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City Auditor Eduardo Luna today (Aug. 21) confirmed what the nation's ranking expert on convention centers, Prof. Heywood Sanders, told the Reader in December: the San Diego Convention Center has been publishing phony figures. In my column published December 14, called "The Convention Center Liars," Sanders, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and author of a seminal paper on egregious convention center overexpansion published by the Brookings Institution, pointed out that the San Diego center "has been systematically overstating hotel room nights, and therefore overstating hotel tax receipts, attendee spending, and the centers impact on the overall San Diego economy," as the column stated, attributing the statistical work and conclusions to Sanders.

Two days after the Reader column, Dec. 16, civic activist Mel Shapiro complained to the auditor's Fraud Outline about those abuses. Since then, "I have been in touch with [Luna]," says Shapiro. Luna had found Sanders's calculations true, but was giving the convention center a chance to see the report and comment.

The auditor's report states, "we found that the allegation that the [San Diego Convention Center] has misstated the actual hotel-room night totals to be substantiated. Specifically, we found that the Transient Occupancy Tax [hotel tax] and Total Tax Revenue statistics were based on attendance and spending per attendance averages (emphasis mine), as opposed to actual hotel room-night figures...a high percentage of the attendance and hotel-room night statistics were based on verbal conversations and/or historical client records with no documentary evidence supporting the published figure." When actual records for ten events were examined, attendance was actually slight understated, but hotel-room night figures were OVERSTATED by about 29%.

The center misstated hotel room-night figures in its annual reports and to a consulting firm, AECOM, whose statistics were instrumental in the hotel industry pushing for the convention center expansion, although the report does not mention AECOM's role in downtown boosters' proselytization for the expansion. The auditor recommends that "any post-event attendance or hotel room-night figure that does not have a source document from the client...be marked as an estimated figure." It also recommends that center forecasts and annual reports "that describe the calculations for direct attendee spending, hotel tax and total tax revenues and economic impact" should disclose assumptions and formulas.

Recently, Shapiro told me that Luna had sent his findings to the convention center for review. In his report today, the Convention Center basically agreed to make changes recommended by Luna.

Incidentally, Sanders talked to convention center backers when the expansion was being considered. He gave the shocking statistics about how in the last many years convention center space has billowed while convention center attendance has dropped sharply. Therefore, convention centers are slicing prices and manifesting financial strains. The public relations director of the convention center called Sanders, a Harvard PhD in government, "a whack job."

Enough said about convention center truthfulness. The bigger, unanswered question is how much the center's phony statistics, cited by AECOM, persuaded the downtown overlords to go ahead with the expansion, absorbing money that could be used in neighborhoods. AECOM is in the business of counseling cities to build or expand convention centers, despite the overwhelming evidence of a glut.

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Comments

laplayaheritage Aug. 21, 2012 @ 10:57 p.m.

http://www.sandiego.gov/auditor/reports/fy13_pdf/hotline/13-004_hotline.pdf

Thank you Mel for challenging CCDC, the City of San Diego, and the San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC).

www.tinyurl.com/20120619

www.tinyurl.com/20120606a

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Don Bauder Aug. 22, 2012 @ 10:17 a.m.

Mel deserves praise. As soon as my column ran, he sent it to Luna via the Hotline. Then he dealt with Luna while the investigation was going on. The biggest praise, though, goes to Heywood Sanders. He regularly goes through published figures from convention centers all over the world. When he saw the obvious falsity of San Diego Convention Center stats, he gave me a call. I put everything aside, and the column was the result. There is no evidence of which I am aware that the San Diego establishment, particularly the tourism industry, took the SDCC's phony numbers into account when making the decision on the harebrained expansion plan. Best, Don Bauder

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Dennis Aug. 22, 2012 @ 10:47 a.m.

I suppose another question should be what figures were used to calculate the amount of the TOT that was remitted to the City by the hotels. If the hotel room nite numbers were inflated from actuals then the city should have been aware, assuming they asked for documentation of the figures.

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Visduh Aug. 22, 2012 @ 11:03 a.m.

You can be sure that the hotels used their actual receipts in calculating the tax. You think they'd over pay the tax to support somebody's agenda? Nevahappen!

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Don Bauder Aug. 22, 2012 @ 11:39 a.m.

I would think TOT calculations for tax purposes are based on actual numbers of each hotel. The bloated hotel room night numbers that the convention center disingenuously creates are published in the center's annual report, the figures it gave AECOM, etc. Those false numbers were for convention center promotion. The worst part of this is that these phony numbers were given to AECOM, which then told the establishment that the convention center should be expanded. Of course, AECOM was going to say that anyway. AECOM was hired to be used as a propaganda vehicle. In these instances, consultants are not hired to provide information. They are hired to provide false arguments for something the establishment has already decided to push. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 22, 2012 @ 11:42 a.m.

Of course the City was aware that the center's room night figures were bloated. But the mayor's office was not going to say anything, because it favored the expansion. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Aug. 22, 2012 @ 11:06 a.m.

Another question now arises. Will the Mill run a front page expose on this tomorrow or Friday? Will it even show up in one of their Watchdog columns? This whole thing puts a pall over Dougie's desires for more and bigger and "better" entertainment and tourist attractions downtown. Horrors! If this really gets out, kiss the convention center expansion goodbye.

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Don Bauder Aug. 22, 2012 @ 11:46 a.m.

Here's what I think will happen: the U-T will ignore the topic altogether because the revelations cast doubt on Manchester's plans for downtown. However, if the U-T does do something, it will falsely take credit for originating the story. That happens regularly. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Aug. 23, 2012 @ 8:42 a.m.

As part of an answer to my question, the Mill today (Thurs, 8/23) has no mention of this. Let's see if it shows up tomorrow or Saturday. It is often slow to run stories seen in the Reader first.

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Don Bauder Aug. 25, 2012 @ 9:49 a.m.

It's not only slow It also gives no credit to stories originated by the Reader. My guess is U-T will not run it. Ditto other mainstream media. Best, Don Bauder

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Dennis Aug. 22, 2012 @ 11:30 a.m.

Visduh, I agree that the hotels would never overpay the tax, my point is that the city, including the Mayor, had to have known the numbers being used to support the convention center expansion were false while supporting the expansion.

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Don Bauder Aug. 22, 2012 @ 11:53 a.m.

And you are right, Dennis. The City had to know that the convention center's numbers were phony as a three-dollar bill. But the City would never do anything about that, because, after all, Mayor Sanders and his minions were promoting the project. I have covered San Diego as a journalist for almost 40 years. It always astonishes me that San Diegans believe what their government and the downtown boosters tell them. One reason is that the major media such as the U-T are in on the scams fleecing taxpayers, and knowingly pass on misinformation. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 23, 2012 @ 7:10 a.m.

The City administration knew, and was also comforted by knowledge that the major media would probably not discover the blatant dishonesty, and if they discovered it, would not publish anything about it. After my column came out in December, the convention center stayed quiet. (It had not responded to me when I confronted it with the facts before the column ran.) There is no evidence of which I am aware that when the hotels and motels voted on the taxes that would support the convention center expansion, the phony center statistics were ever taken into account or even discussed. That's San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Aug. 24, 2012 @ 8:27 p.m.

Today's Mill, Friday, August 24, has no mention of the chicanery either. Wanna bet the rag never reports on it?

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Don Bauder Aug. 25, 2012 @ 9:56 a.m.

That's a good bet, Visduh. Heywood Sanders's discovery of phony convention center numbers, validated by the City auditor, means that the very basis of the statistical case for a new convention center is false. And the downtown overlords have known for a long time that the convention center figures are fraudulent. It's just another truth hidden from taxpayers. That's how San Diego operates. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 25, 2012 @ 3:55 a.m.

Also nothing from Voice of San Diego, or City Beat, or any of the radio or TV news outlets...

Typical of San Diego. Most of the journalists are too frightened about losing their jobs (and never finding another) to report what's really going on, or too lazy do some genuine research. So they report ConVis press releases as fact, and ignore the real numbers.

BTW: The biggest charlatan boosting the convention center's phoney numbers has a name...Bob Nelson.

Bob Nelson should be shamed away from any further public positions of trust for his repeated lies on this issue. He was the one who called the honest man a "whack job".

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Don Bauder Aug. 25, 2012 @ 10:02 a.m.

One TV station ran the story of the auditor's finding. It didn't mention Heywood Sanders, but at least it had the auditor's part of the story right. I will look to see what station it was and post it. Also, the convention center employee who called Heywood Sanders a whack job was a flack; I believe his name is something like Steve Johnson. It was not Bob Nelson. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 25, 2012 @ noon

NOTE: It was Steve Johnson, flack for the convention center, who called Heywood Sanders, Harvard PhD who wrote the seminal piece on convention centers for the Brookings Institution, "a whack job." The local TV station that ran an item on the City auditor's report on false convention center statistics was NBC7. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 26, 2012 @ 11:33 p.m.

Bob Nelson and I had a dispute in the comments section at VOSD where he made false remarks about the numbers and said similar things about Prof. Sanders.

Those comments, sadly, are gone it seems. That's a pity because they should be presented to him by the city auditor.

For those of you who don't know who these players are, check out Bob "Say anything for pay" Nelson, proud member of the downtown crowd that has been ripping off San Diego for decades.

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Fred Williams Aug. 26, 2012 @ 11:35 p.m.

Note: Bob Nelson said similar things, and as a longtime PR professional who has always flacked for the worst of San Diego it was surely deliberate, but it was Steve Johnson, the official flack, who said those words on the record.

I regret the error.

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:22 p.m.

I cannot edit this comment to change the name. Bob Nelson is still deplorable, and wrote substantially similar things in comments at VOSD when the story was reported. Those comments, I hope, are in an archive and can be retrieved as evidence...otherwise I am reporting based on my memory as an active participant in the discussion.

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Visduh Aug. 25, 2012 @ 8:24 p.m.

Here we are on Saturday and the Mill has ignored this story for three days. I'd venture a guess that it never reports the story, or if it does, spins it to a point of not being recognizable.

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Don Bauder Aug. 25, 2012 @ 10:08 p.m.

I think you are right -- no coverage, obfuscated coverage, or twisted coverage. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:02 a.m.

Because they are all in thrall to the same people who profit from keeping the public ignorant on these issues.

Jacobs owns PBS and VOSD Papa Doug owns the UT

TV and Radio reports little that they haven't read about first. So there's the key to controlling the news in San Diego.

The city embargoes the Reader (and sometimes City Beat), denying them information and interviews while spoon feeding it to VOSD, PBS, or the UT.

Journalists are scared. Their jobs are disappearing, and they know that their best hope is to leave journalism and join a big company or the government as a mouthpiece.

Examples include former political reporter Braun at the UT, who has been working as a highly paid "assistant" to the mayor...but nobody knows what his job actually is. Many speculate it's pure pay off, and Mayor Sanders had no choice but give Braun a sinecure or Braun would have revealed some nasty secrets from Sander's past.

See in the view of San Diego's low paid news workers, actually reporting on corruption destroys your leverage for future job negotiations, while keeping mum and extorting money has a great future. Besides, they'll lose their current crummy position if they buck the powers that be...

So we get this situation. A bomb shell story, impacting the finances and prospects of the whole city...ignored.

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 7:59 a.m.

You make some excellent points, Fred. Yes, the City of San Diego will not speak to the Reader, and has publicly stated its position. (The exception is documents that must be provided under the law.) Incidentally, SDGE/Sempra has the same ignoramus policy. I agree that Braun's capitulation to an administration that he knows is in the pocket of the downtown establishment is reprehensible. He was a very good reporter/columnist while at the U-T. He does need the money now, however. It is true that more than in the past, journalists -- particularly those in San Diego -- are frightened and willing to lick the boots of the establishment...and cower when newspaper owners use their publication as a propaganda vehicle. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 28, 2012 @ 12:43 a.m.

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't Braun being PAID CASH SALARY of around $140K per year-plus fringes????? That is ludicrous.

And people wonder why gov at every level is broke, Braun is Exhibit #1

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dotinga Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:36 a.m.

Fact Check:

Claim: "Journalists are scared. Their jobs are disappearing, and they know that their best hope is to leave journalism and join a big company or the government as a mouthpiece."

Verdict: Misleading. This is hardly the case for all or perhaps even most journalists in San Diego. Many of us remain dedicated to our jobs, despite the pay, and don't wish to ever go to the Dark Side and work in public relations.


Claim: "See in the view of San Diego's low paid news workers, actually reporting on corruption destroys your leverage for future job negotiations, while keeping mum and extorting money has a great future. Besides, they'll lose their current crummy position if they buck the powers that be..."

Verdict: Unsupported. You have not provided any evidence of this. It's certainly not the case with any journalists I know, who would drool at the opportunity to expose corruption (and in many cases have done just that).

I can't speak for the U-T. Most journalists there, however, aren't low-paid, so I assume you aren't referring to them.


Claim: "... spoon feeding it to VOSD, PBS, or the UT."

Verdict: False. Have you paid attention to how many times VOSD has had to fight with the city to get information that should be public? Again and again and again.


As for the idea that VOSD is somehow in thrall to the convention center expansion: You really need to read VOSD or at least examine its archives and view the very skeptical coverage from the last several years. You'll find multiple mentions of Heywood Sanders and his views, multiple stories examining the new taxes to fund the convention, multiple stories questioning numbers, and multiple links to skeptical coverage outside VOSD.


I speak only for myself. I'm a freelance contributor to VOSD. At the same time, I remain an independent journalist who often challenges the way it does things. A kiss-up I am not.

Whatever it does, VOSD deserves accurate coverage. It's absolutely wrong to accuse VOSD of partisan hackery in its coverage of the convention center expansion issue.

-Randy Dotinga

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 8:19 a.m.

I would agree that Voice of San Diego has a better record than the Union-Tribune in the honest-pursuit-of-news department. What Manchester and Lynch are unabashedly doing is a disgrace to the profession. I can't say the same about Voice at all. Possibly Fred has a different view than mine. I admit, however, that I do not read Voice carefully enough to gainsay your statement that it has had "very skeptical coverage" of the convention center and current proposed expansion. I disagree with you about local journalists' desire to shake up the establishment. I see little of that in mainstream media. Of course, San Diego media have always lagged other metro areas in challenging the power structure, but I believe that weakness is considerably worse now. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 11:27 a.m.

Thanks for replying Randy. I do appreciate it and respect you for doing so.

  1. Examine the employment numbers and wages for journalists. I'm misleading no one.

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/reporters-correspondents-and-broadcast-news-analysts.htm

http://www.careercast.com/content/10-worst-jobs-2012-5-newspaper-reporter

Who am I misleading when I say your jobs are disappearing. Reading the job woes of reporters in the last decade, and seeing the axe swing at the UT recently, a journalist in San Diego would have to be foolish to believe they've got bright employment prospects. You are a freelancer, so you know just how little security you've got.

What evidence do you cite that journalists would not like to exchange that for a livelihood with less stress and better pay? Cocktail party chatter?

So perhaps you'd like to tell us a bit about your colleagues who have gone to the Dark Side, as you put it. Braun deserves an article recounting his lustrous career and detailing all the work he's done as a mayoral aid. Then tell the story of VOSD alum, current union spokesmouth, Evan McLaughlin. He made that transition rather comfortably.

We'd all like to read about what these two have been up to.

(continued)

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 11:50 a.m.

In San Diego,, it's hard to see how average journalist pay has not gone down. Under Copley management, Platinum Equity and now Manchester/Lynch, the U-T has been getting rid of higher-priced talent and hiring younger people who can barely afford to survive in San Diego's very high cost of living. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 11:35 a.m.

(continued)

Number 2. I don't know if you realize it, Randy, but calling something unsupported, while simultaneously not offering any evidence in support of your position...it's kinda funny.

In the first place, common sense says that since those stories haven't been reported, my not being able to cite the non-existence article is tautological. So I didn't bother.

In the second place, common sense says that over the last two decades it would take a peculiar sort of mental disability to be blind to what was happening in San Diego. A lot of us have been doing our best to bring it to the attention of reporters, and see nothing happen. Then, a few years too late, the same reporters who refused the story when it was relevant "discovers" the scandal.

You want examples? Don and I could provide you a long list. Just look how often Don was blowing the whistle, yet none were willing to hear and repeat the warnings. Instead they reported the propaganda. The ballpark is a particularly egregious example. When it was too late, those same reporters finally got around to mentioning that it was the general fund paying the bills, and the bonds were misstating the city's financial position, which brought in the SEC...and then finally we got your attention. Far too late.

What about the ongoing mess with the "system upgrade" downtown? I've sent analysis of the requirements specification and statement of work to reporters...crickets. Then later there's a little report on how the project continues to fail and cost a lot of money.

So many examples to support this, Randy, I bet you want to rethink your verdict. Even if it is funny.

(continued)

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:16 p.m.

There were so many media scams during the ballpark debates. The Union-Tribune stopped reporting sewer line eruptions and other serious evidence of infrastructure neglect for several months before the ballpark election of November, 1998. The grand jury came out with a report citing all the risks of the ballpark prior to the vote. However, a crooked San Diego lawyer, along with the city attorney, held up release of the report until the day before the election. Then a reporter wrote a comprehensive story on the grand jury's finding. It was chopped up and buried by Karin Winner, who was probably taking orders from Herb Klein, so citizens did not get much of the message prior to the vote.

I can relate a tale from my own experience. In the debate over the Qualcomm (then Jack Murphy) stadium scam, there was a civic meeting. I was on a panel with those opposed. The back of my head was visible in a U-T story, sitting next to Bruce Henderson. Herb Klein, who was trying to get me fired, took the photo to Helen Copley and reported that she almost lost her breakfast. Klein huddled with Winner for well over an hour. A letter was sent to me. I went to Winner's office. The letter said it was a gross conflict of interest for me to express my opinion on a civic matter. I said I had been doing it for years, as had other columnists -- indeed, that's what columnists are supposed to do. I also pointed out that the U-T had just written a story lauding the late Jack Murphy for twisting the arm of the Chargers owner to bring the team to San Diego, and for proselytizing for a new stadium. I asked: if it was unethical for me to express an opinion on a civic topic, why was Jack Murphy such a hero for doing the same thing. Winner replied, "He was advocating something that the paper favored." Such an interpretation of ethics! I could barely stifle a laugh. Then I asked her if it was unethical for me to express an opinion against this deal, why was it ethical for Herb Klein to be one of the top people on the civic committee planning the deal? Winner's reply: "He is a special emissary of Mrs. Copley." Said I, "Oh? His title is Editor of Copley Newspapers." No reply. I was suspended without pay for a week. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 11:49 a.m.

(continued)

Number 3. Claim: "... spoon feeding it to VOSD, PBS, or the UT."

Verdict: False. Have you paid attention to how many times VOSD has had to fight with the city to get information that should be public? Again and again and again.

Hello, Randy. It's Fred you're corresponding with here. Yes, I'm aware.

I'm the guy who wrote that Will Carless should be nominated for a Pullitzer for his work at VOSD. I know you CAN fight when you want to. Even when you're the darling of the in-crowd, you get shut out. I feel for you.

But do you realistically think you are on a level playing field? Compared to the Reader or CityBeat? You don't recognized your privileged position of access?

Seriously? Who are you kidding?

All of that said, yes, I will say that your coverage has been slanted to the status quo, is rather obsequious to officials, and I'm not the first nor last to point out how the coverage of Balboa Park is very generous to Irwin Jacobs, who has been so generous to you.

Still, I really do like and admire VOSD. Compared to the competition, you do quite well. But look at the competition. It's winning a 100 yard sprint against a toddler.

What disappoints me is the difference between what you hold yourselves to be, and how you actually decide what's news. The fact that you've got some shady supporters, including big sports boosters and the usual roster of downtown movers and shakers, in addition to Jacobs (who got a very sweet deal on the naming rights for the stadium, and is no political neophyte...to call him a philanthropist ignores his record, which I'll be happy to show you if you're interested in biting the hand that feeds you).

So Randy, thank you for reading and replying. I think you can do a better job at VOSD, and I hope you will.

I also think deigning to assign yourself the duties of fact checker, and then failing so miserably at it, should give you pause and prevent you from such hubris in the future.

(I don't take it personally. I find this enjoyable -- and important. Journalists have the thinnest skins, and need to be receptive to hearing that their work doesn't measure up to standard. Again, I thank you for replying to me.)

Best,

Fred

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:21 p.m.

Has anyone in the media noticed that Bob Filner has switched positions on Jacobs's Balboa Park plan? The Voice has been savaging Filner editorially. Will it continue to do so? Let's wait and see. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:33 p.m.

Notice how VOSD changed its headline reporting the news after objections from the readers?

I don't think this is accidental. Look at VOSD's board of directors, Don...you know some of them, I'm sure. Would they keep their spoons out of the pot?

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/support_us/about_us/

Also be sure to check the $5000+ donors. Other than Danah Fayman (who I respect a great deal from personal experience), I would question whether they are really disinterested in the content of VOSD and happy to support it if it goes against their own interests.

Judging just from the board and the top donors, would you characterize VOSD as "independent outsiders"?

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 28, 2012 @ 12:55 a.m.

The fact that you've got some shady supporters, including big sports boosters and the usual roster of downtown movers and shakers, in addition to Jacobs (who got a very sweet deal on the naming rights for the stadium,..."

OK we have been down this road before-the stadium deal was actually ABOVE market at the time the deal was inked. It was $18 million in 96(??), and the money was ALL upfront. Most deals at that time were in the same $1 million per year range-but paid over time, whereas the city needed the $18 million to finish the upgrades. Qualcomm did the city a favor by stepping up and doing the deal in all UPFRONT CASH. I have not seen the same deal before, nor since, on stadium naming rights. So San Diego made out great on that deal, except for the fact that the deal was for 18 or 20 years and naming right fees went through the roof a few years later. I think Petcodeal was $154 million, but don't recall the details, I know it was on installment basis, like they all are.

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:16 p.m.

Example of VOSD pandering to Jacobs:

See the current series of featured articles...notice the theme?

Yes, they seem to repeat, ad nauseum, examples of encroachment on Balboa Park.

I would liken this to a date rapist who says, "You've already let me touch that, so now I can do this."

Featuring past abuses of the park is softening up the readers for the desecration to come, with the asphalt and guardrails bypass road to paid parking, financed by the taxpayers with a possible maybe if he's feeling generous and gets everything his way "contribution" tax deduction from VOSD's patron.

Care to refute this Randy (or anyone from VOSD)?

It could very easily have been presented in a different light. What about the many successes over the years in preserving the park? How about highlighting the hundreds of volunteers who give far more of their wealth and time to the park than "philanthropist" Jacobs, yet require no grand legacy from the tax payers in thanks.

The stories at VOSD are factual, but Randy you know as well as I do that how you frame the issue matters, and what issues are selected in the first place is just as important. VOSD has shown that it frames this issue in an easily identifiable way...are you sure it's just a little "co-winky-dink" that it benefits its benefactor.

best,

Fred

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:24 p.m.

Again, I pose the question: the Voice has been attacking Filner mercilessly. Now that Filner is backing Jacobs's plan, will the Voice change its stance? Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga Aug. 27, 2012 @ 12:47 p.m.

Thanks for the thoughts, Fred, on my miserable, hubristic, amusing and overall failed opinions.

I don't get paid to have a dialogue with you. And I'm not going to deal with that kind of attitude for free. See ya.

-Randy

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 1:07 p.m.

You called what you wrote a "fact check". Now you claim it was just your opinion...

Verdict: Misleading

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 3:14 p.m.

You're always welcome should you decide to come back, Randy. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 1:03 p.m.

I guarantee I consistently get paid more than you for writing, Randy, and I'm happy to serve the San Diego community by expressing what I believe to be the truth about its media landscape.

For free.

I have ample facts on my side, and write pretty fast...so even if it cuts into my income a bit, I don't mind. This doesn't take me all day (and I'm leaving now for other things...but will check back when you've had a chance to cool down).

You "fact checked" me, in what I can only surmise was an attempt at condescension. Maybe that kind of attitude doesn't deserve a thoughtful reply backed up with additional examples from Don Bauder, who has been in this business longer than you've been alive...but we took the time anyway.

Thin-skinned, Randy? Don't use your financial situation as an excuse...it only backs up my original point about scared journalists who are desperate for their jobs.

What's your hourly rate? we'll take up a collection to pay you to refute me if you're that hard up for cash.

best,

Fred

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 3:23 p.m.

As I make the following comment, I am not referring to Randy, necessarily, because I don't know him. But I always chuckle when journalists react so hostilely to criticism. We sit on high and cast aspersions on all manner of people, and on society in general, but when somebody criticizes us, we scream. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 27, 2012 @ 9:12 p.m.

I know from working with journalists that they're generally:

Lazy: If you write the story for them, they'll move around a few phrases and print it under their own name. I've done it dozens of times.

Ignorant: While they're glib and quick with words, their background is weak. Especially when it comes to economics or technology, they know very little.

Arrogant: Most journalists believe themselves to be above the rest of us. They call themselves watchdogs or fact checkers, as if they have the right to judge and observe all others from their lofty perch.

Thin Skinned: When shown up, journalists react in a fury. I wouldn't be surprised if Randy isn't googling me with hate in his eyes, hoping to find something nasty he can write about to get back at me for daring to contradict him.

Needy: Journalists give each other awards, crave attention, and desperately need the approval of authority figures...like publishers and politicians. They gauge themselves by these measures -- who they interviewed and who published the story. Such approval seeking adds to the likelihood that they'll cover up rather than report the news.

The most aggravating aspect of modern journalism is the pretense of civility. See how Randy excuses himself from engaging in the discussuion because he doesn't like my attitude? That's an example.

The pretense of civility allows a dishonest person to avoid any uncomfortable topic by just stating "you're rude", and walking away. Neat trick, but totally dishonest. Rudeness is irrelevant to the facts, which exist independently of how they are presented.

Randy apparently is of the generation that proclaims politeness trumps truth. No matter if it was Jesus telling Randy that the money changers have to be thrown out of the temple, Randy would turn on his heel and report the next day that a rude fellow was interrupting commerce.

This bothers me a lot. If your mental filters are set to ignore anything that is not mellifluous, you're going to be a very ignorant person.

If you are allowed to filter out any unpleasantness, how can you claim the mantle of Menckin?

VOSD is obsessed with politeness, as if all of us are schoolchildren. San Diego has suffered for its laid-back "have a nice day" mentality, so you'd think by now those who consider themselves independent watchdogs and fact checkers would have caught onto this ugly trick the downtown crowd uses against them again and again.

The wealthy and connected can hire smooth talking liars, and as long as that talk is smooth the lies are reported as news. (See Fabiani, et al) The honest guy who wants to get the word out about something important, faced with arrogant and ignorant reporters who treat him with contempt, loses his cool and so the story is never reported.

Then the journalists go to another awards dinner where they pat themselves on the back and reassure each other that they're performing a vital public service...

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Don Bauder Aug. 28, 2012 @ 7:07 a.m.

We journalists have lots of faults. We're trained to believe that we're smart. We ain't. We're told that we can report knowledgeably on any topic: finance, science, sports, law enforcement. 'Tain't so. We're told that, being geniuses, we are masters of the English language. Balderdash. Mozarts don't go into journalism. Nor do Shakespeares. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Sept. 2, 2012 @ 10 p.m.

VOSD still refuses to cover this crucially important story.

I'd expect to hear nothing from the UT, but VOSD has covered this story in the past...even gently suggesting that just maybe the projections might not be 100% accurate.

Now that the City Auditor confirms those numbers were fake, nothing from VOSD and the other downtown-crowd media outlets.

Randy sure did get all self-righteous here, but the proof is in the results. No coverage.

Is VOSD beholden to its political masters? Sure looks like it. Otherwise a fraud of this magnitude would be the main story of the week...instead they're writing about coyotes.

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dotinga Sept. 2, 2012 @ 10:36 p.m.

A sampling of VOSD convention center coverage, 2012:

VOSD Fact Check on DeMaio saying convention center expansion funding is private. Verdict: "Huckster Propaganda." http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/fact/article_5c33cb96-8da2-11e1-b7d4-0019bb2963f4.html

Fact Check TV: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/fact/article_f7fce388-92f1-11e1-9e4e-001a4bcf887a.html

"Hoteliers Get Their Wish In Convention Center Deal": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_82b17ae8-7303-11e1-b609-0019bb2963f4.html

"Big Hotels Continue to Throw Their Weight Around." (on secret hotel vote for convention center expansion): http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/article_bfe2000a-dc2f-11e1-969b-001a4bcf887a.html

"City Attorney Wants to Reveal Secrets, But Won't" (secret hotel vote): http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_73001572-7ec1-11e1-8eb9-001a4bcf887a.html

"Secrecy Erodes in Hotel Vote": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_8a1773f8-8584-11e1-8d46-0019bb2963f4.html

"Tax Hike Details Remain Secret": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_863b6910-784b-11e1-8fec-0019bb2963f4.html

Scott Lewis column: "Fletcher: DeMaio Supports a 'Billion-Dollar' Tax Hike! (So Do I)": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/scott-lewis/article_78b59c7c-6a7f-11e1-8637-0019bb2963f4.html

"DeMaio's Convention Center Flubs: Fact Check": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/fact/article_5f9a71f2-5901-11e1-b7d6-0019bb2963f4.html

Opinion: Convention Centers Are Not 'Economic Engines': http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/peoplespost/vkogan/article_63bf0168-47e9-11e1-9632-47e8ccd1f1f0.html

Scott Lewis column on convention center projections: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/scott-lewis/article_0720df8c-3b1c-11e1-93f1-0019bb2963f4.html

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 3:24 p.m.

Vlad Kogan certainly knows the truth about the convention center expansion. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga Sept. 2, 2012 @ 10:49 p.m.

Also:

"Convention Center Contortions and Secrets: VOSD Radio": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/clipboard/article_159817c2-82a4-11e1-b1e4-001a4bcf887a.html?mode=image&photo='

"Hucker Propaganda" Fact Check verdict for VOSD supporter Cushman over "private" funding of convention center expansion: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/fact/article_06a929dc-25e7-11e1-96e3-0019bb2963f4.html

"Convention Expansion Inertia Lurches Forward:" http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_bf835b60-470e-11e1-8379-0019bb2963f4.html "The council was locking in Tuesday the tax hike that forces hotel guests to pay for the expansion; it totals about $36 million a year over 30 years. Another government, the Unified Port of San Diego, already has decided how much it will pay: an average of $2 million a year over that timeframe. That leaves city taxpayers as the only remaining source of money. Their contribution now is pegged at $3.5 million a year, a number supporters justify by pointing to projections showing the expansion will increase the city's bottom line. But unlike the hotel guests and port, no one has capped the taxpayer dollars that would go toward the project. Taxpayers remain at risk."

"Can a Multi-Billion Dollar Company Determine Fate of San Diego's Taxes?" http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_eaac9782-71f4-11e1-b1c5-0019bb2963f4.html

"Those Who Benefit Pay What They Want: Convention Center Expansion": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_3f79e040-208c-11e1-80c8-0019bb2963f4.html

"Paying for the Convention Center Expansion: San Diego Explained": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/sandiego-explained/article_cc84f2fe-278a-11e1-a1bc-001871e3ce6c.html

"Convention Center Expanders Eye City's Day-to-Day Money": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_6b197174-f3b0-11e0-83a7-001cc4c03286.html?mode=image

"Convention Center Vote Shifts Risk to Taxpayers": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_af7298ce-1fb5-11e1-91d9-0019bb2963f4.html

"The Hoteliers' Convention Center Gambit" http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_5ea5f99c-722e-11e1-abd2-001871e3ce6c.html

"Following the Convention Center Money: Fact Check TV": http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/fact/article_f7fce388-92f1-11e1-9e4e-001a4bcf887a.html

"Uncle! Uncle! Hotels, You Win!" http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/scott-lewis/article_ff0b4e40-beed-11e0-a55a-001cc4c002e0.html

"Three Convention Center Leaders Want Out" http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_07bbd5ae-829e-11e1-be3c-001a4bcf887a.html

"How Jan Goldsmith Picked Hotels Over the Public" http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/government/thehall/article_20d91278-7ab9-11e1-bab5-0019bb2963f4.html

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 3:29 p.m.

I must admire you for spending all that time going through your archives, particularly when you earlier dropped out of this colloquy. I was hoping would come back and you did. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Sept. 3, 2012 @ 7:16 a.m.

Yes, Randy...in the past VOSD reported on the convention center. As I wrote previously, it's doing a better job than the UT.

So why is it ignoring this issue now? You've got the City Auditor saying that the projections upon which the financing are based are simply wrong. This is an important addition to the story...and after all the work Scott and others have done trying to explain this issue, I find it very disappointing that VOSD is now choosing not to cover it.

This should be a big headline, with pointed questions asked of the Mayor. There could be a follow up interview with Heywood Sanders and the insiders who not only disputed his (correct) numbers, but personally insulted him for daring to speak up.

So please write something about the Auditor's report instead of trying to show off your skills with copy/paste...this is an important isssue. San Diego is poised to be ripped off (again) and here is the evidence. Where's the reporting?

best,

Fred

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 3:32 p.m.

We will watch to see what happens. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga Sept. 3, 2012 @ 3:59 p.m.

Again, VOSD has a reporter who covers the convention center expansion and a CEO who's written about it extensively. Anyone with concerns about coverage should contact either one of them, or both, and actually ask questions instead of going to Defcon 1 on the conspiracy theory scale.

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dotinga Sept. 3, 2012 @ 2:14 p.m.

I'm a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego, and I don't cover the convention center expansion.

You directly contacted the VOSD staff with your questions about coverage before suggesting that they've been bought off, right? What did they say?

-Randy

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 3:41 p.m.

I do remember that quite belatedly the Voice got into the Bridgepoint Education scam. There had been suggestions that Voice had ignored the story because Bridgepoint was one of its donors, and also loved by the establishment. Somebody on the Voice wrote me and said in essence, "See, we can do a negative piece on a donor." I told the staff member that the Voice article was pretty good, but not tough enough. If Voice can show that it is not bending over to please its big donors, that would be a feather in its cap. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga Sept. 3, 2012 @ 3:57 p.m.

I've often disagreed with VOSD's decisions, but I've never seen any evidence that it's a tool of the establishment.

If it is, why would it run the repeated stories (see above) questioning the funding of the convention center expansion and debunking the idea that its privately funded?

Why would it have harangued the city attorney so incessantly over his refusals on providing details regarding the convention center/hotel tax vote?

Why would it repeatedly call out the mayor on his inaccuracies?

Why would it give the Fact Check "Huckster Propaganda" verdict to just about every big-shot member of the local establishment?

Why would it have been so skeptical of the downtown library funding, focusing on how the city budget might get stuck with the bill if Irwin Jacobs & Co. didn't raise enough money and trying to get details of the funding agreement?

As for the Reader's courage: How the Reader shown that it's not bending over backwards to its publisher or its advertisers? Has it run stories challenging the local anti-abortion movement? Plastic surgery? Medical research trials that recruit the public through ads? Has the Reader covered legal action against itself?

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 6:27 p.m.

I don't want you or anybody else to think that Voice is anywhere near as bad as the U-T. I have never said that and I don't believe it. I look at the Voice every day and read some of the articles. I glance at the U-T every day but am not signed up to read articles. I sometimes read them if somebody sends them to me. I believe that if you want to know how the establishment is picking your pockets, and how local politicians are lying to you, you should read the Reader, both in print and online. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga Sept. 3, 2012 @ 7:40 p.m.

Here are some reasons why a reporter might not cover a story:

  1. The reporter and/or editor thinks the story is not newsworthy.

  2. The reporter and/or editor thinks the story has been adequately covered elsewhere. (Voice of SD publishes a daily newsletter that always includes several links to news in other publications, including the Reader. I write the newsletter, the Morning Report, four days a week. My job is to give readers a comprehensive look at local news in terms of the areas we care about like politics/government.)

  3. The reporter/editor/news organization doesn't have the resources to cover the story.

  4. The reporter/editor/news organization feels the story is not appropriate for its purpose/audience.

  5. The reporter and/or editor doesn't think the story is well supported or reliable.

  6. The reporter and/or editor thinks the story has been covered before.

  7. The reporter/editor/news organization is incompetent.

  8. The reporter/editor/news organization lacks integrity and has been influenced by sources/donors/advertisers, etc.

The member of San Diego's Black Helicopter Conspiracy Community always go directly to No. 8 when a journalist doesn't do their bidding in regard to coverage.

Sometimes journalists and news organizations lack integrity or are wrongly influenced by somebody in power. I've been around here in journalism long enough to know that it's not as common as people on the outside like to think.

There are plenty of local journalists who have integrity, are devoted to the craft and would quit on the spot if anyone asked them to do something unethical. If you'd like to Fact Check that statement, I'd be happy to email you their contact information. (I'm one of them, by the way, so you're got one confirmed already.)

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 9:01 p.m.

You may have been around "long enough," as you claim, but I have been in financial journalism 48 years (52 if you count 4 years in advertising and PR) and I have been covering San Diego for 39 years. I have seen plenty of red dresses in the profession. Plus, I am more skeptical than you are. Keep smiling. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Sept. 3, 2012 @ 10:52 p.m.

Alright Randy...so which of these reasons explains why VOSD chose not to report on the City Auditor determining that the numbers relied upon by the city are false?

  1. It's not newsworthy? I think nobody would agree with you.
  2. You think it's been adequately covered elsewhere. Okay. Yes, Don Bauder, Mel Shapiro, and Auditor Luna have done all the heavy lifting. An article in the Reader is enough in your judgement, and you think there's no need to follow up VOSD's previous reporting.
  3. VOSD doesn't have the resources. I'm sure this is true. VOSD had to let go of some of its employees due to lack of funding...and reporting a story like this that might offend your pay-masters would just make this situation worse.
  4. You don't think this story is "appropriate" for your audience. Judging from your previous stories on the topic, this cannot be the reason for VOSD not publishing this news.
  5. You don't think the City Auditor is reliable?
  6. You think this has already been covered? Sure, some of the story has been written...but in such a way that you portrayed both sides as being equally honorable and trustworthy, which is not true at all. One side is lying about the numbers, and the other is not. The side that's lying will get a windfall if the city goes ahead, while the side that's telling the truth has nothing to gain...(except maintaining their self-respect).
  7. VOSD is incompetent. I don't say this, and neither does anyone else. In fact, I believe that at least one of VOSD's reporters, Will Carless, deserves a Pulitzer.
  8. VOSD is influenced by its donors. Yep. No doubt about it now, Randy.

I've even given you specific examples. You don't bite the hand that feeds you, and he who pays the piper calls the tune. Look again at VOSD's coverage of the Balboa Park story...it's blatant. And not covering this story about the auditors report serves as yet another example...

Instead of addressing this in an honest manner, you insult us by saying we're members of the "Black Helilcopter Conspiracy Community".

WTF? Again, you're only digging yourself deeper, Randy.

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 9:16 p.m.

That's a brilliant article by the best financial journalist in the business today, Matt Taibbi. I wish I would have thought of the line: Mitt Romney got rich borrowing huge sums of money that other people had to pay back. Taibbi has Wall Street pegged perfectly, and he knows one of the biggest problems of our economy: we have gone from making things to shifting money around. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Sept. 4, 2012 @ 12:27 a.m.

Don, I agree...Taibbi is great.

Also check out Max Keiser (www.maxkeiser.com). His style is over the top, but the substance of what he's saying is on the spot.

He's had Taibbi on as a guest:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/talking-gangster-banks-with-max-keiser-20120420

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dotinga Sept. 3, 2012 @ 9:13 p.m.

I'm plenty skeptical, especially of self-serving egomaniacs who soak themselves in their own accolades and truly believe they are God's Gift to Journalism/The Only Truth-Teller Out There/The Greatest Reporter San Diego Has Ever Seen.

I'm also skeptical of those who see conspiracies behind every palm tree and think every reporter in town -- with the exception of a Reader journalist or two -- is bought and sold. Ain't so.

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 9:20 p.m.

Gee, I don't know anybody that fits the description spelled out in your first paragraph. Go ahead: name names...or name. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Sept. 3, 2012 @ 11 p.m.

Hi Randy. Here's a very self-serving description of your work that, if you didn't write it yourself (most likely you did), you certainly approved it:

"Randy Dotinga has been a freelance journalist for 11 years. He currently devotes much of his time to working for voiceofsandiego.org, the pioneering non-profit watchdog journalism site. He writes news stories and other content for voiceofsandiego.org and tries to find ways to sneak cheeky humor into the daily email news summary, which he writes five days a week. He also writes for a variety of other publications, including The Christian Science Monitor (where he's a correspondent and book reviewer), the North County Times (a suburban San Diego newspaper where his weekly column about radio appears) and two medical news services. Prior to freelancing, he was a daily newspaper reporter for seven years. He will become a board member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors this summer."

Randy, I'm not portraying you as a self-serving egomaniac who soaks yourself in your own accolades and truly believes he is God's Gift to Journalism...these are your own words.

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Don Bauder Sept. 3, 2012 @ 10:14 p.m.

Somebody named Gee? Maybe G. Bernard Shaw? He was a journalist. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Sept. 3, 2012 @ 10:36 p.m.

Let's summarize Randy Dotinga's position:

  1. Fred Williams and Don Bauder are paranoid conspiracy theorists.
  2. VOSD is never beholden to its contributors.
  3. Anyone who questions the priorities of San Diego journalists is ignorant.
  4. Randy Dotinga can teach us all the "TRUTH" about how journalism works.

Randy...there was a very simple way to contradict us. By posting a link to the story in VOSD about this very important auditor's report. As an insider, you could have urged the editor or reporter to cover this story.

Instead you've spent your time calling us names, especially with your laughable "fact check".

To misquote Shakespeare, "Randy doth protest too much".

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2012 @ 7:09 a.m.

Yes, Fred, but in these vituperative volleys, Randy has revealed more about himself than he has about us. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Sept. 3, 2012 @ 11:49 p.m.

Randy appears to be developing expertise in Obamacare. I hope he will research and write an article on the impact of Obamacare on the San Diego economy. It appears that many young San Diegans are going have to trim their expenses and shell out an additional $5,000 per year for insurance, or face costly IRS penalties. It appears that many San Diegans will soon have to forego the Gaslamp and Pacific Beach and find a less costly way to get drunk. Many on modest incomes will no longer be able to make the monthly BMW or Passat payment. I think Obamacare is going to have a negative impact on saloons and auto dealers as consumers start trimming the fat to pay their monthly insurance bill.

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2012/June/13/first-person-high-risk-pool.aspx

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2012 @ 7:15 a.m.

Some will be hurt by the Obamacare expenses, but others will be helped by receiving services that otherwise they would never have received. So are we more worried about revenues of local saloons than we are about health of lower income people? Best, Don Bauder

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