Thursday, October 11, 2007

Merc tech reporter blasts Oakland mayor

San Jose Mercury News technology reporter Elise Ackerman, a resident of Oakland, has written an letter to Mayor Ron Dellums that urges him to step down over the city's rising crime rate, the East Bay Express reports. She has also purchased the domain name RecallMayorDellums.com but has yet to post anything at that address.

The letter — which she sent to EBX editor Stephen Buel and Chronicle columnists Phil Matier, Andrew Ross and Chip Johnson — calls Dellums a liar and "a disgrace," and complains about the police department being woefully understaffed and lacking basic equipment, according to EBX. The letter says in part:
    "African Americans and Latinos live in fear in Oakland because of your lies. Middle-class residents working two jobs live in fear because of your lies. Nurses, teachers and social workers live in fear because of your lies ... You are not effective, you are not honest, you have no integrity and you should step aside."
Her tirade has raised questions about how far repoters can go in expressing their views about political matters during their off hours. Some newspapers like the New York Times expressly forbid it while others are less restrictive or don't have policies at all. EBX points out that Ackerman doesn't cover Oakland city government, but her stories sometimes appear in the Oakland Tribune, which is owned by MediaNews Group like the Merc. Merc editors wouldn't comment to EBX about Ackerman.

1 comment:

Doug Hayward said...

After a careful reading of this summary of the matter of "how far reporters can go in expressing their views about political matters during their off hours," I have to say that I feel let down...and irritated. Frankly, I expected better from no less than a press club writer about a colleague's ardent concerns about crime in her own city. And hers wasn't a "tirade," but rather an impassioned call to arms by a citizen. Reporters should not be told to be quiet when, on their own time and in their own place, they publicly express either disgust, dismay or delight at soemthing in their community just because they're journalists. Try that on a printing press operator or a teamster driver and see what you get. It's like telling Mike Wallace not to grouse to his neighbors about New York City parking. Suppose Ms. Ackerman had written a book--would it be banned or burned by the management of the Mercury News? What if a licensed medical doctor were to phone a radio talk show and complains about poor sanitation at the county jail--should he or she have their license yanked? It is divisive "blame the patient" rhetoric to say, as the East Bay Express column did, that Ms. Ackerman "is really at odds with her neighbors" because they wouldn't go along with former Mayor Jerry Brown's bond-issue scheme to beef up the Oakland police department.