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The Modesto Bee Says Sorry (Sort Of)
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October 24, 2003, 05:00 AM
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Read the rest of the Joe Guzzardi recall campaign story:

10/14/03 - Joe`s Campaign Diary (With Bittersweet Conclusion)

10/10/03 - Why I Won

10/07/03 - Joe Guzzardi Returns From The Campaign Trail!

08/08/03 - Establishment To California: Shut Up About Immigration In This Election!

Since 2000, I`ve read more than 3,000 lousy, unprofessional newspaper stories about immigration as part of the NumbersUSA Media Standards Program. And I`ve engaged in hundreds of fruitless call to reporters and editors.

But finally, I have encouraging news—a little tale about bad journalism redeemed (somewhat) by the willingness of the Modesto Bee management to right a wrong.

When I entered the California Recall election as a symbolic immigration reform candidate, I knew that I would be smeared. So when I was interviewed by Bee reporter Eric Stern (e-mail him at estern@modbee.com or telephone him at 916-326-5544), I expected the worst.

Stern didn`t disappoint me.

In the opening paragraph of his August 31st story, "Candidate draws fire on immigration stand,"  Stern wrote that the Democratic party was "not paying much attention" to me (I`m a Democrat), that I had been "called a white nationalist" on an Internet site and that the Southern Poverty Law Center was "keeping an eye" on me.

In case Bee readers never heard of the SPLC, Stern wrote that the organization "monitors hate groups."

A total hatchet job in the first 35 words.

I had provided Stern with the names of several colleagues as character references. Stern spoke with them and they were universally supportive. But he chose instead to use anonymous Internet postings—"White Nationalist declares for California Governor; Will Expel All Illegal Immigrants"—  appearing on something called the Christian Identity message board. To make sure that readers got Stern`s message–that I am a radical neo-Nazi—Stern added that Christian Identity "has been described as a white supremacist group" and had "claimed me."

Needless to say, I have no affiliation with this organization. Nor do I know anyone who has. And I repeatedly told Stern I had never undertaken to "expel all illegal immigrants."

Then Stern reached out to the two local Lodi race demagogues, MECHistas Julio Hernandez and Rosa Maria Casillas, who teach at Tokay High School and have alienated the community with their tactic of screaming "racist" at the drop of a hat. They were just what Stern was looking for. Hernandez-Casillas coughed up the usual "racist" charge and added the twist that I distort facts. As usual, no details were provided.

Peter Brimelow, Alien Nation and American Patrol were also attacked by Stern. He cited a Publisher`s Weekly review that called Alien Nation an "anti-immigration manifesto."

H`mmm. If Stern wanted to dredge up old quotes about Alien Nation, why not include this from the New York Times: "A highly cogent presentation of what is going to be the benchmark case against immigration....Too persuasively made to be ignored"?

Finally, Stern called way down south to Alabama to get this from the SPLC`s Heidi Beirich: "He`s on our radar. The fact that Guzzardi is aligned with the true haters is really scary."

Respected institutions like NumbersUSA and Center for Immigration Studies were not on Stern`s call list.

During the interview, to emphasize my point about immigration, I asked Stern about the dozens of young K-6 children who were walking past us.

"Tell me," I asked him, "how are any of these kids who are already struggling served when new and equally needy children arrive illegally everyday?"

Of course, Stern had no answer. Instead of asking me about my opinions, he peppered me with questions about VDARE.COM and the ideology of the VDARE.COM writers. And I repeatedly referred him to the people about whom he was asking.

To seasoned veterans like myself who have seen biased, sophomoric reporting literally dozens of times, this is high comedy. Stern saw himself as a hard-hitting investigative reporter determined to dig up dirt on the local candidate.

The Bee`s readers would have been much better served if Stern had followed the lead I gave him: that none of the major candidates were talking about immigration. I referred Stern to the candidates` websites to see for himself.

But Stern never did. Instead, he called Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland. Stern was delighted to let Mulholland suggest that I was among many "kooks, racists and people who are on their way to a half way house or who should be on their way to one."

If Stern had been a real reporter, rather than a propagandist, he would have pressed the issue: "Bob, never mind that. Answer Guzzardi`s question. Are the major candidates talking about immigration or not?"

Stern was violating the Society of Professional Journalists` code which states that professional reporters should "[s]upport the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant."   

Now for the good news: I am happy to report that in the end the Bee did the right thing.

The Monday after Stern`s story ran, I contacted the Bee`s publisher, Lynn Dickerson (ldickerson@modbee.com). After a pleasant discussion, she told me to contact Executive Editor Mark Vasche (mvasche@modbee.com) to seek ways to make sure my positions were correctly expressed.

The result was my Op-ed that appeared in the Bee on September 30th. Oddly, however, the article cannot be found on line. But VDARE.COM can correct that—although, since it was slightly edited, I can only offer you a very close version of what the Bee published. (click here: Joe Guzzardi Replies To Eric Stern)

Moral of this story: COMPLAIN! Sometimes it works.

Years ago, Peter Brimelow noted that being an immigration enthusiast was like being in love, as portrayed in Erich Segal`s romance Love Story: "it "means never having to say you`re sorry."

With rising public anger and the internet, those days are over.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.