Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 29, 2012

Ink blotter, part 2

Filed under: Alameda — Tags: , — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

I’ll start off by saying that I hadn’t intended to write anymore about this issue other than my first post because, well, everything was pretty much said in that initial posting on the subject.  However, what has spurred these other posts is less about the incident that happened, but rather the reaction — or non reaction — by our local media and by some commenters to diminish the severity of domestic violence in general.  Calling it a “family problem” holds with it the implication that no one should ever mention the fact that domestic violence exists.   Given the National Convention on Health and Domestic Violence is convening in San Francisco beginning today, the national attention from San Francisco Sherriff Ross Mirkarimi’s case, as well as the conflict over the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act it would seem like this conversation — even had in the abstract with this incident as the local “hook” — would be timely and appropriate.   With statistics like:

Nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.

This should be alarming to people, but time and time again when the subject of domestic violence emerges, few want to touch it because of the belief that domestic violence is a “family problem.”   While individual community members have that luxury, it is incumbent on our media types to change the way we, as a society, discuss and think about domestic violence in our communities.

There seems to be this belief that there is a set of immutable laws set in stone regarding journalism and journalistic standards.   There isn’t.   In this age of new media, a more social approach to news gathering and news making is slowly gaining traction (see coverage of Occupy efforts and Trayvon Martin as two notable examples), attempting to fit every type of media into one tiny box is a failure to appreciate the power of social networks.

Yesterday, I wrote about the seeming inconsistencies in the Alameda Sun’s listing on its blotter on the subject of domestic violence arrests, but I think a really good example of the evolving nature of journalism and how it’s much less an exact science than an art form is Michele Ellson’s coverage of the police blotter on her old news site: the Island of Alameda.

In February and March of 2010, not only were domestic violence items a part of the blotter, but the names of the alleged assailants were a part of the blotter too.   But given the ever changing nature of media coverage, by the next year February (here too) and March of 2011, the items were still there but the names had been stripped.

But let me step away from the type of criminal act for one second and talk about the notability and newsworthiness of certain stories.   Since I’m on the subject of Michele Ellson’s old site The Island of Alameda, here’s a perfect example.   I probably had mentioned this case previously, but let me remind you of the details.  On June 15, 2010, published on the Island was a story about Mark Irons and David Howard involving a confrontation between the two after which David Howard promptly went to the police department and attempted to get a Restraining Order against Mark Irons.   At that point, no police charges had been filed against Mark Irons, the court date had been set for June 25, and the legal paperwork had not even been served against Mark Irons before this became “news.”

So what was it that made this story interesting and relevant?  Certainly not the criminal aspect, as no charges had been filed.  It was the notability of the people involved that made it newsworthy, as David Howard himself phrased it, they both:

“participate[d] vigorously in local community and political issues through letters-to-the-editor, online forums, City Council meetings, public forums and the like.”

But let’s pretend that David Howard had not done anything else notable since the Measure E related incident.   Even though he has, but let’s just say that after that incident he melted away and became your average Joe.   Here’s the thing.   On Michele Ellson’s new news site, the Alameda Community News Project, she herself made him notable and noteworthy only two days before the arrest by featuring him prominently in an article about the sales tax opposition campaign:

An opponent of a proposed half-cent sales tax increase launched his campaign against the tax Tuesday.

Alameda activist and blogger David Howard said the proposed Measure C sales tax increase that’s due to appear on the June 5 ballot was pushed through without adequate public input. [emphasis added]

Of the almost twenty paragraphs in the piece, almost all of them reference David Howard or reference his talking points.

And on the afternoon of the day of the arrest, she tweeted out breaking information from David Howard regarding the failure to turn in the opposing argument in a timely manner:

And even after he was still being quoted as the spokesperson for the anti-Measure C campaign.

Adding to these examples is the fact that David Howard was quoted in one of the very first article on the Alameda Community News Project as “a longtime critic of state and local redevelopment efforts.”

So all these words expended to conclude thus:  It can’t be both.  An individual cannot be a source that journalists revisit time and time again as a someone worthwhile to provide expertise on certain subjects whether it is redevelopment and/or a political campaign, yet not “notable” enough to report about when there are actual criminal charges filed against him.

A good gauge for what makes a person a “public figure” and therefore subject to scrutiny is probably best summed up by the legal definition of a public figure as it relates to defamation law, because let’s face it, talk about journalistic “ethics” and “standards” may be high and lofty goals but the bottom line is no one wants to get sued.   A “public figure” is not just elected officials and  police officers, but rather:

A public figure is someone who has actively sought, in a given matter of public interest, to influence the resolution of the matter. In addition to the obvious public figures—a government employee, a senator, a presidential candidate—someone may be a limited-purpose public figure. A limited-purpose public figure is one who (a) voluntarily participates in a discussion about a public controversy, and (b) has access to the media to get his or her own view across.

So all this hand-wringing about elected officials vs people who inject themselves into public and  political discussions and try to influence the process and outcome is obfuscating the issue.   If a person is notable enough to be held up as an expert on several subject matters by a journalist or reporter, then regardless of that person’s value as a source of information — or maybe because of it — a criminal allegation and/or a criminal charge by prosecutors shouldn’t be ignored simply because it happened within someone’s home or is one’s go-to source for information.

While my own personal issues with the individual in question makes anything I write about the topic easier to dismiss as a personal vendetta, the point of these last two posts have been about the failure of some of Alameda’s local news media (because Alameda Patch did cover the issue) to address this topic for a variety of unstated reasons.

Updated:  the bulk of this post was written prior to Michele Ellson posting about the revival of the Domestic Violence Task Force in Alameda. Which is a good first step in opening the discussion about the prevalence of domestic violence and the difficulty in getting victims to even report the crimes, let alone go through the entire process of cooperation with prosecutors.


  1. Exactly what is the surprise here- that Alameda is “small town” or are we shocked that the press isn’t even-handed? Howard is a jerk, and so are a lot of other people in Alameda. I say give it a rest.

    Comment by Really? — March 29, 2012 @ 6:36 am

  2. Super boring

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — March 29, 2012 @ 6:59 am

  3. Yes, Poods, you are.

    Comment by Linda Hudson — March 29, 2012 @ 7:40 am

  4. Linda Hudson … Its Dr Poodlesmurf, stop the name calling and act your age

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — March 29, 2012 @ 7:52 am

  5. It’s important to be on top of and critical of our “watchdogs”. we aren’t served by journalism that doesn’t give us the whole story or doesn’t account for its own credibility. Don’t let up.

    Comment by Target 2013 — March 29, 2012 @ 9:13 am

  6. It’s good to know that there are opinion shapers like you that care about the truth. Clearly, some of our local “journalists” are untroubled by logical inconsistencies as they are by a shortage of facts or lack of knowledge.

    Poodles… unlike the Alameda Sun, which gets dropped on your driveway, whether you subscribe or not, you have a choice of deciding whether to go on this blog.

    Comment by BarbaraK — March 29, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  7. Isn’t this kind of merciless slander why Michele Ellson had to take down her blog “The Island”? And why Eve Pearlman is no longer Patch editor? And why John Knox White has retracted his City Hall Confidential posts? Frankly, I’m surprised Blogging Bayport hasn’t been sued out of existence. It’s pretty obvious all of them are one clique of individuals incapable of independent thought. It’s like you never got out of high school. This space would have more credibility if it stopped focusing on the activity of just one person.

    Comment by vigi — March 29, 2012 @ 10:42 am

  8. 7. answer: no you are wrong on all counts and your speculation is absurd. Michele burned out on trying to do such comprehensive coverage and took hiatus because of not being able to get commitments for collaboration at The Island. I think she basically said do it well, or not at all. She is back with more streamlined venue.

    As for Michele having chosen to post the article about my confrontation with Howard and his attempt at restraining order, Howard gave Michele a full copy of his filing against me but I was not served until 10 pm the night before the first hearing, improperly at that, in violation of rules of five day minimum notice by 48 hours. Her article at least kept me from being blind sided, though I suspect Howard wanted her to run something because he perceived it would reflect badly on me alone, but not on him. I still did not have documents from his process server in hand until literal eleventh hour. I was not hard to find that week but in fact could have hidden from server when he did show up. Late service was deliberate and it compounded harassment element of filing and abuse of legal system as retribution for my daring to confront Howard about Lee Atwater/Karl Rove tactics on parcel tax.

    Eve has been promoted and now that she is not local editor, will now have her own blog at Alameda Patch. While it’s not official, JKW has obviously taken a new tack on blogging since being appointed to the Planning Board. I think that’s being circumspect about his position on a public board. As for lacking capacity for independent thought you are the pot calling stainless steel espresso makers black. Detractors of Lauren Do come here day in and day out, mostly anonymously, to try to provoke and insult her for voicing her views, but somehow that’s different than what you just condemn as a waste of time. Your hypocritical position is indefensible. It’s obvious that nothing Lauren does can ever have “credibility” with her detractors, so why worry about that? If you are so taken aback, why don’t you and the rest of the trolls take permanent leave from reading and posting here?

    Comment by M.I. — March 29, 2012 @ 11:17 am

  9. Moving forward to the next pariah….Anyone know why Liz Williams is suing the City of Alameda? [next SpecMtgCityCouncil 4/3/12]

    Comment by vigi — March 29, 2012 @ 11:24 am

  10. ” In this age of new media, a more social approach to news gathering and news making is slowly gaining traction (see coverage of Occupy efforts and Trayvon Martin as two notable examples), attempting to fit every type of media into one tiny box is a failure to appreciate the power of social networks.”

    We’ve always had “social networks” but we didn’t dignify them as legitimate news sources because, just as in the electronic version, they were unreliable and no one was held accountable. What was called “the grapevine”, “around the watercooler”, “over the back fence” and,the oh-so-judgmental “gossip” has taken center stage. Because of this, the public can easily be manipulated to believe the sun is the moon, whether the facts support it or not. They attach themselves to Rush Limbaugh, or Jon Stewart, Joe Scarborough, or Bill Maher and let them do the thinking for them, even to the point of spreading their gospel by “friending” them on Facebook and reposting their every quip.. Some of these pundits take the responsibility seriously, others just use it as an end to their personal means. In any event, feelings have become more important than facts, and a society that has been primed over time by advertising to believe what it wants to believe in spite of evidence to the contrary is ripe for the whole-sale exploitation of hearts and minds we are now witness to. Even people I otherwise respect, think nothing of ridiculing in the most base terms those with whom they are at odds politically, Now we are being asked again and again to put up more money for “the kids.” The kids need highly-paid teachers, the kids need a new pool, the kids need a sports complex. After all, it’s so much easier than coming up with what the kids really need, good adult examples of integrity, collaboration, responsibility, and compassion.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 29, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  11. Not sure, but I found this article in the Contra Costa Times:

    Opponents of a sales tax hike that Alameda voters are set to consider in June are asking a judge to pull it from the ballot after the city clerk told them they were too late to submit their ballot argument.
    The opponents of Measure C, which would raise the city’s sales tax a half-cent, are also requesting their argument be included if the judge decides the election should go ahead, according to documents filed Friday in Alameda County Superior Court.

    Alameda resident Liz Williams and other opponents filed their argument on March 16 at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, which listed that date as the deadline on its website, Thomas said.

    Comment by Karen Bey — March 29, 2012 @ 11:45 am

  12. Ah..,of course! That makes sense.Thank you, Karen!

    Comment by vigi — March 29, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

  13. You know, Mark, there are a lot of folks who think You’re a troll. One man’s troll is just another man’s wishnik…

    Comment by vigi — March 29, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  14. 13. you know Veggie, if that is people’s perception there is nothing I can do, unless I were to cease and desist which is not likely. All I can say on that account is that I don’t meet one criteria for defining the most abject of trolls and that is abuse of anonymity.

    Comment by M.I. — March 29, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

  15. A perfect example of a TROLL is Dr.poodlesmoodles.

    Comment by John P. — March 29, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

  16. 13:Well, Mark, at least you post your real name & photo so you can be readily identified. Don’t ever shave that ‘stache! I don’t think of you as a troll, but as a Master Baiter. Blogging Bayport is kind of a Mutual Master Baiting society, don’t you think? [there’s a heading for your next post, Lauren! I dare you!]

    Piziali, I believe, posted elsewhere RE:dh “what’s Lent got to do with it?” Well, we’re headed into Holy Week & everytime the church readings say “Crucity Him!, Crucify Him!”, I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks of your comments…

    Comment by vigi — March 30, 2012 @ 10:20 am

  17. Glad you’re going to church, Vigi. God’s clearly not finished with you yet! 😉

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 30, 2012 @ 10:59 am

  18. Vigi for the 7th grade humor, humor FAIL

    Comment by DRM — March 30, 2012 @ 11:29 am

  19. sorry VIGI I don’t go to church. But for you I think confession would be a very good thing.

    Comment by John P. — March 30, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

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