Tuesday, July 12, 2011

State Treasurer's Office Says Stem Cell Report 'Violated Fundamental Principles of Journalism'

Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, is sharply critical of some of what has appeared on the California Stem Cell Report concerning Lockyer's role in the election of Jonathan Thomas as chairman of the California stem cell agency.

Following publication of the "price of defiance" item yesterday, we emailed Dresslar and asked him if the treasurer's office would like to make a comment that would be carried verbatim.

Here are Dresslar's remarks. Our response follows.
"Crock conspiracy theories from the shadows might serve the interests of folks who want to generate 'public outrage,' but they do zilch to advance California's stem cell enterprise. Unfortunately, the Stem Cell Report has chosen to give voice to the black helicopter set and, in the process, violated fundamental principles of journalism.

"On multiple occasions, this blog -- either on its own assertion or though anonymous sources -- has reported that in advocating the selection of Jonathan Thomas as ICOC chairman, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer issued an implicit warning to the board: If you don't kowtow to me, the stem cell institute will have a heckuva time getting bond funding any time soon. Not once did the Report contact this office and seek comment before publishing this bunk.

"'Politics and the Price of Defiance (July 11)' provides the latest example. 'Implicit in some of the lobbying by (Governor Jerry) Brown and Lockyer was the likelihood that failure to follow their lead could endanger bond funding for CIRM.' The item went on to hint that it was not so far-fetched to think that Brown and Lockyer were prepared to engage in 'Tammany Hall tactics.' To bolster that point, it cited the example of an assemblyman who alleges he faces office budget cuts
because he voted against the recently adopted state budget. After the item ran, I received this email from you:

"'Today I ran an item on the lobbying on Thomas by Brown and Lockyer. If your office would like to comment, I would be glad to carry any statement verbatim. Thanks.'

"That's not the way journalism works. You don't throw mud on someone and offer to let them try to clean it off after the fact. You give them the opportunity to defend themselves against the mud-throwing. I understand blogs aren't newspapers. But that doesn't absolve blog writers from the responsibility of adhering to basic tenets of fairness and journalistic integrity.

"To set the record straight: Lockyer engaged in no threats -- implicit, implied, hinted, winked or any other kind -- as he advocated for Thomas. Additionally, your readers should know that, while Lockyer sells stem cell bonds and other state bonds, he has no power to refuse to sell any
type of bond.

"Lockyer cares deeply about CIRM, its mission and its success. That's why he nominated Thomas. That's why wrote to his appointees on the ICOC in support of Thomas. Both candidates were exceptionally well-qualified. But considering the qualifications set forth in Proposition 71, and the challenges CIRM faces, Lockyer strongly believed Thomas was the best man for the job. And, in contrast to the other candidate, Thomas was prepared to give the job his all, not half his all. That's what CIRM needs and deserves."
Here is the response from the California Stem Cell Report.
"We respect both Dresslar's professionalism and his frank and forthright opinion. He has been both responsive and accessible to the California Stem Cell Report. 
"However, this blog is first and foremost an expression of opinion and analysis. The traditional reporting that we engage in is there because the mainstream media simply does not cover one of the more extraordinary experiments in state government, the California stem cell agency. 
As a matter of opinion and analysis, it is fair to say that in our judgment some of the actions by the state treasurer can be construed to contain an implicit warning that CIRM's funding could be affected negatively. Certainly some of the CIRM board members took it that way.

"In retrospect, it would have been preferable to have a comment from the treasurer's office in the original post on June 21. However, it is very unlikely that it would have materially altered what we wrote. Did our accounts amount to 'mud-throwing?" Hardly. Whatever Lockyer and Brown did was within their responsibilities as elected officials. To fail to support vigorously their nominee for CIRM chair would be more reprehensible in the eyes of many.

"Finally, one of the operating principles of this blog is to allow and encourage those with differing views extraordinary access to this web site. We have a standing offer to leaders of the California stem cell agency, including all its directors, and others to write on California stem cell matters with the promise that their words will be carried verbatim. That is an offer you will not find from the mainstream media or its opinion writers. We have done that as the result of more than three decades in the news business and two years as a press aide to the governor of California. From that experience, we learned that short shrift is often given to many voices in the public arena. The California Stem Cell Report can provide much greater access. And we would like to encourage its full utilization."
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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:59 PM

    So, we are being told that Lockyer's letter to his ICOC appointees and and the calls from the governor's office to the ICOC members appointed by the governor were just gentle suggestion? No politics going on here?

    I'd like to know more about the fundraising that John Thomas' wife has done for Governor Brown. This push for Thomas just reeks of political payback.