Times-Standard | Saturday, 8 July 2017
Access Humboldt’s open letter to Sinclair Broadcast Group
By Sean Taketa McLaughlin
Dear Sinclair board members, shareholders and decision makers, We the people of Humboldt County, on the Redwood Coast of California, would like to welcome you to our community. With your recent acquisition of four local television channels, you are now a major part of our media landscape. We may be a small market demographically, but we support our local news outlets and we have high standards and expectations for corporations that control access to information in our communities.
As the comedian John Oliver pointed out recently on his show “Last Week Tonight,” Sinclair has earned a somewhat unsavory reputation for biased coverage and inflammatory “mustrun” segments that routinely misrepresent facts in order to benefit right-wing political agendas (more on this at http:// tinyurl.com/LWT-Sinclair). While this behavior may stem from a legitimate belief that you are “doing the right thing,” youshould be aware that it often comes across as cynical manipulationand intentional distortionof the truth.
From past experience, we know that consolidated absentee ownership reduces competition, threatens media localism and harms information diversity. For example, when the digital television transition modified the transmission systems for local TV broadcasters, coverage in large swaths of Humboldt County was significantly reduced.
While Bonten has made substantial investments in local origination, Sinclair has a reputation for requiring their owned affiliate stations to air non-local editorial content during local newscasts. This “must air” practice reduces local origination of news and information programs that address controversial issues of public importance. To become a trusted local broadcaster, your policies need to provide reasonable opportunities for local and opposing views to be expressed.
Since we would like to give you the benefit of the doubt as a new player in town, we have developed a short list of suggestedactions that would help to demonstrate your commitment to becoming a responsible provider of high-quality information:
• Ensure localism with meaningful investments in local news and information programming to support public interests of local and tribal jurisdictions: * Station broadcasts should identify “must air” non-local content on-screen.
* Provide equal airtime for local editorial content expressing opposing views.
* Ensure that Spanish language channel(s) include equivalent local program origination as other channels, and that tribes have in-language programming available on-air.
• Promote universal access with investments in new infrastructure for our least-served people and places: * Install and maintain additional translator/repeater facilities to ensure full multi-casting coverage over the entire Designated Market Area served.
• Transparency and accountability to local jurisdictions through community-based participation in local programming: * Maintain public files, including annual reports on compliance with contractual promises available at every local library location.
* Dedicate multi-cast channel(s) programmed entirely with locally originated noncommercial content from local jurisdictions. (Note: This could be accomplished in coordination with public-education-government access community media available now through the counties, cities and tribes served.) While we would love to see all of the above actions incorporated into Sinclair’s local operations, we don’t hold out much hope that these issues will be addressed. After all, we’re just one small piece of a growing monopoly, and there is lots of money to be made through media manipulation and control. Still, we promise to do everything in our power to make sure that you deliver services that meet local needs and community interests.
The North Coast is a very special place to its residents, and we sincerely hope you will thoughtfully consider these andother ways that we can work together to develop and support community-based media. Think of this as a golden opportunity to improve your reputation and become a trusted and reliable source of news across the Redwood Coast region.
Welcome to Humboldt County, and rest assured that we will be watching closely and working tirelessly to help keep you accountable to the high standards of our community. That’s one piece of local news you can definitely count on.
Sincerely, Access HumboldtSean Taketa McLaughlin is executive director of Access Humboldt, a non-profit community media organization managing local cable franchise benefits on behalf of the county of Humboldt, California, and the cities of Eureka, Arcata, Fortuna, Rio Dell, Ferndale and Blue Lake. For more information, visit http:// accesshumboldt.net. To read more about the Sinclair-Bonten deal, visit http://tinyurl.com/ FCC-Sinclair-Bonten.
Thanks to a complaint from a concerned citizen and the questioning of Ryan Burns from the Lost Coast Outpost, it looks like the FBI and the State Attorney General’s office will be looking into the Coroner’s handling of estate properties. And by handling, we mean the most extreme “low-balling” of the purchase price and outright theft of deceased people’s property:
Great “ethical standards” law enforcement!!! Stealing from the dead or potential family members of the deceased is just plain low. But that’s business as usual at the Eureka Police Dept(EPD) and in Humboldt’s Good Ol’ Boy network. Wait, EPD you say? Why would we put EPD into a story about the Sheriff-Coroner sales of property that appears on the face of it illegal? The reason is that former EPD officers (not Sergeants or Lieutenants) Frank Jager and Dave Parris have run the coroner’s office since the nineties!
When we first heard about the selling off of deceased people’s property to county employees, Eureka Mayors, and their family members: we weren’t at all surprised. We’ve been getting tips for years that people who’ve had their property seized in marijuana raids have later seen their ATV’s and trailers being used/owned by the same officers who raided their property. But what the hell could we do about that? Who would believe us? If people in the drug trade don’t complain, the problem would just persist.
However, in this case, we have some hope. At first, we were pretty worried. Newly minted Sheriff William “Billy” Honsal gave an interview to Ryan Burns, in which he talked about the new “investigation” he was calling for. The “independent” investigator would be hired by the HCSO, to look into the corruption that was happening under Billy Honsal’s nose when he was in command or second-in-command at the Sheriff’s office:
In that same article, Honsal was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to get too specific into the investigation because I want the independent investigator at the DA’s Office to evaluate the entire investigation and then make a referral to the DA based upon that, but the idea is there is a government code section that basically says no property shall be sold to any current employees of the Coroner’s Office or Public Administrator.”
Now that quote was when we started to get worried and started asking questions to our sources at the County and City of Eureka. Our worst fears of corruption and potential cover-up had been confirmed, …..that is until today’s announcement from DA Fleming. Congratulations and respect to DA Magie Fleming for requesting the State and Federal Government to investigate this case. Maybe some truth will come out of this investigation and criminals (whether elected or not) will be held to account.
But even before this investigation gets underway, it would be nice for the community to understand who the players involved in this good ol’ boy theft of property were, and why those connections had us so worried about what may happen.
First, we have former EPD officer Frank Jager, currently the Mayor of Eureka, who was the Humboldt County Coroner from 1999 until 2009. Then in 2009, the Department was taken over by Dave Parris. Parris ran the department until it was consolidated with the HCSO in 2015.
Paris and Downey
Interesting to note that both Jager and Parris were police officers at the Eureka Police Department. Neither of them promoted above the rank of officer (?), but both of them ended up running the Detectives Bureau at EPD at different times. Their rise to the top position of County Coroner was filled with lots of glad-handing, favors and out and out corruption. It’s also important to notice that these men went to prayer breakfasts in the morning and then stole from dead people during the day. (Not a big surprise to the Examiner)
To top that off, Billy Honsal, a regular prayer breakfast attendee is the son of William Honsal Sr. William Honsal Sr. was a former EPD Captain who was known for several officer-involved shootings. Honsal Sr. is BFF’s with recently retired evangelical Sheriff Downey, who hired Honsal Jr. from an outside agency as the under-sheriff, groomed him as his heir and then promoted him to Sheriff when he left suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly earlier this year.
But it goes further from there! Until DA Fleming made her bold move the investigation of Jager and Parris would have been under the direction of Chief DA Investigator Wayne Cox. Cox was an officer at EPD before becoming a DA Investigator. Cox was given the Investigator and Chief position by his former boss, Mike Hislop. Hislop was a former EPD Sergeant who got the position of Chief DA Investigator from his father in law, Jim Dawson. Now the EPD connections are obvious here, and there’s clearly a built-in bias if Cox was to head an investigation into fellow former fellow EPD officers Jager and Parris.
But it goes even further from there…. You see, many sources have reported to us that Mike Hislop was a thief of the first order back in his days in power. In fact, we’ve been told that he had a hanger at the Eureka airport filled with lots military surplus gear he obtained when he was a Peace Officer. That gear was supposed to be utilized by the agency he worked for, but there’s been accusations and speculation that the gear never made it to his employers. And military gear was just the tip of the iceberg for tips about Hislops corruption and thefts. So you see why we were a little worried that Hislop’s minion Wayne Cox might not look seriously into corruption and theft.
Hopefully, the FBI looks into this as a very “broad” investigation. Maybe they can flesh out whether the theft/sale of deceased people’s property was an isolated corrupt practice, or was part of a broader theft of community member’s property (such as drug seizures, Military Surplus given to departments, unclaimed property, ect.).
As a side note, this investigation and corruption couldn’t have been a surprise to former Sheriff Mike Downey or soon to be former Chief Andy Mills.
The Examiner has to ask. Did they leave their post’s early knowing shit was about to hit the fan? That’s as good an explanation as any of the questionable statements we heard from them when they announced their departures!!!
Good luck Federal and State authorities, bring your hip boot waders you’re stepping into some deep shit!!!