The Torrance Daily Breeze ran an unusual advertisement on Sunday.
A local condo association bought five pages in the middle of the main news section to deliver a long screed about a bitter power struggle for control of its board.
But that's not what made this ad unusual. It's the fact that the ad singles out for criticism the Breeze reporter who covered the story. The ad's author, Cyd Balque, president of the Scottsdale Townhouses Association, makes repeated references to the reporter, Gene Maddaus. She characterizes his work as sensationalistic and biased.
It is not unusual for someone in the middle of a public controversy to be unhappy with the coverage. It is unusual for a publisher to sell that person an expensive platform ($10,000? $15,000?) to attack the reporter. After all, Balque could have written a letter to the editor. And if the stories were incorrect in some way the paper would have run a correction. On the contrary, the editors ran an editor's note in Sunday's paper saying they stood behind the coverage.
Should the other side in the condo dispute get five pages to vent their concerns? Should other reporters worry about retribution if they take on special interests with deep pockets? What about editorial independence?
Since Maddaus is a former colleague, I'll let others decide how crazy this is. I did not speak to him about the ad because A. this isn't about him and B. I don't want to cause him any more grief.