Local GOP deploys its own “news” website
Local Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric has elephantine dreams for his GOP-tilting, party-controlled media outlet.
Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.
A few weeks back, Spin Cycle was speaking to Brian Brady, a county Republican Party contrarian and occasional critic of party Chairman Tony Krvaric. We were discussing Carl DeMaio’s entry into the 50th Congressional District race when the conversation turned to San Diego News Desk, a new, Krvaric-created media outlet in town.
Brady recounted an online spat he’d had with an anonymous commenter on the conservative blog San Diego Rostra, but then Spin reminded him that at least Rostra allowed comments on postings, whereas Krvaric’s newfangled San Diego News Desk does not.
“You are one of the 12 people who’s reading it,” Brady jabbed.
Brady then proceeded to describe a chat he had in January with the chairman, who was itching to set up a local right-leaning news website. Krvaric was impressed with a similar site, the feisty Times of San Diego. But Brady said Krvaric insisted that San Diego News Desk’s content be paid for and controlled by the local Republican Party, a red flag for Brady.
“I said you can’t have it run by the party. There’s no credibility for that,” Brady recalled saying. “It’s going to be immediately branded fake.”
Brady said Krvaric assured him the site would be clearly marked as a product of the Republican Party of San Diego County. That there would be a small print “paid for” disclaimer at the bottom of the home page and, according to Brady, Krvaric said that “we want to be able to disseminate news. We could have interns write for it.”
Brady then told Spin that he hoped Spin wouldn’t mention the web site. “It’s an embarrassment, in my opinion,” he explained.
Now, Brady says he is one of San Diego News Desk’s biggest fans, at least according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He even hopes to write a few articles for it in the future.
Although no numbers were available to back him up, Brady figures readership at the party news site has increased since the Union-Tribune sent Morgan Cook, one of its top investigative reporters, to report on what even Brady described as little more than an online party newsletter.
In a state dominated by left-wing thinking, Brady said, “Tony put together a website that is basically an online newsletter disseminating news items with a fully disclosed center-right bias, and the U-T puts the 2017 Journalist of the Year on the deal and wants to play gotcha politics.”
“Is it any wonder we can’t get a fair shake in today’s media?” Brady said.
Cook’s story first appeared online last Tuesday under the headline, “Republican Party of San Diego County launches ‘news’ website for political purposes,” with a picture of Krvaric at local GOP headquarters.
“You wouldn’t know that Sandiegonewsdesk.com was a Republican Party product unless you read the fine print at the bottom of the home page,” Cook scolded in her lengthy report. Krvaric wouldn’t speak to Spin for this column, but he told Cook, “Local media routinely slants the news towards [sic] Democrats and the liberal perspective in how they cover news and what they choose not to cover. We aim to fill that void.”
Krvaric declined to tell Cook why most stories on the website are devoid of bylines. He also declined to share a list of writers and editors with the U-T. In its FAQ section, the website does mention it will take submittals for consideration and states, “we will be working with high schools and colleges to offer internships to talented students… ”
In her original story for the U-T, Cook delved into the legitimacy of such an endeavor as a party-controlled news outlet. One source said the placement of the disclaimer at the bottom “raises ethical questions” but that the website otherwise seemed to be meeting state disclosure laws.
Cook then quotes Brett Kappel, a Washington, D.C. attorney specializing in federal campaign rules about the rise of mock news broadcasts “that date back to the 1970s.” The attorney then shares the story of a former Texas congressman, Steve Stockman, who is spending time in federal prison after a 23-count conviction last year for stealing “hundreds of thousands of dollars from charities” and using the loot for personal and campaign expenses.
Cook, whose dogged coverage of indicted campaign-money-freewheeler Rep. Duncan D. Hunter earned her well-deserved local acclaim, noted that Stockman’s campaign had also “sent out direct-mail advertisements that were designed to appear to be small local newspapers.”
The following day, an article, attributed to no one, appeared under an “Opinion” heading at San Diego News Desk, proclaiming in a headline that the U-T “tries and fails to smear” the website.
“The piece reeked of desperation,” the unidentified writer seethed, “as most of it had little to nothing to do with San Diego News Desk.”
The anonymous writer then went on to call the Stockman portion of Cook’s article “rambling” before adding, “It’s difficult to see this as anything but another miserable attempt to attack our website.”
A short time later, the portion of the U-T story mentioning Stockman’s plight vanished from the online post without explanation or note of an update. (The story appeared in print editions Thursday as well, minus the Stockman reference.)
Spin reached out to Cook’s editor for a response, without luck. When Spin went up the ladder to Jeff Light, the U-T’s publisher and editor in chief he responded with, “Not on my radar.” But then U-T Digital Editor Ricky Young, who oversees Cook’s Watchdog department, responded by saying he had posted answers to Spin’s questions online.
Young said Watchdog reporters have a history of looking into “websites posted by institutions in town that appear like news, but aren’t,” using the County News Center and a similar City of San Diego site as examples. “Newspaper are right to keep an eye on this trend, as PR people gain a numerical edge over people like yourself who keep an eye on government and institutions.”
Regarding the Stockman snip, Young said it “was not a great comparison to the local GOP website.”
So Spin says let Krvaric play editor. As Chris Jennewein, editor and publisher of Times of San Diego, noted, “The staff… is flattered whenever our work can be an inspiration.”
And Brady? He now applauds Krvaric’s efforts. “He’s the chairman of a committee of a dying party,” he said. “For god’s sake, you guys make us relevant with your bias.”