I have been asked repeatedly why the case of John Caldecott vs. the N-MUSD is not getting much coverage in the Daily Pilot or the Orange County Register.

It’s a good question. The situation is an odd one, since the media typically adore these David vs. Goliath stories – the ones in which the little guy triumphs, as Caldecott has.

I do not know the reason(s) why the coverage is missing, I can only guess, but my guess is an educated one, having been a very active Orange County journalist for 15 years, which includes a weekly column for the Pilot.

My first guess is that there are media egos involved – not the individual kind, but collectively, the media is hesitant to run with stories that have been broken or aggressively pursued by those outside of the mainstream media. The bloggers and videographers who have picked up the slack of the fading print business are treated like stepchildren because they have not gone to J-school or otherwise paid their dues working within the established print domains.

In these cases, it is only when a story is too big to ignore that the mainstream media gets involved. And when they do, little credit is given to those who covered the story as it should have been from day one.

The case in point is the Daily Pilot’s listing of John Caldecott as #5 on their annual list of the top 103 newsmakers in Newport-Mesa. This is really strange, considering they hardly covered the case and reported it only when it was impossible to ignore. My guess here is that the #5 rank was their way of acknowledging that they blew it: It was a make-up call, as they say in sports.

Well, I have some news for the Pilot and the Register and every other newspaper on behalf of Steve Smith, Barry Friedland of Costa Mesa Brief, Sandy Asper, and all of the other local, regional, and national bloggers and videographers who work for peanuts or nothing and cover what they don’t: We are the new mainstream media.

The second guess is that the quality of the reporters is in steep decline. The Pilot was present at the January board meeting when this story broke – so was I. At the meeting, I could not believe what I was hearing and jumped on the story. The Pilot’s response: meh. This is not the first time school board meetings have produced hot news that has been missed by the Pilot and the Register. The short story is that just about all of the old school reporters with a nose for news have moved on.

The third guess: The fact that I was pounding this story week after week may have harmed Caldecott’s wider media coverage because before anyone knew it, I took the lead on the story. When one newspaper does that, it’s difficult but not impossible for another newspaper to catch up. When a blogger does it, it’s hard for a newspaper to admit they got scooped by someone who works for nothing.

The fourth guess: There are personal and/or business connections that kept the story from being reported. This would be a clear violation of the old media “wall” concept that is supposed to keep editorial protected from the influence of the advertising department or any other department, but that wall fell down a long time ago. Do not underestimate the power of a personal phone call to an editor.

Even today, there is no coverage of Caldecott’s sworn police statement in either the Pilot or the Register. That’s the statement in which he demands an investigation into his charges.

Instead, we’re getting reports that it rained hard yesterday.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

Steve Smith

 

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