Sunday, August 5, 2007

Tracking down the elusive News Press

I need to catch up with a few of the items that have appeared in the News Press. Now that it is apparent that few if any of the letters of support for lightblueline will find a place in its editorial pages, there is a lot of careless criticism that might need some response. Of course, I'd really like to contribute to a News Press fact-based feature piece about lightblueline and the City's campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Then again, I'd also like to break 80 at Sandpiper.

At the moment, one of the problems with being hounded by a blog that calls itself a newspaper is the need to track down a copy to read. Since the News Press hides its digital version behind a subscription wall, and since I don't subscribe, and since nobody I know subscribes, and since nobody who the "people I know" know subscribes (this could go on a while), I am stuck in the moral dilemma of donating quarters to the NP blog, locating cast-off copies in local coffeehouses, or biking over to the library. Problem is, I go to coffeehouses that locals frequent (Jeanines, Vices and Spices, or the Coffee Cat) and frequently the already-read newspaper baskets don't contain any NP copies either. I suppose I could meander over to Starbucks. Or maybe not. I've managed to track down some copies at the UCSB library, and so I have a general idea of what the noise is all about. And I've recently had a couple conversations with "reporters" from the NP blog, not that these have been very encouraging.

The lightblueline effort has been spinning up around town for a year now. We've had numerous meetings at the University Club, and we've been showcased in local media (the non-blog variety) for several months. We've had tables at events at City College, UCSB, and Earth Day, a couple squares at the I Madonnari festival, an exhibit at City Hall and several First Thursday receptions. We attended and were acknowledged at the marvelous series of speakers on climate change that was hosted at UCSB over the last six months. We haven't been hiding.

The lightblueline art project went through a series of publicly available reviews by the City's Arts Advisory Committee and its Visual Arts in Public Places committee. We have been pestering the City's very tolerant staff for months to learn about the right way to put a decoration on a city street. City staff graciously allowed a group of residents to come in and ask questions. They expressed all the concerns one would expect a Street Department to have: safety, aesthetics, and procedures. I cannot say they were actually enthusiastic about our proposal, but that's not their job. They are extremely professional and knowledgeable about all things "street". We look forward to working with them to get this project on the streets.

For a year then, lightblueline has been preparing to do this project in the best possible way, getting it right, knowing that Santa Barbara is very careful about how its streets look.

And during this whole time the News Press blog never approached lightblueline to learn about the project. And their continuing ignorance about the project now has a certain stubborn quality to it. It allows them to make up their own vision of the project which they can in turn excoriate. They've harangued against miles and miles of lines, when the entire lightblueline project is only 1200 linear feet of decoration. They complain about the City contributing expert staff to help keep citizen volunteers safe on the day the line is painted. They talk about the $12000 budget as if it was twelve million dollars. The News Press failed to send a single reporter to the City Council meeting, or to any of the Arts Advisory Committee meetings, or to any of the UCSB climate change talks, or even to the lightblueline website (I needed to tell the reporter our URL), and yet they clamor against the process that led to City Council approval. They object to city staff providing useful information to local residents.

The very first time the NP talked to me was a week after the July 3 City Council vote. Several days after the news of this was factually reported in the Daily Sound. The reporter asked how the City Council voted, and I couldn't help wondering a) why they hadn't walked across de la Guerra Plaza to attend the council meeting, or b) why they couldn't go to the Council website and watch the streaming video of the meeting. "The council voted six to one in favor of the project," I reported to the reporter. "Who voted against it?" she asked. You can guess who was the only Council Member interviewed for the NP blog.

The most dangerous thing the NP blog did was misreport the science about climate change and suggest that climate change could lead to a seven-meter sea-level rise in ten years. And then they took that gross factual error and reported that I said this. I've requested more than once that the NP correct this mistake, but that isn't going to happen. I suggested that they can talk to any of several top climate scientists at UCSB about global warming. UCSB has several experts in this field.

A couple things the NP blog has done, through its almost daily showcasing of this project, is send a lot of volunteers to us and helped raise the project's recognition among a cohort of residents that might not have seen our booth at Earth Day. Our community website has had over 10000 visitors in the last six months. And we haven't even begun to paint.

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