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The SacBee Scandal: Rather And Raines Are Gone—Why Is Rick Rodriguez Hanging On?
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July 23, 2005, 05:00 AM
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After five years of tracking the mainstream media`s failures to write fair and balanced news stories about immigration, I am happy to report a breakthrough.

The watchdog group Accuracy in Media posted a column by Roger Aronoff  [email him]   that analyzed the rise and fall of the Sacramento Bee`s immigration enthusiast columnist Diana Griego Erwin. ("Major Journalism Scandal at Sacramento Paper," Roger Aronoff, Accuracy in Media, July 19, 2005)

I was pleasantly surprised because, when the subject is immigration, most watchdog organizations are as biased as the MSM.

But more importantly, Aronoff`s piece notes that since the Griego Erwin saga unfolded

"…Much more has come to light. In one sense, it is another validation for the New Media, specifically the blogs..."

Aronoff is referring to recent spectacular cases of the internet`s power to discipline Big Media—for example, "Rathergate," CBS anchorman Dan Rather`s departure in disgrace after he used forged documents to attack George W. Bush.

Specifically, Aronoff cites the VDARE.COM columns I did, based on my personal experiences, about Griego Erwin and Bee Senior Vice President and Executive Editor, Rick Rodriguez.

Writes Aronoff:

"But thanks to Joe Guzzardi, an English teacher who writes a column for the Lodi News Sentinel and VDare.com, we can see there`s much more to this story. Guzzardi says he wrote to the paper at least a year before, warning about Griego Erwin`s factual accuracy, but got no response and saw no action taken. Guzzardi has also highlighted the role of executive editor Rick Rodriguez, who he calls her `enabler.`"

While it is gratifying to me to be singled out, the key thing is A.I.M.`s acknowledgement that enlightened people turn to the "New Media" when they want to learn the facts.

And, while underlining VDARE.COM`s role, Aronoff also keeps alive the debate regarding Rodriguez`s fate.

A June 28th A.I.M. guest column by Marv Essary [email him] states that based on its length and breadth—12 years and at least 43 fictional columns—the Bee/Griego Erwin scandal dwarfs that of the New York Times/Jayson Blair.["Sacramento Bee`s Erwin Piece Dwarfs the Jayson Blair Scandal," Marv Essary, Accuracy in Media, June 28, 2005]

I agree with Essary. But why, if the Bee`s failures were more egregious, is Rodriguez allowed to carry on when NYT honchos Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd resigned? (Ask Rodriguez).

No one at the Bee has even been demoted.

I have a few friends at the Bee. They can`t explain it.

And among my many friends in journalism, all are as befuddled as I am at why the Bee permits Rodriguez to keep his job.

Think about it: because of the Rodriguez`s failures—and the buck stops at his desk—for more than a decade Griego Erwin deceived her readers, embarrassed her peers and disgraced her profession.

Yet Rodriguez remains untouchable?

The Bee is keenly aware of the calls for Rodriguez to be fired. And it admits—how could it not? — that errors occurred at several levels regarding editing Griego Erwin`s columns.

Bee public editor Armando Acuna, in his July 3rd column, listed various grievances readers have with the Bee and Griego Erwin. ["What Is the Fallout from the Columnist Investigation?" Armando Acuna, Sacramento Bee, July 3, 2005]

Acuna dances all around the accountability issue. But in the end, he lets Rodriguez wiggle off the hook.

Acuna admitted that Griego Erwin received special treatment because of her Pulitzer Prize winning status. But he nevertheless insists that now the Bee is on solid footing.

Acuna quotes Bee Publisher and President Janis Besler Heaphy who claims, ludicrously, that "This experience represents progress and professionalism."

And here`s Rodriguez convenient two-part take:

  • First, expertly deflecting the responsibility, Rodriguez says "A lot of good editors edited Diana, some of the best in the country."

  • Second, Rodriguez`s nebulous analysis on the post-Griego Erwin era, "There`s been a lot of reflection, a lot of soul searching. My hope is we emerge with a stronger sense of what we ought to be doing and work to reach that."

Finally, in a masterstroke of disingenuousness, Acuna suggests that what is appropriate now is not discipline at the Bee—but that Griego Erwin`s former employers, the Denver Post and the Orange County Register, should mount their own investigations into her work!

Amazing!

[E-mail Acuna]

I asked a former McClatchy employee who closely follows the politics at the company`s California newspapers to comment on how it might all shake out.

This is what I was told:

"No one will suffer because of her lies and distortions. For one thing, everyone in power at the Bee agrees with her malignant ideology. For years she was coddled and protected by those in very high positions and she was feared and resented by many others, but those who finally caught her will actually congratulate themselves more than blame themselves or look at the policies that allowed the problem to exist in the first place.

"There has been some criticism directed by some of the more outspoken and confident people in the newsroom against upper management for their coddling of Griego, but their concerns have been angrily dismissed as being `unhelpful, hostile, against us, not solution-oriented,` etc.

"The Bee is in many ways a rudderless and arbitrary organization with low morale and some of it is because of certain affirmative-action-style management hires and a breathtaking degree of Hispanic cronyism."

Rodriguez is typical of the arrogant, highly-placed journalist who will not tolerate views other than his own.

Over the last five years, whenever I tried to advance a common-sense argument for limiting immigration to any major daily, I was either ignored or marginalized.

And check out this irony: The American Society of Newspaper Editors, where Rodriguez (remarkably) remains president, posts a "Newspaper Credibility Handbook".

Chapter I is titled, "The Customer Isn`t Always Wrong" and discusses how an editor should respond when a reader calls with a "story idea, inquiry or complaint."

("A reader who calls to complain can be dismissed as a conservative who wants the newspaper to espouse her views. Or the call can prompt a serious discussion about topics and sources the newspaper may unintentionally be missing.")

R-i-g-h-t! If you read my two earlier columns about the Bee, (SacBee Ignores Joe May 20, 2005 and Joe Accuses: Editor Rick Rodriguez Guilty in SacBee Scandal, May 27, 2005), you already know how the editors "responded" to me.

No matter whom I called at the Bee, one of three things happened: no response, no return call or I was treated so dismissively that I would have preferred a hang up.

Maybe if guys like Rodriguez followed their own advice as posted on the A.S.N.E. website, then journalists wouldn`t rank among the least credible of all professionals in the public eye. 

Ask ASNE Executive Director Scott Bosley why Rodriguez is still President. Ask McClatchy CEO James B. McClatchy [contact@mcclatchy.com] why Rodriguez is still employed by the Sacramento Bee.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.