Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

« Previous Post | Readers' Representative Journal Home | Next Post »

A Republican hidden in plain sight

Quite often this office hears readers say The Times' news coverage shows bias. Usually "liberal" precedes the word "bias"; sometimes readers see a conservative slant.

The most helpful comments are those that give specifics on what led to that reaction. A few readers on Wednesday pointed to one reference to show where they thought a news article showed opinion.

The story was about a man who'd been living on the lam since 1972, and started this way:

"Jason Vonstraussenburg worked at UC Santa Barbara for 14  years, a skilled technician who could whip together repairs on complicated pieces of lab equipment when scientists needed them in a hurry.
   At 61, he was a genial colleague, a homeowner, an avid metal sculptor, a father, a husband and a registered Republican.
   He was everything, police said, except Jason Vonstraussenburg."

Chris Johnson of San Francisco sent reporter Steve Chawkins an e-mail: "I can think of no possible reason why you would include in your article the fact that Jason Vonstraussenburg was a registered Republican.  Can you honestly say that if he was a registered Democrat, you would have included that fact in your article?"

Here's how Chawkins responded: "I included the detail of his voter registration as another reflection of how grounded Crona had become in the community. Had he been a Democrat, I would have noted it the same way.  One would think a fugitive would avoid the public record when he could, and voter registration is one of the easiest records to check. I could have called him, simply, a registered voter.  But that would have raised the obvious question and, for some, even triggered thoughts that I had buried his affiliation out of loyalty to the GOP."

Johnson got back to The Times to say in response to the inclusion of party: "I still don't understand why he just didn't refer to Vonstraussenberg as a registered voter. If party affiliation is not mentioned in the article, no one can claim Chawkins is being loyal or disloyal to any party."

 
Post a comment
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In





Comments (0)

This is the backup site for The Los Angeles Times. We'll post news and information if latimes.com becomes inoperable or inaccessible.

LATEST
this is a test breaking news post |  April 16, 2013, 1:45 pm »


CONTACT

Can I call someone with news?

Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


LAT ON TWITTER