The Tribune is a dying newspaper, and on Thursday, Sept. 24, readers were given yet another ugly example why the Tribune is hell-bent on hastening its own demise. If McClatchy ever gets wind of the Trib’s latest bad joke on its readers, if money is the bottom line, Trib Publisher Bruce Ray will probably be fired. Somehow, Ray forgot he was hired to raise revenues, not reduce them more. Who needs another $100,000-a-year publisher to run the paper deeper into the ground when former publisher Chip Visci did that so well?
Millions in debt – because their real estate cash cow went to the slaughter house along with the economy – the Tribune still finds the arrogance to hurl one of its termite-ridden “brickbats” at former LOCSD president Lisa Schicker for filing a 1000-plus page complaint against MWH for bid-rigging and Public Works Director Paavo Ogren for conflict of interest, continuing its long-standing, failed, costly policy of seeking profit in slime and punishment.
Most readers sickened of the Trib’s crumby news product long ago. For years they have solely represented the Regional Water Board and County against Los Osos, reporting on command. When the steep decline in Trib revenues and even steeper climb in debt suggested the Trib should regroup around the tenets of basic journalism, it found it lacked the leadership to guide that return, for leadership that was never required at the Trib as long as the paper was making money.
Mocking readers was something they could get away with during the good times, when real estate was king, the ad dollars were flowing, and ripping Los Osos for not having a gold-plated MWH sewer was sport for the County’s proxies at the Trib. Apparently unknown to Trib’s clueless management, public flogging went out centuries ago, these aren’t the easy-money good times anymore, and the gravy train doesn’t pass the Trib’s way as often as it used to, does it Mr. Ray?
Today, adrift without captain or compass, the corrupt message bellowed by the Trib is nothing more than the last hurrah of a dinosaur newspaper sinking in the tar pit of inevitable change it has neither the wisdom nor talent to escape. The Trib has nowhere to go but down, yet laughs at Los Osos on the precipice. Ironically, the Trib, on McClatchy’s chopping block, and thousands of illegally-taxed Los Osos homeowners, families and friends on the County’s chopping block are all marked for extinction, even as the Trib acts blind to the facts of its own mortality.
The first casualty of war is the truth, and how the Tribune has covered the Los Osos sewer wars over the years is textbook testimony to the awful cost of sacrificing the truth and to the pain and sorrow the Trib has long heaped on the community of Los Osos. For this alone the Tribune should be shut down and turned into a homeless shelter, where it might serve some useful purpose to the communities it has failed.
Thousands of Los Ososans will be booted out of Los Osos by Gibson, Ogren, MWH, their stooges and their expensive Trojan Sewer — and the Tribune thinks it’s a hoot because the County flipped the guilty a get-out-of-jail free card, which clears the way for MWH to build the most expensive sewer per capita in U.S. history … in this local depression inside of a national recession! It’s unthinkable, unconscionable and un-American, and Los Ososans know the truth even though it’s never printed in the Trib.
Part of the blame, if blame there be, goes to the rapidly declining fortunes of the American newspaper industry and its impact on the quality of the news we receive in 2009. Again, the Trib is a perfect mirror reflecting the harrowing freefall of newspapers and journalism standards in general in America. Whereas the second half of the 20th century saw at least two newspapers thriving in most major cities, by the dawn of the new millennium one-newspaper cities and towns were commonplace across the country, with many cutting back staff and downsizing to look more attractive for any potential buyers foolish enough to invest in print, while some towns are now entirely paperless, forced to give up the price of print for something called the Internet.
That’s the position the Trib – and its battered readers – find themselves in today, having to put up with the Worst Newspaper in the World until it finally, mercifully, turns to dust. It’s almost there. Without any competition to force them to improve, the Trib has grown wickedly complacent, stale and useless. Wobbling on its last legs, its death rattle can’t come fast enough for the community of Los Osos.
But what about Lisa Schicker, who filed the complaint that County Counsel Warren Jensen and the Board of Supervisors found completely without merit or substance, raising not a single eyebrow from one word or one line in is entire 1000-plus pages? Maybe Jensen just didn’t like how the story ends… for him.
It’s a remarkable accomplishment in itself, reading that many pages and finding each and every page as good as blank. It is a mind-boggling example of the BOS not finding anything they weren’t looking for in the first place – a common characteristic of cover-ups. They don’t mind if people notice, as long as they don’t get caught, and they feel extremely confident that won’t happen on their turf, not with the high barbed-wire fence against free speech put up by the repressive Gibson and the weak, bloodless board he controls.
Like many whistleblowers, Schicker may suffer the indignities of being right but unable to prove it. Her scattered, attorney-less presentation probably contributed to the ease and totality of its dismissal. However, the Tribune editorial tried to label her an unhinged rumor-monger, and most Los Ososans know Schicker’s vast complaint was no lie. Schicker knew what was coming when she filed. The County wasn’t going to investigate itself, certainly not for conflict of interest for which Jensen, Gibson and Ogren are officially, legally complicit and presently unaccountable. It’s tragic that at this point there is no one innocent in authority left standing in County government with the guts to challenge them.
The Trib accomplished what it set out to do with its spiteful editorial – discredit Schicker and taint her volume of evidence for any future court test. And, screamed the Trib, stop any further investigation of MWH and Ogren. Nothing must stand in the way of the approaching megasewer and the gravy train right behind it.
That’s why, in corrupt San Luis Obispo County, the Trib will keep publishing pro-County propaganda until it’s either sold or folds, the guilty are always rewarded, and Los Osos whistleblowers with truth on their side do their shopping at Ralphs very late at night.
— Ed Ochs