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Carson lawmakers delay vote over boycotting local newspaper

Carson lawmakers delay vote over whether to boycott local newspaper

Lawmakers from Carson on Tuesday night delayed indefinitely a vote over whether the city should cancel its subscriptions to the Daily Breeze and urge residents to boycott the newspaper.

The resolutions -- formally known as 15-010 and 15-011 -- would prohibit the South Bay city's government from subscribing to and advertising in the paper unless it's legally required, and would encourage residents and businesses to follow suit.

The impetus is several “published accounts of homicides, other crimes and negative stories” that were reported as “misleadingly located ‘near Carson,’ ” according to the draft resolutions.

Councilman Albert Robles, the sponsor of the draft resolutions, said the Daily Breeze’s stories “over-report the negatives and under report the positives.”

“Carson is becoming a destination city,” Robles told The Times. “We cannot afford for Carson’s image to be negative.”

In the fifth hour of the City Council meeting, Robles proposed -- and Mayor Jim Dear granted without objection -- a delay on the vote on the resolutions. 

Instead, Robles said he will meet with Michael Anastasi, the newspaper's executive editor.

Earlier Tuesday, Anastasi sent a letter to Dear, the City Council and citizens, explaining that his newspaper “has consistently referred to the unnamed unincorporated area of Los Angeles County near Carson as just that.”

“While it is unfortunate that Carson may cease being a business client of the Daily Breeze, we will not bow to financial pressure,” Anastasi added, noting that punishing the paper by withdrawing subscriptions would lessen the paper’s ability to scrutinize local politics.

On Jan. 11, the newspaper reported on brewing political intrigue in the run-up to Carson’s municipal elections, making the timing of Tuesday’s draft resolution “interesting,” Anastasi wrote.

As the resolution and its accompanying exhibits lay out, issues with the newspaper’s reporting date to September, when city management sent the first of two letters to the paper’s editors critiquing crime and public safety stories.

Those articles were bylined to City News Service, a news wire service that covers Southern California. Robles said he has not contacted City News Service about coverage of events in or near Carson.

In a letter dated Sept. 23, 2014, to Anastasi, City Manager Nelson Hernandez claimed that a Sept. 13 story on a fatal car accident on the 405 Freeway was reported as occurring in Carson but happened outside city boundaries.

“Moving forward, I am requesting that you balance your reporting with highlights on a lot of the positive projects and developments" in Carson, Hernandez wrote, adding that he wanted to meet with Anastasi’s reporters.

A meeting was scheduled for Sept. 25, but Hernandez’s office canceled 20 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, Anastasi said.

A second letter pointed out that a Dec. 7 article attributed to City News Service described a man who drowned a fellow transient as being from Carson.

In that letter, Assistant City Manager Cecil Rhambo took issue with the fact that the assailant was reported as being from Carson, even though he lacked a permanent address.

Anastasi said he did not receive the letter. 

The last straw came on Dec. 28, when an article on a fatal shooting in unincorporated Torrance was allegedly re-worded to locate the shooting in the unincorporated area near Carson, Robles said. 

The shooting occurred about half a mile from city boundaries. The article located the shooting "in the unincorporated area between Harbor Gateway and Carson."

Of the 17 stories involving the same area, all referred to the location "as the unincorporated area near Carson," Anastasi said.

"Factually, that’s correct," Robles said. "But it’s also factually correct to say it's unincorporated Torrance, which they do not. It’s also factually correct to say it’s the Harbor Gateway, which they do not. They choose to say it's near Carson. And that is not fair."

If the resolutions pass and are signed by the mayor, they would take effect immediately, Robles said. 

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

10:46 p.m.: This story was updated with the Carson City Council's decision to continue indefinitely the vote over boycotting the Daily Breeze.

This story was originally published at 6:27 p.m.

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