Claremont Insider: IE Weekly Commentary

Sunday, August 10, 2008

IE Weekly Commentary

Not to pick nits, but the Inland Empire Weekly article by David Silva about the fight between Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor and a local Girl Scout troop had a number of errors, as we pointed out a couple days ago. We didn't want to pile on, but we noticed a rather important one.

Silva criticized LA Times writer David Pierson, who himself had written an article about the Girl Scout incident that ran on 7/19/08. The Girl Scout incident got mixed up with a new door-to-door solicitation ordinance that the Claremont City Council happened to be approving around the same time the Cookie Monster furor was raging. Some of the Girl Scout parents objected to be singled out in the ordinance and thought the city was aiming it at them as some sort of payback on Taylor's behalf. (As we wrote back on July 1st, we didn't think this was the case.)

Silva indicated in his piece that he had read through the ordinance and had no idea where Pierson got the idea that the city had mentioned the Girl Scouts at all:

Pierson then helpfully brought up the council’s recent passage of a solicitation ordinance, under which commercial door-to-door solicitors must first get a permit from the city and undergo criminal background checks. While acknowledging the ordinance had nothing to do with the March 14 Scout incident—it had been in the works for years following two rapes by magazine salesmen—he wrote that its proximity to that event (the law was introduced April 22) caused some people to feel that it was aimed at the Scouts. Fair enough. But why would Pierson help further that false belief by stating, “the ordinance specifically cited Girl Scouts, among others, as nonprofit organizations that would need to apply for a permit if they go door-to-door”?

It does? We’ve got a copy of that ordinance, all 19 pages of it, and nowhere are the Girl Scouts mentioned. Not specifically. Not even obliquely. Which raises the question: Just where did Pierson get the idea that it did? We certainly hope not from the Insider, which ran several “reader comments” suggesting a link between the Scout incident and the solicitation ordinance.

Like Silva, we got to wondering where this idea came from in the first place, so we went to the city website's solicitation ordinance page. We've posted an image of the page on the left just in case the city should change the language after this is published.

As you can see, under the heading "Definitions," the helpful page states:


* 501(c)(3) Organizations - Boy & Girl Scouts, youth athletic clubs, etc. [Emphasis added -ed.]
* School clubs - public or private schools
So, although Silva is correct that the ordinance itself does not use the term "Girl Scouts," the official city webpage explaining the ordinance clearly uses those words in its definitions. So that's where the mix-up must have come. Silva, in his zeal to skewer the Times, the Girl Scouts, and the Insider and to buttress Taylor's and Councilmember Sam Pedroza's defense of Taylor's behavior, ignored some important, easily accessible evidence.

The article also failed to explain if Silva bothered to ask the parents of the Girl Scouts how they got the impression that the ordinance was aimed at their kids. So much for objectivity and balance.

* * *
We thought it odd that Silva would include the "aside" on page 14 about the elderly woman driving over the planter of the Wells Fargo parking lot on Sunday morning, July 20, during the Farmer's Market. We guess that was near enough Mayor Taylor's office--right across the street--to illustrate the danger of the corner. We suspect the public policy issues are very different for elderly women drivers than for girl scouts on sidewalks. Maybe 64-year old women should be prohibited from driving, but then that might take "Wrong Way" off the streets.

The picture right shows the tire marks on the edge of the planter and on the sidewalk where the car went over. It's left fender caught on a tree off the picture to the right, and caused the car to pivot to it's left and head down the sidewalk to the east (right in the picture) as you can see. (Click on the picture to enlarge)

For our money, though, the traffic situation Sunday morning with the Farmer's Market in full swing compared with a Friday afternoon in March would fall into the category of "not comparable".

* * *

We also had several readers contact us with complaints that Silva took a couple potshots at Claremont City Councilmember Corey Calaycay using more than a little of the innuendo and rumor-mongering that he accused the Insider of employing. Silva, who included a photo of Calaycay in his print article, apparently never bothered to interview Calaycay. An odd omission for someone writing about journalistic ethics.

* * *

Then there was this reader who had his own complaints about Silva's style and grammar:
Subject: i'm writing as bad as i can

Maaaaaan, David Silva is so far beyond awful -- I had to fight to make it beyond the first three error-ridden paragraphs:

"America’s second-largest newspaper..." Not even close -- by circulation, the LAT runs *well* behind USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the NYT. Did he just pull that factoid out of his ass?

"According to staff writer David Pierson, the incident began when Taylor demanded the Scouts, who had set up a cookie sale at a street corner a few feet from Taylor’s husband’s law office at Indian Hill Boulevard and Second Street, to move elsewhere." "Demanded the move." Somewhere a second-grader is wincing at that grammar.

And so on, until I arrived at, "But there were a few problems with the article, the most minor of which being it contained numerous factual errors."

"of which being it"

If you can figure out where this dude went to school, I'll demand at my child never of which being to of go there.