Hope comes easy for me. It can rise from the words in a kindergarten girl’s poem where everybody lives happily forever and ever, or it could come out of the energy of thousands of San Diegans standing in the middle of Broadway singing “Give Peace a Chance.”
I didn’t realize, though, how hopeful a human being I am until I found myself one day holding out hope that the San Diego Union-Tribune, a rag that, on good days, over the years, has made me gag, could change and become a factor in helping San Diego become all it can be.
I didn’t see this hopeful moment coming. I was leaving the Union-Tribune Building one day when it dawned on me that I had a smile on my face. And that had never been the case when I look back on all the times I’ve walked away from the place.
But this was a new Union-Tribune. It truly was. Now, before somebody wonders if I’m in the early stages of Alzheimers, I’m not asserting, in any way, that the paper changed, hugely, and was on its way to becoming a beacon of hope, but they had hired a man, Jeff Light, as editor, a man who listens. I know because moments after meeting him I was bending his ear about how the U-T, in all my years in San Diego, had been out of touch with communities like mine. “The paper rarely speaks to us,” I said, saying “rarely” to be polite. And he heard me that night.
And later other people of color spoke to him. And he heard them too. And the next thing we knew we were on a Community Editorial Advisory Board being listened to, respected, given opportunities to tweak editorials here and there, in efforts to have them written in a way that wasn’t so “one sided,” shall I say. Those were the kinds of exchanges that made me walk away from the building smiling that day.
It was going to be slow as molasses rolling down course sandpaper but we were on to something, something special, something unique for this city. We were finding ways to tune into each other, blending liberal and conservative thought, ever so slightly, ever so lightly, bridging the gap between our communities and the city’s major rag – enough for me to play with the words “San Diego Union-Tribune” and “hope” in the same sentence in my mind.
Before we could really get rolling, though, a rumor arose. We heard that the paper would be sold but we didn’t think, particularly, in our reverie, that what we had started would end practically no sooner that it had begun. The new owners, surely, would see the value in what we had done. Wouldn’t they?
Well, suddenly we had a paper which boasted, jingoistically, on its cover every day: “The World’s Greatest Country and America’s Finest City.”
Suddenly we had Roger Hedgecock, Mr. Light Up the Border, hater of gays, writing essays to us regularly.
Suddenly there’s a full page advertisement for U-T TV, one with an old football hero and some other guy checking out a hot babe’s behind and I thought I was back in junior high.
Suddenly we’re fed sophomoric tabloid like news coverage where the thoughts on the mind of the paper’s owners seem to fly off the pages into our emotions as though there was no attempt made whatsoever to be unbiased, thoughts that have become predictable, seemingly created with the very intention of insulting those who think differently than them.
I mean Occupy Wall Street protestors are flag burners? Really? I’ve been around a lot of folks in this movement and I have yet to see a flag burned, although I’ve seen some people carrying the flag proudly. Barack Obama is the worst president ever? Just like that, with his first term still not completed? And Dubya doesn’t make the cut after his lies caused so many of our teenagers to die? For our freedom? We’re free?
How anti-union, anti-worker, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-poor and anti-you name it can a paper be? How can they never find anything to criticize when it comes to corporate greed, the military industrial complex, the irresponsible rich, local developers, the GOP, or their boy, Carl DeMaio?
Who ever thought that right wing radicalism could be taken to such a depressing new level, even by the San Diego Union-Tribune?
So many of my friends, who are dropping subscriptions to the U-T like the paper is hazardous waste, ask me why I don’t resign from its so called Community Advisory Board. Well, although hope comes easy for me I’m hanging in there, barely, struggling to be hopeful that this madness can be turned around. I find little traces of hope in just knowing that every now and then there’s talk in town about how we can make San Diego a better city, a more inclusive city.
But the chances of creating such a hopeful community environment are dim when our major paper divides us, and labels and bullies many of us, having declared its way of thinking supreme.
And when a paper so powerfully bestows on us its non-objective, non-impartial, non-life affirming, non-inclusive, non-community building views, we, as a city and county, lose.
But the truth is, San Diego has pretty much evolved over time, into a politically moderate, socially progressive metropolis and as such we should regard what the Union-Tribune is doing as an emergency situation – and various organizations and powers-that-be in our diverse communities and in higher places, need to come together and let this paper know that we aren’t just going to sit around and tolerate their narrow ultra-right wing inspired views.
It’s our city. And I can envision a better more hopeful world if our major paper respected us and joined us in changing it for the better – for their own well being and ours.
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