Reporters' Notebook: Denham votes against public records bill

August 27, 2010 

In striking yet another blow for Sarah Palin and against freedom of the press, state Sen. Jeff Denham voted against a bill that would require quasi-public groups operating on state-owned college campuses to comply with the state's Public Record Act. The Assembly passed that bill 71-0 last week, and the Senate favored it 22-10. The Atwater Republican said the bill "has more to do with politics than it does with transparency," a reference to efforts to find out how much CSU Stanislaus paid Palin to speak ($75K).

Former Sun-Star reporter Adam Ashton, now an editor at The Modesto Bee, wrote a column last week about Berryhill and Cardoza debating at the Latino Community Roundtable in Modesto. Adam concluded that the Ceres rancher "hasn't found his voice" in the campaign. That was prophetic. This week a guy who'd been a main campaign consultant for Berryhill went viral on YouTube with a scathing attack on the campaign. "Terrible," "horrendous" and "disaster" were a few of the tamer words John D. Villarreal, the onetime Berryhill strategist, used in his rant.

Only on Tuesday Berryhill had crafted a message asking voters to give $10 to "send Dennis Cardoza packing." Some of those Hamiltons now seem needed to grease the squeaky wheels of his campaign machine. But commenters on the Sun-Star website and writers of letters to the editor shot the messenger -- the consultant -- while transforming Berryhill's inexperience into a virtue versus vested interests.

Cardoza sounded less than JFK-esque during his visit to the Sun-Star's editorial board when asked about Afghanistan. At a time when American KIAs are higher than ever in the nine-year-long war, the Blue Dog incumbent gave a namby-pamby answer: "It's a very tricky problem," he thundered. "Support is waning in the community and the country." That oughta comfort the parents of dead soldiers and Marines and strike fear into Taliban hearts and minds.

Speaking of American wars, former Sun-Star reporter Corinne Reilly just got back from her third trip to Iraq, this time a three-week gig for her present employer, the Virginian-Pilot. As she did on both deployments for McClatchy, Corinne turned out an impressive spectrum of war stories.

Bud Elliott, a telegenic TV anchor for 21 years in Fresno and many other markets before that, visited the Sun-Star on Wednesday for KYNO. It's owned and operated by the visionary John Ostlund. He blow-torched the radio station's wattage to 50,000 so we can hear it in Merced now. His anchors, Bud and Juanita Stevenson, routinely interview Sun-Star reporters on the air weekday mornings (940 on your AM dial) about their stories which might interest KYNO's listeners. Bud was here preparing for a first-time-ever series with us that will run on KYNO in November. He's working with reporter Jonah Owen Lamb, who after meeting Bud, learned that he'd won a prestigious national First Amendment Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors. Way to go, Jonah. What have you done for us lately?

Robert Taniguchi, co-chair of the Merced Assembly Center Memorial honoring Japanese Americans interned at the fairgrounds during World War II, has been asked to help with advice to folks who want to build a similar memorial in Tulare.

-- Sun-Star Staff

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