Friday, September 22, 2006


[Following is a partial transcript of Media Talkback, a roundtable discussion on local media issues which aired Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006 on KHUM FM 104.3/104.7.

Present in the studio were: KHUM host Mike Dronkers (MD); KIEM station manager Bob Browning (BB); Outgoing Times-Standard Managing Editor Charles Winkler (CW); Incoming Times-Standard Managing Editor Rich Somerville (RS); Eureka Reporter editor Diane Batley (DB); from KMUD, Paul (last name unknown), (P); local blogger Dave Berman; and Bicoastal Media Program Director Tom Sebourn.

The transcript picks up where Captain Buhne is introduced to the show, during the final approx. 12 minutes.]

MD: Alright it's 6:51, we've got just a little bit of time left, again, we are doing Media Talkback which is a first for us and I want to thank our panel again for showing up here and I should add that almost everyone here is off the clock; there are people that are going to go back to work but they're here of their own volition and I think we'd all agree that it's a good thing to talk media issues in this town and nobody's talking media issues, I think, more adeptly than this guy Captain Buhne who's running the blog Buhne Tribune, it's at -- I will not say "booner" by the way, so do not correct me; I think it's "boone". But he, for some reason, knew that Charles Winkler might be hitting the road pretty soon; he knew it before anybody. I have no idea how he did this -- Charles, you don't know either --

CW: Don't know.

MD: There, I would suggest, is a leak in your newsroom somewhere.

ALL: (Laughter.)

MD: And uh, what we're gonna' do is, uh, I think we've got him on the phone... Captain Buhne, are you with us?

CB: Yeah, hi, can everyone hear me?

ALL: Hoo!

MD: Everyone hear? Alright. So, you've got this silly voice you're protecting your anonymity for obvious reasons. What do you have to add to this? We've got this room full of media, you write about them all the time. What's your take?

CB: Well, what do I have to add to what?

MD: Well, in in, in terms of... well, okay, we'll start you off with a question. We got an email from -- yeah, Annabelle in Bayside. She says she wants to know what you have against the Times-Standard.

CB: Okay, first of all, thank you Annabelle! Okay, just a few days ago we had a tragic suicide of a minor in Ferndale where you are all now sitting, uh, the Times-Standard splashed it above-the-fold, in tabloid fashion... uh, the Eureka Reporter -- and properly in my opinion -- they avoided it. And, I mean, I think it's a subject you shouldn't touch. I mean, isn't it Journalism 101 that you don't touch suicides -- unless it's, you know, someone like Kurt Cobain or someone famous, you don't report on it. Um... so, you know, that kind of explains it in a nutshell. And I would actually like to hear from Mr. Winkler about why he felt that was newsworthy.

CW: A couple things. First: Uh, Mike, you said that the Captain wishes to be anonymous, and for obvious reasons. I don't understand those obvious reasons, they're not obvious to me... before I get to the answer...

MD: Well I would say because I -- from what I've heard about this person, uh, has something to lose, and works in a position of authority with the County, or, uh, for perhaps one of you. And so that would severely limit this person's ability to do what they do... I don't even know if this is a male or a female on the phone.

CW: So we all have something to lose, uh, and we all put things on the line. I think the difference between the professional media and people who lob from the shaddows, uh, is personal accountability, which leads to integrity --

BB: Here here.

CW: -- that would be my take on that. But in answer to your --

CB: (interrupting, inaudible)

CW: -- hold on, in answer to your question, and then you can respond to that, uh, what we do is we report news in the community -- news that happens in public, that affects the public and, uh, sometimes that news is regrettably tragic. This event happened in public, on public roads, and there were public witnesses -- and we treated it as we would any kind of traffic fatality, and it was apparently more involved than that... and we feel that, in shining a light on the good and bad in the community, we can, uh, we can help, perhaps, strive for some answers and some movement forward. For example, I don't think suicide and mental depression is something to hide in the shaddows and avoid, I think it's something that we need to come to grips with in this community, and we can't do it if we don't know about it... and we can't know about it if we don't report about it.

MD: And if I can add to that, uh, again, Captain Buhne on the phone with us right now... Um, there is this question of accountability, and you are calling us anonymously, and I wanted to disprove something right now. Also joining us on the line, I think we have Kevin Hoover -- Kevin, are you with us?

KH: I'm right here, Mike.

MD: Uh, Kevin, Captain, Captain, Kevin. Are you guys the same people, yes or no?

KH: I'm not the Captain! That's my sole --

CB: Hi Kevin!

KH: -- exclusive reason for being here, I just wanted to let everybody know, I am not the Captain.

MD: Alright...

CB: No, he's not.

ALL: (Mild laughter.)

MD: No, he's not. Alright. Uh, Kevin? Do you know who the Captain is?

KH: I might.

MD: You might?! Come on -- who is it?

KH: We never disclose our sources -- we don't even know if we know our sources...

MD: Alright, alright... well, thank you for the call, we do appreciate it --

KH: Hey, Charles, you did a great job, man, you really brought that paper up --

CW: -- I appreciate it --

KH: -- best of luck.

CW: You, too.

MD: Kevin Hoover, from his home in Arcata. Uh, back to you, Captain.

CB: Well, I would just like to hear, uh, Ms. Batley's rebuttal to Charles's explanation for why a suicide, of an otherwise private person is newsworthy, and why is it an above-the-fold splash on the front page? Ms. Batley?

DB: Well, we definitely did feel differently about the... about the issue, we felt, first of all, the person was a minor, and they had -- I don't even know, myself, if they technically did commit suicide, but that was something -- it was late at night when this did happen, and we didn't want to rush in to a judgment call of a minor, about a suicide -- allegedly -- and put it in the paper... so, it was our call that night to hold it, because of the, you know, possible, um, implications for the next day, which, in hindsight, we are really glad that we did.

MD: Did anybody else choose to cover it...? Anyone? Anyone? KGOE, Chann --

BB: We don't, we, uh, as a practical matter do not cover suicides, but I respect what Charles is saying, and I don't, uh, disagree -- it would not be my policy, but I fully understand his viewpoint and, uh, you know, while I'm sure it caused some pain, it may well do some good, and if that's the case then, uh, you know, you have to balance that in the final analysis.

MD: Uh, Captain Buhne, I had a question for you. Um, what is your opinion of what you refer to as 'the A-Team', the Eureka Reporter?

CB: Um, well, 'the A-Team' is, of course, refers to the Arkley family, and the Eureka Reporter is something totally separate, um, despite the fact that Security National owns the paper... uh, so, are you asking my opinion on the Arkleys, or on the newspaper?

MD: On the newspaper.

CB: Well, um, they've been a daily for just over, what, nine months now, and they're doing a bang-up job -- I mean, they've already exceeded the Times-Standard's circulation numbers, from what I understand and, um... gosh, you know, I -- I think they're a real threat to, to even the very existence of the Times-Standard -- that's, I think that's what kind of a job they're doing.

DB: Thank you (mild laughter), we appreciate that.

P: With a question for Captain Buhne, are you suggesting that Security National and the Arkleys have nothing in common?

CB: Uh, no, absolutely not. I just stated that Security National owns the Eureka Reporter, but --

P: -- and who owns Security National? --

CB: -- if I can tattle on some of my sources without naming them, um, I've heard from a few people that work, uh, at the Eureka Reporter and they all tell me, in all frankness, that Rob Arkley exerts absolutely no editorial influence over that paper, and I have no reason not to believe them.

DB: And that is absolutely true and I can tell you that personally, for myself and my own integrity, I wouldn't work somewhere, for a person that was telling me what to put in the paper. You know, he's not a news person, he's our owner, it's a financial situation that way, and all of us that work there, you know, we have to deal with that criticism day in and day out.

MD: Uh, Paul from KMUD.

P: Robert (inaudible) has an interesting book he recently just put out. One of the things he notes is that as partisan and locally owned papers cannot -- went out of business at the turn of the century, and corporate media became the dominant form of media, that in order for the rich owners not to be, um, to drag down the sales of their paper and to distinguish themselves, they developed the whole thing of objective journalism and I think that the Arkley experiment is precisely in that stage of -- of course, you can have some objective journalism when, in fact, you're hiding behind the scenes, waiting to destroy your opponent, and then you'll see what kind of objective journalism you'll get after that. Now you see what happened to corporate media, it's not objective, it's totally the Goebells machine.

MD: Um... there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle -- we all read that, I'm sure, about the newspaper war and we do have both parties in the newspaper war here -- it's been my contention, I think there have been a couple of good things, in terms of local media, uh, I think the -- well, three, minimum. First of all, local blogs. Folks like, uh, Captain Buhne, Dave Berman keep everyone on their toes. But in all honesty, I think the best thing to happen to the Times-Standard in a while is the Eureka Reporter. When they came around, how did you -- what did you -- let me ask Rich (Somerville), you're going to be the new Managing Editor of the Times-Standard. Most metro areas have one daily. We have two. We're a tiny town, competition is tight. What's your strategy?

RS: Well my strategy is, essentially, to be the best paper that we can be, I mean, one of the attractions to being an editor in Humboldt County is a great number of -- as you pointed out -- news outlets, weeklies, blogs, radio, you know, uh -- (interrupted by fire siren) -- (shouting over the siren) it happens every time I talk! --

ALL: (Laughter, chatter.)

MD: Sorry about that... it in no way reflects anything in reality.

RS: -- and I think it's a great credit that this community has, still, a TV station up here. So, uh, that means it's a lively community that has a lot of ideas, that cares about its community, so it's a great place to put out a newspaper, and I, personally, uh, welcome as many voices as possible and, uh, and yes: I've worked in several towns where we have had competing newspapers and, uh, it's always been healthy.

MD: Um, we're just about out of time, um, if anybody has anything to add, Captain Buhne, you have anything to add?

CB: Uh, I think I've said enough.

MD: Hey, we do appreciate you being on the program, and I personally appreciate reading the blog, and I still don't know how you get the scoops. Can I ask you one thing?

CB: Sure.

MD: Do you -- do the people that you speak with about this stuff know who you are?

CB: Um... in only a couple of cases. Um... you know, obviously I've disclosed my identity to my family and to those, you know, that I'm very close with and, um... it's amazing what, you know, just normal people who aren't connected to anyone pick up on. But as far as, I mean, you know, do I have -- (laughter) -- do I have moles inside of every newspaper or something, the answer is absolutely not.

MD: Huh. Gotcha. And have I ever told you anything -- have you -- have we met at any point?

CB: Let's see, is this Mike Dronkers speaking?

MD: Yes it is.

CB: Not that I know of.

MD: Perhaps we shall.

CB: Okay.

MD: Thank you so much Captain Buhne.

CB: Thank you, bye bye.