From the editor: More about bias, and another question

Now that the dust is starting to settle from Tuesday’s elections, I thought you might be interested in how some of you responded to my September question as to whether this newspaper exhibits bias in its political coverage.

I also have another question to ask you.

It was gratifying to see that every one of you who took the time to write said that we’re doing a good job at being fair and balanced (well, with one or two exceptions). You also said, loud and clear, that you’d like to see our columnists continue to cover issues beyond our circulation area.

I reached out for your thoughts after a Rancho Bernardo reader complained that he thought our opinion pages were clearly biased toward Republican viewpoints. That caught me a bit by surprise. In the nearly 20 years I’ve been the editor here I’ve tried to walk the line, offering opinion pieces reflecting all points of view.

Just to be sure, I asked for comments from you, the readers.

Here are a few excepts. I’m not including author names as I did not declare up front that I might publish some of the comments.

• “I think your readership would go down if you edited out letters, and opinions on state and national issues. Yours is currently the only paper I read. I don’t think I’m alone. I’m always astonished how many people I run into that don’t have a clue what’s going on beyond their TV set.”

• “Please don’t kowtow to the select few who are only writing to you because they don’t like what they are reading.”

• “We strongly urge you to continue running letters, columns and cartoons on state, national and world issues. This unbiased reporting puts your newspapers a step above other local newspapers.”

• “I have never heard anyone, Democrat or Republican, say the paper is biased. I do, however, hear a ton of people discuss how biased the mainstream media are — NBC, CBS, and CNN — leaning heavily toward the liberal side. I can’t help but wonder if the liberals who have complained to you are simply not used to hearing a conservative perspective like the one from Dick Lyles for a change.”

• “The ability for folks to share their opinions and thoughts on local topics and issues, (not just political) through letters to the editor, and to a lesser degree, guest editorials, has always resonated with me. It is something my neighbors look forward to every Thursday. Human nature lends itself to knowing what others feel in our community.”

• “Unfortunately, in this highly divisive political climate, people on either side of the aisle are irrationally sensitive.”

Now, for my next question to you.

Like most newspapers, we have tried in recent years to establish and maintain a strong presence on the Internet. Our site,, is updated regularly, including on weekends and holidays.

The site also has software allowing our readers to comment on what they read. And boy, do they comment!

The software is very good, but does not include any verification features, other than a working email address. That means the commenting readers, or “posters” as they’re sometimes called, can identify themselves any way they want through “user names.”

My question is, should we require online readers who post comments to identify themselves? Or, should they have the freedom to express an opinion anonymously?

Get a few media folks together to discuss this (as I did recently) and you’ll experience a wide range of thoughts on the issue. Should the Web be as restrictive as the print media? Would requiring IDs have chilling effect on the exchange of ideas on our website?

I’d like to know your thoughts. Drop me a note at, or post a comment below.

Short URL:

Posted by Steve Dreyer on Nov 7 2012. Filed under Letters to the Editor, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

17 Comments for “From the editor: More about bias, and another question”

  1. Amy Roost

    For starters, I'd like to say to the skeptics out there that I have known Steve for 6-7 years and have worked with and for him for the past two and a half years, and, even as something of an "insider" I have not a clue whether he's a conservative or a liberal. I will tell you this much, he's rational and fair.

    On to the question of whether to make people identify themselves. I think it's like doping in sports, if a person wants to be anonymous, they'll figure out a way to get around your requirement. That said, I think that people (especially flame throwers) who don't identify themselves are cowards, and I take their comments less seriously than those who do identify themselves. It's like flipping someone the bird when you're on the freeway. You're in your big box of metal and think you'll never see the person again. Anonymity makes people say and do very odd things but I don't see how you'd get around phony email accounts that many people set up solely for the purpose of making reckless and comments they for which they won't be held accountable.

  2. Eleanor Oakley

    I feel everyone should stand behind their convictions but I don't think it should be a requirement by the paper to identify themselves. Being anonymous does allow one to be a little outrageous and makes for a more spirited (for lack of a better word) online debate. As far as bias in your editorials, I haven't noticed any, but your editorials don't usually tackle many serious political issues. I do think the "He said, She said" columns by Mrs. Roost and Mr. Lyles just speak to those of their own viewpoint. They are not going to change anyone's political leaning; although I do believe Mrs. Roost has a more reasonable way of presenting her viewpoint, sometimes even straying from the political scene. I would like to see each of them write a column about one thing they agree with on the other side!

    • Tom Yarnall

      Eleanor, I think Amy and Dick do have an objective of writing about things they agree on. It's just that a liberal and a conservative can't find much to agree on.
      Being isolated by a key board does give many the courage to respond. It appears to me the fakers are more disrespectful that the non-fakers and resort to name calling when all else fails.
      Having said that, I agree that real names should not be required. I wouldn't have many to talk with. Some would say that may be a good thing, but I am selfish and do learn a lot from the fakers and non- fakers, such as Dick, Amy and others.
      BTW, I am still waiting for you to tell me why there are more riots in Europe as austerity measures are introduced. Should we expect the same here in the future as we move closer to their socialistic society, as we have over the last four years?

      • Amy Roost

        Alan, haven't you been paying attention? We had Occupy protesters in our parks for almost a year. Does their lack of molotov cocktails mean they don't qualify? Plus I'd argue that rioting is measure of a strong and healthy democratic system. First Amendment rights, what's left of them, do the job of keeping our elected officials honest.

  3. Tom Yarnall

    Amy, thank you very much for calling me Alan. I take that as a compliment.
    I assume you agree with the rioting, the destruction and flag burning that occurred in Oakland, the center piece for you and the OWS movement. How about the sexual assaults? Were they a measure of a strong and healthy democratic system. Are you willing to join, live in a tent or card board box while being exposed to the urine, crap and drug consumption prevalent in the compounds?
    How about laws related to illegal assembly. Should they be repealed to fit your liberal, anything goes philosophy?
    First Amendment rights, what's left of them?? I believe the Founders would be aghast if they could compare today's interpretation of First Amendment Rights to what they intended, Eleanor.

    • Amy Roost

      Tom, thank you for calling me Eleanor. I take it as a compliment. Oy! I don't know what to say. I visited 6 OWS "compounds" and didn't see any feces throwing or public drug consumption–though there no doubt were some sweet smells wafting upward after all the lanterns went out. It's been estimated that the Founders drank on average a fifth hard alcohol EACH per day at the Constitutional Convention, so not sure we should be calling the bong black. I think they also broke a few of George's laws too. But I'm sure you know better having watched Fox News every night from the comfort of your Lazy Boy. Actually I saw some tents and sleeping bags at OWS that looked more comfortable than some Lazy Boys. If you have a problem with Flag Burning then I assume you also have a problem with hanging the flag upside down to protest President Obama's re-election?

  4. Tom Yarnall

    Amy, just so you will know the facts why don't you check with the people who had to clean up after your liberal brethren cleared out and ask them how many piles of crap they had to remove and how many syringes went into the trash can? Ask them if they had to wash down the streets to get rid of the urine stench.
    BTW, what happened to the OWS movement? Do we have to wait until next summer to hear from them when they are ready for a little more recreation? You probably should be looking for a bargain on one of those sleeping bags that look more comfortable than a Lazy Boy. I know you will want to join them.
    I am intrigued and interested in knowing the details of the Founders drinking a fifth of hard alcohol each day. Did the info come from a liberal newspaper operating during those times? I have read that there were some hard drinkers, but did not know they all participated.
    Was the Declaration of Independence written during a drunken stupor? Was Jefferson and Madison drunk when they made their contributions to the Constitution? My last question–could Teddy Kennedy's bloodlines be traced to a Founder?
    Seriously, please give me a good source for your assertion.

  5. Tom Yarnall

    Amy, this is taken from the Huffington article you referenced:
    "How do we know the founding fathers as a group drank a lot? Well, for one thing, we have records of their imbibing. In 1787, two days before they signed off on the Constitution, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention partied at a tavern. According to the bill preserved from the evening, they drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer and seven bowls of alcoholic punch".
    How could you conclude, from the consumption at this party, your statement :"It's been estimated that the Founders drank on average a fifth hard alcohol EACH per day at the Constitutional Convention" Do equate wine, beer and hard cider to hard alcohol? Thomas Jefferson was a wine connoisseur, but do you really think he drank a fifth of hard liquor each day at the Convention? How about Washington, Franklin, Madison, Adams, Hamilton and the rest of those drunks? Were there only the Founders at the tavern or just maybe there were some guests?
    BTW, you surely have better things to read than the Huffington Post. Oh, I forgot, that is the liberals bible.
    Not sure you want to continue the conversation, so I will make this my last word.

    • Amy Roost

      Actually the info. is by an alcohol addiction counselor…but maybe he's a socialist, who knows? His source is a book written by a historian last year whose name escapes me, but I'm sure you can spend your time looking it up.

      As for those dasterdly OWS protesters, check this out:

      See, us liberals have more in us than just piss (and vinegar).

      As you would say Tom: last word. Enjoy the view from your bubble. I'll enjoy mine too. Maybe someday we'll find something to connect over. :)

  6. Eleanor Oakley

    Dear Tom – I hardly know what to say. You see the world through black-colored glasses, only your negative/pessimistic point of view is logical to you. I don't approve of rose-colored either, but is the outlook for our country really only gloom and doom? Is a democratic election of a President really cause for people of your persuasion to hang the American flag upside down for 4 years? For people in some states to start a movement to secede from the Union? For a certain millionaire with a perpetural "bad hair day" to encourage people to march on Washington? For a disgruntled, losing Presidental candidate to categorize all who didn't vote for him as wanting government "gifts"? What about government "gifts" to the wealthy? What about subsidies ("gifts") to oil companies? I guess they are just paybacks for the "gifts" given for campaigns.

  7. Tom Yarnall

    Eleanor dear, please take a big breath, relax and put your Kool Aid aside.
    My flag flies 24/7 and is not flown upside down. I do not support secession, but would like to see California divided into two states which may diminish the influence the liberals have on our society. San Francisco would most probably be the capital of the North. Your kind of place.
    BTW, I am still waiting for you to tell me why there are more riots in Europe as austerity measures are introduced. Should we expect the same here in the future as we move closer to their socialistic society, as we have over the last four years? My third and last time to ask.
    My last word.

  8. Amy Roost

    Austerity is the antidote to Keynsian economics, ie "socialism". You're debating with and against yourself Tom.

  9. Tom Yarnall

    Sorry Amy, but I gave you my last word and I keep my word.

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