Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Letters to the Editor Watch

As this has been a heavy topic of discussion in recent months, I decided to keep track of the letters to the editor so that we would have something a little more concrete to discuss when we look at what shows up in the letters section of the News-Press.

Far from scientific, this is a casual study...I made my subjective opinion on the content of the following letters and after Sunday's opinion from Dr. Dan will also track opinion piece publishing in the next month.

These are the stats from 3/18/06 to 4/18/06:

Pro-Candidate for Supervisor Letters:Number

Pro-Candidate for Sheriff Letters:
Anti-Candidate Letters:Number

Clearly, this means little until a few months have passed and we can see whether there is equity in publishing letters...but it's a start.


Anonymous dinky doodle said...

Oh, goody! A "casual study".

That's brilliant. You ought to sell that idea to Fox News. They could do a casual poll and find that 90% of Americans are casually in favor of starting wars with oil-rich countries.

4/18/2006 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

calm down travis

4/18/2006 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not be scientific? Like any obsession, including Sara's with Travis, it's not that hard.

4/18/2006 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's start some stats, casual or otherwise, about how often this blog has to mention Travis and the editorial page to get any hits.

4/18/2006 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're assuming that people who write letters are spread equally across all of the candidates. What proof do you have for that assumption? Or does basing your survey on such a false assumption make this "casual," meaning "useless"? Sounds like Perceptioneering to me.

4/18/2006 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, lots of folks seem upset with this idea of Sara's. I wonder why? I hope you will continue this "analysis" of sorts. While we may not be able to read much into it, it is at least interesting to see the totals. Thanks.

4/19/2006 8:05 AM  
Blogger john san roque said...

I thought I was negative about some things until I read some of the responses above. There seem to be some people that question the motives and objectivity of the people who run this blog. I haven't seen any evidence of that. They have opinions, and that's fine. It's clear that the blog publishes letters from people who don't agree with those opinions.

Maybe some of the writers above calling for a "scientific" study could explain to us non-scientific people how you assign labels scientifically to letters that may express more than one idea or talk about the pros and cons of a candidate.

It's clear to me that people from the News-Press read this blog, so the fact that someone is taking notice of the balance of letters-to-the editor will probably have an effect on what they publish.

4/19/2006 11:39 AM  
Anonymous big fat fan of travis said...

I'm not from the NewsPress, but I do read the NewsPress and I am a great fan of Travis Armstrong. I don't agree with him on every issue, but I find him to be very credible. He always makes it clear whether he is stating fact or opinion. As for the housing issue, he has done a great service for the people of this county whose voices have been ignored by our elected representatives.

As for counting the published letters in the editorial section, that might be a fun thing to do, but nothing can be derived from it. It might reflect a bias of the newspaper, or it might reflect the popular opinion. But it will give everyone something argue about. Let the games begin.

4/19/2006 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, yeah, sure. I am sure the NP will change its stance based on the 8 people involved on this blog. This blog has become a far bigger practitioner of censureship of its posts recently. How can it assume such a judgemental stance regarding the NP? It was far more interesting as a blog when the dialogue was allowed to run free, not withstanding the occasional outrageuos post.

4/19/2006 2:36 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

I'm not expecting them to change -- and you will notice I haven't asked for that and offered no opinion in my post about the matter.

The numbers over the months will speak for themselves -- although yesterday's commenter is correct: it doesn't tell us who is sending in letters and we have no idea if it's a representative sample. Only Armstrong would know that...I'm just doing hashmarks on my desk blotter (thus the casual designation)and I think it will be more interesting closer to election time.

We don't need the editorial page to get page views'll notice this is one post of eight this month that mentions Armstrong. He is also one of the main reasons we started the blog and I've seen no reason to change that.

4/19/2006 3:39 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

...and to answer 2:36 pm -- censorship is a strong word. Unlike the NP, just about everything is published here -- obviously even those comments that are critical of us. That's comparing apples to oranges as far as I am concerned.

We've never said that we'd publish everything, and I guess the NP hasn't either -- but you'll see a lot more point counter-point here.

This blog pretty much still runs free -- we ask for civility and for you to keep your comments germane to the topic which isn't that hard. Many comments are in the gray area and still make it...

Allowing people to post anything is chaotic and invites electioneering! Comments today are much more on-topic than they ever were. If you want a free-for-all you are welcome to go for it and start your own blog at We'll be the first to offer a link in support.

4/19/2006 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sara, touchy, touchy. Methinks thou protests too much.

Hmmmmm..... DSA topic = 2 posts

Travis topic = 12 posts, plus a few that were probably censured.

Keeping statistics is going to be fun.

Let the games begin.

4/19/2006 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Critics of Sara take note:
Unlike the previous management of the NP editorial page, Travis and his "cohorts" do not print every letter. However, other than the vague criteria for publishing letters, which Travis himself violates, the NP does not make public its letter publishing policies.

Instead, the NP is highly selective, not only rejecting some letters without explanation, but at times editing them without the writer's pre-knowledge or approval. This even happens with letters that were submitted below the 250 word limit.

The same lack of openness applies to columns submitted by readers. And there is a conflict per se when the person choosing which letters to publish in response to NP editorials is the same one who wrote the original editorial.

Finally, contrary to previous policies and policies of other newspapers, the NP has not published its criteria for endorsing candidates. Instead it has often endorsed some candidates for office without even interviewing others running for the same office.

All this is by way of saying that Sara's idea of tracking these letters is the only means we have at our disposal of identifying some of the bias the NP introduces into its own editorial page.

If the NP would simply publish its policies on letters, colums and endorsements, perhaps we would get a more balanced view...but this simple step of pulling back the editorial curtain does not seem to be in the offing. Thank you Sara for trying to lift the veil of bias.

4/20/2006 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lifting the veil of bias while dropping in another type of bias, very high minded. Somebody doesn't like the people you like, it's tough, but that is just the way it is. Life isn't fair. In the big picture of things all these gripes seem pretty petty.

4/20/2006 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Critics of critics of Sara take note:

You should try to avoid using the word "cohorts" if you want to sound diplomatic concerning Travis.

Travis doesn't violate rules that don't apply to him. The rules are for people who don't work at the News Press, like you.

If Sara wants to track these letters, even though everybody is admitting that this won't prove anything, then why do it? What's her motive? To go into an experiment knowing that the test is bogus and the results can easily be misinterpreted reeks of agenda. I can guarantee you that deep down in her heart, regardless of what she tells you, she is hoping for a numerical result. That's why she decided to do it.

I presonally don't care if she tracks the letters, but don't paint it in the light of being unbiased.

4/20/2006 11:47 AM  
Anonymous news-press reader said...

NP letters policy can be found here:

Endorsing candidates without interviewing the others is, unfortunately, practiced by many high-profile endorsers. I don't know how the News-Press chooses endorsements, but anyone who takes the time to interview the 2nd district candidates in depth knows that Joe Guzzardi is the best candidate to represent the second district. Guzzardi's priorities are 100% in line with the majority of the residents. Even Das has stated so publically.

4/20/2006 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole line of blogging is reflective of the new campaign philsophy of " winning the news cycle". If the letters to the editor are against you, the paper is unfair. If you didn't get an endorsement, the endorsement process is flawed. Never mind that you have been having your friends write LTE's to the NP and that you rabidly sought every endorsement. If you get the endorsements, you are the people's choice. If you don't get the endorsements, you are the people choice and the endorsed candidate is the tool of special interests. Watch for more of this. This blog, as well as most involving the current elections, is heavily populated and visited by campaign candidates and managers. And manipulation of the information here is their goal. Am I wrong here?

4/20/2006 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know everyone's wrapped up in the Board of Supervisors race, but there's also some interesting stuff brewing in the Republican primary for the 24th District, with Michael Tenenbaum upping his campaign against Elton Gallegly. Check out Brian Dennert's blog for some commentary:

4/20/2006 5:26 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Good analysis -- and I'm not doing it for those reasons as I don't currently have a preference in the supe race or really the Sheriff's race either. What I am committed to is fairness -- 11:47 should note this. Sure I have some bias against the editorial board of the NP -- but I'd be happy to upgrade that conversation if fairness rather than agenda was promoted by the editorial board. Everyone has bias -- but our community newspaper should show a little more fairness. The "letters watch" won't be perfect but it may be interesting to see how it goes over the next few months....

4/20/2006 7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sara--you are right on target.

A perfect example can be found in today's N-P letters section; a letter is printed that contains ad hominem attack on the Police Department. Regardless of one's views on the police in general or this department and a raise for them in specific, the letter itself is so not fitting of the "civility" claim that the N-P makes......why on earth was it published?

4/20/2006 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:37 is right. It's a losers stategy to turn chicken---- into chicken salad (don't want to get cut for "indecency").

4/20/2006 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:47 stated "You should try to avoid using the word "cohorts" if you want to sound diplomatic concerning Travis."

Sorry but any definition of cohort that I could find suggested that the word is NOT pejoritive, nor did I intend it to be. Please see below:

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.


NOUN: 1. A group or band of people. 2. A companion or associate. 3. A generational group as defined in demographics, statistics, or market research: “The cohort of people aged 30 to 39 . . . were more conservative” (American Demographics). 4a. One of the 10 divisions of a Roman legion, consisting of 300 to 600 men. b. A group of soldiers.

4/21/2006 8:45 AM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

Where's the update? Wednesday's N-P inlcuded the following letter regarding flip-flopping Das Williams.

Will the real Das Williams please stand up?

This 2nd District supervisor candidate tells voters in the eastern Goleta Valley that he does not want to see high-density housing built on ag land in our area. Yet at a recent candidate debate, Mr. Williams said in front of housing advocates that he would favor such development on the MTD property at Turnpike Road and Calle Real, which is currently zoned for agriculture.

He tells eastern Goleta Valley residents he wants to find creative solutions to sprinkle affordable housing throughout the unincorporated area. However, he is quoted in the News-Press as saying to those same high-density proponents that he supports requiring 50 percent of new housing along a section of Hollister Avenue to be reserved for people with low or very low incomes.

Recently, on a local radio talk show, Mr. Williams ripped Supervisor Brooks Firestone's comments that resistance to the state mandate is futile, but then went on to talk about housing solutions in the eastern Goleta Valley -- to satisfy the mandate.

He says we must protect our environment and that there is a limit to the amount of housing that can be built on the South Coast. However, he puts down Supervisor Joni Gray's offer to help the South Coast with the state-mandated housing numbers by absorbing more homes in her North County district.

From the time Das Williams entered the race for the 2nd District supervisor's seat, the knock on him was that he would say anything to anyone to get elected. Unfortunately, that appears to be true as he is certainly coming out on all sides of the housing issue.

4/21/2006 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Das is coming out on all sides of just about every issue....its sad to watch, because he was advised about this conundrum before entering the race. Unlike the other three candidates, Das does not have a lengthy record of doing any one thing or serving in any office for more than a year or two, that he can point to and help mitigate the inherent contradictions in his misstatements. Thus, in the absence of a solid record of anything, what's left is a potpourri of sound bites, delivered in buckshot style to see what will stick. That is not a good indicator of how one would serve in an office with as much at stake as County Board of Supervisors; the housing/open space dilemma is just one example.

4/22/2006 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Second District veteran said...

Luckily we have a great choice in Janet Wolf. The County Firefighters have now endorsed her as has the Santa Barbara Womens Political Comm. Let's do our best to educate voters about the danger in Dan Secords actual record in office and on the Coastal Commission. He is not an innocuous curmudgeon and could do some real damage along with Firestone.

4/22/2006 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Valerio said...

In this posting and others more current, now the vague, flag-waving comments in support of Wolf are the same banality as the ones that often appeared at Blogabarbara in support of Williams.

4/25/2006 4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4/25/2006 7:30 PM  

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