CalMatters, a digital nonprofit focused on California politics and issues, has a decided liberal bent but the publication judiciously guards against its bias and sometimes even wanders far afield of the legacy media’s woke reservation. An example is this damning story CalMatters published during the 2020 presidential election about Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate and now America’s vice president.

The story recounted how when Harris was district attorney she prosecuted a schizophrenic Japanese-American woman named Teresa Sheehan who was severely injured when two female police officers shot her for coming after them with a knife. A jury deadlocked on the assault charges and found her not guilty of threatening to kill a social worker who had called the police to help get Sheehan into a psychiatric hospital.

It was a disgraceful prosecution.

“Somebody used very poor judgement in deciding to bring these charges,” Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles specializing in ethical advocacy, told CalMatters. “If (Harris) actually looked at it and said, ‘This is a righteous case, I want to go after a mentally ill woman who was shot,’ then you question that decision. If she didn’t know about it, then you question her management skills.”

Here’s a link to the predictable puff piece the San Francisco Chronicle published about Harris a few months earlier.

Shame on me for not reading CalMatters regularly and failing to mail the check I’ve long been meaning to send the publication. Every CalMatters story I’ve read invariably was diligently and fairly reported and my sense is the publication is staffed by persons with strong California ties who genuinely care about the state’s future. My perception that the publication operates with integrity is also due to its transparency, underscored by its practice of prominently posting its sources of funding. That speaks volumes.

It was with great disappointment learning this morning that CalMatters has named Kristen Go as editor in chief, succeeding Dave Lesher, one of the publication’s co-founders. Let me say up front that I never heard of Go until today, and by legacy media standards, her bio is very impressive. In addition to holding a top editorial position at the San Francisco Chronicle, Go also was a top editor at the Arizona Republic and “was part of the (Denver Post) newsroom” that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Columbine School massacre.

Kristin Go/LinkedIn

It’s where Go has worked for the past five years that’s cause for great alarm. In February 2021, Go was named executive editor of Gannett’s USA Today after co-leading the publication’s national coverage for three years. Given Go’s senior positions, it seems reasonable to assume she bears some responsibility for USA Today’s precipitous decline.

USA Today serves as a case study of “Go Woke, Go Broke.” The publication has been hemorrhaging readers for years, although the extent of the losses is subject to debate. Neiman Lab’s Joshua Benton pegged USA Today’s readership decline at 93%, although journalism professor and cancel culture champion Dan Kennedy argues that publication only lost a third of its paid subscribers between 2018 and 2022.

USA Today once had a middle America sensibility, which allowed it to gain a formidable audience in its day. In recent years, the publication became a predictable woke publication that resulted in a myriad of controversies, such as a plagiarism scandal, the demotion of a longtime deputy opinion editor for questioning a story that men can get pregnant, and allowing failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to extensively revise her published commentary supporting those who chose to boycott businesses in the state because of its election laws.

In a recent story about the resignation of Nicole Carroll, USA Today’s top editor during Go’s tenure, the publication noted that Carroll hired more journalists of color and in 2020 announced plans to add or reassign journalists to 20 new beats to expand coverage of inequities in the U.S. USA Today said it also became a majority-female newsroom under Carroll.

A white male reporter who I regard as far-and-away the best journalist on his beat confided that he opted to leave USA Today after attending a meeting and someone complained there were too many white faces in the room. It’s admirable to achieve such impressive newsroom diversity, but not if it’s at the expense of losing readership and fostering an inability to attract and retain other experienced talents.

The woke mindset virus has caused great harm to Gannett’s local newspapers, which some brave editors dared to acknowledge last year.

“Readers don’t want us to tell them what to think,” a panel of Gannett editors from across the country declared in an internal presentation. “They don’t believe we have the expertise to tell anyone what to think on most issues. They perceive us as having a biased agenda.” The committee said that not only were editorials and opinion columns “among our least read content,” but were “frequently cited” by readers as a reason for canceling their subscriptions.

Betsy Reed, Guardian

Betsy Reed, the editor of The Guardian’s US-focused publication, is another woke editor who is cause for great alarm. Reed formerly worked at the Intercept where she was instrumental in spiking an article by the publication’s co-founder Glenn Greenwald questioning the U.S. intelligence community and the entrenched media’s dismissal of the New York Post’s Hunter laptop expose just prior to the 2020 election. The New York TimesWashington Post, and CBS News have since confirmed the authenticity of the laptop’s contents.

Had Reed not imposed her politics, Greenwald’s story would have forever remained one of the Intercept’s proudest journalism moments. Greenwald, who was among the Guardian reporters who led the NSA coverage that garnered the publication the Pulitzer Prize for public service, resigned from the Intercept because of Reed’s interference and the publication then experienced a decline in contributions. Greenwald can now be found on Substack

It’s galling that The Guardian under Reed’s watch is running a series called “The fight for democracy,” funded by the Ford Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Park Foundation and An editor who killed a true story about a presidential candidate weeks before the election running a series on protecting democracy – that’s rich.

Wokeness is taking a toll on publications infused with the mindset. BuzzFeed, famous for publishing the “Steele Dossier” containing false allegations about Donald Trump, has shut down its news division. The Texas Observer, a storied publication that once employed deserving journalism legends like Molly Ivins and Kaye Northcott, is closing because the publication couldn’t broaden its audience.

Vox media is laying off 7% of its staff, and Insider is laying off 10% of its employees. Vice Media is cutting 500 jobs and the Wall Street Journal reported that Fortress Investment Group and Soros Fund Management are close to acquiring the troubled media company for a mere $400 million. The company was valued at $5.7 billion in 2017.

All these publications published variations of the same, too often false, woke narratives.

Meanwhile, America’s best, most talented journalists who operate with integrity, are thriving. Matt Taibbi, who legacy journalists trash because he’s relentless calling out their dishonesty, is likely pocketing more than $1 million publishing his Substack newsletter. Bari Weiss and Nellie Bowles, former New York Times journalists, have achieved incredible success with their Free Press journalism venture, including attracting a massive podcast audience for The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling.

Speaking of Rowling, the legacy media has either overlooked, or chosen to ignore, that Warner Bros. Discovery has greenlit a Harry Potter scripted television series, which will be executive-produced by Rowling, who created the anthology. Warner Bros. moved ahead with the series knowing full well that it would spark calls for a boycott from gay and transgender activists because Rowling has repeatedly made comments they find offensive, such as men can’t menstruate and “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.”

Perhaps I’m mistaken about Kristen Go and that she’ll maintain CalMatters’ integrity and strive to maintain its efforts to be perceived as a nonpartisan publication. Given California’s downward trajectory, the Golden State needs an unbiased quality publication more than ever.



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