Is the Daily Breeze a Credible News Source?

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The Daily Breeze has recently come under fire from City officials in Carson and Lomita. Lomita City administration has apparently issued a “blackout” of the paper while Carson considered a resolution in favor of a city-wide boycott. Recent revelations indicate that Torrance Mayor Furey has also been boycotting the Breeze even though, as far as I’m aware, he has not made public his specific grievances with the local paper.

With regard to some of those complaints, I was just yesterday provided a copy of a letter from the Lomita City Manager to an editor at the Daily Breeze.  I was told the letter revealed “gross negligence” on the part of reporter Nick Green and the DB. That letter, if taken at face-value, does raise significant concerns as it offers seven specific complaints pertaining to the reporting of Nick Green.  A deeper look at the allegations, however, reveals they have very little merit.

1st Complaint: Daily Breeze “keeps reporting that our bond rating was reduced”

Nick stated in the article in question that, “Since then the city has attempted to blend well water with imported water to improve its quality, its bond rating has taken a hit and residents have received hefty water rate increases to cover the bills.”

According to multiple sources, including this one, that can be easily obtained through a google search Nick’s statement is factually true as Lomita’s bond rating was indeed downgraded.

2nd Complaint: Nick “keeps using the word bleach in his articles despite many attempts to educate him on the fact that we do not use bleach

Nick did use the word bleach in the article, but it was always in the context of a quote someone had provided to him.  For example, he quoted a resident who complained the water smelled like bleach. He also quoted the Lomita Assistant City Manager Sugano who said, “the issue should subside soon because workers had reverted back to their former method of adding bleach to the treatment plant.”

Whether Nick misquoted the Assistant City Manager is hard to say with absolute certainty, but it’s worth noting that the distinction between bleach and chlorine (which the City does use to treat its water) is a subtle one.  For more information,  I suggest this article.

3rd Complaint: Nick claims that “residents have received hefty water rate increases to cover the bills”

The letter from the City Manager states, “despite Nick’s assertion that residential water rates have increased dramatically the fact is the blended water has saved the rate payers from steeper rate increases.”

So in essence, the City Manager is not disputing that the water rates have increased dramatically, his complaint is really that Nick isn’t giving the City enough credit for supposedly saving the residents from even steeper increases. So again, Nick’s statement was factually correct.

It should also be noted that according to this article Lomita recently proposed yet another rate increase that would cause water rates to increase 60% over the next several years.  This is on top of the 40% increase they have already had over the past few years.

4th Complaint: City did not stop flushing the hydrant by Phil Bucy’s house because the Daily Breeze sent the City a YouTube video of Mr. Bucy filming the flushing of a hydrant.

The City Manager here is a referring to an article in which Mr. Bucy claimed that a hydrant was flushing out water into the drainage system daily for 15 minutes at a time. Mr. Bucy thought this was an incredible waste of water given that we are in a drought.

In the article, Nick writes that “City workers removed the device shortly after the Daily Breeze emailed them a copy of the YouTube video Bucy had made showing the gurgling water emanating from the device at the end of the main”.

Nick’s statement does not say the City stopped the flushing because of the YouTube video. He only relates the factual statement that the device causing the flushing was removed after the YouTube video was sent. Again, the City Manager does not dispute the veracity of the actual statement.

5th Complaint: “Nick also told me that he took information from a Facebook chat room to write this article”

The relevant portion of Nick’s article stated, “Resident Cheryl Slayden Martin, wrote Tuesday on a Facebook page devoted to Lomita that the main areas affected appear to be north of Pacific Coast Highway and south of Sepulveda Boulevard between Western Avenue and Cypress Street.”

Nick clearly identified that the Facebook group was the source of the information so I don’t know how you can fault him for that.

6th Complaint: Nick wrote that the City began operating the treatment plant four years ago. That is not accurate. He knows full well that the well and treatment system was on-line for only two months in late 2010

Nick’s article stated that, “Operation of the multimillion dollar well and water treatment plant has caused the city repeated water quality and fiscal problems since it began operating in 2010. The city was forced to shut down the plant days after it began operating because of water quality complaints.”

Again, Nick’s statement is accurate. The plant did begin operating in 2010 and Nick even acknowledged that the plant was shut down shortly after it began operating.

7th Complaint: Nick fails to present both sides

I just don’t see how this is a valid statement given that Nick provided several quotes from the Lomita Assistant City Manager in the article.

The City Manager concludes his letter by stating, “Shame on the Daily Breeze for letting down the community of Lomita and the entire South Bay and for not taking seriously the tremendous responsibility you have to your readers to present information in an unbiased and responsible way so that the community can make informed decisions based on facts and information instead of fear.”

To that I would say, shame on you Lomita City Manager for attacking the Daily Breeze with unsubstantiated claims instead of addressing the underlying facts detailed in the reporting that present very real concerns and challenges that residents in your City are facing.

To all those that would continue to bash the Daily Breeze based on the unproven concerns of local City officials, I would ask that you place yourselves in the shoes of those citizens of Lomita. What if you faced a water bill that was doubling and yet still had discolored water coming through your pipes that smelled and caused your skin to burn while in the shower? What if you went to the local press and they told you, I’m sorry we can’t report on that because we are afraid it might upset the Mayor or the City Manager and we only report on stories that would portray the City governing officials in a positive light? Is that the type of press we want in the South Bay – one that cowers and caters to the powers that be?

Let’s not rush to crucify the local press just because our local leaders tell us to do so.  Are the Daily Breeze and Nick Green perfect?  No. Are they 100% accurate and unbiased? Of course not. But if the Daily Breeze refuses to report on important stories like the water issues in Lomita because they are worried about the backlash from public officials, then who will report on the issues and how would we hear about them?  With no press to hold our government accountable, it will be the public that suffers.

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