Last week, the OC Register published an inaccurate and misleading editorial on the resignation of Chris Zapata headlined “Anaheim Punts On City Manager Exit.”
The irony reality is it’s the OCR editorial board that punted…on its responsibility to publish informed editorials.
There is such a thing as opinion journalism, practiced in its best form by outfits like the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Anaheim Blog engages in opinion journalism. While the viewpoints are unmistakable, they’re based in facts and research, and we endeavor to be accurate in that regard.
In its editorial, the OC Register put such considerations aside. It ignored it’s own paper’s reprint and instead relied on an inaccurate Voice of OC article that fells short of normal journalistic standards of substantiation – as well as on biased speculation by political insiders hostile to Mayor Harry Sidhu and the council majority.
The Voice of OC article clearly implied, without substantiation, that Zapata’s resignation/dismissal was agendized in response to a memo he sent to councilmembers that, among other things, called for salary cuts for senior Visit Anaheim officers.
This is false. The Voice of OC reporters committed the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”) logical fallacy. And the OC Register writer picks that up and runs with it.
That may fit the OC Register editorialist’s preconcpetions, but it doesn’t square with any evidence. Indeed, according to sources, Zapata sent the memo after Mayor Sidhu attempted to give him a courtesy meeting about resigning.
It’s confirmation bias in action.
The writer of the OCR editorial goes on to write:
“Now, [the mayor and city council’s] willingness to show a successful city manager the door in the midst of a serious suggests a troubling level of pettiness.”
As noted, opinion journalism is sill journalism. It still calls for standard of evidence and factuality. The author of this editorial breezes past those and attacks the city council’s action based on his own assumptions about their reasons – which are in turn based on unsubstantiated reporting by an outlet with a history of bias in favor of some Anaheim political factions and against others.
The editorialist wraps up with this doozy:
“If there’s a better explanation for the decision, Mayor Sidhu and the council majority ought to quickly provide one.”
The editorialist forgets about laws governing closed sessions and personnel matters. Instead, he declares he will treat his unsubstantiated suspicions as fact until and unless the mayor and council majority disabuse him of his errors by violating closed session rules.
In July of 2017, then-Mayor Tom Tait agendized the forced resignation of then-City Manager Paul Emery. Emery was a successful and effective city manager. However, he had been appointed by the previous council majority, and Mayor Tait wanted to make a change – a moved that was supported by Councilmembers Jose F. Moreno and Denise Barnes – who are now rending their garments over Zapata’s resignation.
Tait gave no explanation for his reasons other than a wanting a “change in direction.” Moreno and Barnes told the public nothing about their reasons for ousting Emery. The OC Register was also silent.
Now, Moreno is hypocritically calling on Mayor Sidhu and his council colleagues to do what he himself refused to do vis-a-vis Paul Emery. The OC Register could call Moreno on his hypocrisy, but instead chooses to make common cause with it.
The mayor and city council are elected by the voters, who entrust them with governing and setting policy. That includes hiring and sometimes firing city managers. OC Register founder R.C. Hoiles understood the proper relationship between government and the governed. Unfortunately, that wisdom escapes the OC Register editorial board in this instance.