. It feels like this story went to press a few days before it was ready.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Editorial: "Deductions take pain out of taxes"

Everybody loves to hate taxes, right? So why not yet another bit of harmless fiction about the evil politicians and bureaucrats laughing at all of us for lining their pockets with our money?

I'll tell you why: this BS is not harmless. It's designed to make you stupid -- about government, about taxes, about how our civilization works -- and lead you to use your vote to make yourself poorer and less powerful.

There is a lot of perfectly valid debate we can conduct around what we do as a society and how we pay for it. But debating whether taxes are good or bad carries no more sense than gad gave a chicken. What adults want to talk about is the value we get back from what we put in. Focus on that idea and you'll get a useful discussion.

And what's with that headline?

Amster: "Community means having a dialogue"

Randal gently reaches out to his critic last week and tries to make a larger point with it. Good on you, Randal. We have to talk up the philosophy and responsibilities of community to make it happen -- it's not something we can take for granted.

I suppose in this talking-up there's not a lot of room for the unfortunate reality that population density and technology are conspiring to push people into smaller, more tightly delineated communities and mentally out of the larger, healthier communities we inhabit physically. I think it'd be useful to try to point out that this is happening and how we individually drift this way. Holding up a mirror to dis-community might be a wake-up call for some.

That said, I will wholeheartedly second Randal's softly put but nonetheless sharply drawn point about respect on the Courier editorial page, and for that he gets a cookie.

Readers will please forgive a moment of classicly educated geekiness. Sorry, Randal, my references agree that "community" derives from one source, that is the Latin communitas, an extension of communio, meaning first the area inside the city wall, secondarily and more abstractly the sharing of responsibility. This derived from con + munia, 'with' + 'duties,' building the concept of serving together. Now munia could have evolved from something from a previous culture, that's not really known, but let's not tangle the path unnecessarily. Moneta, which led to 'money,' is a quite different word, originally in Roman culture a surname for the goddess Juno describing mindfulness, leading to English words like 'monitor.' The Latin communicatio, actually something of a pun on communio, named the oratorical device of inviting audience response. None of this interferes much with your point, but you didn't need shaky etymology to make it.

Letters: Air service

I'll say it again, scheduled air service from Prescott to Phoenix is for rich people who think they're too cool for the bus.

There's some talk about flights to Las Vegas, for example, which might have limited utility, but it's hard to see that happening with runway slots already full. Some numbers in the Courier on this might be informative.

Missing: Another Walgreen's robbery

My spies tell me there was another robbery at the all-night Walgreen's in PV that was hit last month. Courier readers might like to know about that, as well as what the PVPD has done about it.

A1: "Human Resources works behind the scenes for county employees"

Paula turns in a nice puff piece on a county department, promising regular installments. I suppose that Monday is the day for this, since no one's working on Sunday to get actual news. It just seems like this would fit better on B1.

By the way, Mr Vigneron's name shouldn't be so difficult to spell.

A1: "A common voice"

Paula Rhoden reports on a meet-and-greet between local seniors and a couple of our legislators at the Adult Center. Both pols and seniors come off as whiny, and I gotta wonder if that's an accurate characterization.

Online edition: Monday blues

John K, are you working today? I found a bunch of busted links in the online edition.

Blog: "Blair's "taco" comments aren't too intelligent"

I'm a little behind here, as I don't check the blog section every day, but I'm keeping an eye out to see whether traffic picks up.

John Kamin makes the first mention I've seen in the Courier of a story I pointed out on April 4, and doesn't pull the punch, so he gets a cookie. I've got a couple niggles and a prod, though.

Niggle 1: Blair wasn't referring just to illegals, but rather to everyone of Hispanic heritage. In the back of his mind, I'm sure, was the Lincoln neighborhood's common nickname among Prescott natives: Taco Flats.

Niggle 2: He angered more than the direct targets of his derision. There are a lot of us out here who think this sort of behavior is absolutely out of bounds for a public official, radio host or no.

Prod: 'Jackass Flats' has sort of become the derisive name for PV, but it didn't start that way. It was the standard name for the area until about '66.

A1: "Immigration, water issues top City Council agenda"

Cindy Barks' regular Monday agenda rundown is pretty dry reading, but important in that we all get a nudge to show up and say something about the issues involved, rather than a report on what Council has done after the votes have been cast.

I've been here long enough to remember when Council followed a pretty strict no-debt policy. How things have changed, eh?

A1: "Assessor explains agricultural designations"

Paula Rhoden runs it down, but nowhere did I find why it's a page-one story.

Free at last

DC's Emancipation Day marks the beginning of the end for American slavery.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Talk of the Town: "The alternative to global warming stinks"

Ah, good. Tim W told me a few weeks ago that he was working to facilitate public debate about the climate crisis. So here we have the opening remarks from the tiny minority of people who call themselves scientists, don't think humans are changing our climate and don't think climate change is necessarily a bad thing.

I'm no scientist, and Terry Lovell is -- he teaches business and computer science at YC. No meteorology or climatology, nor any earth sciences, for that matter, but what the heck, he understands the scientific method, right? And apparently he believes he understands it better than the rest of the scientific community, which views climate change as not only human-caused, but threatening to civilization worldwide.

One thing Prof Lovell apparently does not understand is the difference between the CO2 you exhale, "you global climate criminal," you, and the CO2 spewed into the atmosphere in burning fuels taken from underground. This tells me that he may have skipped the class on the carbon cycle.

But I'm no scientist, so I'll look forward to another prominent and long Talk of the Town next week from another scientist, one who joins the vast majority of her peers worldwide in calling for immediate, decisive action to limit CO2 output and the extent of the impending climate disaster.

Thanks for doing this, Tim, your readers could really use some solid information about this issue.

Editorial: "We need more culture, less pop"

The unnamed Courier editor riffs incoherently on this week's cannibalistic media feeding frenzy on Don Imus, wrenching things around to find a way to work in a whack at his favorite inflatable punching clown.

• When she was first lady, Hillary Clinton allegedly called a campaign contributor a "Jew bastard."

I gather this little meme has been circulating among the Bill-Clinton-is-Satan crowd for a while, but I hadn't heard it before, so I checked it out. I was not really surprised that the private he-said-she-said moment in question allegedly happened in 1974, rather before she was Mrs Clinton, let alone a resident of 1600 Penn Ave, her accuser was a campaign staffer rather than a contributor, he was disbarred for malpractice and mentally unstable, and she released a written apology from him.

You gotta wonder whether this meets the Courier editor's normal standard for reporting facts.

Did I mention that the cartoon running next to this editorial (link is busted) is another whack at Hillary? Anyone else think someone's got an obsession going here?

In the comments, early-riser Jane goes after similar distortion of Rosie O'Donnell, who's also been a frequent Courier target recently. Think we'll see a reply?

A1: "Initiative on sales tax could make ballot"

Okay, so we have a new group of half a dozen people getting started on an initiative to make the temporary 1-percent City sales tax permanent. But there's an important piece missing.

Quoting from the initiative, we see, “Starting Jan. 1, 2016, funds from the 1-percent Transaction Privilege Tax shall be used exclusively for ‘street maintenance.’”

Presumably this use of 'exclusively' references the current uses of the tax revenues for both streets and the acquisition of open space, and would eliminate the latter. Open space has been an issue of major contention since the campaign to approve it in the first place, and it's no surprise that some people might want to knock it out.

But Cindy's story only mentions the open-space angle in the background graph. It seems clear that this could easily be the primary motivator for the initiative backers, especially considering that they hope to pass it eight years before any possibility of implementation. That demands exploring.

If it's on A1 it's a news story, and shouldn't be treated as a simple inside-page press-release dump. Did Cindy do this, or the editors?

A1: "City takes stance on downtown violations"

The most interesting angle in this story for me is the very first clause. Yes, it's good that City bureacrats are doing a little something to catch up with this problem, but where were they when it was happening? It required multiple complaints, including LTEs mentioned previously here, to get any movement.

Then there's the bit at the end, wherein City Kitchen Sink Czar Mic Fenech lusts to spend another 80 grand of our money on a machine, plus the man-hours to operate and maintain it, to do what the property owners are already legally required to do on their own. I'll look forward to more on this, Cindy.

A1: "Mayes shares ACC's ideas for water conservation"

I'm glad Doug Cook was there for the presentation by Commissioner Mayes, and his story on it has a some good nuts-and-bolts information, particularly about the purview of the the Corp Commission around water companies, that voters don't often get much chance to learn about.

The editors could have hit this one a little harder and made it easier to read, but I won't nitpick all that. I'm more concerned about the headline. Yes, ideas for conservation are in the story, but only in the last three graphs. That's not how it's done, guys. An average reader coming to the story looking for what you're promising will be disappointed and leave off reading by the third graph. Spend another fifteen seconds and headline the story you have rather than the one you vaguely remember from skimming it.

Letters: Yellow lights again

Never underestimate how exercised Americans can get when it comes to traffic.

I'm very impressed with the initiative that PV residents are taking over the yellow-light and radar camera issue there. Beyond the triggering irritation, an interesting story by itself, the people's response to it has become a fascinating news story on which the Courier is so far unaccountably mute. Go PV!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Editorial: "Rule-breaking ATVs make forest dangerous"

Here's another from the teenaged intern the Courier is apparently allowing to write editorials. Guys, it's great that you're helping the kid learn, but it's not really a good idea to allow him to send it to layout unedited.

There's more to writing an editorial than rewriting a story from yesterday and adding "this is icky."

Talk of the Town: "Local citizens stepped up to help others"

Courier editors, it's clue time again: This is not an opinion piece. It's most of a news story written by the people involved, doing your job for you.

Today's mind-teaser: What sort of psychology does it take to lead someone, say a Courier editor, to see a simple story of people helping people as a political position?

A1: "PV: Proposed rule would crack down on graffiti"

Ken Hedler's council report is pretty good considering the eye-glazing meeting he had to sit through to get it.

Kids used to use chalk for graffiti, now they use spray paint and expensive markers. Hint: that's because their parents give them money.

Lambro: "Hillary's numbers are slipping already"

Another insightful analysis from America's most unsubtle Republican Party tool, the political 'editor' for the Washington Times (aka The Moonie Times).

I detest this writer, but in the interest of public service I held my nose and read the original column, "Her aura of invincibility is fading fast." I found that, while it's still pretty obviously designed to promote Republican talking points, the Courier's 274-word edit of the 816-word column manages to make Lambro look even worse than he is.

The Courier's headline points to the agenda that will take no one here by surprise: The Courier hates the Senator from New York, and takes every opportunity to slide another hatpin into its Hillary doll. Look at the two versions, see for yourself.

A2: "PV police ID possible suspect in home invasion"

I've got no problem with the story itself, it's simple police-blotter stuff. Today's editing lesson involves what happens when you forget the meaning of a word you use frequently.

There's a lot of very lumpy gravy in the copy, but I'll focus on the worst. "Possible suspect" here is just wrong. What you, the Courier reporter or editor, mean to say is either just 'suspect' or 'possible perpetrator.' Treating 'suspect' as interchangeable with 'perpetrator' leads to all sorts of nonsense, not least in how you relate to people who have been accused of crime.

Further reading: Strunk and White, "The Elements of Style," chapter 13.

Blog: "The professional "Poor Kids" can play"

John Kamin follows through on his promise to feature more local music on the local-music blog. Here's a cookie.

A1: "Preservation commission OKs building"

Yesterday I mentioned higher-density mixed-use development as a generally good thing, and here we have an example of what looks like a couple of appropriate infill projects that will fix a mistake Prescott made a long time ago, putting gas stations on the south corners of Montezuma and Sheldon.

Show some love for Cindy Barks, who gets to sit through all the boring public meetings to try and glean something like news out of them, and puts above-average craft into her copy despite the dry subjects.

One question, though, Cindy: Where will residents park those 20 or so cars? I'll guess there's a plan for a garage on the alley side, but I'd like to see it in the story.

A1: "Chino Meadows sewer project gets off the ground"

It looks like Doug Cook brought home the bacon here in terms of content, but it's obscured in very lumpy copy. It looks like the rewrite team was on break. Doug: The word you were looking for is 'leaching'; 'leeching' describes a rather different process. I'm sure this was just a fluke.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Editorial: "Duke lacrosse case evokes 'Oxbow'"

Once again the unnamed Courier editor (ahem, Ben, ahem) frog-marches us through three graphs of gratuitous reference to cowboys into extended finger-wagging about something that matters not one whit to anyone reading him. His only consistent motivation seems to be another opportunity to whack a couple of his favorite inflatable punching clowns. What's odd is that he wants to do this in public.

Sort of weird exhibitionism, if you ask me.

Talk of the Town: "Government doesn't let laws get in its way"

Sen. Johnson (R-AZ18), who represents no one in the Courier's service area, rails about actions that she doesn't like by people in government who are not apparently anywhere in the Courier's service area. Why is this in our paper? If we're giving space to politicians, shouldn't they be our politicians? Shouldn't they at the very least be representing rural AZ?

If you Courier editors wish to opine on an issue, why don't you just write it yourselves and be honest about it?

Cartoon: Another whack at Pelosi

Wait, didn't we just do this a couple days ago? Read my lips: TOTALLY FAKE CONTROVERSY. Ack.

A1: "Everything for the Home"

Page one, top left below the mast, the most important thing happening in our area today: Businesses are selling stuff.

Gotta keep those advertisers happy.

Letters: Guns

Isn't it interesting how the letters block has been organized into themes lately? Ya think anyone might be manipulating this a little?

So here we have four letters apparently in response to the story on the D-H policy of carrying guns into public meetings, every one of them from out of state. Any chance this might have resulted from an organized callout to, say, NRA members for letters? I know that the Courier prints only those letters it deems printworthy. So what gives these run-of-the-mill, me-too memos from all over the country any pertinence to Courier readers? Could it be that gun 'rights' represent a personal hobbyhorse for the editors?

A1: "Dewey-Humboldt P&Z stuck on design standards"

Doug Cook turns in a solid report on D-H struggling with building design standards, covering the bases well.

I have to wonder whether D-H officials aren't getting in over their heads. It's good to do the planning at the beginning, before you've got too many masters to serve, but to be effective in this you've got to have a pretty clear consensus on where you want to go. You can't build that consensus in public meetings, it happens over lots of lunches and group huddles, well before the meetings. Wish 'em luck.

A1: "PV council tables apartment complex"

Prescott Valley has been making and executing very aggressive plans over twenty years to grow up into a dynamic, modern city. Its open-section layout has allowed the town every opportunity to plan far ahead for urban density. So why is it running into this sort of problem? Suddenly a single-family neighborhood is facing the prospect of a large-footprint, four-story apartment block shading out its mornings, and from this story it seems to have nearly slipped through the public-comment phase unnoticed. What the heck is going on down there? Again, the who and what are in place, but I've got several 'why' questions.

I personally think that higher-density, mixed-use development makes all kinds of sense where the alternative is continuing low-density sprawl. But you have to respect the neighbors.

A1: "Illegal off-roaders"

It's a bid sad that a Sheriff's Dept. team actually doing its job and issuing a few tickets to motorized yahoos in the forest qualifies as news, but there you have it. This straight-ahead report is OK as far as it goes, but some context would be informative, such as how often enforcement actions happen in the forest, what sorts of violations predominate, and what kinds of damage they cause.

I know there's been some quiet struggle over the past year or so among the Forest Service, off-roaders and lawnforcement. Some coverage would be useful.

A1: "Sheriff reorganizes his staff again"

Mirsada Buric does a good job on the who and what here, but there's a big one missing: why? I can understand that Sheriff Waugh might be reluctant to explain why a captain in charge of detention "took a voluntary reduction back to lieutenant," apparently leading to a management shakeup across his organization, but it's the Courier's job to at least state that the reporter asked the 'why' question and got no answer.

A factor in smaller-town living is that it's much easier for the press to get too close to the subject, and social rules can override journalistic principles. I don't know that this is what's happening here, but I'll keep an eye out for a pattern.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Talk of the Town: "‘Anchor babies’ weighing country down"

Maybe it's just me: is anyone else seeing a pattern in the Courier's editorial choices related to illegals? Tim W hints in private Email that the Courier editorial policy isn't what I think it is. So just what is it, Tim? Let's get it out there so your readers know what they're buying into.

In yet another brown-peril rant, CR Shoemaker tells us we are "a nation under siege" because, I must infer, we actually follow our laws in how we deal with immigrants, extending our principles about human rights to all. Tell you the truth, RC, I just don't feel under seige in any way, and neither do you. The bottom-line truth is that you don't like your lily-white vision of America sullied with the brown babies of refugees who might grow up and vote.

For the record, I tend to agree that birthright citizenship is problematic in the age of jet air travel and mobile populations. But public discussion of this issue is very poorly served by ignorant, fearful fulminating. Do the Courier editors perhaps know any qualified adults who might be able to write about this?

Update, 6pm: Link fixed, sorry!

B1: "Adding equipment; improving service"

This good, solid public-service feature doesn't much shy away from its technical base. Kudos for Mirsada Buric, the police beat doesn't offer frequent opportunities to bring good news.

Cartoon: I Left You Half

Well, well, an editorial cartoon in the Courier that communicates a useful reality! Here's a cookie for the editor.

Editorial: "Ignoring dress code problem won't solve it"

So after weeks of controversy, competing proposals, public comment and a vote, the unnamed Courier editor thinks the PUSD board 'ignored' a 'problem.' Is this actually meant to insult not only the board members, but the process as well, or is it just another example of reckless hip-shooting because the result doesn't fit the editor's half-baked ideas?

Your 'problem' was, charitably, an idea raised by some stakeholders in this, and you had a long public process that resulted in a hung jury. We have a board process so we can be confident that decisions are not made based on individual whims. It often appears that many people would prefer to have kings over democracy. Maybe the vote doesn't always go your way, but I guarantee you'll prefer that once you live for a while with the alternative. Quit whining.

Letters: Glassford Hill Gauntlet

Here we have three letters about photo radar, two of them that appear to employ actual research. What's keeping the Courier reporters from gathering the facts and knitting them up into something useful? Could it be that you don't want to step on any official toes in PV?

Look, you've got resources at hand, an easy story to get around, and obviously huge demand for it. That's how you sell papers, folks.

A1: "Police: gunshot victim turned gun on himself"

Following up on this, today we find out that it was all a misunderstanding. So maybe speaking more Spanish would be a handy skill for Prescott PD? That would have been a good question to ask, Mirsada. You might even spin it out into a feature on the language capabilities of our local lawnforcement, costs, benefits, experiences, like that.

A1: "City continues focus on liquor licenses"

Maybe Cindy Barks' story is missing something -- you can check the replay on Access13 to find out -- but this story sure raises some questions about what's happening at City Hall. We have a Councilman running overheads of pages from an application for renewal of a long-established liquor license. Why is this sort of thing even getting above the staff level? The whole liquor license issue and Council's relationship with it is getting embarrassing.

A1: "The lucky numbers"

Most folks, including the Courier editors, I'm sure, read this as a standard human-interest story, the sort that normally just bores the crap out of me, sorry. There's a little poison in this particular cupcake, however, in that it encourages poor people to spend their money on state gambling, which amounts to a tax on people who are bad at math. Ack.

Blue Monday

You don't need me to tell you that Kurt Vonnegut has moved on. But I can offer a good obit on one of the greatest minds and hearts of our time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Talk of the Town: "Peace protestors not always so peaceful"

Jim Edmunds gets a fat chunk of the op-ed page to whine about what nasty people these peaceniks really are.

Near as I can figure, he's referring to Randal's column here as the trigger for his irritation, but it has little to do with the events he recounts.

I wouldn't be surprised if his description of his experience is accurate as far as it goes. Many, many people saw what was coming with Bush's adventure in Iraq, and were (and remain) very angry about it. Most people haven't much experience in expressing themselves with force, and have to be given some benefit of the doubt if they don't handle it with perfect aplomb. That they refused to allow a PR flak to tell them how to express themselves about this impending disaster is no surprise. You're a flak, you get yelled at, that's your job, Jim.

And let's not neglect that the peaceniks were absolutely on the money about what was happening and how it would turn out.

The tell comes in Edmunds' final graph, pulling out the old canard that if you're anti-war, you're anti-veteran. This is desperate rhetoric that neatly kneecaps his credibility. The reader will be forgiven for inferring that Edmunds still speaks for Rick Renzi, as I have little doubt that our Congresscritter would make much the same speech.

Editorial: "Recent crimes point to need for change"

Oooh, we knew this was coming, didn't we?

Anecdotes in the Courier, facts here.

Crime is less uncommon among poor people. The poor people in the quad cities are disproportionatley Hispanic. The problem is not immigration, it's class and the underground economy, just like everywhere else. Don't fall for the brown-peril scare.

Letters: Water

If you've ever thought you'd like to stop hearing about water, just forget it. We'll always be dealing with this issue in one form or another.

First we have Richard Clemmer rightly dunning the Queen Bee for threatening to obstruct the process of applying AMA rules county-wide. Maybe the public is catching up.

Readers may infer from the letter that Rep Mason did not welcome the addition of the unanimity provision. In fact she strongly supports it, seeing it as necessary because invoking these rules is an irrevocable decision and supervisors are single representatives of different constituencies, so everyone should be on board. It's true that one recalcitrant Supe can hold up the process. I tend to think that's an inherent risk of democracy.

Next we have Steve Norwood forced to clean up after a little squirty mess Rick Renzi left behind. Who gets the award for this one? Renzi, for making the mess, or the Courier, for neglecting to follow up? Isn't it a little odd that Norwood has to get this out among the LTEs rather than in the original story?

A1: "PUSD board votes down district-wide dress code"

A good news story has the quality of transparency. You can see through the facts to the deeper levels. Shari Lopatin provides us some of this quality today, allowing the PUSD Board's disorganization and emotionalism to shine through alongside the absurdity of the whole issue.

Les Stukenberg's photo adds a touch that's almost arch, bringing home, if you're paying attention, that there's been a lot of smoke and fury over this, but few regular folks actually give a rat's butt about it.

A1: "Council opts for interim arsenic treatment"

This feels like a nice, clean recounting of the facts. Cindy Barks gets a cookie.

Council's in a tough spot here, forced to work a day late and a dollar short, way beyond their collective expertise. Maybe they're starting to realize that willy-nilly expansionism, rather than moving Prescott out onto the highway of modernism, is more like speeding down the Spars. White-knuckle time.

A1: "Hispanic man in stable condition after shooting"

Mirsada Buric's police-blotter story today is good in that it covers a bit more ground than the bare police-report recitiations we often see from the Courier.

There's one big blue circle on my copy, however, around this:

The residents' inability to communicate with officers in English, hampered the investigation, ....
This is not in quotes, so it's presented as fact, and it speaks a strong bias. The neutral, factual version would be, "The language barrier hampered the investigation, ...," and given who is being served and who is serving, it might be useful to consider, "The officers' inability to communicate with the residents in Spanish hampered the investigation, ...." Never blame the victim.

That said, kudo to Mirsada for slipping this in at the end:

"There is some activity from time to time, but most of the time they don't cause that much trouble," she said.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cartoon: Another whack at Pelosi

Anybody reading this blog (including you, Courier editors) already knows that the Pelosi-in-Syria story is a totally fake controversy, so we needn't bother about that. It just occurs to me that you might like to see a few of the cartoons the Courier could have run instead.

Every editorial choice injects a point of view. It's inevitable. And as you rack up those choices, both conscious and unconscious, a detailed portrait of bias emerges.

Wiederaenders: "New set of demons plague local veteran"

A veteran has a son in Germany who might go to Iraq. He's crying into his hankie and condemning the Preznit and the Speaker for not agreeing about how to handle the awful mess we're in there. In parting he says, "The fighting has to stop."

I have a nephew in Texas who's about to leave for his second tour in Iraq. I'm not crying into my hankie, I'm standing up with the 75% of Americans who agree that the Preznit must back down and get our troops out of harm's way. The fighting has to stop.

This, I think, represents a remarkable consensus. It's a pity Tim would apparently rather interpret it as conflict. Or is that what he really means? Does he really mean to say anything at all? Hard to say.

There's a cookie available for pointing out the typo in the headline.

Editorial: "Uninvited guests don't merit perks"

Indulge me in a brief parable.

You come home from a hard day at work to discover a stranger in your home filling your refrigerator with food and repairing your cable connection.

When you ask what he's doing in your home, he says his boss sent him based on orders you made because his services are cheaper, and he's just trying to make a living.

Pretty cheeky of you to complain about him, isn't it?

Let me point out just a couple of the many ways this piece is designed to make you dumber.

The 'thousands' (accounts vary from 5,000 to 75,000, vs 500,000 last year) who turned out for the weekend event in LA were not there "to protest President George W. Bush's immigration reform proposal," they were protesting the current situation and demanding legal status for millions of productive, law-abiding members of our community.

The Preznit is so far backing legislation sponsored in part by AZ Congresscritter Jeff Flake. That this compromise is seen as insufficient for people forced to live without rights is no surprise, but the people who are protesting this approach with even greater vigor include Russell Pierce (R-Bizarro World) and his anti-immigrant acolytes -- the Courier editor apparently among them.

And while there were illegals among the crowd, no one did a survey on legal status. Which is more likely: that the rally consisted of all, a majority, or even a significant number of illegals, or that most of the people there were legal immigrants and immigrant-rights advocates standing up in solidarity to draw attention to the second-class status of their neighbors and friends?

The Courier editor either does not understand the complexity of the issue or is purposely working to whip up yet more pointless political frenzy. Take your choice.

A1: "PUSD teacher admits to viewing porn on school computer"

I hope Mirsada's recounting of the court judgment closes the door on this awful story, and I hope we can keep in mind the rest of our local teachers, who are doing a difficult job for low pay and little thanks. This doesn't make things any easier for them.

A1: "Students, staff speak out on proposed dress code"

Shari Lopatin delivers the goods in a range of quotes illustrating the various feelings in school about the dress-code issue. With the caveat that there's no telling from this whether there's a consensus opinion, and that would be good to know, this seems like a pretty good job.

We learn a couple surprising things here: that wearing beachwear or your hat on backwards is a 'privilege' (now that's aiming high, eh?), and that teachers are apparently as resistant to apparel rules for them as the kids are. My bet is a new dress code ain't gonna happen -- nobody actually affected seems to get the point.

A1: "Police seek 4 suspects in home invasion"

Shorter Mirsada Buric: We don't know anything more about these stories than we did yesterday, but they were sure sensational, huh?

So why front-page a retread of the weekend police blotter? I'm drawn to the concatenation here of two quite separate stories without so much as a subhead between them. As an editor I might like to do this if I saw connecting threads. So what are the common elements? They both happened in PV, they both involved the PVPD, they were both sensational, and they both involved Hispanic perps. Hmm.

Lurkers: Just for you

From various comments I've received in the analog world I know there are a lot more people reading this blog than me, Lefty and MJ. I'm planning to get around to figuring out how to add a hit counter, but till then, whether you like us or not, I'd appreciate a comment just to let us know you're here. Cheers!

Monday, April 9, 2007

O'Reilly: "Rosie is sinking her ship with vitriol"

A little light entertainment for your morning coffee. Identifying O'Donnell as a spokesperson for 'the left' is as goofy as putting O'Reilly up as the voice of 'the right,' rather than the radical nutbar entertainment industry, in which both are leading lights.

From 'The Rosie Factor,' as originally headlined (see it before it sinks), the Courier left out this bit referring to Disney, which I find particularly amusing:

If it fires O'Donnell, the left will attack the company on free speech grounds.

Wanna bet, Bill?

For the record, in removing 220 words from this 560-word column, the Courier editor carefully preserved Bill's points, editing graph-by-graph, and I think only inadvertently turning his lead into a fat joke. Compare that to the Goodman slashing yesterday.

Herron: "County Web site makes tax research easy"

I generally like Al's approach to controversy, where he says, "OK, let's check out whether this is true" and patiently dismantles wackiness. That's what he's after here, and I strongly support the idea of making sure you understand the real effect of your new assessment before you start jumping up and down and calling for bodily harm to the assessor.

But Al, I have to say I wish you'd go after this with a little more umph and point of view. I get the feeling I'm reading Heloise.

Editorial: "Editorial: Liquor Board must look at location, too"

Maybe the Courier editor is being charitable to Council, but this reads like he's chiding the hapless bureaucrat for not having the right responsibilities. That might add a new level of bumbling to make the story funnier, but leading off with suicide in the standard gratuitous pop-culture reference kinda breaks the mood, and pretty well obscures the editor's point.

Letters: Whiskey Row Alley

After a two-night gig over the weekend I almost started my own rant about this. The alley is rapidly degenerating back to its pre-improvement state. What bugs me most is the nightly scatter of burning butts from the new back porch at Matt's. What a pigsty! The new state law cranking up May 1 will do nothing to change this, I expect.

Is it worth a little attention from our local paper to help poke the Row merchants into cleaning up their act?

Cartoon: Donkeys watch TV

Maybe I'm thick, I just don't get it. Somebody 'splain it to me.

Update, noonish: Here's your link, Lefty.

Slow news day

No news is good news, as they say. If there's really so little going on in town, we should be thankful. On the other hand, maybe the entire news staff had the day off yesterday.

Use this to comment on the 'stories' I'm skipping over today, mostly barenaked press releases.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Editorial: "Easter, a special day around the world"

Oh, do me a favor. The editorial page is not the place for your personal choices in jumpin' juju, those belong over on the Religion page -- or, the way you've written it, maybe Sports. Ack.

Update, 6pm: Think I'm being harsh? Try it from this angle.

The world's 2.1 million Turtlists are rejoicing today as they mark the day they believe a giant turtle rose from the sea, creating the world we live on today.

The other religions of the world and the 16 percent of the world's people who are nonreligious see it as just a story, but what a great story it is. The Great Turtle so loved the world that he took it upon his own back, showing the world the path to enlightenment.

If it is just a story, it's the best ever told, because more than two millennia later, Turtlism is the No. 1 religion in Turtlestan. More than .3 percent of the world's people claim it.

Islam ranks second with .21 percent of Turtlestan's population with 1.3 million. Hinduism is third with .14 percent of the population and 900,000 adherents. Judaism claims .022 percent with 14,000 adherents.

Whatever one's religion, let everyone enjoy his or her major observances. Today is the holiest day for Turtlists, and a great day it is.

Goodman: "New media affecting journalism accuracy"

As assiduous readers may suspect, the sabotage of an Ellen Goodman column in the Courier a few weeks ago touched off the process that led to this blog. Today's column is less egregiously mangled than that one, but there remains a very bad smell in the room.

What the Courier offers us of Goodman's column looks untouched by the editors, matching the WaPo version exactly. That's all good. What we don't see is 376 words, more than half of this 782-word column, that were simply chopped off the end.

Now, go with me for a minute. You're a page editor, and you've got a space to fill that you know won't take more than 300 words. The world is full of 300-word possibilities -- papers need to fill holes of all sizes, and syndicators know that their sales depend on their ability to supply the right products for those holes. But no, you, the Courier page editor, pass over all those 300- to 400-word products and you jump right to Ellen Goodman, whose regular columns are all in the 800-word bracket, more than twice as large as your space. You download it, dump what you can in the hole, slash off the rest and call it good.

Of course, this crude amputation leaves a column that makes no sense, so, being a good person and all, you cap it off with a headline that sort of describes the ragged stump of argument you have left.

Goodman's point was not to slam new media, blogs in particular, or doctors. Those were two examples supporting a much broader argument, captured in the original headline "Pushing Back Against the Clock." Check it out if you'd like to see how your Courier editors are serving you.

I'll put it to you, dear reader: is this simple incompetence, or sabotage?

Talk of the Town: "Gun control to stop crime misses the target"

Warren Rushton believes that he, you and I are all personally threatened by too many people with guns, and he thinks the only way to answer that threat is to have a gun on you, ready to fire. I just don't get why so many people -- including you, Lefty -- don't see the circular logic in this. Even if you believe it's true, it's obvious that the only way out is to do everything we can to break the cycle.

There are many levels of emotion that suck people into the scary world that Mr Rushton inhabits, but the core problem is the self-fulfilling myth that we are all individuals, left to our own devices to survive or perish in a hostile world. In that world the gun is very potent, not in any real sense, but as a symbol of the power we don't feel in ourselves to control our destinies.

I'd never expect to see anything like what I'm talking about from the Courier editors, of course. But it's a step in the right direction that they're willing to admit limits to what even our Wild West society should tolerate, and they stand up for that position in rebuttal. Bravo!

A3: "Accident at Highway 89/Rosser Street injures bicyclist"

The victim in this story (sub req) is a friend of ours, and just to follow up, he's in ICU at John C Lincoln with a closed head injury, a slight fracture in his back and a bad case of road rash. Not nice, but it could have been much worse.

I don't expect the Courier had much time before deadline to do more than take down the police report on this and the page slot is small, so no blame for this story being a bit thin. I would like to see a followup, however.

The northbound pickup truck apparently ran the red light as our boy was legally turning north onto 89. This incident raises issues worthy of analysis. What's it like for non-drivers to get to work in Prescott? We can talk about bike lanes, mass transit, red-light runners, speed on 89, etc. His injuries are not slight but not massive either -- why couldn't YRMC handle him? What are the cumulative costs of medevac to Phoenix for all the patients we ought to be able to treat here? We can talk about the holes in our health-care system. You get the picture.

Update, 1:18pm: Link fixed.