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Sacramento’s riot of heated rhetoric included Sac Bee

Many thanks to the Sacramento News & Review (SNR) last week running most of my OpEd about inflammatory local rhetoric that blemished the Sacramento landscape immediately before and after the U.S. Capitol Riot on Jan. 6. This ranged from one local elected Democrat railing against Trump supporters on Facebook to an area GOP Congressman making a jaw-dropping George Floyd joke at a recent conservative conference. (Read original essay here.)

My piece also featured a positive example of political expression worthy of emulation. This came from new Sacramento City Council members Mai Vang and Katie Valenzuela in their joint statement about white supremacist gatherings in Sacramento.

But one key passage was excised from my SNR essay, and it deserves resurrection here:

  • “On Thursday, Sacramento Bee’s editorial board continued its penchant for low-brow insult by calling attendees of a recent anti-social-distancing event ‘dimwits.’ A month earlier, its opinion page editor referenced the ‘middle finger’ to express disdain for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra being considered for a White House Cabinet post.”

Retention of this bullet would have more fully underscored the point of my piece. That is that coarse or imprudent rhetoric is not limited to our elected officials. It can be found among many different pillars of our community, including our local media who has as much responsibility in setting the tone of public discourse as our elected officials and unelected deputy sheriffs (as mentioned in the essay).

As a proud, long-time member of the journalistic profession, I feel journalists have even greater responsibility to cut through and rise above the more insulting and crass rhetoric of our time. Our highest calling is to inform, clarify and expose abuses big and small, and this simply cannot happen if the quality of our expression replicates the over-excited rantings of paid partisans or a mob.

As I have written before, many parts of Sacramento’s local media has fallen short in recent years of our proud duty to fully and bravely inform, clarify and expose. I have no qualms calling out my profession where and when it falls short. After all, no real change can happen if everyone points fingers elsewhere and exempts oneself and one’s profession from fixing a problem common to which we each tend to contribute.

But in noting this deletion from my essay, let me be clear that I do not put the SNR in the same category as the Bee. Far from it. SNR regularly features much laudatory journalism worthy of your support through an urgently needed donation. I have donated myself to assist them through these difficult times caused by COVID, and I recommend you do the same.

In fact, it was completely in SNR’s purview to edit the above bullet from my essay, whether the reason was they disagreed with my point or as a general rule prefer to not criticize a fellow media outlet in its pages. They also rightly notified me of the deletion ahead of time.

But if we truly wish to fix what ails our politics and community, we must always be able to start with that man in the mirror. This includes being a good steward of one’s profession and not playing Hatfield & McCoy in urging improvements.

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