My final Tribune column appeared in yesterday’s print edition of the San Luis Obispo Tribune. The decision to end my column was made by the powers that be at the paper, and the logic is described in a column by the paper’s editor, Sandra Duerr.
Let me make that one minor fact clear: I did not quit. I won’t say I was really fired either, because I was never being paid for my work in the first place.
I was informed that changes were being made about two weeks ago, just after my column comparing the Women’s March and the anti-Milo protests. The back-and-forth on the editing process for that column had been pretty contentious, though I don’t think that contributed to my sacking.
Getting details out of Tribune opinion page editor Stephanie Finucane was like pulling teeth. The first notice I got made it sound like a big overhaul of the opinion pages was being made and gave me the impression that both liberal columnist Tom Fulks and I were out. As I prepared to write my farewell column and sought to understand what was going on with the changes, I learned through a series of emails that it was just me who was out.
Though Duerr’s column says they are seeking more “conservative” voices for their opinion pages, what they really wanted to ensure was that they had a Republican voice to counter Fulks’ Democratic voice. As I noted in the column, though my values and beliefs more closely align with what Republicans claim to support in their party platform, I cannot be a Republican so long as Donald Trump is the party’s titular head.
Tribune editors seemed to like the fact that Fulks is part of the local Democratic Party’s inner circle. I have never been involved in internal party politics. My successor, former state Assemblywoman Andrea Seastrand, obviously, has.
To the extent that the Tribune always wanted Fulks and I to focus on local politics first, state politics second and national politics a distant third, the fact that I’m no Trump fan (despite the charges of rabid liberals that regularly populated the online comments below my columns) would seem to be largely superfluous.
Of course, no matter the subject, Fulks seemed to always manage to insert more than a few non sequiturs on national politics.
Again, I do think that Trump supporters—40 percent of San Luis Obispo County voters—deserve to have their views represented in the paper’s opinion pages. I assume that Seastrand meets that requirement.
I’ll go a step further here. I think the paper would benefit from having Trump supporters in its newsroom. Duerr, not unlike many of her fellow newspaper editors, has long claimed that the paper’s story selection and news content are insulated from partisan politics. I’ve long known that’s hogwash.
Fish don’t know they’re wet. The vast majority of journalists don’t know they’re liberal. I’d encourage everyone to read Tim Groseclose’s book, “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind.”
If you were to look at the Tribune’s complete columnist lineup—not just Fulks and me, or now, Seastrand—but self-professed Democrat Joe Tarica, and the various community columnists it’s apparent that even with these changes there’s built-in, systemic bias.
We’ll see if my departure sates some of the more hateful, tolerant liberal Democrats who populate the paper’s comments. While I’m not quite dead yet, my departure has already caused some to applaud my last column, while not recognizing themselves in the admonitions against viciousness.
I’ve received a handful of comments and emails from others that have been very nice. I appreciate them.