Yes, We Have No Obamas

After seven years of flying the Valley Voice you would think I’d be inured to carelessness by now. I wish I were, yet it sometimes still gets under my skin.

Like when people characterize the entire newspaper based on a single press release. As if we had authored, or even endorsed it. Like when people mistake a column for an article and characterize the entire newspaper as biased. This sometimes is infuriating.

Alright–I appreciate that people can be distracted. But let’s be clear going forward. We are not obligated to post or publish every press release we get. We do so simply on the basis of public interest. It is a matter of discretion and calculation. If we published them all, for instance, there would be no space in the paper for original writing. For our own reporting. And it would be a disservice, too, to post them all because, frankly, the majority of press releases consist of dry information. The ones that we judge important, then, would be drowned out.

Furthermore, a column is not an article. A column is an opinion piece while an article focuses on news of some kind. This is a column–and as such, of course, it’s biased. It’s an opinion piece, and bias and opinion align. They’re synonymous. The Chief’s column on the next page–Political Fix–is also an opinion piece. So, yes, it too is biased.

As are letters to the editor. And here, good people, is where the bias in this newspaper ceases.

Judging it etymologically, I do appreciate that bias and opinion do not mesh. They’re not, strictly speaking, synonymous. I am casting aside the pernicious connotations of bias, such as prejudice or bigotry, and in this construct–newspapering–I take biased to mean opinionated.

Of course we’re opinionated in our opinion pieces. We should be. It’s our job, our duty and our right to be.

Yet in the main body of the paper we are not. We strive to uncover the facts. Now, we might occasionally get them wrong, and when we do it is incumbent upon us to correct them. In turn, you might dispute our reporting, either stylistically or factually (Yes, the Valley Voice has been called “fake news.”) but it should be abundantly clear that our coverage is intended to be straight.

Here’s an example for you. Last month the Chief brought home a copy of Community Alliance, a small progressive Fresno effort. While I do not for a second doubt its sincerity or its integrity, there is a problem. Those on the right won’t read it, and those on the left don’t need to. I mean, what’s the point?

The Valley Voice intentionally segregates its columns and letters to the editor–toward the front and rear, respectively–in case the reader chooses to disregard them. The idea is that the experience of reading the paper will be an uninterrupted flow of information. Those who refuse to read our opinions will not, and those who choose to do so will.

Naturally, I hope people read our opinions–and not for any vain reason. Ours is an era fraught with fighting and division on so many levels. But there is always nuance. I hope people read all the opinions they can, nationwide. I try to–at least, I start them.

Until I read something like this, our president’s opinion, from the AP:

“They tried the impeachment hoax. … This is their new hoax,” Trump said of Democratic denunciations of his administration’s coronavirus response… “Again, the hoax was used in respect to Democrats and what they were saying,” he said. Trump said Democrats want him to fail…

Here we are, in what presumably is a blossoming public health crisis–possibly a pandemic–and the president has the stones to politicize the moment.

And at this moment, as never previously, all Americans want the president to succeed. Forget the election. Last weekend saw the first coronavirus deaths after five days of long knives on the stock market, vaccination remains at least a year or more in the offing–and nobody has any inkling what’s next.

Has the virus possibly been floating about Washington State, and elsewhere, for nearly two months? How many generations of the virus have there been thus far? Can a person be re-infected, or does surviving COVID-19 convey immunity?

All we really know so far is that, unjustifiably, our president has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of our collective health. As if Pence were a virologist, or could be said to have successfully governed even a small “fly-over” state. Here is another instance of Trump appointing loyalty over expertise to national detriment.

This represents a far cry from President Obama’s take on such things. If I remember it properly , in his response to the ebola outbreak he engineered a team spanning several federal agencies with the elasticity to multi-task. Trump dismantled this magnificent legacy because nothing Obama could possibly be allowed to stand.

So what do we have now?

Yes, we have no Obamas.

And, yes–this is truly, entirely ridiculous.

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