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The Fly

Edited for Content

When the Merc reported that they were dropping their "niche publications," did they tell the whole story? See, here's why we ask. In a quiet story two Fridays ago, the Merc's JOHN BOUDREAU reported that the Viet-Mercury, Knight Ridder's weekly Vietnamese-language publication, was sold to a local group of Vietnamese-American investors; The Guide was axed; and, perhaps most notably, Nuevo Mundo, the Merc's Spanish-language weekly, was also shut down. The decisions were described as ultimately financial, and top honcho SUSAN GOLDBERG was even quoted (now, how come she never returns Fly's calls?) as calling the decision "sad and difficult." Indeed, Boudreau went the extra mile to dutifully report that the National Association of Hispanic Journalists was "troubled" by the elimination of Nuevo Mundo. He even quoted a press statement put out by NAHJ director IVAN ROMAN, who reportedly said, "It is critical for local news operations to have a presence in the communities they serve so they better understand the informational needs of those they cover." Ah, but here's the catch. Roman's quote as reported could be read as disappointment that with the putting down of Nuevo Mundo, the Merc won't have a presence in the local community. That's evidentially what Boudreau wanted to make it look like Roman was saying, since, directly after the Roman quote, Boudreau has Goldberg responding that coverage of the Hispanic community will remain a "core" Mercury News mission. But was that really what Roman meant? Nope. Stanford's Grade the News provided a link to the original NAHJ press release, which presented Roman's quote in context: "NAHJ is troubled that the Mercury News decided to close Nuevo Mundo so it could cut costs and replace it with a paper that is produced in another country," Roman said before the quote Boudreau used. Here, Roman was talking about Fronteras de la Noticia, a weekly tabloid that is produced in Mexico and appears in 14 U.S. markets; the paper is now being introduced by Knight Ridder in San Jose. Two local editorial pages (out of 32 pages) are produced—and they are translations of English-language reports, as opposed to original reports. The rest of the paper is identical to the others distributed across the nation. Clever of the Merc to try to keep this newest kowtow to media homogeny on the down-low, but the Fly's not having it.

Sinister Undertow?

Metro readers are already aware of LORRIE AUGUSTINE and her tow company Tow Service Inc.'s regulatory troubles with San Jose tow administration officials ("Everyone Says I Hate You," MetroNews, April 27). Now it turns out there's even more to this alleged tow conspiracy. The city's tangle with Augustine has turned into something like a family vendetta. For starters, the tow permit of Auto Ambulance, another local tow company, has been denied. And who's one of the primary investors of Auto Ambulance? That's right: Augustine's brother, Lloyd Augustine. But there's more. Yet another tow company, the upstart Big Dog's Towing, owned by the confident INGRID VILONA, has also been denied a towing permit by city officials. The reasons for the denial, says Vilona, include the fact that the city said she didn't have a tow truck (wrong; she had a purchase agreement to buy one) or a location (wrong again). Now what does Vilona's tow company have in common with the two previously mentioned troubled towers? You guessed it. Vilona used to work for Auto Ambulance. Do you see a pattern here? Vilona sure does. City Attorney RICK DOYLE, who defended the permit process admirably against Tow Service Inc.'s charges in these pages earlier this year, did not return Fly's calls seeking comment. Meanwhile, Vilona appealed her case to the city last Thursday. "It went as expected," she reported to Fly. "We lost."

Satanic Panic

Halloween is over, but anyone following the Merc's coverage of the murder of Pamela Vitale has plenty of reason to be frightened. On Oct. 21, Martinez teenager Scott Dyleski was charged with murdering the wife of high-profile attorney Daniel Horowitz. The Mercury immediately tore into the most sensationalistic aspects of the story—their above-the-fold front-page story that day reported luridly that Dyleski was a "teenager fascinated with dark, gothic rituals" and claimed that "the killer carved a gothic symbol—a double-crossed 'T'—into [Vitale's] back." It went on to describe "rituals," "red candles" and his supposed fascination with the "Satanist's Bible." Only near the end of the article did reporters Brandon Bailey and Ken McLaughlin bother to mention that Dyleski had already abandoned what they called "the goth look" by the time of the murder. Their report Saturday was even worse, if possible—the top headline on the front of the local news section screamed "GOTH TEEN TO BE TRIED FOR MURDER." The opening paragraph of the story again described Dyleski's "penchant for goth clothing." Compare this to the restrained coverage of the San Francisco Chronicle the same day—their front-page story "Teenager to be tried for murder as an adult" did not characterize the symbol carved on Vitale's back as "goth," nor did they even use the word in the story, only mentioning in the 16th paragraph that he began wearing "dark clothes" in eighth grade. The point is not that this was not a brutal crime, or that Dyleski did or did not do it. But this lurid coverage raises the tragic specter of the case of the West Memphis Three, in which two kids in Arkansas were given life sentences and one put on death row on the basis of nothing more than a laughable forced (and error-ridden) confession and sensational stories which also focused on the fact that they wore black and practiced "weird rituals" (which turned out to be pagan, not satanic). Their case was immortalized in the documentary Paradise Lost, as searing an indictment of this goth-scare quasi journalism as you will find anywhere. Tragically, however, they are still in prison for murders that were as brutal as the Vitale slaying—and for which they were unfairly tried based on their misfit appearance. For that to happen to Dyleski would be unconscionable. The Merc offered a backhanded concession to this reality with one of those "your-kids-are-from-Mars"-type stories called "Goth: Should Parents Worry?" that probably did more harm than good. While advising parents to "resist fretting over their kids' wardrobes and musical tastes" it poured over the lurid details of Dyleski's supposed "goth taste" several more times. Here's a clue: anytime an article links someone to national überspook Marilyn Manson—as this one did—ignore it at all costs. A genuine plea here from the Fly: we can all do better than this.

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From the November 2-8, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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