The Oakland Post was denied a place at the table at a Mayoral Candidate Public Safety Debate this week presented by Metropolitan Greater Oakland (MGO) Democratic Club and a group that calls itself Make Oakland Better Now!
The Thursday evening event featured a panel of journalist handpicked by the event organizers but not the Oakland Post, which was not asked to participate. When the Post asked to be included, hoping to correct what was probably an oversight, the request was turned down.
They refused to budge, even when asked by mayoral candidate Bryan Parker.
Invited journalists included Bob Gammon, East Bay Express; Chip Johnson, S.F. Chronicle; Matt
Artz, Oakland Tribune; and Bianca Brooks, Youth Radio.
The Post had been looking forward to asking questions of all the candidates, but especially Mayor Jean Quan, who has been refusing to respond to questions on important public safety issues – police accountability, jobs and air quality at the Oakland Army Base development and lack of job opportunities for young people in the Fruitvale District and West Oakland.
Responding to the Post’s request to be on the panel was Bruce Nye, speaking for the Make Oakland Better Now! “As far as I can tell, we never received a request from the Post to participate in this event,” he said, though the other participants were asked by the event organizers to participate.
“We simply could not add another panelist two days before the debate,” Nye wrote in an email.
Added Gretchen White, MGO president, “(We) worked to achieve a press panel that represents different points of view on public safety in Oakland,” she said. “Given the time constraints of the debate, it was and is not possible to invite a larger array of local media.
“The Post was not the only newspaper not included,” she said in her email.” Neither were such news sources as Oakland North, Oakland Local, the Chinese and Korean language dailies, bloggers and local magazine and television reporters.”
In an emaill to White, the Post replied: “(We) understand that there are many different news outlets, but the Post has been serving Oakland’s African American community since 1963 and covers public safety issues that none of the other news outlets cover.
“Among our key issues are jobs and unemployment, which are directly tied to public safety, and we work to hold the mayor and city staff accountable for city job programs and promises to create jobs,” the Post said. “We are (also) the only news outlet that is asking to participate in the debate, in addition to the ones that you handpicked to represent all the media.”
Several candidates for mayor condemned the exclusion of the Post from the interview panel.
“I am disappointed that the Oakland Post will not participate in the debate,” said City Auditor Courtney Ruby. “The Post is an important voice for the Oakland community and raises important questions. I would be happy to answer any questions the Oakland Post has for me before or after the debate or at any time.”
I think it was an oversight for the Post not be included for the panel,” said Councilmember Libby Schaaf. “The Post is a important voice providing Oaklanders critical information about what Oakland is doing, and it needs to be at the table throughout the mayoral campaign.”å
“I think that the organizers of the debate should include a representative of the Post on the interview panel,” said civil rights attorney Dan Siegel “The Post represents a constituency and a perspective that is not present on the existing panel.”
“Not the right decision,” said Port Commissioner Bryan Parker, who added that he was talking t the organizers to encourage them to change their minds.
Post publisher Paul Cobb says he believes MGO leaders’ disagreements with Post on the way it has been reporting city issues may have had something to do with the refusal to allow the Post to participate.
“I think they are still upset at us for exposing the truth about the bogus charges against Desley Brooks and Larry Reid last year, which derailed an attempt to start a witch hunt on the Oakland City Council.”
Added Cobb, “ Our coverage led Quan’s staff to apologize to Scotlan Center for making groundless accusations that disrupted youth services to West Oakland. In addition, we exposed that the city had to send $600,00 in job funds back to the state. “