News-Press commentaries

News-Press commentaries

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Banishing bias, keeping opinion

August 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Because I was attending to other duties for the News-Press in July, I never got to take a pause and publicly crow about the Voices section winning first place for best editorial pages in our circulation size from the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Do awards matter? Journalists will tell you no, but then they turn around and submit entry after entry to competitions. But what makes the editorial page award special is that it's an acknowledgement of the valuable contributions that you -- the readers of this section -- make to these pages. So it's an honor that all our contributors share.

An independent readership study conducted last year found that 75 percent of our readers believed these pages present a variety of opinions. And even more than that said they still could enjoy reading the paper even if they disagreed with strong editorials.

These are great numbers, but they show there's always room to improve.

The numbers also are heartening because they demonstrate that a vast majority of our community values diverse opinions.

In my view, a relatively small number of people who don't like contrary views or the independent voices on these pages have worked to stifle them.

Isn't it interesting that the chief politicians attempting to capitalize on the recent transitional period at the News-Press -- my mayor, Marty Blum, and my county supervisor, Susan Rose -- have been subjects of criticism for their policy failures and leadership styles.

Other figures, such as the Coastal Housing Partnership/Coalition's Steve Amerikaner and paid consultant Bud Laurent, have appeared in some respects at times behind the bashing. We've examined on these pages the ties this group has to high-density developers.

It's wonderful that free-thinking Santa Barbarans, who can see past ideologies, reject such tactics, according to our survey numbers.

The results also suggested that in the past readers have been concerned about bias in the pages outside the Voices section. Correcting this and banishing any bias I know are priorities of the News-Press management.

I do worry that, inadvertently or indirectly, these pages over the last years have contributed to the idea the News-Press didn't care to address real or perceived bias in the news pages.

I admit that on too many occasions, at the insistence of some journalists in the newsroom, we haven't published some letters critical of certain news reports that readers thought were biased or incomplete. My promise to you is to try better to get those letters in the paper so you can have your say.

AM 1290: You can hear a repeat of my interview with Michael Self of Santa Barbara Safe Streets from 10 to 11 a.m. today on AM 1290. We discuss congestion, mass transit and battling City Hall.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Goleta City Councilwoman Jean Blois joins me for the hour. We'll look at the November council race and what topics Mrs. Blois thinks could shape the election. She's not up for re-election, but three of her colleagues are.

Travis Armstrong is the editorial page editor of the News-Press.