Blame the Media
Salinas Police Chief attacks KSBW for “biased” coverage.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Instead of singling out a wanted criminal or dangerous gang member, Salinas Police Chief Dan Ortega held a press conference today to reveal a new enemy: KSBW’s Dan Green.
Ortega criticized KSBW news channel for “biased” coverage of the city’s recent spike in gang violence.
Ortega specifically pointed to a popular Jan. 15 live interview with Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, where anchorman Green pressed him on what the city was doing to do stop gang-related shootings that have claimed six lives already this year. “He was set out to embarrass our mayor,” Ortega said.
Green asked Donohue if he was going to anything besides “asking for community input and holding a fast.” Donohue got defensive when Green said the city was lacking a host of crime prevention strategies, including gang injunctions.
“If Mr. Green had only watched some of his own news he would see that gang injunctions have been outdated for more than a decade,” Ortega said.
Ortega also criticized Joseph Heston, KSBW President and General Manager, for his editorial “Imagine Salinas,” in which he told Salinas police: “whatever you’re doing isn’t working.”
Implying that it’s part of KSBW’s responsibility to come up with gang-fighting solutions, Ortega said, “Mr. Heston failed to come up with any suggestions on how to resolve the issue.”
The last story that Ortega criticized was a piece yesterday about the Gang Task Force’s voicemail box for the anonymous tip line filling up. KSBW, which has been running free ads since last summer promoting the tip line, discovered that the voice mailbox was full on Tuesday.
According to Deputy Police Chief Manuel Perrien, the Gang Task Force tip line was only able to hold 19 messages and filled up during the task force’s days off. But the capacity has since been increased to hold 50 messages, Perrien said.
Ortega accused Green of rolling his eyes during the newscast and pointed out his remark at the end: “if you get through, you can remain anonymous.”
Lastly, Ortega drew attention to the Facebook page of Kelly Duffy, assistant news director at KSBW. Handing out copies of Duffy’s Facebook page, Ortega pointed out two comments she allegedly made: “Kelly was pleased to see Mayor Donohue hot under the collar on KSBW. Library cards and fasts are not working, due respect sir.”
Another comment says: “Kelly can’t wait to see Ortega on the hot seat next.”
Ortega concluded by saying there was skewed reporting by both Green and management, referring to Duffy and Heston. He asked KSBW not to apologize to the department or the mayor but to their sponsors and the community of Salinas “for their biased reporting and lack of integrity.”
When asked why he was taking time to criticize KSBW amid a surge of gang violence, Ortega responded that he was going to ignore it until he saw evidence of KSBW management bias on Duffy’s Facebook page. When asked whether a Facebook page was a credible source of information and whether he knew she actually made those comments, he responded, “Why don’t you go ask her?”
About the interview with Donohue, Ortega said he was asked to go on air but declined due to a conflict.
Lawton Dodd, news director at KSBW, said he doesn’t see any bias in the news channel’s reporting nor in Duffy’s Facebook comments.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” Dodd said. “It’s understandable that his department has been under a great deal of scrutiny.”
About the interview with Donohue, Dodd said KSBW has received mostly positive responses from viewers for the tough line of questioning. As for the editorial, Dodd doesn’t understand the chief’s argument that it is biased since an editorial is supposed to make an opinion.
“We stand by our reporting," Dodd said. "We think it was completely fair.”