Friday, April 28, 2017

Road trip: FFA, UC research, sustainable wine, rice prep


This week I made my annual trek to the San Joaquin Valley, where I covered the FFA's annual state convention in Fresno and visited the University of California's Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

You can read my coverage of the FFA meet here and here.

On my way back up north, I stopped at the LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards in the Lodi, Calif., area to do a Western Innovator feature on the two founding brothers, Randall and Bradford Lange. I also took some photos of growers preparing fields in the Williams and Maxwell areas for rice planting.

In the photos, from the top: Outgoing FFA state president Andrew Skidmore (left) presents a new jacket to incoming president Luke O'Leary; FFA members Kaitlyn McFarland (left) and Mia McCormick of Exeter celebrate a science award; UC Cooperative Extension researcher Kevin Day stands in a "ladderless" peach orchard; Bradford Lange stands with his niece, Marissa Lange, underneath a solar array at the winery; and a grower prepares a rice field near Williams for planting.

I'll be doing several stories on UC research at the Kearney facility in the coming weeks, including an update on the Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing and a centerpiece on what researchers and growers in the valley are doing to prepare for the next major drought.

Also, Fresno city leaders and California State University-Fresno are making a last-ditch attempt to keep the FFA convention from moving to Anaheim next year, and rice growers are taking advantage of a break in the weather to furiously prepare for the upcoming growing season.

Look for all of these stories at CapitalPress.com in the coming days and weeks.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bill O'Reilly out at Fox News: What it means (updated)

UPDATE: As I predicted or at least hoped, Bill O'Reilly has moved his daily show to the online world. From Breitbart:
Bill O’Reilly will return to the airwaves six days after his departure from Fox News with a new podcast episode set to air Monday on his website.

O’Reilly’s “No Spin News” will air Monday, April 24 at 7 p.m. Eastern, according to a promotional graphic posted to his website Sunday.
I'll be curious to see how the show evolves, and whether the podcast becomes an actual online TV production supported by apps that work on various devices. I think it will depend on how well it takes off, and my hunch is that it'll grow in popularity very quickly.

In any event, the corporate bullies didn't shut O'Reilly up. They just hastened his move to where everyone is going anyway.

Original post
Bill O'Reilly and Fox News are parting ways. From Breitbart:
Fox News has officially cut ties with Bill O’Reilly. Through the network’s parent company 21st Century Fox, the Murdochs issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon: “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”

In another statement released on Wednesday, the network announced that the new primetime line-up will be Eric Bolling at 5pm; Martha MacCallum at 7pm; Tucker Carlson at O’Reilly’s old 8pm timeslot; The Five with co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle, Dana Perino, Bob Beckel, Greg Gutfeld, Jesse Watter, and Juan Williams at 9pm; and Sean Hannity will remain at 10pm.
For the record, I don't have cable, so I don't get Fox News except for an audio-only feed on SiriusXM. But Fox News is generous on YouTube with clips and highlights of shows, including virtually every segment from the primetime shows.

I've been hoping O'Reilly would retire this year, although not because of anything related to sexual harassment allegations. As Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine demonstrates, the allegations are a stretch of the imagination, to say the least. I've just felt that O'Reilly's show has gotten to be an old and tired showcase for millionaire Fox News insiders. I mean, how many times can you lead off with Charles Krauthammer's take on the day's events? And as such, from a marketing standpoint, I think Fox News is trying to get younger, both internally and on the air. The median age of a primetime Fox News viewer is 68.

That said, certainly not all of Fox News' success over the last 14 years can be attributed to senior citizens, and this has the stench of a corporate elites' coup. Left-wing movers and shakers lined up some accusers to whisper to their friends at the New York Times, which led to some multinational corporations putting pressure on the network to dump O'Reilly, and it was done quickly. How would you like to come back from vacation and find out you don't have a job?

This episode should tell you two things. One, the Fox News that we all knew, the one that revolutionized the TV news business, is dead. They are becoming just another major corporate news outlet, just like the others, as they continue to purge the people that put them on the map and made them popular. I think Sean Hannity will be next, somehow. Secondly, and this is important: it's a front-and-center example of how these cable networks could care less about viewership. O'Reilly's ratings are at an all-time high, and it's far and away the No. 1 show. But Fox is guaranteed income from tens of millions of American cable subscribers no matter what they do with their lineup. And it's the cable subscriptions that attract the national advertisers, not the ratings.

For those of us who'd like to see consumers break the stranglehold that these multinational corporations have had on the media landscape because of bundled cable, the good news in all of this is that for many people, Fox News has just taken away their last reason for subscribing to cable. I hope O'Reilly starts his own online show a la Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I'll test-drive a subscription if he does.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Do town-hall meetings really achieve their objectives?

As you can see below, my blog posts on Rep. Doug LaMalfa's town-hall meeting in Redding this week generated several responses from attendees, and in the interest of fairness and for purposes of discussion, I thought I'd elevate them.

Kim Solga wrote:
Indivisible Shasta (indivisibleshasta.org) was present at the Redding town hall as individuals. We organized no group of activists, though we certainly encouraged folks to attend the town hall and express their views. The signs we helped hand out were the green "agree" and red "oppose" papers that are meant to be held up instead of yelling out opinions. The purpose of these signs is to keep order and civility in the meeting. The talking points we prepared were likewise intended to help people speak their opinions clearly and concisely. It is not surprising to me that many average voters are passionately opposed to the agenda of the Trump administration, that they show up at town hall meetings in great number and shout out their frustrations. I hope LaMalfa will hold more frequent town hall meetings in more diverse areas of District 1, and that he will think for himself and stand up for what is actually best for his constituents rather than just rubber-stamping everything Trump and the ultra-right proposes.
Christine Mitchell wrote:
It wasn't just Indivisible that organized for this. Berniecrats of Shasta County started organic quite awhile ago. They actually set up the training. There are many proud progressives who worked and have been working for the same issues for years.
I'm looking at this issue from two perspectives -- first from the member of Congress' perspective, and then from the point of view of what I call the average voter. That's the person who works all week, is involved in his or her kids' activities and may or may not be all that politically active, but has an issue or two that he or she really cares about and whats the congressman to address.

For the member of Congress, let's look at an issue like single-payer health care. It was wildly popular in the room on Wednesday night, but if you put a single-payer health care initiative on the California ballot, it would fail in Shasta County by a 60-40 or even 70-30 margin. And the same disparity could be noted with numerous other issues, too. For a lawmaker who is home for a week and has a district the size of several Eastern states, it's all about making the most out of your time in gathering as complete a picture as you can about the concerns and desires of your constituency. And I wouldn't blame a congressman if he concluded that spending half his time setting up and conducting town-hall meetings just to get yelled at about Trump's tax returns wasn't the best use of his time.

As for the perspective of average voters, let's take a look at some of the comments on LaMalfa's Facebook page, shall we?

Melissa Hunt: "Spending time with Doug LaMalfa at his Town Hall to appreciate his service for his district! We needed more respectful constituents to show up though! Next time won't you come out, please?"

Jan MacDonald-Skipitis: "I wanted to go but I don't want to deal w/ the negative, shouting, angry left!"

Melissa Hunt, replying to Jan: "We talked about this very reason being why [people] stayed away! That made me all the more determined to support him and go. Definitely a disrespectful bunch!"

Barbara Thurman: "So sad people act that way, just ruined for people who really wanted good information."

Rich Steele: "Until people realize that a town hall is for open discussion and not media infused shouting by a few I'm with Doug LaMalfa. Don't have anymore. If the losers from the left don't get a platform they will go away or start acting like good citizens."

A good example of the point I'm making is the Oroville meeting Monday night. The people in that community have been through two harrowing months, with evacuations and rumors that the dam above their heads could fail. That could have been an opportunity for them to pepper LaMalfa with questions and comments about dam reconstruction, federal funding, the federal investigation and the like. But it wasn't. One really has to wonder how many of the people who were doing all that yelling and disrupting were evacuated. My hunch is not many.

Look, protests -- whether outside of a congressman's office or on the National Mall -- are as American as apple pie. But booing and chanting during the invocation, shouting people down are not going to win folks over to your point of view. The pictures that you create don't make people think there's widespread anger among American voters, as much as friendly media outlets try to help you. They just show a vocal group of very bitter people trying to grab all the attention.

And average voters aren't going to deal with it. They don't have to sit and be offended and abused after a hard day's work. They have lots of ways to get their points across to members of Congress -- making phone calls, sending texts, sending emails, using Facebook or Twitter or getting involved in organizations like the Farm Bureau who will lobby for their interests.

That's why I wonder if the concept of the congressional town-hall meeting has outlived its usefulness. Perhaps a member of Congress would be better served by finding other ways to interact with voters, such as appearing before community groups to discuss specific issues or having the groups host public meetings where they can keep speakers on topic (and 86 the unruly ones). They can go on radio call-in shows, hold Facebook live chats or, as LaMalfa frequently does, hold "telephone town-halls." Or they can hold congressional field hearings on specific bills or topics, which are actual official hearings and are more structured.

If these town-hall spectacles actually educated people about issues, that would be one thing. But they don't, really. All they do is provide footage for media outlets to spin their narratives.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Obamagate update: Sharyl Attkisson's timeline, Russia

Independent investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson -- the one who left CBS News because she was stonewalled by the network in her attempt to cover several Obama administration scandals -- has put together a timeline of surveillance activities during and just after the Obama era. Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine offers a summary and some valuable context.

He writes:
It is a mixed bag, containing seemingly indefensible conduct by the Obama administration, but also conduct that I consider justified and proper (e.g., the prosecution of CIA leaker Jeffrey Sterling).

It’s clear to me from the timeline, though, that the kinds of intelligence abuses we’re hearing about now did not begin when Team Obama became concerned about Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, a funny thing keeps happening to that Russian-collusion narrative you're always reading and hearing about. From the Gateway Pundit:
The CIA and FBI have pivoted from their Russian narrative as they admit that perhaps a traitor on the inside leaked docs to Wikileaks rather than the ‘Russians hacked and leaked’. [...]

Wikileaks has actually admitted that they have received leaks from insiders and NOT Russian hackers yet the media has repeatedly ignored this because it doesn’t fit their ‘Russian hacking’ narrative.
Scott Johnson of PowerLine has monitored some of the coverage lately and observes:
Carter Page seems to be at the heart of the collusion story. Both the Washington Post [...] and the New York Times [...] devoted three of their star reporters to this week’s update on the story. The alleged collusion is looking as thin as Page, the man Julia Ioffe found nobody in Russia to have heard of when she asked around for Politico this past September:
Enter Carter Page, a 44-year-old Ph.D., and business school graduate who claims an expertise in Russia and energy, yet who, I quickly discovered, was known by neither Russia experts nor energy experts nor Russian energy experts. (“I can poll any number of people involved in energy in Russia about Carter Page and they’ll say, ‘Carter who? You mean Jimmy Carter?’” says one veteran Western investor in Russian energy.) Page also, as I would be surprised to discover, appears largely unknown to Trump’s own campaign.
Where did the smoke around Carter Page come from? Mollie Ziegler Hemingway asks whether the FBI used garbage opposition research to spy on Page. Hemingway’s column does a little “unmasking” of the respectable journalistic kind.
It's actually fascinating to see these two stories develop and intersect, and to watch how the different media clusters approach each one. It's a great side-by-side comparison that shows us who's on the rise and who's on the wane.

The difference between the surveillance story and the Russian-hacking narrative is that one has legs, and the other appears not to.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Introducing Indivisible Shasta, the group behind the noise


Our local media outlets may wish to pretend they don't exist, that concerns about Russian hacking of elections, President Donald Trump's tax returns and the lack of a single-payer health care system are really shared by a preponderance of grass-roots voters and not just a well-organized activist group. But their members dominated last night's town-hall meeting in Redding hosted by Rep. Doug LaMalfa.

They are the Mount Shasta-based Indivisible Shasta, the north state chapter of the well-funded national left-wing network of experienced demonstrators that has held protests and disrupted town-hall meetings and other gatherings across the country.

One of their organizers, retired marketing specialist Jeanne Steele of Dunsmuir, was handing out signs and talking points to hundreds of people standing in line before the meeting at Sequoia Middle School.

"I've been here since 3:30 talking to people in line," Steele said. The doors opened at 5, and the meeting started at 5:30.

She said members of Indivisible Shasta are concerned about issues such as Trump's taxes, the Russian "campaign connection" with Trump and whether the president had the authority to bomb Syria. In the north state, the group includes some Republicans, she said.

"This is a resistant group of resisters," she said.

The time in line gave many a chance to show larger signs that wouldn't be allowed in the auditorium, and they were ubiquitous. Retired teacher Judy Champagne of Redding held a sign pleading with the federal government not to deport the parents of "DREAMers."

"I have empathy for these families," Champagne said, noting that she is also a mother.

Nearby, retired U.S. Forest Service employee Nancy Van Susteren of Mount Shasta (who is married to the cousin of Greta) held a sign indicating that she was not paid to be there -- a reference to reports that some protesters at Trump rallies were paid $12 an hour.

Group organizers at the Redding event said they were working out of a guide provided by Indivisible, which has some 250 field offices nationwide. The group claims the guide is written by former congressional staffers on how to make members of Congress listen. If you look at their list of actions at town-hall meetings, virtually everything was checked off last night.

Again, from CNS News:
[W]hat's happening at so many congressional town halls is clearly laid out in Chapter 4, which advises Trump opponents to:

-- Get there early: "Meet outside or in the parking lot for a quick huddle before the event. Distribute the handout of questions, and encourage members to ask the questions on the sheet or something similar."

-- Get seated and spread out: "Head into the venue a bit early to grab seats at the front half of the room, but do not all sit together. Sit by yourself or in groups of two, and spread out throughout the room. This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus."

-- Demand real answers: Lawmakers are "very good at deflecting or dodging questions," the guide says. "If they aren't giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the MoC (Member of Congress) or applauding you."

-- Don’t give up the mic until you’re satisfied with the answer.
With Erin Ryan there, speakers didn't have such an easy time not giving up the mic. But I digress ...
-- Keep the pressure on. "After one member of the group finishes, everyone should raise their hands again. The next member of the group to be called on should move down the list of questions and ask the next one."

-- Support the group and reinforce the message. "After one member of your group asks a question, everyone should applaud to show that the feeling is shared throughout the audience."

-- Record everything! "Assign someone in the group to use their smart phone or video camera to record other advocates asking questions and the MoC’s response. While written transcripts are nice, unfavorable exchanges caught on video can be devastating for MoCs. These clips can be shared through social media and picked up by local and national media."

-- Reach out to media, during and after the town hall. "If there’s media at the town hall, the people who asked questions should approach them afterward and offer to speak about their concerns. When the event is over, you should engage local reporters on Twitter or by email and offer to provide an in-person account of what happened, as well as the video footage you collected."

-- "Ensure that the members of your group who are directly affected by specific threats are the ones whose voices are elevated when you reach out to media."
All of these things happened to varying degrees last night.

I asked some of the organizers to opine on comparisons between their group and the tea party, which gave members of Congress (including LaMalfa) what-for during the Obama administration.

"The techniques that the tea party used were successful," Steele said. "We are using similar techniques, but we are more inclusive and nonpartisan."

(Yes, really.)

Van Susteren added that Indivisible Shasta has no interest in getting involved in local efforts, such as when some tea party groups got behind the State of Jefferson movement.

"We focus only on federal legislation," she said.

Look, we (being the Capital Press) will have no problem being fair to these folks when they make coherent, well-articulated points about issues important to agriculture. For instance, I included Van Susteren's concerns about a proposed budget cut to the USDA in my news article today on the LaMalfa gathering.

But for local media to cover a meeting and not mention the group that dominated the meeting is an oversight at best. Their organizing efforts before the meeting couldn't be missed as you were entering the theater, and you got a sense for just how numerous they were when they all shouted "Indivisible!" during the Pledge of Allegiance.

People tend to complain about their members of Congress for myriad reasons, often deservedly so. But to not report the activist component at these town-hall gatherings leaves at least the impression that the constituency at large is angry, nearly to the point of revolution. And that's just not accurate.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

LaMalfa listens to constructive comments, yelling haters


Rep. Doug LaMalfa's two-hour town-hall meeting at Sequoia Middle School tonight was highlighted by some constructive comments and well-informed questions but marred by screaming haters who were just there to cause disruptions and spew vitriol at anyone brave enough to offer differing views.

In the photos, from the top: LaMalfa speaks from the stage; retired Forest Service employee Nancy Van Susteren of Mount Shasta holds a sign saying she was not a paid protester; retired teacher Judy Champagne of Redding holds a sign protesting President Donald Trump's deportation policies; retired teacher Damon Cropsey of Redding shows his distaste for the idea of a border wall; and attendees hold up signs indicating they agree with a speaker.

I had a chance to talk with LaMalfa and numerous attendees beforehand, and will have a story addressing ag-related issues at CapitalPress.com tomorrow.

The question of the night came from teacher Alysia Krapfel of Cottonwood, who challenged LaMalfa for voting against a bill while in the state Assembly to fix the Oroville Dam's spillway and asked if he would vote for federal funding for repairs now.

"My daughter was working in Oroville that day" in February when the dam was thought to be near failure, Krapfel told me later. "We weren't sure if she would get out alive."

LaMalfa said he agreed that there was "a severe oversight" regarding the dam in 2005 but legislators voted based on assurances they received from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state Department of Water Resources. A dodge, to be sure.

But LaMalfa said he will support federal funding this time, and not just for Oroville Dam.

"I will support funding for infrastructure," he said.

Krapfel's question was fairly typical of folks who stood in the line on one side of the room to pose questions. Another line was set up for people to just make comments, and while there were some typical speeches about the Russians, global warming and Trump's tax returns, there were quite a few well-considered statements about the need for more support for veterans' care and pleas to not cut health care funding.

But it was the people in the middle of the room -- the ones who had no intention of going to a microphone and giving their name, who just wanted to scream out one-liners and shout down LaMalfa and others -- who really soured the evening for a lot of people. Some women in the row behind me loudly booed the opening prayer, screeched "aw, come on!" during the flag salute and yelled catcalls at other participants throughout the evening. I have no idea whether all these folks live in LaMalfa's district, but they had no intention of providing coherent or constructive input into the legislative process. They want to tear it all down.

And that's the problem I'm having with these town-hall meetings. The room tonight was in no way representative of LaMalfa's actual constituency. It was largely a group of activists organized by Indivisible Shasta, whose leader I spoke to. She was handing out signs and talking points to people before the meeting, and she very openly told me they were working out of the guide that I described earlier today. The behavior of many of these folks caused others to leave early out of frustration, and I'm certain that a lot of average voters who normally might have attended stayed away.

So what's the point of having them, if a congressman isn't going to get a true picture of his constituents' sentiments and if average voters are too intimidated to come and speak up? There are lots of ways that elected officials can hear from folks who are are affected by their decisions, answer questions and gather opinions without subjecting themselves and their well-meaning constituents to abuse from modern-day Bolsheviks.

Understanding the media's role in town-hall protests

With Rep. Doug LaMalfa hosting a town-hall meeting tonight in Redding and with his gathering Monday night in Oroville becoming quite the scene, it's time for a refresher course on just who the people are that are causing these disruptions.

The group Sentinel Intelligence Services, Inc., put out this memo in early March (emphasis added):
The protests taking place across the country are not spontaneous nor are the participants “grassroots” types similar to the Tea Party participants of several years ago. The protests at Town Hall meetings, and the bombardment of emails, postcards, and phone calls into various legislatures are part of a well-organized, formally trained, scripted, and even paid response by from anarchists sincerely working to sabotage the constitutional form of government.

Under an umbrella of “Organizing for America” established by Barack Obama dating back to his first year in the White House, there are approximately 30,000 participants working out of 250 offices nationwide. Under this all-encompassing organization various named groups come to the forefront given their specific task; i.e., protest at City Council meetings, state legislative hearings, Congressional Town Halls, or on the streets. The protestors who lead these actions have attended formal training in camps set aside to keep eyes from peering in to learn what is occurring.

Training in counter measures to law enforcement, signs and various forms of symbol/placards, and banners all geared for cameras, tactics to disrupt and bring serious economic slowdown to the targeted area, physical contact measures, logistics, even First-Aid to wounded protestors are taught.

The protest organizers and field captains are paid, and many of the protestors are paid $12Hr, as was the case in Arizona during a Trump rally that literally blocked traffic on a highway. Buses and other forms of transportation to the event are arranged. At Town Hall meetings a script is followed similar to the script employed by those phoning state legislatures or writing postcards.
At town-hall meetings, these professional protesters recite lines from prepared scripts while trying to look and sound sincere. The online news blog NTEB reported recently:
An organization partnered with far-left groups that calls itself the Revolutionary Love Project distributed an actual script with anti-Trump talking points for citizens to use when meeting with constituents in town halls, including during last week’s Congressional recess.

The script provides word-for-word language suggestions that accuse the Trump administration of “xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia.”
Many of the demonstrators are from a group called Indivisible, which offers a "practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda." From CNS News:
The detailed guide was written by "former congressional staffers" who "reveal best practices for making Congress listen."

And what's happening at so many congressional town halls is clearly laid out in Chapter 4, which advises Trump opponents to:

-- Get there early: "Meet outside or in the parking lot for a quick huddle before the event. Distribute the handout of questions, and encourage members to ask the questions on the sheet or something similar."

-- Get seated and spread out: "Head into the venue a bit early to grab seats at the front half of the room, but do not all sit together. Sit by yourself or in groups of two, and spread out throughout the room. This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus."

-- Demand real answers: Lawmakers are "very good at deflecting or dodging questions," the guide says. "If they aren't giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the MoC (Member of Congress) or applauding you."

-- Don’t give up the mic until you’re satisfied with the answer.

-- Keep the pressure on. "After one member of the group finishes, everyone should raise their hands again. The next member of the group to be called on should move down the list of questions and ask the next one."

-- Support the group and reinforce the message. "After one member of your group asks a question, everyone should applaud to show that the feeling is shared throughout the audience."

-- Record everything! "Assign someone in the group to use their smart phone or video camera to record other advocates asking questions and the MoC’s response. While written transcripts are nice, unfavorable exchanges caught on video can be devastating for MoCs. These clips can be shared through social media and picked up by local and national media."

-- Reach out to media, during and after the town hall. "If there’s media at the town hall, the people who asked questions should approach them afterward and offer to speak about their concerns. When the event is over, you should engage local reporters on Twitter or by email and offer to provide an in-person account of what happened, as well as the video footage you collected."

-- "Ensure that the members of your group who are directly affected by specific threats are the ones whose voices are elevated when you reach out to media."
Two things must be kept in mind. First, this is happening all across the country, and it's all coordinated. The Medford-based theDoveTV reported that Indivisible sent out an email instructing people to disrupt a recent town-hall meeting with Rep. Greg Walden in Southern Oregon. Secondly, and the larger point: the media are a BIG part of this group's plan, and in many cases they participate knowingly and willingly.

What is the purpose of a town-hall meeting for a member of Congress? To help him or her take the pulse of voters in the home district about various issues, and give district residents a chance to provide feedback to their elected member. There are a few exceptions to this, as when a Central Valley farmer might opine on something LaMalfa is considering in the House Agriculture Committee. But as a general rule, non-local loudmouths do a gross disservice to actual residents who are truly affected by what the congressman does and want honest input into his or her decisions.

Which brings us to Oroville. Nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from that community and surrounding areas in February when the nation's tallest dam was considered in danger of failing, but only one question in the two-hour meeting was about the spillway and its repairs. That suggests to me that the people making a lot of the noise weren't from anywhere near Oroville. At least some of them may have driven in from Sacramento or the Bay Area with the intent of causing a scene, and some may have been students at Chico State.

But we wouldn't know from reading or viewing news accounts from the meeting. Most quoted participants without telling us what city they were from, or what they did for a living. Instead we had CBS Sacramento reporting that a dejected LaMalfa was booed off the stage (at a two-hour meeting, mind you). That got picked up on the Drudge Report, and now the whole country had the impression that this poor California congressman is hated in his own district.

And that was deliberate.

So what's the solution? For news organizations, either you make every attempt to give the city and occupation of the people that you quote, as well as maybe an explanation of how they're affected by the congressman's actions or positions, or we can just assume you're a willing part of the disruption effort. It involves getting up off your arse and walking over to the person who just spoke and finding out who he or she is. It's what I did at school board, city council and county supervisors' meetings for 20 years. It's just basic journalism.

And for congressional staffers, these are at the very least quasi-government proceedings. It seems fair to me to ask speakers to give their name, city of residence and occupation when they come to the microphone. If they're unwilling to give that information, they lose all credibility as far as I'm concerned.

Accountability is a two-way street. While we rightly demand it of elected officials, it's fair to expect it from the audience, too. And from the people on press row.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

DWR inks $275.4 million contract to fix Oroville Dam

From a news release sent Monday evening:
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today awarded a contract to Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., for repair work on Oroville Dam’s spillways. Repairs are scheduled to begin immediately to have the system operational by November 1, the traditional start of the winter rainy season.

Kiewit’s bid of $275,443,850 was the lowest responsive bid. DWR issued a notice today to Kiewit to begin work. DWR is implementing its recovery plan to ensure the system can safely accommodate potentially heavy inflows from the Feather River watershed to Lake Oroville and subsequent releases from the lake.

The complete recovery or replacement of the spillways will be done in multiple phases due to the enormity of the project and the time limitations of the construction season. Work has already started on portions of the ‘no regrets’ work like road construction and slope stabilization in and around future work areas which needs to be completed regardless of the spillway recovery design decisions.

DWR announced the bids Saturday and spent the weekend reviewing them. The three bidders and their amounts were:

· Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. (CA): $275,443,850
· Barnard Ames JV (MT): $276,965,690
· Oroville Dam Constructors (CA): $344,129,100

Today DWR also provided a corrected Engineer’s Estimate of $231,715,373 for the work, after finding an error in the original estimate of $220,100,000.

Details of the three bids will not be made public, as they contain design information that is considered Critical Energy/Electric Infrastructure Information by federal regulators and could cause a security risk if released.
For more news on the Oroville project, check CapitalPress.com.

Monday, April 17, 2017

NWS: Stormy weather to continue until Thursday


From the National Weather Service:
Series of Pacific storms will continue to bring periods of mainly light to occasionally moderate precipitation today into Thursday. Some light to moderate snow possible in the mountains with a threat of thunderstorms Tuesday. There looks to be a break Wednesday, then another weak storm brings some light precipitation Wednesday evening into Thursday. Decreasing threat of showers by Thursday evening with dry and warmer weather Friday into the weekend.

Impacts
Slick roads with mountain travel delays and possible chain controls
Increased Valley commute times with traffic slowdowns and wet roads
Thunderstorms possible Tuesday with lightning and gusty wind.

Forecast Confidence
High for wet weather
Medium for Thunderstorms

Timing and Strength
Today

Showers today
Snow levels around 6000-7000 feet, light accumulations
Tonight - Tuesday
Liquid precipitation amounts: Central Valley up to 0.5 inches, Foothills/Mountains: 0.5 to 1.5 inches, locally higher over higher terrain
Snow levels 5000-7000 feet, light to moderate accumulations
Possibility of Valley thunderstorms Tuesday, mainly in the afternoon
Wednesday night - Thursday
Generally light precipitation amounts
Thursday night- Saturday
Dry weather returns with temperatures warming 5 to 10 degrees above normal
The photo is of work continuing at the Oroville Dam with storm clouds overhead, courtesy of the state Department of Water Resources.

The continuing stormy weather and still-accumulating snowpack are what made the DWR change its collective mind last week and boost the State Water Project allocation, I was told today.

For my story and for updates on Oroville and on water deliveries, keep checking CapitalPress.com.

Friday, April 14, 2017

California boosts State Water Project deliveries after all

About 24 hours to the minute after acting Department of Water Resources director Bill Croyle told us it could be May or June before the State Water Project allocation was increased again, this came out just now:
With record rainfall in the Northern Sierra and the snowpack still building, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) today increased its estimate of this year’s State Water Project (SWP) supply to 100 percent for contractors north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and 85 percent of requests for other contractors.

“We’re hopeful we’ll be able to increase deliveries even more as we monitor conditions,” said DWR Acting Director William Croyle.

Today’s allocation is the highest since 100 percent in 2006.

DWR initially estimated it would only be able to deliver 20 percent of the 4.1 million acre-feet of SWP water requested this year. That projection (allocation) was increased to 45 percent on December 21 and to 60 percent on January 18 as storms developed.

In step with today’s allocation increase, DWR announced that repairs have been completed to the intake structure at Clifton Court Forebay, a reservoir feeding the Delta pumps that deliver State Water Project water to most of California. Erosion damage was discovered last month on the concrete apron that supports the reservoir’s intake gates. Clifton Court Forebay and Delta pumping operations will return to normal on Sunday.

Emergency work is underway to repair spillways at the keystone SWP reservoir, Lake Oroville. Lake levels this spring and summer have not been determined yet and will depend on public safety, the weather, and the pace at which the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts, among other factors. But the above-average size of that snowpack will allow DWR to deliver at least 85 percent of SWP contract requests and perhaps adjust the allocation higher later this spring.

The 29 public agencies contracting to receive SWP water serve more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated agricultural land.
One thought that I had after yesterday's interview, and one I had planned to pose to state officials, was, "Why not just use some of the flood control releases to increase the allocation?" Apparently Croyle and other officials had the same thought.

At any rate, as we and other news organizations have discovered, the realities on the ground in Oroville can change from day to day. For more on this decision and for the latest developments, keep watch at CapitalPress.com.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

USA Today columnist calls female politico 'the darkness'

Remember all those high-minded lectures about respecting women we got from newspaper editors and columnists around about last October? Somehow I doubt we'll hear a peep from those folks about the latest sexist outrage, which comes courtesy of a scribe from USA Today.

From NewsBusters:
USA Today columnist Michael Wolff came out and said what every liberal journalist probably thinks of the Donald Trump administration and said it to Kellyanne Conway’s face: “You’re the darkness.”

At Wednesday’s Newseum “Press and the President” forum, Wolff recited the Washington Post’s new slogan to Trump’s White House counselor and admitted what the Post was really driving at: “I’m gonna tell you, when they say ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness,’ you’re the darkness.”

For her part, Conway handled the charge with aplomb as she replied “I’m not the darkness” and mentioned how she’s “getting used to the [SNL] skit” about her. She went on to offer advice she’s given to children: “Just because somebody says something, doesn’t make it true.”
Now I think the phrase "democracy dies in darkness" works better as a vision statement for the Washington Post than as a slogan. And the article says Wolff walked his statement back when he realized the ramifications of what he had said.

But the larger issue remains that if you have the "wrong" views or wrong (read: traditional) values, this is what they think of you in major corporate newsrooms across the country. You're not just incorrect, or have shortsighted political views, etc. You're dark, as in evil, as in a scourge that should be cleansed from society. Or as Hillary put it, you're irredeemable.

There's something you should understand about the USA Today and its parent company, Gannett: They are one company with one budget. Far-flung outposts in the "USA Today Network" are about as local as your friendly neighborhood Starbucks. And the business models of other major corporate media companies are similar. That's unfortunate for some formerly proud local publications that have been assimilated as if by the Borg.

But fortunate or not, if you purchase or advertise in one of their publications whether in California or Wisconsin, or if you patronize a business that does, you are paying the salaries of people like this, with attitudes like this.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

SJ Valley ag to get 100 percent of CVP water supplies

From a news release:
The Bureau of Reclamation today announced an update to the 2017 water supply allocation for all Central Valley Project contractors South-of-Delta to 100 percent of their contract supply for the first time since 2006.

“Following the California Department of Water Resources exceptional March 30 snow survey results, Reclamation is pleased to announce this increase to a 100 percent allocation for our South-of-Delta water contractors,” said Acting Regional Director Pablo Arroyave. “However, as Governor Brown reminded us last week when lifting California’s drought state of emergency, the next drought could be around the corner. It is crucial that we remain vigilant in conserving our precious water resources.”

On Feb. 28 and March 22, 2017, Reclamation announced a 100 percent allocation for all CVP contractors with the exception of agricultural water service contractors South-of Delta (contractors in the Delta Division, San Felipe Division, and the San Luis Unit), who were initially allocated 65 percent of their contract supply, and Municipal and Industrial (M&I) contractors South-of-Delta, who were initially allocated 90 percent of their contract supply.

On March 30, 2017, DWR reported an average statewide snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada of 45.8 inches, or 164 percent of the historical average for March 30 (27.9 inches). As a result of the water availability south of the Delta and the amount of snowpack in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, Reclamation is able to make this significant water supply allocation increase.

Reclamation is announcing the following updated allocations:

South-of-Delta Contractors
--M&I water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 100 percent of their contract supply.
--Agricultural water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 100 percent of their contract supply.

Given the magnitude of this allocation, the amount of water carried over from last year, and the overall availability of surface water, Reclamation strongly encourages the use of surface supplies instead of ground water wherever possible through the remainder of the 2017 water year. In order to promote effective use of supplies in San Luis Reservoir this year and efficiency for next year’s operations, Reclamation will limit the overall amount of water to be carried over to the 2018 contract year to 150,000 acre-feet. Reclamation will continue to work with contractors regarding a strategy for water carried over from the 2016 water year and plans to effectively carry over water for the 2018 contract year.
For more on this, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, April 10, 2017

More Americans recognizing Big Media's divisive role

For years we've known that the major news media has been losing credibility with the American people, to the point that many now see these major outlets' constant divisive, negative content as a detriment to society. Now it seems Americans are becoming more educated as to why they find these major outlets like CNN and NBC untrustworthy.

From Rasmussen Reports:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters think the media is more interested in creating controversies when it comes to covering President Trump and the new Congress, while nearly as many (46%) believe the press is more interested in helping the public understand the issues. (To see survey question wording, [...]

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on March 30 and April 2, 2017 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.
The poll, which requires a subscription to study in detail, finds that Republicans are more likely to "smell a rat" when it comes to the media's agenda. That's understandable, since people on the right have been claiming for years that the media is biased.

But with all the talk lately about media narratives, it's promising that nearly half the country now seems to recognize the major outlets' true mission -- to drive wedges among Americans and maintain a level of unease and distrust in society, so that more people will turn to their political allies as referees.

Shasta BOS' fence-sitting could cost sheriff millions

Red Smith writes at the Shasta Lantern:
Early last month the Shasta County Board of Supervisors declined to take up discussion of a resolution declaring that Shasta County would comply with Federal Immigration Law and reporting standards. The proposed resolution, if passed, would have followed in the footsteps of Tehama and Siskiyou Counties whose Boards voted to comply with Federal Immigration Laws and legally declare their jurisdictions not part of a “sanctuary jurisdiction”. The City of Anderson, a town within Shasta County, broke ranks with County leadership by also choosing to comply with Federal law. Adoption of these resolutions are a response of direct defiance to the State of California’s Legislature who, with the passage of SB 54, seeks to declare the State of California a “sanctuary jurisdiction” for illegal aliens and orders local law enforcement to illegally ignore Federal Immigration Laws. [...]

Shasta County’s failure to openly declare they will comply with Federal Law and reporting standards potentially exposes the County Sheriffs Office to the loss of millions of dollars in Federal grants and pass through dollars. As declared by newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Board of Supervisors fence riding could not only endanger current budgetary funds but could as well make the Shasta County Sheriff ineligible for future Federal funding altogether. In his recent speech Attorney General Sessions also alluded to the Department of Justice seeking to “claw back” Federal funds from Sanctuary Jurisdictions. “Claw-back” is when a granting agency seeks a return of funds distributed for a grantees failure to use the funds as required or malfeasance in other areas. According to a Federal Department of Justice spokesperson “claw-back” could seek to retrieve all funds dispersed or funds dispersed over the last five years in the case of continual disbursements.
The entire column is here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Nielsen, farm groups rip $52 billion transportation tax

Northern California's state Sen. Jim Nielsen and agricultural groups are unhappy over the Legislature's passage of $52 billion in new fuel and vehicle taxes to fund road improvements in California.

Nielsen, the Republican caucus chairman, issued the following statement:
“There is no sunset to this massive $52 billion tax.

“Our highways, roads and bridges are in ‘third world’ condition. Transportation, however, has not been a priority for Sacramento Democrats.

“This massive tax will not only impact Californians at the gas pump; it will result in higher costs for food, clothes and other goods.

“This will affect the working poor and middle class Californians like Miranda Thomas, a single mom on a fixed income with a young child who needs to see a pediatrician often. She wrote to me and said, ‘Being poor shouldn’t force us off the road.’”
Ag group representatives are telling me they think the taxes -- particularly a 500 percent increase in the diesel tax -- will disproportionately affect growers.

Watch for my story at CapitalPress.com.

Brown rescinds drought declaration as state unveils plan

As we were told would happen, Gov. Jerry Brown has formally declared the drought to be over as the state has unveiled its long-term water conservation plan.

From the governor's press office:
Following unprecedented water conservation and plentiful winter rain and snow, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today ended the drought state of emergency in most of California, while maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices, such as watering during or right after rainfall.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” said Governor Brown. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. Today’s order also rescinds two emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four drought-related executive orders issued in 2014 and 2015.

Executive Order B-40-17 builds on actions taken in Executive Order B-37-16, which remains in effect, to continue making water conservation a way of life in California:

The State Water Resources Control Board will maintain urban water use reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices such as watering during or after rainfall, hosing off sidewalks and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.

The state will continue its work to coordinate a statewide response on the unprecedented bark beetle outbreak in drought-stressed forests that has killed millions of trees across California.

In a related action, state agencies today issued a plan to continue to make conservation a way of life in California, as directed by Governor Brown in May 2016. The framework requires new legislation to establish long-term water conservation measures and improved planning for more frequent and severe droughts.

Although the severely dry conditions that afflicted much of the state starting in the winter of 2011-12 are gone, damage from the drought will linger for years in many areas. The drought reduced farm production in some regions, killed an estimated 100 million trees, harmed wildlife and disrupted drinking water supplies for many rural communities. The consequences of millions of dead trees and the diminished groundwater basins will continue to challenge areas of the state for years.

The full text of today's executive order can be found here.

California’s Drought Response
The drought that spanned water years 2012 through 2016 included the driest four-year statewide precipitation on record (2012-2015) and the smallest Sierra-Cascades snowpack on record (2015, with 5 percent of average). It was marked by extraordinary heat: 2014, 2015 and 2016 were California’s first, second and third warmest year in terms of statewide average temperatures.

The state responded to the emergency with actions and investments that also advanced the California Water Action Plan, the Administration’s five-year blueprint for more reliable, resilient water systems to prepare for climate change and population growth. To advance the priorities of the Water Action Plan and respond to drought, the voters passed a comprehensive water bond, the Legislature appropriated and accelerated funding and state agencies accelerated grants and loans to water projects.

California also enacted the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, took action to improve measurement and management of water, retrofitted tens of thousands of inefficient toilets, replaced lawns with water-wise landscaping and provided safe drinking water to impacted communities.

Californians also responded to the drought with tremendous levels of water conservation, including a nearly 25 percent average reduction in urban water use across the state.
From the Department of Water Resources:
As Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. ended the drought state of emergency in most of California today, state agencies released a long-term plan to better prepare the state for future droughts and make conservation a California way of life.

Building on the successes and lessons learned from California’s five-year drought, the plan establishes a framework for long-term efficient water use that reflects the state’s diverse climate, landscape and demographic conditions. Achieving the plan’s goals will help all of California better prepare for longer and more severe droughts caused by climate change, as directed by the Governor’s May Executive Order.

“This framework is about converting Californians’ response to the drought into an abiding ethic,” said California Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle. “Technically, the drought is over, but this framework extends and expands our dry-year habits. Careful, sparing use of water from backyards to businesses and farm fields will help us endure the next inevitable drought.”

California’s climate is the most variable in the nation and naturally swings between flood and drought. Climate change is increasing average temperatures, shrinking the Sierra Nevada snowpack, and creating more extreme droughts and storm events California’s recent historic drought included the driest four-year period, the warmest three years and the smallest Sierra snowpack in state history, while this winter’s storms created one of the highest precipitation totals in the last 150 years.

Recognizing these long-term risks, the plan seeks to move the state from the temporary, emergency conservation measures in effect during the drought to a more durable approach that will ensure all communities are improving water use efficiency and extending their supplies. These measures will help achieve a top priority in the Governor’s Water Action Plan – to “make conservation a California way of life.”

“California’s farmers and ranchers practice conservation every day,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “They are prepared to continue in that spirit in adherence to groundwater regulations and the adoption of more efficient irrigation systems.”

After Governor Brown called for a 25 percent reduction in urban water use in 2015, Californians rose to the challenge and saved 24 percent during the 12 months the mandate was in place. Even after the strict standards were lifted last May, Californians continued to save water, with cumulative savings staying above 20 percent. This plan builds on that success to establish long-term conservation measures.

Central to the plan is a requirement that the state’s 410 urban water suppliers meet new water use targets. Suppliers would calculate their unique water efficiency targets based on a common methodology that takes into account the diverse climatic, demographic and land-use characteristics of each agency’s service area. Urban water suppliers would set new targets by 2021 with a full compliance deadline of 2025.

“Californians stepped up big time during the drought,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “This plan allows us to build on that success and prepare for the longer and more frequent droughts we know are coming under climate change, in a way that is equitable and cost-effective. Efficiency is the cheapest and smartest way to extend our water resources.”

The plan involved extensive stakeholder outreach and engagement, with more than 20 public meetings held around the state. In order to implement the key actions of this plan, the agencies will continue to solicit stakeholder and public input.

Other key elements of the plan include:

--Bans on wasteful practices, such as hosing sidewalks and watering lawns after rain.
--Technical assistance, financial incentives and standards to guide water suppliers’ efforts to detect and repair leaks.
Requiring urban water suppliers to prepare water shortage contingency plans, including a drought risk assessment every five years.
--Requiring more agricultural water suppliers to submit plans that quantify measures to increase water use efficiency and develop adequate drought plans.
--Monthly reporting by urban water suppliers on water usage, conservation achieved and enforcement efforts
Improved drought planning for small water suppliers and rural communities.

Some of the actions described in the report will require new legislation and expanded state authority, while others can be implemented under existing authorities. All aim to achieve the four main objectives of the Governor’s Executive Order B-37-16: use water more wisely, eliminate water waste, strengthen local drought resilience, and improve agricultural water use efficiency and drought planning.

The plan, Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life, Implementing Executive Order B-37-16, was prepared by the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Public Utilities Commission, Department of Food and Agriculture and the Energy Commission. For more information on the development of the plan visit www.water.ca.gov/wateruseefficiency/conservation/.
For our complete report, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

LaMalfa to hold town-hall meeting in Redding

From a news release:
Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after announcing a town hall meeting to take place in Redding, California in April.

LaMalfa said: “I invite residents of Shasta County and surrounding areas to join me at the McLaughlin Auditorium at Sequoia Middle School on April 19th for an in-person town hall meeting. The 115th Congress is well under way, so come prepared to share your ideas and engage in a productive community discussion on our goals moving forward. I look forward to seeing you all there.”

Who: Congressman Doug LaMalfa
What: In-person Town Hall meeting
When: Wednesday, April 19, at 5:30PM PST
Where: McLaughlin Auditorium at Sequoia Middle School
1805 Sequoia Street, Redding, CA 96001

For questions, please contact Representative LaMalfa’s Redding district office at (530)223-5859 or his Washington, D.C. office at (202)225-3076.

*Note: No large signs, banners, signs with sticks, or weapons of any kind will be permitted on the campus.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Winter-like storm on track to hit Northern California


From the National Weather Service:
An approaching winter-like storm will bring moderate rain to the Valley, heavy snow for the mountains, and high winds. Valley thunderstorms are possible Friday and Saturday afternoon.

Impacts
Slick roads late in the week will bring longer commute times
Mountain travel delays and chain controls expected
Damaging winds will bring travel difficulties, downed trees, and power outages

Forecast Confidence
High

Timing and Strength
Precipitation will begin Thursday; Heaviest precipitation will occur Friday into Friday night. Precipitation continues into Saturday.
Moderate rain and heavy snow expected; travel impacts likely.
Snow levels initially around 6000 feet before dropping to between 2500 and 3000 feet by Sunday.
Strong southerly winds likely Thursday night through Saturday, strongest late Thursday night into Friday.
Valley thunderstorms possible Friday and Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Obamagate update: A prime suspect has emerged

No doubt you've probably heard by now that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice has been identified as the prime "unmasker" of Trump transition team officials and was allegedly involved in a vast surveillance effort aimed at helping the current president's political opponents. Here are some noteworthy items from today.

--From the Daily Caller:
Former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice ordered U.S. spy agencies to produce “detailed spreadsheets” of legal phone calls involving Donald Trump and his aides when he was running for president, according to former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova.
--The folks at PowerLine are keeping up with the story and have several salient observations.

--From Eli Lake at Bloomberg:
White House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
--Mark Levin, who was belittled as a conspiracy theorist a few short weeks ago, breaks the scandal down on the latest episode of his TV show (subscription required).

--Jerome Hudson of Breitbart offers five facts about Susan Rice that every American should know.

--Demand is growing both inside and outside of Congress to hand Rice a subpoena to testify under oath about what she allegedly did, who was in on it with her and whether the alleged conspirators included President Obama.

--Fox News' judge Andrew Napolitano said the unmasking of Americans for reasons other than national security is called "espionage," and Rep. Devin Nunes has said Obama administration officials who released transcripts on General Mike Flynn face five years in prison.

Now some on the right are grousing that some major corporate news outlets are ignoring the story. For instance, blogger Mike Cervanich reports that the New York Times' Maggie Haberman had the story about Rice for at least two days and sat on it to protect Obama. Remember, some of them were in on the strategy to undermine Trump and published the leaked information, which is illegal.

But these outlets can ignore this story or not ignore it; it really doesn't matter. New Media is driving this story. If your (general-audience) news outlet of choice isn't reporting on this, it's time to find a new outlet of choice.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Bias, agenda-driven reporting and corruption: a primer

When I call attention to excesses of the major corporate media either here or on Facebook, I almost never use the word "bias". And there's a reason.

What's happening in much of the media today goes way beyond simple bias, or even agenda-driven reporting, and reaches the realm of corruption.

Here's how I define the three:

Bias is when you go to cover a story or event you'd cover anyway, and you happen to emphasize one side of an argument over others, one sports team over another, etc. Everyone who's ever worked in journalism has been accused of bias at one time or another. Inadvertent and unintentional bias certainly exists, but it's often in the eyes of the beholder.

Agenda-driven reporting is when you decide ahead of time what story you're going to write or present, and do your information-gathering accordingly to fill in the template. For instance, you (or your editors) think the people who run the county mental health department are heartless and inept, you want to do a story that says that, and your questions follow that script.

Corruption is actually coordinating your coverage with combatants beforehand, planning with your subjects how you can do your story to advance their cause. Also, it's a group of journalists from supposedly competing outlets conspiring with each other and with sources to create and reinforce narratives.

In my 20 years at local newspapers prior to joining Capital Press, the instances of biased reporting I saw could probably be characterized as the exception rather than the rule. There were some examples of agenda-driven reporting, often spurred on by some overzealous editor. And I've witnessed one instance of actual corruption, involving a city council campaign years ago. But I've also studied news stories and reporter questioning enough to be able to spot agenda-driven reporting where it exists. And so, too, have many discerning news consumers.

In my view, 95 percent of what we see on the network news, cable news channels and major corporate newspapers can be characterized as agenda-driven. The same is true of political coverage from the Associated Press, which the folks at PowerLine have done a great job lately of chronicling. But as was revealed last year with the presidential campaign, a good percentage of this "journalism" has reached the realm of corruption, which I consider to be a cancer that could kill the entire industry.

A good example of agenda-driven reporting bordering on corruption was revealed this week at Breitbart:
A Washington Post reporter is looking for a family of illegal aliens so she can “help readers place themselves in the shoes of someone who feels no longer welcome in the United States,” according to an email obtained by Breitbart.

The request comes hot on the heels of a widely reported violent gang rape of a 14-year old in the same area for which two illegal aliens have been charged.

The request from Washington Post reporter Jessica Contrera was sent to an immigration lawyer, who then shared it Tuesday, March 28, via an email list with other lawyers at the Maryland State Bar Association. “I spend my time working on in-depth stories about the lives of people who are being affected by topics unfolding in the news,” Contrera wrote.

She continued:
I’m reaching out because I’m hoping my next story will be focused on an undocumented family. Specifically, I’m looking for a person or family who is voluntarily choosing to leave the U.S. and return to their home country, given the political climate and the increased threat of deportation[.] I can’t begin to imagine what a stressful and difficult decision it must be to leave your life behind, and I’m hoping that by spending time with a person or family as they prepare for their departure, I can help readers place themselves in the shoes of someone who feels no longer welcome in the United States. I’m getting in touch with you in hopes of finding out if the situation I described is something that’s happening in your area, and if you know anyone who might be leaving the country in the coming weeks. If so, I’d love to talk with you about my work and how I might best find this story.
According to a confidential source privy to the mailing list, reporters from left-wing news outlets routinely query the immigration section for sympathetic clients to help build their narrative.
Now we at the Capital Press do stories on immigration all the time, and we've focused during the past few months on the potential fallout from President Donald Trump's travel ban and vows to curb illegal immigration. Here is the story I did about the concerns felt by some ag sectors along the Central Coast relating to the new political environment. Where applicable, we'll ask growers or organizations such as the UFW if they're aware of any farmworkers who will be willing to talk to us about the subject at hand.

But we also report what can happen when growers hire illegal immigrants, whether inadvertently or not. And we don't ignore the potential negative impacts of illegal immigration, such as when an Arizona rancher was murdered while checking water lines and fences on his family's property.

The words, "I want to do a story that helps you with your cause," or their equivalent would never cross my lips or emanate from my keyboard. But then again, I operate within that segment of the journalism industry that still has ethics and standards. Some of our more dominant news outlets obviously do not.