Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Ramblings

Well, I got unexpectadly published in today's Standard-Times, something I submitted quite a while back on ethanol. Better late than never, but along with a lot of online contributors, I am a bit puzzled by the editorial policy.

Go to Standard-Times online and check into the "breaking news" icon. Friday's top of the page headline was an allegation of assault in a local nightclub against Chief Vasquez made by an unnamed female confidential narcotics informant recruited by Jeff Davis, one of Vasquez's opponents for the office. By the time I got off work Friday, I had gotten an earfull, wanted to follow up. More than making my own comment, I really wanted to read the 50 comments already posted. This is a story with implications on the November Charter measures and the next Chief election, assuming there is to be one. When Vasquez asked the city to investigate, Mindy Ward, for very good reason, told him essentially, you are a separate elected part of city gov't, no way am I stepping in this steaming pile of excrement. We end up with our Country Attorney reluctantly taking it up, and I do not envy him this job. Last time I smelled this, an 18 wheeler coming the other way had just run over a skunk. At least that stench dissipated before I got to Eden. I mean, really, I couldn't have scripted a better ad in support of losing the elected Chief idea.

Sorry, someone pulled the entire discussion and heavily edited Paul Anthony's original story, of which I fortunately have the print version. As someone on the trembling verge of old-fartdom, I am not so averse to electronics as our old pal Jack Cowan, but I still find my stack-of-newsprint archive useful from time to time.

Today's paper, top headline, a story on VA care, something I care a lot about. I can read about the First Lady's pinched nerve, but our failure to follow up on our commitment to veterans seems to have vanished from the online paper.

I can't even logically follow an idealogical bias in the sorting of what does and does not make it online. There does not seem to be a consistent liberal/conservative break so much as sheer sloppiness. One consistency, I do see, about the time a comment thread gets really hot, our moderator seems to incline to pulling the whole topic rather than the offensive individual posts. As I have pointed out to folks on the S-T site, conchoinfo has rarely pulled any comment, those only for blatant libel, and otherwise, we are fully archived, every post, every comment, every retraction from day one is available, no pricey subscription necessary.

Moving on, I violated my own bumper sticker yesterday, the one that says "yes this is my pickup, no I will not help you move". At least the young lady was cute. Barring a late season miracle, Algore notwithstanding, we have seen our first summer without a single 100 degree day in somerthing like 40 years. Where's my global warming Al? Just kidding folks, unlike a lot of vocal people on the topic, I do know the difference between climate and weather.

In support of the notion that I do not always beef and moan, a well deserved kudo to the oft-maligned city. For those of us who were around for the '95 storm and who recall the piles of tree limbs and debris along what is now the Houston-Harte freeway, one of the better bits of serendipity to come of that, instead of filling our landfill with brush, we bought an industrial strength chipper and set up a huge composting site out on City Farm Rd. Instead of filling the dump, that recyclable moves from one end to the other of a well-designed mulch plant, and comes out as high grade topsoil.

By day's end, I hope to have a post on SAISD. Upon review, as the NFL refs say, I seem to have been a bit harsh, verging on paranoid, in my last post on that topic. We still have high hopes that a well designed bond comes forth that we can support. We really do have a better than average school system that really does need serious money. Go to the "Voices" program on the S-T site, the interview with Superintendent Bonds is worth a listen.

I now break to take advantage of our unglobally warmed day and mow the grass that has come up due to a blessedly wet summer. For all that I speak of improvements that could be made, I would not choose to live anywhere other than San Angelo.


  1. Citizens Silenced

    Recently the San Angelo Standard Times silenced citizen comments of outrage and some of support of our local Chief of Police and his troubles (being accused of assault). What brings about this silencing? Initially, citizens were allowed to comment online to the article then abruptly that was removed for the topic as well as the 50 previously made comments.
    One must wonder what prompted this censorship. Being that there has been no explanation nor any follow up. A view of archives shows that you may still comment on the article in June of 2007 regarding Daniel Cardenas’ legal woes and can still read old comments. However, you may only make article comments (on all but one article) regarding SAPD’s Sgt. Dooley’s legal woes, comments are no longer seen.

    It reminds me of those afraid of Nurse Ratchet in One Flew over the Cookoos Nest. Is someone protecting the Police Department over all others for fear of punishment of other sorts? They do have the power to make life miserable as well as prevent access to news worthy events.

    Was it server space? With just under half of the paper being advertising, one would think not.

    Did Mr. Vasquez request the removal? As a public servant, like any other he should not have this right of privacy as the general population does. The Standard Times did not protect former President Clinton from disparaging public comment in a letter to the Editor January 29, 2007.

    Does the public have a right to input on a story? Obiously, they relish in it or the time spent for over 50 post would not have been taken. Please note there were over 50 posts for the two ran articles. One must keep in mind that history of San Angelo shows the average man or woman not make a despairing public comment about the establishment without being persecuted in the private sector. I recall in the early 1990’s a young man spoke out in a letter to the editor and subsequently lost his job. I recall he wrote a letter about his observations of the rights of homosexuals. Thus, the need for most to have anonymity.
    Is this the concern of the writers at the Standard Times?

    One must keep in mind history has shown story follow up is not a strong point of the Standard Times.

    I wonder why Mr. Vasquez is not held to his own quote regarding Sgt Dooley in the November 2, 2206 article “no Trial for Accused ex-cop”? Vasquez stated
    “If I have anything to do with it, he won’t” work for the San Angelo police again, Vasquez said. “I still think we made the right decision in terminating him.”
    I recall reading in the posts (before they vanished) that something happened in Houston. Now would that not be news worthy for someone to investigate and report on? Did something happen? Easily enough just request any police or sheriff report where he was involved (not as an officer). That is use of the public information act.
    Now not to just look at the San Angelo Standard Times, one question why did KLST failed to run the news?

    Now one might say that this is not of huge importants, however it is. I will have long term affects not only on the city but the officers in its employment. It will affect the city in it’s determination as to weather we have an elected or an appointed police chief. We have had problems with both. There is too much power and very little oversight, a problem that has ravaged this city’s politics and governing bodies, from the police and sheriffs departments to the council to the school board to the judicial system.

  2. I'm told that the manager/webmaster of the SA Times online dept quit because they were under staffed and he was overworked, and SA Times wouldn't hire anyone else. If they haven't replaced him yet, that might explain the "pull the topic" question. I would expect it to get worse before it gets better. That's what happens when there is no competition for local news.


  3. Maybe I am dumb, but how on earth would that explain the selective pulling of comments and articles. We can still read and comment about the first ladies surgery and the Honky Tonk Man. I really do not understand how a short staff explains selective censorship. Someone had to go in a pull and block those issues, it did not do it all by itself.

    As a result of all of this I have found this website... yeah.. and San Angelo Live. I must say that the articles are wonderful easy to read, well planned, thought out and well interviewed. Something that I have not seen in the standard times.

  4. Jim and others:

    The Web comments are run and filtered by the Standard-Times' webmasters, who are affiliated with our Marketing Department. They make all decisions regarding the comments portion of the site, including whether a post violates the Standard-Times' user agreement for its online commenters.

    They also determine whether an entire thread has veered too far into dangerous territory, which they did in the case of both the breaking news and print-edition stories. I assume they decided too many comments were running afoul of the policy and decided the conversation was counterproductive. Concerns or questions about this policy should be sent to

    I don't think the story itself has been edited, Jim. The breaking news item is much shorter than the following day's, but having perused the online version of the story that actually appeared in print, I don't notice any difference.

    Hope that helps clear some things up, but let me assure you there is no censoring, conspiratorial or otherwise, of the stories that appear on our site.


  5. Thanks Paul, this clarified a few things. A source of confusion was the different versions of the story online, much shorter than the original print version I read Friday.

    One thing that upset a lot of folks, this is the second discussion thread to be totally pulled, the other recent one being the Council Code of Conduct and Danny Cardenas. Also vanished before I got to glance at it.

    As you say, that isn't your call, but I really think bouncing the individual offenders might be more useful than blanking the whole discussion.

    Got to say, this story fell in a hole and pulled the hole in after it. Even the people at Oasis are in Sgt. Schultz mode, remember Hogan's Heroes, "I see nussink, I know nussink".

  6. I don't buy into the notion that a whole thread can have "... veered too far into dangerous territory"... and that the entire bleeding thing should henceforth be removed. Individual posts can exceed the bounds of appropriateness, and should be excised. If a thread has fifty or so decent contributions should it be killed because of one or two jerks? That's just plain intellectually lazy.

    When the arbiters of propriety jerk a whole thread, a lot of good, meaningful, contributive stuff can be lost. That's horsepoop. That gives control of the process to those who would seek to stomp on the whole thing by deliberately posting inflammatory content.

    As an aside, I was in town the last couple of days and tooled down Avenue N toward South Chadbourne today. It looks like the city had ANOTHER water main issue. Either that, or your mayor has recommended making a water park out of the streets in that area.

    Are you guys ever going to get that stuff fixed?

  7. They're baaaaack:

  8. Jim,

    I would like to thank you for this forum. Outcries of public concern have apparently worked with the comments being returned to the online version.

    I have a question!!! Is it possible to have an official article done on the pros and cons of elected vs appointed cheif? Who is responsible for the appointment, how one goes about getting in the ring (say your an office and wish to do the job how would u go about being in the ring to be appointed), what are the oversights for both when something come up (as it has twice)? What are the qualifications the appointing committee would be looking for? what are the qualifications for an elected?

    I think this may be of benifit to our community and our voters.

    Can you facilitate this? Can you get the ST to do it? If not where does one find answers to these questions?
    Thanks from Anonymous number one on here

  9. Quick answer on chiefs selection process until I post a more detailed answer.

    Start in LG 143.013. for the Texas Statute that governs this. The CEO is the City Manager, and the governing body is the City Council.

    Key observation is the state lists no qualifications for an elected police chief.

  10. I finally got a look at the comments that were pulled. First, I was unaware this discussion had started with an online (brief) story Thursday 9/6, I didn't catch it until the print version Friday. I have to disagree with Paul Anthony on one part; the quotes I read Friday from Vasquez and Davis were not in the Breaking News story that started it all, and I think they are substantive.

    In the original comment thread two posts by different posters HAD been "removed by the site staff". Those I have not seen, can only guess as to cause.

    As to the anonymous inquiry, I am fairly certain there will be several articles on the elected/appointed Chief measure, it is doubtless the most controversial on the ballot, not to mention the S-T has consistently favored an appointed Chief.

  11. RE: . yeah.. and San Angelo Live. I must say that the articles are wonderful easy to read, well planned, thought out and well interviewed. Something that I have not seen in the standard times.

    Thanks for the kind remarks about San Angelo LIVE! We have worked extremely hard to get the product out there and gain traction. Now that we have, I want to make sure the community knows that I am approachable and welcome feedback or praise at any time.

    Joe Hyde
    San Angelo LIVE!