The Vallejo Times-Herald’s headline writer was decidedly NOT impartial this week.
Local commercial news media in one-paper towns are obliged to do their best to present a balanced perspective, especially on controversial topics. True objectivity is difficult, but the public’s primary source of news needs to do its very best.
And yet, consider the Times-Herald’s headlines Oct. 13-16, each of which accompanied a sweet photo of the fast-tracked Trump/GOP sham nominee, Amy Coney Barrett:
VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD HEADLINE DEPARTURES FROM ORIGINAL AP HEADLINES
Original AP headline on Oct. 13: “Barrett vows fair approach as justice, Democrats skeptical”
VT-H headline: Barrett vows fair approach
Original AP headline on Oct. 14: “Barrett bats away tough Democratic confirmation probing”
VT-H headline: Barrett unscathed by tough questions
Original AP headline on Oct 16: “GOP pushes Barrett toward court as Democrats decry ‘sham’”
When approached by email, Times-Herald Editor Jack Bungart let me know that staff does not write the paper’s headlines. Their “pagination hub” converts from an Associated Press headline according to “what fits in each situation.”
So who or what is the “pagination hub” serving our friendly staff at the Vallejo Times-Herald? Is there bias at work here? Who, exactly, is responsible for the seemingly partial editing of the AP headlines that came up with these pro-Barrett Times-Herald headlines?!
Come on, Vallejo T-H “pagination hub”. Who are you? In the future, give us a more nuanced and accurate first look at the day’s highly controversial news.
As I read the headline, “Times-Herald staff will work out of Vacaville office,” my heart sank a little. It’s a sad, albeit inevitable, sign of the times to see the Vallejo Times-Herald leave Vallejo.
My relationship with local newspapers began before I could read. Twice a day, the Vallejo papers (morning Times-Herald and evening News-Chronicle) were tossed onto the porch by a kid flying by on his bike. Between the covers of each issue lay a fascinating world of first, pictures and comics and later, articles and ads. As I grew, my favorite stories were society-related. Each baby shower, wedding and anniversary event carried 2-3 pictures, an extensive guest list (using the “Mrs. [husband’s name]” designation for the women) and descriptions of the fashions of the day on display.
There were the columns like Dave Beronio and Marion Devlin. Oh, and the ads — for the Redwood Inn, Levee’s department store, Terry’s Waffle Shop, the Grotto, City of Paris, Stillings toy store, Higgins shoes, Home Bakery, Market Town, Liled’s candy store, Casa de Vallejo, the China Barn, Red Top dairy, the Golden Bubble, Tarantino’s, Helen Lyall’s, the Village, Palby’s, Vallejo Travel, the Elbow Room, Passini’s, and later, on the growing east side of town, Rudy’s supper club, Purity market, Toby Jean’s hamburgers, Gentleman Jim’s, Springhill Foods and Yardbirds.
Over the years, I turned to the Vallejo paper daily for horoscopes, Ann Landers’ sage advice, to catch a movie (at the Rita, then then El Rey, and later at the Cinedome 7), see who was racing at the hardtops, and to check out the newest sounds at Munter Music.
As TV news gained prominence, the morning and evening editions of the Vallejo newspaper were combined into the one evening edition. However, the paper’s strengths of excellent journalists, columnists, photographers and staff were undiminished. The Vallejo Times-Herald gave us in-depth stories about the in-our-backyard Zodiac killings, lurid Associated Press pictures of the Vietnam war along with how our hometown recruits were faring, and extensive coverage of local sports.
We got the big Vallejo stories, like the sinking of the Guitarro, a nuclear submarine, in the Mare Island Channel (for which Vallejo was awarded “Laugh-In’s” ‘Fickle Finger of Fate’), Joey Pallotta’s world-record catch of the largest sturgeon ever out in the Carquinez Strait, and the amazing boosterism of local residents like my Aunt, Donna Jean Hines, to bring the Marine World theme park to Vallejo. We also got the “little” but vital stories, like upcoming class reunions, GVRD summer playground dates, and the annual County Fair prize winners.
The Times-Herald kept me informed as the city leaders tore down our Carnegie Library for an ugly, needed-but-not-right-there senior high-rise and closed lower Georgia street in the first of 37 failed attempts to “save downtown.” I heard they passed on Sunvalley Mall to build Larwin Plaza. Our community college left our community.
The Times-Herald covered local politics, protests, and picnics with equal zeal. It supported local arts organizations and locally-owned businesses, sponsored Little League teams and maintained a staff of crack reporters whose focus was (and has been) relentlessly local — bowling tournaments, Fourth of July parades, water and sewer rate hikes, church socials, car washes, Hal’s Appliance sales, elections, and the heart of any community: Births and deaths.
Vallejo’s diversity was and is its greatest strength. While much coverage was positive — Filipino community Pista Sa Nayon festivals, and (later) homegrown Black hip-hop stars, for example — the racism that stained every aspect of community life (so deep that Black residents had to literally build their own housing development, Country Club Crest, in order to buy a house in Vallejo) was seldom mentioned. The city leaders remained almost exclusively white, male — Mayor Florence Douglas notwithstanding — and (and since the closet was firmly shut, who knows?) straight, long past the Civil Rights and women’s movements and the rise of the fight for LGBTQ rights.
Times continued to change. A failed VTH strike in the ’70s, which birthed the short-lived Vallejo Independent Press, mirrored the nationwide decline of unions, manufacturing and working class-prosperity. Mare Island Naval Base, arguably the lifeblood of the local economy, closed after 125 years. Again and again, the city leaders’ nostalgia for a ’50s-style downtown won out over common sense, and commerce fled to Fairfield, Concord and Vacaville, resulting in even fewer print ads.
With the rise of the internet and the collapse of ad revenue, the Times-Herald, like most print journalism entities, began to shrink in earnest. The paper was sold to a chain, its building on now-Curtola Parkway, with its giant printing press, clocks of the world, darkrooms, news bays and clattering Linotype machines, also sold and eventually demolished. The staff downsized again and again, reporters doubling as photographers, columns and editorials increasingly nationally-syndicated, and local sports the biggest driver of community news.
Yet the Vallejo Times-Herald hung on, covering local arts, politics, education, business, sports and community events. I still subscribe today, from our retirement home in the foothills above Sacramento, to see who died, the specials at Gracie’s Barbecue and who’s appearing (pre-Pandemic) at the Empress. I read the wacky letters to the editor, featuring endless debates among five or so locals whose beefs go as far back as the Hatfields and the McCoys, and whose letters should be serialized so the occasional reader could have even a clue as to what they’re writing about.
I enjoy the latest jewel of artistic creativity otherwise unnoticed in our midst that Richard Freedman illuminates, and Brendan Riley’s periodic chronicles of our more distant past. Sadly — but glad that it is being covered — I keep abreast of the developments in the deaths of Vallejo residents of color at the hands of police that, if not in part for the dogged persistence of Vallejo journalists in continuing to shed light on these events, would not finally be gaining some statewide and even national traction.
The announcement that Vallejo Times-Herald operations are moving to Vacaville marks the end of an era — for journalism and for Vallejo. We all know what happened when the Contra Costa Times became the East Bay Times. Want to know about Oakland? Just pick up the EBT. Concord? Not so much. And local in general, vs. national/world news? Even less.
So I predict I will be learning more about Vacaville, and less about Vallejo, from the VTH (or soon-to-be “Solano Reporter?”) in the future. No offense meant. It’s the way of the world, and I want the VTH to survive in some, even regional, form so that our talented local journalists can continue to work, and so that “USA Today” doesn’t end up our local newspaper!
I guess we were lucky to have a hometown paper survive this long. That said, give me a moment to mourn and mark the passing of an enterprise that has informed and affected my entire sentient life. Maybe not perfect, just like our world, but trying its damndest to fulfill its mission – to reflect one community, at its best, worst and most mundane, for posterity.
Vallejo Times-Herald reporters, editors, circulation and advertising staff, I salute you for your diligence, integrity and commitment to my hometown, Vallejo. Thank you and farewell.
Vallejo City Council to review analysis of police department
BY JOHN GLIDDEN, June 15, 2020
The Vallejo City Council will get its first public view on Tuesday of a report analyzing the operations, culture and internal review of the Vallejo Police Department.
The 70-page assessment prepared by the OIR Group praises the hard work done by Vallejo police but it does note an us versus them mentality as “the prevailing sentiment (in the department) was that officers who are willing to contend with dangerous crime in a thankless environment should at least be empowered to do so without unnecessary scrutiny or interference.”
“Much of the department seems to have an aggrieved perspective toward local politicians, the media, and its critics in the activist and legal communities (including an active plaintiffs’ bar),” the report states…. [continued]
Vallejo’s police union files restraining order to block release of officer’s name involved in Monterrosa shooting
BY JOHN GLIDDEN, June 16, 2020
The Vallejo police union filed a temporary restraining order in Solano Superior Court on Monday to prevent the city from releasing the name of any officer involved in the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa, according to court records and a union representative.
Vallejo officials said Tuesday that the city intends to oppose the restraining order and release the names of the involved officer(s) on its own terms…. [continued]
Vallejo Police Department banned from training on Touro’s campus following union’s Facebook post
BY JOHN GLIDDEN, June 16, 2020
Vallejo police will not longer be allowed to train on Touro University California’s Mare Island campus after the police union issued a statement Saturday criticizing those protesting the death of Sean Monterrosa.Touro University California Provost Dr. Sarah M. Sweitzer said the university was “appalled” by the statement from the Vallejo Police Officer’s Association questioning those attending the march, she wrote in a June 13 message posted to the university’s web page.
“As a community that stands against systemic racism and institutionalized inequity… [continued]
[Editor: I sent the following letter to the Editor of the Benicia Herald. It was published in the July 6 print edition. A similar letter was sent to the Vallejo Times-Herald, but has yet to appear there. – RS]
Why no coverage of BSHC event?
July 2, 2014, Benicia Herald Forum, p. A4
In response to the recent release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on Valero’s proposed Crude by Rail project, three groups held public meetings on the massive document this past week. Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (BSHC) held an event on Saturday, June 28; Valero and the Benicia Planning Commission held events on Monday, June 30. BSHC sent out a timely press release, announced the event in emails, and submitted it for inclusion in the Benicia Herald Community Calendar. I am aware that your staff cannot be everywhere and cover every significant event in town. Nevertheless, I regret that only the Valero and Planning Commission forums received prominent and detailed coverage in the July 2 edition of the Benicia Herald.
Readers might want to balance the promotional perspectives shared by Valero at its meeting, and the comments of the City’s contract attorney at the Planning Commission workshop by looking over the information on SafeBenicia.org and/or BeniciaIndependent.com. A video of parts of the June 28 BSHC workshop on how to read and comment on an EIR can be seen on YouTube at http://youtu.be/9Prey7fckk8, (thanks to Constance Beutel).
An increasing number of thoughtful citizens in Benicia oppose Valero’s proposal, for good reason: the City’s health and safety are at risk; our uprail communities (Davis, Sacramento, etc.) do not want Valero’s trains putting their health and safety at risk; and California, the U.S., Canada – and the earth – cannot handle more dirty and explosive crude oil when clean energy is our chosen future and legislated mandate. To remain truly competitive into the future, Valero should invest in a plan for an immediate transition away from fossil fuels.
Member of the Steering Committee
Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community www.SafeBenicia.org