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Letter: Free the press

Posted: November 2, 2012 12:07 p.m.
Updated: November 2, 2012 12:07 p.m.
 

In Night and Day by playwright Tom Stoppard, reporter Jacob Milne said “No matter how imperfect things are, if you’ve got a free press everything is correctable, and without it everything is concealable.”

Nothing exemplifies this more than the situation we have in Santa Clarita Valley right now.  Two veteran, award-winning reporters, Carol Rock and Mark Archuleta, were terminated by KHTS AM-1220 in October under circumstances which I have questioned. 

Carl Goldman penned an editorial on Halloween titled “Setting the record straight.”  The regular Signal reader might wonder, what’s the record that needs to be straightened, since there has been a paucity of reporting surrounding the dismissals of the two Santa Clarita journalists.

The lay-offs follow a meeting between Goldman, Rock, Archuleta, and Congressman Buck McKeon staffers Morris Thomas and Alissa McCurley.  Rock and Archuleta recently disclosed to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, that they believe their dismissals were the result of influence by Congressman McKeon and his staff for unflattering reports that appeared on the KHTS website.

While there may be a disagreement over the reasons for the terminations by Goldman, the facts of the case are not in dispute.  On May 11, Archuleta posted an article critical of McKeon’s land swap for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA) and the timing of a fundraiser paid for by MMSA a couple months before.  McKeon called Goldman to complain about the article and it was removed from the website and a subsequent report never republished.  I find that when a politician doesn’t like when the press is doing their job, it’s usually because the politician isn’t doing their own.

Goldman complains that the Mammoth story “was taken from a blog that was fed to Mark Archuleta by [me].”  He is misremembering the facts, because it was my campaign that uncovered the violation after researching McKeon’s FEC filings posted on www.FEC.gov and the invitation for the fundraiser still hosted on the MMSA website.  These are hardly shady sources.  We held a press conference about the violation and irony of McKeon negotiating a land swap for MMSA but not for Santa Clarita over Cemex.  Mark Archuleta attended the press conference doing his job.   Furthermore, it wasn’t until May 12 that bloggers published the story after KHTS broke it first and then pulled it.  A detailed timeline of the events with supporting documents were submitted to Roll Call for their investigation.

Then, in October, after the meeting with McKeon staffers, Rock was ordered to rewrite a story about Habitat for Heroes to more prominently feature McKeon.

Goldman accuses me of resentment toward KHTS after lack of an endorsement from the radio station.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I never asked for Goldman’s endorsement, nor expected it, since he has a close relationship with McKeon.  What happens on his editorial page is up to him.  But what I did expect was for the news page not to be an extension of Congressman McKeon’s press office.

Carl and Jeri Goldman do a lot of good for our community.  The Habitat for Heroes project is exciting and will benefit veterans in need.  Their charity work is admirable and they lead a good example for others. 

 I want businesses in our district to be successful, including KHTS.  But in order for KHTS to be a reputable news service we must be assured the news is unfiltered so that we know we’re getting unbiased, truthful reporting.  There’s a reason why freedom of the press is in the First Amendment – it’s just that important. 

Lee Rogers is the Democratic candidate for the 25th Congressional District

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