Opinion

Coast News Fails Responsibility to the Public with Unethical Reporting

Written by Lea Wolf

In 2018, I was running for a school board at San Dieguito High School District School Board, Trustee Area 5. On October 23, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion regarding the education system with several other candidates.

Prior to the debate, Coast News reporter Kelli Kyle interviewed me and recorded me for a long 20 minutes. During the debate, I stood out due to my out-of-the-box ideas and daring to speak up against the conflict of interest and unethical practices between the school district and the teachers’ union. I was vocal about the harm caused due to the special relationship between the union and the board members who are funded by it

On October 26, my campaign manager noticed that the Coast News article covering the event omitted my name, while mentioning the name of Mrs. James Ward, who was not even in attendance. 

I found it odd and strange, and reached out to Ms. Kyle, who had interviewed me and written the article. On October 29, she responded that the “editor had it slotted for 500 words, because we’ve already covered the school board elections this cycle. However, since the event was so big, he let me expand it to 650 – and even that was a tough squeeze!”

I refused to accept this explanation, and wrote back asking how my name, Lea Wolf—just two words—was not even mentioned, but someone who was not even there was named. Melisse Mossy was also on the panel and excluded in the Coast News story, while other candidates had several comments and photographs included.

She also referred me to Chief Editor Jordan Ingram. “I received your message sent to our reporter Kelli Kyle. I apologize your name didn’t make it into print,” Ingram said. “As you know, many of the names of attendees didn’t make it into print due to space.”

Again, I was not an attendee. I was a candidate on the debate panel with five other people.

I flipped through the paper and saw that the teachers’ union ran a few advertisements that week in Coast News. I called Ingram and confronted him on the matter, asking if I was excluded “because the teacher union paid for ads in the newspaper.”

He then said that it was not personal—that it was just about business. He offered to add my name to the online edition, which was a week later. That seemed a lame and insincere offer, so I responded that adding our names to attendance seemed more as a formality than the morality. That it was simply fixing the perception instead of doing the right thing.

Fast forward to May 2020; I used to belong to a left-wing Facebook group run by Mrs. Lorri Greene. I saw a post calling for people to donate to Coast News due to the hard times they were facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly enough, Mr. Chris Kydd, who is the associate publisher, thanked Greene for her initiative to promote Coast News. I thought this would be a great opportunity to settle the account and inform the community of the unethical, irresponsible, and unfair response and behavior of Mr. Ingram. I reminded Mr. Kydd of the 2018 incident and asked him if he has any responsibility toward the community? Does truth matter? Doesn’t Coast News have the responsibility to inform the community with fair and balanced reporting? 

To my disappointment, Mr. Kydd, instead of remedying the situation, kept dismissing it by saying it was an error. I asked him whether he is aware of the impact on the community by omitting my name and student-centered views from the article? Did not you deny parents and taxpayers from making informed decisions? My campaign was centered on students coming first, being fiscally responsible, and stopping the abuse of power and cover ups.

As Mr. Kydd refused to acknowledge any responsibility, I asked him pointedly if Coast News failed their fiduciary responsibility towards the community? Instead of apologizing and taking ownership of their failure, he continued deflecting and dismissing it as no big deal. He then reached out to me personally on Facebook messenger, blaming me for hurting their business and raising money.

We all make mistakes, of course. But instead of deleting, dismissing, and denying them, maybe the Coast News team could simply accept responsibility for this egregious mistake.

We need newspapers and journalists to continue exposing corrupt practices to raise awareness so that those in power are held accountable for their actions. But if news outlets refuse to even acknowledge such an obligation to the public, then what purpose do they really serve?