Editorial: Journalism was never going beyond the pale for Maaske’s agenda

Last week’s front page article “Shuklian defeats Maaske by 20% margin” gave the former challenger for District 3 Board Supervisor the opportunity to point out where he went wrong, and what he could have done differently. He did say that if he had the opportunity to do it all over again, he would have started earlier. Brad Maaske explained his late start came because of his radio show on KMJ. Had he continued his show after he filed his candidacy, KMJ would have been forced to offer Shuklian the same amount of air time during the campaign. 

Maaske admits that starting his campaign in late fall made it hard to gather endorsements. And given the opportunity to do it again he said he would have started his race earlier. But the rest of his response to an email interview with The Sun-Gazette follows in full.

I was very disappointed with the news coverage.  My opponent had an organized smear campaign taking public record items and distorting them into much more than the truth.  Their campaign had members regularly call the papers with the partially true stories to make them appear organic.  The Visalia Times Delta published her press releases as news stories.  The local papers did not do any investigation into the issues.  I have yet to see any press on how much has been spent by the county and various cities to study the homeless issue.  I have yet to see any stories on the success of low barrier facilities that I suggested for the county.  Stories abound about San Diego, San Jose and Florida facilities that are working.  Nobody in the press has investigated the low pay for County Fire Fighters.  19 recruiting academies in the past 12 years and they still can’t retain enough firemen.  No stories about the District Attorneys office which now is short 9 attorneys because the pay is so low they can’t retain employees.  This lack of curiosity about the real issues made it much more difficult to get my message out.

Saying that the local news did not investigate “the real issues” is preposterous. 

The Sun-Gazette and other local news outlets have covered the amount of money spent publicly extensively for the last two years. In particular late last year when Tulare County’s taskforce on homelessness published their commissioned report outlining the recommended solutions for Tulare County to mitigate homelessness. In fact, what The Sun-Gazette could not determine was how much Maaske’s plan to create a homeless commune on vacant county property north of Visalia would realistically cost. 

Maaske, then wanted local news to investigate the issues that he finds important like the amount of attorneys at the Tulare County District Attorney’s office, and the amount of fire fighters at the Tulare County Fire Department. It is with great confidence that The Sun-Gazette has not investigated the amount of attorneys in the DA’s office or the number of fire fighters in the fire department because invested parties had not reached out to us about it. That being said, the urgency for Maaske to bring it up is suspect, as he only mentioned it after he filed paperwork to run for board supervisor. And we are not in the business of carving out time to cover the issues that a candidate for office want us to cover, when they hadn’t brought them up as a concerned citizen before. 

Lest, we made the effort to reach out to fire chief Charlie Norman who said that there isn’t a fire captain in California who wouldn’t welcome more fire fighters. But for their purposes, the biggest threat to fire coverage is a lack of volunteers, not full time firefighters, as Maaske attempted to drive the public to believe. 

District attorney Tim Ward said that he is down by 10 attorneys, but pay is not necessarily the biggest factor. In fact, negotiations have yielded public attorneys an increase in their rate of pay, commensurate with surrounding Central Valley counties. Instead the problem has been an overtly competitive job market where attorneys are attracted to different environments in California, and the lack of certified law schools in the area. 

And whether things are falling through the cracks, both Ward and Norman say that their employees have done a commendable job working with what they have, and meeting their standards. If The Sun-Gazette had gone through the exercise of investigating the matters Maaske made hay out of, we wouldn’t have reported that things are going fine, because it is not news.

Had Maaske illustrated his concern before his candidacy, local news outlets perhaps would have taken him more seriously. But bringing concerns to the media as a part of his campaign is beyond the pale of our job. It reeks of disingenuousness. And if local journalism’s unwillingness to cover issues that have only emerged from Maaske’s campaign made it hard for him to get his message out, then his campaign strategy was flawed from the start. 

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