Editor's Note: This opinion piece was submitted to Patch by Cerritos resident, Chris Foster.
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This weekend, the Los Cerritos Community News, the weekly newspaper in this town, removed a comment [on its website] about an advertisement in the newspaper.
Apparently this is one newspaper that does not believe in free speech.
In the comment, I shed light on the fact that attack ads in the newspaper were paid for by publisher Brian Hews own political action committee (Citizens for Clean And Honest Local Government). These ads contained factual errors. One asked people join “Cerritos employees” in voting against one particular candidate. Stephen Bova, president of the Cerritos employee’s union, said the ad was not sponsored by the union and lashed out at the newspaper.
Hews has gone to great lengths in what seems an effort to push his own political agenda. In one ad, he charged that one candidate was an “Agent of Communist China.”
The Service Employees International Union was credited with paying for the advertisement. The union’s attorney vehemently denied that the SEIU was involved. The attorney asked Hews who paid for the advertisement. Hews admitted his PAC did and that the printing SEIU as the sponsor was a production error.
This is not the journalism of Otis Chandler, former publisher of the Los Angeles Times, who Hews likens himself to. No, this is the style of William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch.
City officials believe Mr. Hews is on a vendetta after Cerritos cut its advertising budget, including ads that ran in his newspaper.
The questions remain -- though not under “comments” in the Los Cerritos Community News.
Should a publisher fund attack ads pushing his own agenda? Isn’t a newspaper a watchdog not an attack dog? Is it ethical for a publisher of a newspaper to be involved in mudslinging?
These, it seems, are questions the publisher doesn't want on display.
Is it time for a new political action committee: Citizens for Clean And Honest Local Journalism.
- Chris Foster