When Dick Carlson was a gung-ho investigative reporter in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, no target was too big and no obstacle too tough.
Whether it was the anti-Vietnam War movement, the emergence of the Black Panthers or Soviet trawler-spies off the Golden Gate, Carlson was often the first with the most.
His story linking San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto to the mob ended Alioto’s political dreams (and spawned a libel suit that helped kill Look magazine).
After arriving in San Diego as reporter-anchorman for KFMB, Carlson made a splash by unmasking the winner of a women’s tennis tourney in La Jolla, the then-unknown Renee Richards, as a transsexual. Carlson prided himself on being a muckraker.
But now Carlson (a failed mayoral candidate in 1984) is in Washington as director of the Voice of America, and the journalistic tables have been turned.
Of late, Carlson has been jousting with free-lance writer and ex-VOA staffer Carolyn Weaver, who has written a scathing account in this month’s Columbia Journalism Review of alleged political bias in the VOA under Carlson and the Reagan Administration in general.
The VOA, which is part of the United States Information Agency, tried unsuccessfully in court to require Weaver to submit her article for review by invoking a pre-employment agreement.
Among other things, Weaver asserts that the VOA, which broadcasts to 130 million people around the world, has been one-sided and pro-Administration in its reporting on Dan Quayle, Iran-contra, apartheid and Central America. Under its congressional mandate, VOA is supposed to be “accurate, objective and comprehensive” and present opposing views.
Weaver alleges the VOA was cozy with Oliver North and may have played Rod Stewart records and Russian folk tunes to send secret messages. She implies that Carlson eased out (or allowed to be eased out) a correspondent seen as too sympathetic to the imprisoned South African activist Nelson Mandela.
Carlson provided Weaver with written documents but refused to be interviewed. He wrote to CJR that he did not want to “participate in this charade by facilitating Ms. Weaver’s attempt to recycle old news, rumor and gossip.”
Now that the article is out, Carlson has branded it “a pastiche of rehashed driblets.” Though the 47-year-old Carlson retains a home in La Jolla, friends expect him to remain in Washington under the new administration, either at the VOA or elsewhere in the executive branch.
A Sobering Quest
Yes, OMBAC (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club) sponsors the hedonistic Over-the-Line Tournament, but it also does more than its share of good deeds.
OMBACer Fred Thompson is worried the public remembers the group only for its annual bacchanal at Fiesta Island.
So far, OMBAC has not had a single request for the 800 new toys it wants to give away for Christmas, and only one suggestion for a building that needs renovating. Each year OMBAC distributes toys and does a free rehab project, worth about $20,000 in labor and materials.
“Maybe people are worried if they call OMBAC, they’ll get nothing but a bunch of drunk, party-going sots,” Thompson said. “Hey, we’ve got lawyers, doctors, construction guys, 27 guys from the Police Department. We’re OK.”
Deadline for inquiries is Dec. 10. Write OMBAC: 752 1/2 Isthmus Court, San Diego.
Bad Boys Button It Up
The oddest political button at Election Central may have been “I Voted Twice. Johnston and Lewis Made Me Do It.” It was the work, naturally, of Johnston and Lewis, the bad-boy consulting firm.
Meanwhile, several homeless people on downtown streets have taken to wearing buttons reading simply: “President Quayle?”