Why are local tax dollars being used to prop up one liberal newspaper?

By Jim Clark

While reading the free acorn newspaper that arrived on my driveway a couple weeks ago, I was struck by two things: 1) It contained fewer pages than normal, and 2) there were a lot of new full-page ads that I hadn’t seen before. Full-page ads are very expensive, and most of them were placed by taxpayer-funded organizations. 

It is understandable why the newspaper was not as thick as usual. With the COVID-19 crisis, many of the regular business advertisers are probably closed, so there is no reason for them to advertise right now. This puts all newspapers and online news providers in a world of hurt. 

Yet, there were a number of new full-page ads from agencies funded by taxpayers, including the following::

  • Ventura County Public Health (half-page)
  • City of Thousand Oaks (full-page)
  • Conejo Valley Unified School District (full-page)
  • UACT (full-page)

The last one on the list may need some explanation. UACT is the Conejo Valley teachers’ union. The reason I consider it taxpayer-funded is because taxes are used to pay the teachers, then the union takes a percentage of the teachers’ salaries for their operational and political activities. Therefore, the union is indirectly taxpayer-funded.

The advertising by the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) is particularly problematic since they already have the email addresses and phone numbers of their students and parents. Therefore, at any time, they can reach everyone they need to reach for free. In our home, we frequently receive CVUSD robocalls and emails. So this waste of taxpayer money really needs to be explained. The only acceptable explanation would be that all these full-page ads were all placed for free as a public service by the newspaper. Since the CVUSD ad actually shows up in their board-approved purchase orders – which are public information – we can probably assume that none of the other ads were done for free either.

The bigger question is, of the available advertising options, why did these public agencies choose the most politically progressive news organization to receive their generous advertising dollars? The Thousand Oaks Acorn is a for-profit company that has shown itself to have a significant liberal bias. It should be noted, though, that there are different Acorns for the various geographic areas in and around Ventura County. Most of the other Acorns are not nearly as left-leaning as the Thousand Oaks Acorn.

There are other options available where these agencies could have advertised. The Citizens Journal, for example, is a more conservative option with a large reach. Another possibility is the Conejo Guardian, which has a similar circulation to the T.O. Acorn and is specific to the Conejo Valley.

The fact that the most liberal paper was chosen to be propped-up with taxpayer funds could lead many residents to conclude that there may have been political reasons for these choices. But even if there were no political motivations, the indisputable fact is that, in this difficult time, these agencies seem to be trying to pick which news organization will survive the crisis. This is completely inappropriate. Tax revenues come from people of every political persuasion. The advertising funds should be spent accordingly.

Hopefully, though, this unseemly situation with the Acorn was just an oversight and we’ll start seeing advertisements from these taxpayer-funded agencies in the Citizens Journal, the Conejo Guardian, and other local news organizations. To be fair and unbiased, public agencies must either advertise in all of them or none of them. “None of them” is the most fiscally responsible choice.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.


Jim Clark is a resident of the Conejo Valley


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