Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 27, 2018

On the bias

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

I should first point out that I am not a millennial,  I think I come in on the tail end of Generation X or something like that.  Putting that aside, this tweet encapsulates what I’ve writing about periodically when people come onto this blog to bitch about objectivity or some other nonsense:

Essentially that everyone has biases.  Even your favorite current or former news reporters/journalists have biases.  The belief that anyone can do “objectivity” in a meaningful way is fairly naive and instead you get watered down “both sides” bullshit that ends up elevating statements like “the earth is flat because I can’t see the curvature” with statements like “the earth is round, we have photo from space because science.”

That, of course, doesn’t mean that you can’t have good, strong reporting on issues of interest.  This is really important locally because as we get closer to election season, particularly with the landlord’s initiative on the ballot, we’re going to get a lot of bad information thrown out there.  The framing can’t be “we need to hear from both sides” just to present a form of balance, particularly if one side is willing to fudge the truth just a wee in order to further their own goals.

I think we’ve — in the past — had a lot of “objectivity is the goal” type reporting.  That’s why I’m really enjoying the work of the Alameda Magazine and EB Citizen when it comes to reporting local issues.  There is no “objectivity is the goal” but rather an attempt to fairly report the facts.  If the facts are biased in the opposite direction that your opinion is headed, maybe you should check your opinion rather than complain about the framing being biased.

29 Comments

  1. This post has been bookmarked. It will be fun to remind our blogmistress of it in the future, especially this little gem:

    If the facts are biased in the opposite direction that your opinion is headed, maybe you should check your opinion rather than complain about the framing being biased.

    Comment by dave — March 27, 2018 @ 6:26 am

    • This one will be fun as well:

      particularly if one side is willing to fudge the truth just a wee in order to further their own goals.

      Comment by dave — March 27, 2018 @ 6:49 am

  2. Everybody knows facts have a liberal bias. That’s why we need alternative facts to Make Alameda Great Again.

    Comment by Rod — March 27, 2018 @ 6:44 am

  3. “Essentially that everyone has biases.”

    I may be biased but is that really a sentence

    Comment by Jack — March 27, 2018 @ 7:07 am

  4. Surely you jest, Ms Do. Both publications are political rags.
    No question about that fact.

    Comment by Tawney — March 27, 2018 @ 9:34 am

    • Absolutely! I just look for Robert Gammon or Steven Tavares by-line. Already know their biases and am prepared to roll my eyes.

      Example of EB Citizen [Oct 2016/courtesy of Mike MCMahon!]

      “Alameda City Council candidate Jennifer Roloff is a Spencer clone and one has already done enough damage and two might be devastating. Roloff’s newspaper ad featuring dozens of older white folks and one minority is appalling and a relic of an Alameda that is nearing a second foot in the grave.” And Tavares put it in BOLD COLORED TYPE

      http://www.ebcitizen.com/2016/10/20-things-i-think-about-2016-east-bay.html

      Comment by vigi — March 27, 2018 @ 2:08 pm

      • Tavares is a local treasure! That Roloff ad was the whitest bunch of whitebread whities I’ve seen since that time I got dragged to a Dave Matthews Band concert. Remember that time somebody asked Jenny from the Block about what she’d do about police brutality and she said she’d protect our little community from those people protesting it?

        Comment by Rod — March 27, 2018 @ 2:54 pm

      • nice quote vigi, I think it was dead on.

        Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — March 27, 2018 @ 4:21 pm

    • Don’t call her Shirley!

      Comment by Rod — March 27, 2018 @ 3:54 pm

  5. Alameda magazine has indeed become quite political in the last year or two. Considering that its advertisers are primarily real estate companies, those newly sprouted wings may get clipped if they keep their anti-property owner bias.

    Comment by dave — March 27, 2018 @ 9:51 am

    • Very true. Ever since Robert Gammon became editor. An example from the current issue: Investigative Reporting or Political Ideologue?

      In Alameda magazine April 2018, “Strange Bedfellows” p 19 Robert Gammon says “…Ezzy Ashcraft…has shown independence from organized labor.” This is a Strange Statement.

      But Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft’s campaign website lists the following supporters:

      Alameda Labor Council
      Building & Construction Trades Council of Alameda County
      Carpenters Local Union 713
      Operating Engineers Local 3, District 20
      Teamsters Joint Council No. 7
      UA Local 342 Plumbers & Pipefitters
      United Food & Commercial Workers Local 5
      Alameda Firefighters Local 689
      Alameda Police Officers Association
      East Bay Express
      ALAMEDA Magazine

      I don’t think this shows “independence from organized labor”. In fact, the first time she ran, she did not have these endorsements. She did not win. But in 2012, after securing the backing of organized labor as detailed above, she won handily. It would behoove Robert Gammon to do his homework.

      http://www.marilyn4alameda.org/supporters

      Comment by vigi — March 27, 2018 @ 1:56 pm

      • I’d rather see people supported by “organized labor”, than see them supported by organized rich people (LAND LORDS), organized labor to me means working people putting thier resources together to help further thier agenda, that works for me. Please don’t try to make the argument that people who own multiple units are poor, especially here in the bay area.

        Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — March 27, 2018 @ 4:29 pm

        • John, you already know this but it bears repeating:

          The “organized labor” in Alameda that has by far the most political power is a group whose total comp averages close to 300M per year — courtesy of the taxpayers, who on average earn less than 1/3 of that sum. That organized labor group’s members generally retire in their 50’s with pension having a NPV of several million dollars. They may not be large REITs owning many units* but they are typically better off than most small property owners. If teachers or cashiers at Safeway had that kind of power you might *maybe* have a point, but the reality here in Alameda is that the unions who own the council are 1% ers.

          *And the REITs are primarily owned by individual investors or pensions funds working for individuals, maybe even you.

          Comment by dave — March 27, 2018 @ 6:54 pm

    • “Anti-property owner,” huh? Is that how you’re attempting to frame it? How many times do I have to explain to you that rental housing is just another business that can and should be regulated to help protect consumers from the unscrupulous? And just when I was starting to think that maybe I had judged you a bit too harshly in the past because you also routinely call vigi out on her awfulness.

      Comment by Rod — March 27, 2018 @ 4:03 pm

      • I don’t call vigi out on her awfulness, I call her out on her stupidness.

        Rental housing IS regulated for such things as building safety and non discrimination, but long experience shows that regulation of price has deleterious effects on the people it purports to “help.” That is certainly true with housing (google rent control and you’ll see its’ a near universally agreed) as well as any other. Even utilities, whose delivery prices are regulated, are regulated in a way to allow for a market ROE. Again, google it.

        Comment by dave — March 27, 2018 @ 6:58 pm

        • really Dave,? the union folks are 1%’ers, ??? your making me feel soooo! sorry for those strikingly poor individuals who only have managed to scrape together a few pennies so they can own multiple units to earn enough to buy some stale loafs of bread. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight thinking of those poor “LAND LORDS”.

          Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — March 27, 2018 @ 10:37 pm

        • John,

          Per the 2010 census, the median household income in Alameda is approx $75,000. It’s probably a bit higher now but still well under 100M. The average compensation of the members of the union which owns the City Council is more than triple that, for some members it’s more than quadruple.

          Many said union members can retire in their 50’s with $200,000 pensions for life. If we assume a 25 year life span in retirement and discount at the CALPERS rate of 7% the NPV of that pension is above 2MM. The CALPERS 7% assumption is widely criticized as over optimistic, if we use a more realistic rate of 4% — a full point above long Treasury bonds — it’s worth more than 3MM.

          There are a significant number of landlords in Alameda who aren’t worth a fraction of that. I know some of them. One in particular, a very close friend, owns a duplex that cash flows him less than 10 grand a year — and in some years it’s been a cash drain. Are there landlords in this town who are plutocratically wealthy? Yes. Most however, are not and most would be thrilled to be worth what members of a certain union are.

          You already know these facts, John, but I don’t mind laying them out for you again. May I suggest you take our blogmistress’s sage advice, copied below?

          “If the facts are biased in the opposite direction that your opinion is headed, maybe you should check your opinion rather than complain about the framing being biased.”

          Comment by dave — March 28, 2018 @ 6:22 am

        • Her awfulness is firmly rooted in her stupidity!

          Comment by Rod — March 29, 2018 @ 6:37 am

        • It’s unlike you to give up so quietly, John, but nonetheless I graciously accept your concession.

          Comment by dave — March 29, 2018 @ 10:37 am

        • sorry Dave, I didn’t believe any of your alternate facts so I just ignored them.

          Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — March 29, 2018 @ 8:41 pm

        • Alternative facts?
          Do you disbelieve census figures?
          Do you not trust publicly available salary information?
          Do you dispute math?

          I refer you to an earlier pearl of your wisdom:

          https://laurendo.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/fiddle-and-burn/#comment-88625

          Comment by dave — March 30, 2018 @ 7:17 am

        • Dave, the fiddle & burn comment 88625, I think you just made that up. It can’t be true. also I have decided to become a “flat Earther”.

          Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — March 30, 2018 @ 8:12 am

        • Thanks for the blast from the past. In reading dave’s 2010 comments, I find an error. dave says “NONE of our property taxes go to the state” while mocking someone else’s lack of knowledge about school funding. [wonder what dave does for a living?].

          But “dave” is wrong.

          From the CA LAS http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2012/tax/property-tax-primer-112912.aspx

          “The Property Tax Has a Significant Effect on the State Budget. Although the property tax is a local revenue source, it affects the state budget due to the state’s education finance system—additional property tax revenue from the 1 percent rate for K–14 districts generally decreases the state’s spending obligation for education. Over the years, the state has changed the laws regarding property tax allocation many times in order to reduce its costs for education programs or address other policy interests.”

          Also, from OC Register: “This breakdown is for the 1 percent tax, or “general tax levy,” that you’ll find on your property tax bill. The California Constitution limits it to 1 percent of the assessed value of land and buildings. In 2014, the total assessed value of all land and buildings in the Golden State was $4.6 trillion.Dec 28, 2015”

          One percent may sound like a little, but one percent of 4.6 trillion is not “NONE”.

          Comment by vigi — March 30, 2018 @ 10:00 am

        • The state reacts to trends in property tax revenue, and state law affects property taxes, most notably through Prop 13. The state, however, does not collect or receive property taxes. The statement “NONE of our property taxes go to the state” was correct in 2010 and remains so today.

          Comment by dave — March 30, 2018 @ 10:27 am

  6. American journalists have operated since the 50s on a philosophy of unbiased reporting. That means that you attempt to look at both sides of an issue and it does tend to reduce all issues to two sides, which is not always the case. This approach has worked well in the expansive American economic, but fairly provincial, social milieu of local newspaper journalism for decades. It’s breaking down now, with the loss of local and regional journalism via the digital revolution and the globalization of information sources.

    Worldwide, news tends to be supported by newspapers or government media with acknowledged biases or political stances and the reading public knows this. What European journalists do is attempt to be “fair” in their reporting, as opposed to objective and let the reading public make up its own mind.

    For American journalists it thus becomes very hard to be “objective” about international news and events when you clearly don’t understand them or have to cast them in a pro-American light, hence the way the New York Times and others went all in for the Iraq War. They were hardly objective.

    Still, having a background in solid, factual, objective reporting is better than not having it, as any discerning reader can tell from all the bogus “journalism” and people claiming the title of journalist that’s followed in the wake of the collapse of newspapers in the U.S.

    But I am biased. I spent 30 years as a news reporter (we hardly used the term ‘journalist’ then) and editor and mourn the loss of that industry for myself and everyone else.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — March 27, 2018 @ 10:12 am

    • @Laura – Thanks for this: “having a background in solid, factual, objective reporting is better than not having it, as any discerning reader can tell from all the bogus ‘journalism’ and people claiming the title of journalist that’s followed in the wake of the collapse of newspapers in the U.S.”

      As we can see from the FAUX News and Sinclair radio networks’ naked propagandizing, unethical owners/publishers can undercut honest reporters, who overwhelmingly do their best to report the truth. (I thank God for the reporters at the New Yorker, Washington Posrt, New York Times, Mother Jones, and other institutions who are telling the truth about the current president and his gold-digging, democracy-wrecking administration. Similarly, I am glad we have local reporters at the East Bay Citizen, Alameda Magazine, and other willing and able to shed light on what is really going on, whether in Alameda or elsewhere.)

      In the sense that “liberal” means supporting “individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms” (source: Merriam-Webster online dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberal), the press should always have a “liberal” bias – a bias towards open government and freedom. It bothers me when our local papers fail us by resorting to subjective editorializing in lieu of truth-telling.

      Reporting the facts and the truth clearly is the goal of professional journalists, which is probably why most newsroom reporters have a “liberal bias”: when you report on and are familiar with the facts, your conclusions and beliefs tend to follow…

      Comment by Jon Spangler — March 30, 2018 @ 11:18 am

  7. Without someone reporting facts, there’s no basis for everyone to have opinions about them. Sure, you can debate whether the publication/entity bringing you the facts is coming from some perspective you find suspect, but without it you have chaos. Somebody at least has to try to pull together some facts, and interview some people from various points of view, and provide the information to everyone, and the conversation goes from there. We’ve lost a huge amount of that infrastructure, and it’s a real problem. Said as a former newspaper reporter. I also mourn the loss of the industry, with all its faults.

    Comment by Jan Greene — March 27, 2018 @ 11:05 am

    • Excellent reply

      Comment by Tawney — March 27, 2018 @ 5:26 pm

    • Whatever happened to AP and UPI? Them you could trust.

      Comment by vigi — March 27, 2018 @ 5:39 pm


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