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An Alternative View

By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Why you may not read this column

Uploaded: May 10, 2021
Only 10 percent (+ or –2%) of American adults get their daily news from either a newspaper or a TV news show. That means the rest of us don’t. And many under-40 Americans are more interested in having fun and being entertained than concerning themselves about global or local news.

This according to Stanford Prof. Morris Fiorina, professor of political science and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, who recently gave a talk to the Rotary Club of Palo Alto.

Indeed, in addition to his study, the NYT also recently reported that two-thirds of American get their news from social media, including fake news and implanted Russian reports. Many others in our country don’t know what’s going on in the world – or even around their town.

Good news for our times?

Fiorina brought up several interesting points:

• According to a 2016 Voter Study Group survey, the five issues most important to Americans are a) the economy, b) health care, c) jobs, d) terrorism and e) Medicare. And surprisingly to me, the five least important issues are a) gay rights, b) gender equality, c) climate change, d) abortion and e) racial equality. Granted this survey reflects American attitudes five years ago, but they may not have changed that much. It’s interesting that our political parties focus on talking about the bottom five.

• Fiorina also reported a 2021 survey that showed what the 240 million adult public watch and read:

Evening news (ABC, CBS, NBC) 21 million
Wall Street Journal 3.1
New York Times 5.5

Hannity 4.1
Rachel Maddow 3. 6
Fox News (primetime) 2.4
MSNBC (primetime) 1.8
ABC 360 (primetime) 1.6

Sunday Night Football 23.6
Big Bang Theory 18.3
The Masked Singer 8.3

Well, entertainment wins!

I’m not sure what this says about the public’s interests today, but it does explain why newspapers are having problems, if social media is the dominant news and social viewing source.

According to Fiorina, a Facebook study of “ideological silos” shows that on the Internet:
• 14% had clicked on 10 or more news articles in 90 days, and
• 96% had read 0 or 1 opinion column in 90 days.

So why do I say many people may not be reading my opinion column? Because the numbers show not many are reading newspapers, much less columnists. The national numbers are paltry, at best.

Alas, that doesn’t make my day!

••••••••••••

A proposed $18 per-person fee to visit the renovated Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is under consideration by the city council. I will join the expanding chorus of infuriated residents who are loudly complaining about this outrageous fee. That would mean $74 for one visit by a family of four. Admission previously was free, although zoo-goers were invited to donate $5. No one complained.

Kristen O’Kane, the director of the Community and Services Department recommended this !18 entry fee to the council; the Finance Committee by a 2-1 vote (Pat Burt opposing) agreed to the charge -- and the outcries began.

This was supposed to be a friendly little zoo for kids to visit and revisit. It won’t be because many families will find it way too expensive. Sarcastically speaking, the staff has so kindly agreed that those 1 and under will not be charged to enter. But if you are 2, get out your wallet.

I also hope the museum and zoo will be really exciting for kids when it reopens in October. But so far, I’ve seen animals featured include a picture a big Salcata tortoise, who slowly moves along, ibises (large bird with a long neck and long legs), and flamingoes, which do make a pretty pink statement. There will be raccoons and insects (both are seen occasionally in my backyard).

I want it to be a nice, entertaining place for kids to visit. I understand it will cost the city more money to operate daily, but the city knew that before it began this remodeling expansion.

At the very least, make it free for kids under 16.

•••••••

Thank you, Palo Alto resident Miriam Green, for filing a lawsuit against the city’s annual transfer of about $21 million from the Utilities Department to the city’s general fund. The Santa Clara Municipal Court has ruled the transfer is legal, but said the city illegally taxed its residents when it raised gas taxes in 2012, 2014 and 2016. The possible result: an $8 .4 million budget hole for each of the next four years, and $4 million in future years.

That $8.4 million represents the taxes we residents paid in addition to our usage charges for our gas utilities in those three years.

I always thought it was unfair for the Utilities to charge us higher rates each month just so it has enough money to give $21 million back to the city each year. The city is arguing it started the Utilities Department, and therefore, deserves a “finder’s fee,” as many new businesses must pay. I still think it is unfair for our city. I want to pay for the gas I use, and not be charged more just so my money can be donated to the city’s general fund. And the city is us – it gets its money through our sales taxes, property taxes, fees, etc.

Green has steadfastly stayed with her suit for several years, and now will have to undergo an appeal. I admire her for sticking with it for us!

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   12 people like this
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 10, 2021 at 10:25 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

US Media is partisan and divisive. Many do not trust the CNNs, the Fox News, the MSNBCs, NYTimes or Washington Post for unbiased news. NPR has a slightly better reputation, but NPR and Public Television have their critics.

Where can we go to get unbiased news reports? How can we be sure that something we are being told has no hidden agenda?

The international media's US or North American section often report on things that Main Stream Media don't cover or cover in detail.

People have lost their trust in the American media. Investigative journalism such as broke Watergate and the abuse and cover up of scandals in the Catholic church are now called unethical practices. Opinions (even on PA Online) can be biased or written by those with a hidden agenda.

Diana, you may be one of the last old school journalists left.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Ethel Steinman, a resident of Professorville,
on May 11, 2021 at 11:23 am

Ethel Steinman is a registered user.

> Well, entertainment wins!

Advertising also plays a major role in news programming. Big money involved.

> many people may not be reading my opinion column?

On a local level, [email protected] Teen's View certainly had no issue with readership.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on May 11, 2021 at 12:13 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

There is no such thing as "unbiased news." Don't be naive. All journalists, newspapers and stations have a bias. Even the most "trusted man in America" had a bias.

Fox News is "fair and balanced." Sure, if you're a conservative and you like gorgeous women. What's the "real" reason their ratings are so high?

Staying informed is important, especially for voting. But the news will take a toll on your mental well-being. 9/11 and Covid 19 are a perfect example. Online news is more suttle.

Looking forward to fun and entertain soon...


 +   3 people like this
Posted by John, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on May 11, 2021 at 6:23 pm

John is a registered user.

Do an internet search for CNN/project veritas. A fascinating insight into what goes into modern "news".


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Robbie B., a resident of Downtown North,
on May 12, 2021 at 6:44 am

Robbie B. is a registered user.

"Where can we go to get unbiased news reports? How can we be sure that something we are being told has no hidden agenda?"

Quite simply...you cannot.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 12, 2021 at 10:53 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Thank you for this column and comments on the sad state of the news media. Let's remember that Fox and "alternate facts" didn't exist 35+ years ago, nor did we have a major political party censuring its members who supported known election lies and inciting a mob to invade the nation's capitol. Also let's remember that Fox has repeatedly sued for the right to lie and defended its, er, commentators' lies with the literal claim that "no rational person would believe them."

Sad. Dangerous.

More locally, "Kristen O'Kane, the director of the Community and Services Department recommended this !18 entry fee to the council; the Finance Committee by a 2-1 vote (Pat Burt opposing) agreed to the charge -- and the outcries began."

And she didn't even bother to consider price elasticity -- where changing prices effects attendance figures.

WHY are we paying big bucks for such incompetence? We spend more than $500.000 a year on PR and the PR staff can't be bothered to respond to media inquiries about dangerous spills.

How do we encourage more people, especially young people, to follow local issues? Chats with neighbors show how outraged people are about the state of PA "government" and "management" and how powerless we feel.



 +   6 people like this
Posted by Peter B, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 12, 2021 at 10:54 am

Peter B is a registered user.

I think the point made by the article and the comments is that one has to read or watch everything critically. Does this make sense? Can I find the same view elsewhere? Does it still hold over time?


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Squidsie, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2021 at 10:57 am

Squidsie is a registered user.

I trust the news reporting on social media as much as I trust those emails from the Nigerian Minister of Finance with exciting business opportunities.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Novelera, a resident of Midtown,
on May 12, 2021 at 1:02 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Yes, the state of print media is very sad. I continue to get my Chron on the driveway every day. I can't say I read the whole thing every day...but I like getting national news in print and Bay Area news as well. I also subscribe to The Weekly because I feel I should do my part to support local journalism, including you, Diana.

I am not on Facebook, even though my friends urge me to view their vacation pictures, but I don't have time for this nonsense.

I do have a digital subscription to the NY Times and read 2 or 3 of its articles daily. They are fantastic for international news.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Consider Your Options. , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 12, 2021 at 1:51 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

I disagree on Utility fees. If a vote were taken today on using some specified portion of Utility revenues to support specific community services and traffic and safety management expenses, I would support it. Miriam Green and Diana Diamond do not speak for me on this subject.

Whose budgeting error did not foresee the ridiculous need for an $18 entrance fee? I also disagreed with the overblown development plans for the former sweet Junior Museum. They went too far. They usually do in North PA. This makes me worry about plans for Cubberley. Director O'Kane, the buck stops with you. How did we get here?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Giraffe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on May 12, 2021 at 2:33 pm

Giraffe is a registered user.

Great column, as usual. But, shouldn't the title have been
Why you might not read this column
?

Reminds me of the signs along East Bayshore:
Road May Flood



 +   3 people like this
Posted by densely, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 12, 2021 at 2:54 pm

densely is a registered user.

Fox News was founded with the stated intent to present the Republican point of view. Claims that all media news is divisive and partisan are examples of Republican projection: they claim that everyone is as corrupt and dishonest as they are.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on May 12, 2021 at 3:37 pm

Alan is a registered user.

Concerning the junior zoo - would there be family rates, or memberships? While I don't have small children, a lot of parents I've known like to take them to the zoo regularly - say, every few weeks. This is what community zoos are ideal for (time to say hello to the goats and pigs!) Those are the people for which this should be affordable. $18/kid for an annual pass would be completely reasonable.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by DianaDiamond, a resident of Midtown,
on May 12, 2021 at 4:31 pm

DianaDiamond is a registered user.

Griraffe -
You are right. "Might" would be a better word than "May" in the headline.

And to all of the bloggers who say there are no objective newspapers, magazines, ec. I am truly surprised. I think some of our good print media try very hard to be objective and fair. Be careful when you say some publications are biased that you don't simply mean you disagree with the story they are printing, or quoting someone fairly but you don't like what the quoted person is saying.

Diana


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Erman, a resident of Midtown,
on May 12, 2021 at 4:39 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

The plan for the Junior Museum and Zoo does include annual family memberships.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Dick D., a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 12, 2021 at 4:51 pm

Dick D. is a registered user.

I don't know whether I am a newspaper reader or not.

I do not get a hard copy of the NYT but diligently read it "cover to cover" everyday (for a subscription), online (no matter where I happen to be across the globe). For very local news I read hard copy of the local papers.

The online version of the NYTs ia not filled with ads which is convenient for me, but sure doesn't pay the way for the quite impressive crew who report, edit and manage the operation.

Correlated with the difficulties newspapers are having with readership and thus the advertising which keeps them afloat, it should be noted that magazines have gotten beyond troubles and have disappeared. Do people even remember Life magazine ... and how many others ... Colliers which sank more than 60 years ago as TV was stealing their customers. (Not stealing elections, just customers.)

I well appreciate the depressing fact that overall we're far less interested in what's happening in our world than satisfying our pleasure, i.e., entertainment, which for me encompasses sports.

There are alternative models for news reporting and some forms of entertainment - uncoupled from government but paid for by the government or a general tax such as NPR and the BBC, neither controlled by or dependent on advertising. Are the Brits happy with this system; why not us beyond NPR . . .


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 12, 2021 at 5:38 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Re quality media, don't forget about The Washington Post which I find invaluable as well as Bloomberg/Business Week for understanding the impact of world events on businesses, the market and the world.

"Whose budgeting error did not foresee the ridiculous need for an $18 entrance fee? I also disagreed with the overblown development plans for the former sweet Junior Museum. They went too far. They usually do in North PA. This makes me worry about plans for Cubberley. Director O'Kane, the buck stops with you. How did we get here?"

Excess isn't limited to North PA; just look at the new Mitchell Library where Ms Cormack said she was "ashamed" of the formerly library and went for an excessive, costly and impractical design that puts a children's play room near the staircase so the noise echoes throughout the building. With that type of thinking, I worry about what they'll do to Cubberly and all new construction projects.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on May 13, 2021 at 7:28 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Okay Diana... I agree that some good print media try very hard to be objective and fair, but that doesn't mean they succeed. All bias means is a tendency to lean a certain direction. The media is a left leaning business, with the exception of a few conservative choices. And what are us centrists supposed to read/watch?

I don't believe that only "10%" of Americans are reading/watching the news. That's absurd. The figures I've read are closer to 40-55%, depending on demographics. Do you really think 90% of Americans aren't paying attention to what's going on?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Elly Needham, a resident of another community,
on May 13, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Elly Needham is a registered user.

Most news is being read online via the various news apps.

Hardcopy newspapers are read far less nowadays, mostly by older people.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Rock The Boat, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 15, 2021 at 10:42 am

Rock The Boat is a registered user.

"Hardcopy newspapers are read far less nowadays, mostly by older people."

Most Millennials are smartphone-driven and get their news updates from social media sites.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 15, 2021 at 3:12 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

One can read all the newspapers on the web where they've been available for decades.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by DianaDiamond, a resident of Midtown,
on May 15, 2021 at 4:15 pm

DianaDiamond is a registered user.

Jennifer

You said, All bias means is"a tendency to lean a certain direction."

Meriam-Webster dictionary defines bias as:

"Bias definition is - an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : prejudice."

The key word is prejudice.

A nd I certainly agree with many of you that many people are getting their news on the web, such as the NYT website or that of the Washington Post.

But if one lies on social media sites where oftentimes personal views are expressed as authoritative news. I think we have a problem.

Diana


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Philomena , a resident of College Terrace,
on May 15, 2021 at 4:31 pm

Philomena is a registered user.

Part of the problem is that many people cannot differentiate editorial commentary from objective news reportage.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on May 17, 2021 at 8:07 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I read 4 papers a day - SJM/BAN; SFC; WSJ; and NYT. I have extensive files on any topic that is interesting. A person has to keep track of all of the real estate transactions in the county. We are being bought by out-of-state and international companies. The Opinion Writers indulge in hyperbole - chicken little the sky is falling. The spin on the comings and goings in the major cities is interesting. I am a news junky. Family trait.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Juliana, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest,
on May 18, 2021 at 1:55 pm

Juliana is a registered user.

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