A personal perspective

There are rare occasions when the content of this column becomes personal and when the necessity therefore arises to step out of the collective embrace of “we” and into the voice of “I.”

The impending ballot on Measure B – the Hotel Limitation Measure – is such an occasion, in part because this newspaper is owned by Sonoma Media Investments, the managing partner of which is would-be hotel developer and my boss, Darius Anderson.

That relationship impinges on Index-Tribune coverage of the hotel limitation debate, if only because it can feed the suspicion that a media voice owned by a potential hotel developer must, by definition, be biased and suspect.

That is why, whenever possible, the Index-Tribune has relied on the services of Sonoma freelancer Pam Gibson – a former professional journalist, as well as a former city manager – to cover the story. We have tried to provide consistently balanced coverage on the hotel debate, and to the space in our opinion pages, although the opinion pendulum may swing from side to side depending on the fluctuating volume of letters and columns we receive, as is the case today.

These assertions won’t satisfy everyone – I know that – but in the end that issue comes down to the record of what appears in the pages of this newspaper. And on that subject, there are two very important facts all readers should understand.

First, as a mutually agreed-upon condition of my employment as editor of this newspaper, Darius Anderson and I both insisted he would not interfere in the content, the coverage or the opinions expressed in these pages. Anderson felt as strongly as I did that the editorial independence of the Index-Tribune is a public trust, and that for him to personally influence editorial content would violate that trust and damage the credibility of the paper.

Anderson has been good to his word, and throughout the many months of this increasingly-contentious public process neither he, nor anyone at his behest, has ever expressed a suggestion, request or demand concerning what we do or do not publish. Not once. That’s a fact.

Second, contrary to wildly misinformed statements by at least one irresponsible blogger, I have absolutely no financial interest in a future hotel, the land it would sit on or in any other business owned or controlled by Darius Anderson. I did have a very small, fractional interest in the Index-Tribune prior to acquisition of the Press Democrat by Sonoma Media Investments, but I surrendered that interest almost a year ago to clear the way for major local investors.

What that means is simply this: However good or bad, balanced or biased the news and opinions in these pages have been, the credit and the blame rest on me.

It also means that I have formed opinions over the last several months about the accuracy of claims made by all sides of the hotel issue and, in a companion editorial on Friday, I will share some of them.

But even before then, I feel compelled to dispel another preposterous rumor, circulated by the afore-mentioned blogger, that the Bank of America will soon unload its branch office on the Plaza to an unnamed developer who plans to build a three-story hotel with underground parking.

No one in Sonoma city government knows anything about such plans, which means the story is as empty as the source from which it came.