Gonzo Journalism gone wild

Capitol Weekly’s October 18, 2007, article, “Santa Ynez woman buys paper, covers tribal casino,” painted a rosy picture of a local woman purchasing a newspaper. But like the Santa Ynez Valley Journal itself, the article didn’t tell the whole story.

It’s no secret that Nancy Crawford-Hall, the new owner of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, is a longtime foe of our tribe, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. She has attended Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meetings to speak out against our tribe, participated with anti-Chumash hate groups in the community and has written many angry columns in her publication accusing the tribe of everything from paying off politicians to being parasites.

Since Crawford-Hall took over ownership of the Valley Journal, we have had the displeasure of seeing multiple rants against our tribe in her “newspaper” on a weekly basis. Clearly, she doesn’t follow the principles of good journalism by bringing quality news reporting to the public. In fact, there’s no pretense of journalism at all. If journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, the Valley Journal’s obligation is to sensationalism and propaganda.

The Valley Journal goes back in time to the media climate prior to the 20th Century where the media market was dominated by smaller newspapers and pamphleteers who usually had an overt and often radical agenda, with no presumption of balance or objectivity.

From our perspective, it appears that the Valley Journal is a publication that is designed for the sole purpose of promoting hate against the tribe by criticizing the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians in every issue. The publication’s motto might very well be: “All the Gossip That’s Not Fit To Print.”

Take, for example, Crawford-Hall’s “expose” on the tribe’s so-called plans to bring 5,000 more slot machines to our facility. She obtained copies of minutes of a tribal council meeting and printed excerpts, but didn’t bother to paint the entire picture. We weren’t planning to bring 5,000 more machines to our facility, and we haven’t. Facts, apparently, aren’t important to Crawford-Hall.

Instead, readers were treated to weekly updates of the “No More Slots” campaign in an attempt to cause panic and hysteria by predicting that the sky was falling. The tribal opponents established a Web site, collected signatures, had a town meeting, donned T-shirts with “No More Slots” slogans and marched around Sacramento carrying a Tupperware container filled with scraps of paper. Their campaign fizzled after much fanfare and, as we said all along, we didn’t bring 5,000 more slots to the Valley.

Ex-employees of the Valley Journal, of which there are many, tell us of Crawford-Hall’s tirades against any editor or reporter who tries to include anything that remotely resembles balanced reporting when it comes to matters concerning the tribe. She recently fired a columnist who wrote an op-ed that was non-biased. Evidently, an opinion that didn’t condemn the tribe didn’t have a place in her paper.

Crawford-Hall claims that her paper is the only one printing the truth about the community. The reality is that the local media–print, television and radio–all uphold journalistic standards and run fair, balanced and truthful news on the community, including news on the tribe and our Chumash Casino Resort. Because the coverage is objective, the way journalism should be, Crawford-Hall doesn’t like it.

We have battled the Crawford-Halls of our community for nearly a decade. It seems that the more successful our business enterprise, the angrier they become. They hold town hall meetings that a casual observer described as one long gripe session against the tribe. They circulate petitions that go nowhere. They become incensed by virtually everything our tribe does–including making donations to the community.

Crawford-Hall’s purchase of the Valley Journal is not a testament to a community member buying a paper to create a community voice. It’s a demonstration of what happens when a group of elitists have too much time and too much money.

In Capitol Weekly’s article, Crawford-Hall says, “We are telling the stories that no one else will tell.” One example might be the front page article she ran stating that Mars will be the brightest object in the night sky when it comes within 34,649,589 miles of Earth. Of course, the story, an urban legend, was a false chain e-mail and passed off as the truth. Like everything else in her paper, the article failed miserably when it comes to meeting basic journalistic standards.

At the end of the day, Crawford-Hall’s publication is just another chapter to add to the legacy of the local extreme groups. More drama, more hate, and more fish wrap.

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