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Hugh Hewitt - Principal Contributor

Mr. Hewitt is senior member of the editorial board.

More Media Crackup
Revenge of the Bee: Weintraub muzzled... Don't mess with Cruz...
[Hugh Hewitt] 09/22/03

Tony Marcano is the Sacramento Bee's "Ombudsman," one of those puffed-up titles that newspapers use to designate the guy allegedly in charge of the public's interest. I don't normally read columns by "Ombudsmen," but Sunday morning's headline was too interesting: "Are Bee's standards for web lower than for print?"

What follows can only be described as part deception --Marcano buries his news-- part triumph of political correctness, and part incredible stupidity. Here's the key line:

"Weintraub's blog now goes to the editorial page editor or his deputy before it's posted on"

Daniel Weintraub is the paper's best political columnist and reporter. Moreover, he has become a national figure --a go-to resource for the national and international media covering the California recall. Weintraub's blog (see below, just about every day for the last month, for a citation to California Insider) was a genuine innovation in journalism, a decision to move one paper into the new century by equipping its best talent with a computer and a mission to report in real-time, thus moving an old-media dinosaur out of the swamp. Weintraub has consistently delivered scoop after scoop and most of his postings have shaped the news cycle that followed. Only Mickey Kaus has matched Weintraub for impact on the race and only the Bee has a web-based following because of original content on the web.

Weintraub has written a lot of pointed commentary, much of it aimed at Arnold. I have disagreed with many of Weintraub's conclusions about the race and especially his criticisms of Arnold's campaign decisions, but never doubted they were honestly arrived at. I started putting Weintraub on the radio a month ago, and now seek him out daily for an update. We brawl over specifics, but he is on top of the race in its many dimensions.

The Bee's powers have now decided to start supervising Weintraub. Why? Because the Latino Caucus complained about one of his entries.

It is a tough entry, one that blasts Cruz Bustamante and the Caucus. Weintraub is an opinion journalist, and in this particular posting his opinions on Cruz and his colleagues are not high. In fact, it deserves that classic phrase of journalistic approval: "hard-hitting."

So the Caucus blasted back. Usually an editor then stands up for the columnist and the paper's independence, citing a long tradition of press vigilance over entrenched political power and the glory of the First Amendment.

Not this time. Keep in mind that Bee big boss Rick Rodriguez is the only Latino to head a major newspaper in the U.S., and that the Latino Caucus is a powerful force in the state. The Bee responded to the criticism by putting its best writer under close watch and by publishing a clipping that can be sent over to the members of the Latino Caucus. The Caucus gets a scalp and the paper sacrifices its integrity. Along the way a promising innovation in journalism gets trimmed.

All because a lefty politician and his pals don't like what a columnist wrote. What was Al Franken saying about right-wing media? And the gents at FAIR? Too bad Weintraub didn't know it is only safe to blast Republicans and their supporters. If he'd played by the standing rules of print journalism, he'd still have the freedom to blog on and make news with every entry.

We will never see what gets left on the Bee floor, but we know what got Weintraub assigned minders. It is a great bet that Weintraub won't be slamming Bustamante and the Caucus with the same fervor any time soon. Weintraub will still write what he believes, I am sure, but the editors know what displeases Rodrigues. And surely the message has gone out to the Bee's reporters: Lay off Cruz.

Writing the truth about the left at the Sacramento Bee will get you spanked by the Ombudsman and muzzled by Rodriguez.

Another triumph for journalism. Principal Contributor Hugh Hewitt is an author, television commentator and syndicated talk-show host of the Salem Radio Network's Hugh Hewitt Show, heard in over 40 markets around the country. His opinions on national issues can be found at and he writes a weekly column (Wednesdays) for

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