Friday, December 2, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 40

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on November 23rd, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 39

Beyond optics


Pop quiz, readers. 

When you read the statement: “The public figure did not respond before press time,” what do you perceive? How does that sound to you? Do you:

a) shrug—public figures are busy and deadlines are tight.

b) roll your eyes—it takes just a second to respond.

c) lose faith—public figures should stop hiding. 

d) applaud—we don’t need to hear from everyone all the time.

Public figures, political candidates, CEOs, community leaders—you all need to listen up because none of those answers are good for your business or image. Not even option d because yes, yes we do need to hear from you. When our reporters call for comment, we’re not being frivolous. We’re not calling to be annoying. We’re serving the community.

As our reporters were keeping up with the elections tallies, we reached out to the candidates for comment. Standard stuff. “You’re now in the lead/you’ve now lost your lead—let us know how you’re doing, what you’re planning next, etc.” 

In the Santa Maria City Council District 3 race, the candidates would only talk to us when they were in the lead. 

When Gloria Soto was down in the count, she didn’t respond to our reporter’s texts or calls. So we printed a standard, “Soto didn’t respond in time for comment about the race before the Sun’s deadline,” (“Santa Maria City Council races remain tight,” Nov. 17).

Then we ran an election update in our online version, which reflected the most recent count as of Nov. 15, after our press deadline. With those results showing Soto up by 25 votes, she was more than happy to contact us.  

Same with Steven Funkhouser. He didn’t take any of our calls or respond to multiple requests for comments during any of our election coverage, including when we were reporting on slick campaign mailers with doctored photos of his opponent—“Funkhouser did not respond to the Sun’s multiple inquiries for comment,” (“Doctored photos show up on Santa Maria’s District 3 mailers,” Nov. 3). 

We know you’re busy. We’re busy. We get it. But busy isn’t special anymore. 

Funkhouser finally replied in the brief period of time when poll results showed that he had a lead over Soto (“Santa Maria City Council races remain tight,” Nov. 17 print edition).

Your ability to take the media seriously and be responsive is about more than optics; it’s about trust.

These candidates are trying to win a public job, an arena that requires public trust, inquiry, participation, and scrutiny from those being served and those trained to ask good questions. Public figures need to communicate with the community, especially via their friendly neighborhood newspaper, even when they’re not feeling so good about what we’re calling them for. 

Here’s the lesson: Not responding looks bad. We don’t like writing that you couldn’t be reached for comment. We want to publish your words so the community can read how you’re doing and what you’re planning next. 

That’s us—you, the public figure; and us, the newspaper—doing our jobs.

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It's a great way to create a network of collaboration and reach people in need.
It's been needed in the county for a long time and should have been made earlier.
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