Letters to the Editor

Letters from April 11, 2001

As for John Mecklin's lofty concerns about the Bay Guardian's ethics ("MUD in Your Eye," April 4), let me ask a simple question:

Does Mecklin really think that anyone who reads the Bay Guardian is confused about our role as active supporters of public power and participants in this campaign? He may be the only one in town who hasn't noticed, but just to put his mind at ease, let me make it clear, for the record: The Bay Guardian promotes public power, with every resource we have at our command. We've given money, ad space, and editorial support. If we could think of anything else that would help, we'd do it.

And what possible personal or financial benefit does Mecklin think that Bruce Brugmann is getting out of this crusade? Let's be serious: As SF Weekly just proved once again, the only thing you get for standing up to PG&E in this town is abuse.

Tim Redmond
Executive Editor
San Francisco Bay Guardian

Peter Byrne responds: As I wrote in my article, with the exception of employees of the Bay Guardian, I could find no one with significant knowledge of the Raker Act who believes that it requires San Francisco to provide citizens with electricity from a government-owned utility. By any reasonable reading of the act, according to the courts, two different Interior Department investigations, and many of the nation's top experts on electrical power -- many of whom support the notion of public power -- the legislation allows, but does not compel, San Francisco to create a public power system for city consumers. For 32 years, the Bay Guardian has claimed otherwise. For 32 years, the Guardian has been wrong.

John Mecklin responds: The Bay Guardian has repeatedly and fawningly reported on a MUD-supporting campaign committee known as CLUB (Coalition for Lower Utility Bills) without disclosing that CLUB is essentially a Guardiancreature. (From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2000, for example, the Guardian and its publisher, Bruce Brugmann, provided $67,200 of the $67,300 in campaign contributions and loans that CLUB collected.) Many San Franciscans know the Guardian supports public power; I doubt all that many knew, until we told them, that the Guardian basically invented a "grass-roots" organization to flog one of the paper's pet causes, and then -- in a truly novel violation of journalistic ethics -- pretended as if the organization were an expression of mass public will. I realize that Mr. Redmond sees no problem with this type of "created" news. I think that many another journalist would recognize it as propaganda.

Just to keep the record straight: I did not write in opposition to public power. I wrote that there should be a full feasibility study before voters decide whether to embark on municipalization of electric service, the cost of which could easily run into the billions of dollars. This seems like common sense to me; I do not understand why "progressives" continue to oppose full study of the matter.

A Whale of a Story

Sorry, but at the last minute we decided to make the article interesting: When a reporter involves himself deeply in the life of a community that is significantly affected by the issue on which he is reporting, there is a tendency to come back with a story that strongly reflects the opinions and beliefs in which he has immersed himself. It is an occupational hazard -- all the more so because it tends to make for a livelier and more involving reading experience than if the reporter attempted objectivity. Hence "Dying Breeds" by David Holthouse (March 28).

Nowhere in his [story on] the whale hunt of the Chukotka did Mr. Holthouse consider the simple question I posed to him when he contacted our office for information: If the bulk of gray whale meat in Chukotka is no longer going to Soviet-style fox farms -- which still consumed the equivalent of 50 gray whales a year as of 1997 -- then where is it going? Why are the Chukchi, with a birthrate that has declined 50 percent over the last 15 years, asking for an ever-higher "subsistence" quota when that quota was originally dictated by the commercial appetites of the fox farms, and the commercial element of the hunt is supposed to be all but extinct? Raising these questions would likely have involved raising such issues as international whale meat smuggling and the backing of aboriginal hunts by Japan's whaling industry to get around the global ban -- issues we mentioned to Mr. Holthouse, but which were clearly not part of the picture he wanted to paint.

We note that this article was the first in a series. We trust the Weeklywill make an effort to get something resembling balance into the remaining entries.

Andrew Christie
Information Director
Sea Shepherd International
Friday Harbor, Wash.

Blubber. That's a funny word, isn't it? Blubber. Oh, sorry, you were saying?: Your recent article lacked substantial information about gray whales. Did you even bother to consider the extinction of gray whales as you do the extinction of Siberian Eskimos? No. Did you consider the possibility of the Siberian Eskimos being a nomadic tribe according to nature's climate, food supply, and man's wanton destruction of this precious ecosystem? No.

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