Labor vs. Media in San Diego

Interesting piece from San Diego CityBeat‘s Dave Maass on an emerging battle between local TV station KUSI and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. According to Maass, lawyers for the Labor Council just sent a threatening letter to KUSI, citing a breach in various local and federal political disclosure regulations regarding a lengthy “investigation” into an ongoing pension-reform ballot initiative. KUSI was less-than-balanced in their approach in favor of the initiative. But, Maass insists, no such law exist to threaten the station with. He tracked down the relevant municipal code.

“An expenditure does not include a payment for member communications, nor does it include costs incurred for communications advocating the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate or the qualification, passage, or defeat of a measure by a federally regulated broadcast outlet”

Writes Maass:

It’s perfectly valid to question the relationship between the ballot campaign and KUSI. [Labor Council political director Evan] McLaughlin brought up several valid points regarding the quality of KUSI’s journalism. However, there’s nothing illegal about doing crappy, biased reporting.

I think it’s utter bullshit for anyone to cite a made-up law to pressure a news organization to alter its content. I’m not a fan of KUSI’s style of journalism or its political positions, but they’re still the press. If the Republican Party sent CityBeat a letter threatening legal action because we were about to endorse a candidate or a measure they opposed, I’d know exactly what to call it.

Media intimidation.

If any kind of legal proceedings went forward stemming from this letter, just imagine what could potentially happen the next time the New York Times or some other supposedly liberal news outlet published something the right-wing doesn’t like. Political fairness lawsuits for every investigative report that made Rick Perry or the Koch brothers look bad.

Labor should be very nervous about the ballot initiative in the works. But they’re going to have to do a lot better to stay ahead in this fight.

Publish date: September 19, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT