Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Town Crier is keeping me down

Before I became a doctor of journalism, I had a hobby of writing at least one letter every week, to reporters, businesses or elected officials. One day, I thought, I'd compile them in a book called Jon Complains.

The Los Altos Town Crier ran about half of my newest installment, which criticizes the paper for rewriting local history in order to project its own image of my hometown. Ironically, the paper (perhaps for space) entirely cut out the portion of the letter where I accuse them of being silent on the story of Gregory Wagner. Here's the text of the original letter:
Dear Editor,

I enjoyed your year-in-review (Dec. 27) but was disappointed to see the paper's news judgment once again clouded by the publisher's politics. You wrote that the city council's rejection of a gay pride day proclamation drew fierce criticism "mostly from outside Los Altos." This is wishful thinking at best, and makes the Town Crier look like it's sticking its head in the sand. Students, business leaders, churchgoers and others from Los Altos all mobilized in opposition to the city council's action. The resulting parade was one of the largest political demonstrations in the history of the town. [The rest of the letter did not make it in]. The article should have read that the criticism came "mostly from outside the pages of this newspaper."

Additionally, it was a glaring omission to once again leave out any mention of Gregory Wagner, one of two Los Altos youth leaders sent to prison this year for child molestation. It appears that the Town Crier would prefer to ignore anything that might reflect poorly on its coverage area, a goal made easier by the departure of those reporters who fought to keep the story in the paper. But the Wagner story has another side that is important for the community to recognize. That side of the story is about the former scouts whose courage in facing and talking about their past helped bring Wagner to justice. By repeatedly downplaying the story, the Town Crier abandoned those who most deserved the community's support.


Jon Wiener


jesse said...

Not that I would ever be one to question your credentials for reporting the news or harrassing those who do, but wouldn't 'Journalism Doctoral Candidate' be a more apropriate title?

BigDra said...

Or "Juris Doctorate Candidate"?
NOE must think he's Raul Duke!