Journalistic ethics criticized

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On August 7th, you printed an article written by Olivia Damavandi, and with the headline “State Parks crashes party plans.”

I am one of the founders of Cyberstock, this article is laden with inaccuracies.

As a man of integrity, and someone who has been a professional musician his entire adult life, this article was insulting to me personally. As a citizen, the article was even more troubling, that something so misrepresentative of the truth would be printed in an American newspaper.

This article exhibits such disregard for truth, using scare tactics and bias over actual journalism to get its point across, that nothing less than an retraction will be acceptable to us by your paper. This is, at best, poor research and ignorance; but perhaps far more sinister, could be your apparent indifference to the ethical standards of the entire profession of journalism. As an editor of the paper and a member of the journalistic community, your readers expect more from you.

The inaccuracies and the misleading statements begin with the first sentence:

“State Parks officials put a damper on plans for a rave party at a cave located on state parkland at the top of Corral Canyon, the area where November’s Corral Fire started and burned more than 50 homes.”

First, the concert was never intended to be, nor had ever been anything close to a “rave”. A rave is defined (according to Merriam-Webster) as: A large overnight dance party featuring techno music and usually involving the taking of mind-altering drugs.

Cyberstock (which is misspelled in your article), in all of what is now 19 concerts, has never lasted more than 3 hours, and is a low key performance of mainly ambient electronic music. The audience usually remains seated during the event. The age of participants ranges from 20-60+, including families and grandparents. Our demographic reflects the community’s wide diversity. Cyberstock usually runs from 7-10pm and is not an all-night event. We have never condoned any drug use, and as far as we know, none of the concert goers are incapacitated by drugs.

None of the organizers have ever been to, nor heard of this area the article calls “The Cave.”

Further, you juxtaposed the article with a picture of “The Cave”, laden with graffiti.

No incidents of vandalism have ever occurred at Cyberstock.

The sentence also seems to imply that the Cyberstock organizers and/or its patrons were somehow responsible for the fires in Corral Canyon.

I hike these mountains often. Most, if not all of the Cyberstock fans are nature lovers and many give generously to environmental causes. The implication that this “party” was intended for delinquent, careless and/or destructive activities is totally ridiculous. It seems that Ms. Damavandi knew what she wanted to convey in the article, and pushed her agenda, using Cyberstock as a scapegoat for previous parties in the area and for the recent fires in the canyon.

Ms. Damavandi went on to, as I understand the facts, misquote Craig Sap.

Mr. Sap never said the event was “forcibly cancelled”. The article fails to mention that Mr. Sap stated that our group was “extremely cooperative.” For some inexplicable reason, the article clearly implies that we are a bunch of defiant thugs. This is outrageous.

Damavandi also states that she attempted to contact us and Loyola Marymount University for a comment. This is wholly untrue. Neither myself, the co-organizers, or LMU were contacted. None of us received an e-mail or phone call, nothing at all. It seems that the full extent of Ms. Damavandi’s research was our icontact newsletter. These newsletters contained at least two e-mail addresses, and she did not make any attempt to contact us at those addresses. I am not sure if she is lazy, incompetent, or downright diabolical. Either way, she had a story she wanted to tell, and fictionalized or used hyperbole to do it.

I’m also extremely offended by Ms. Damavandi’s implication that Loyola Marymount, since it booked our event, promotes underground raves and illicit activities that are potentially harmful to the neighborhood through its involvement with us. This venue was quite legal and in the works long before Damavandi’s irresponsible article, which managed to generate the concern of university officials who now saw the potential for unruly and uninvited crowds descending onto their campus due to what Damavandi mischaracterized as a rave. Many good people at LMU had their reputations cast in an unfair light due to Damavandi’s portrayal of Cyberstock.

The music at this year’s event, held on August 9th, ended at 9:30pm. It was a lovely event, and there were no problems with security, or complaints from residents in the area. LMU staff in attendance commented on how well organized our event was and remarked about the crowd being well-behaved.

Journalism holds is an important place in our society. But a free press also means a responsible press. By my count, you have violated a number of journalistic codes of conduct; using multiple original sources of information, checking every fact reported, finding and reporting every side of a story, reporting without bias, illustrating many aspects of a conflict rather than siding with one, researching and reporting a story with a balance between objectivity and skepticism, using careful judgment when organizing and reporting information. All of these seem absent, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Dean De Benedictis

Editor’s note: The Malibu Times stands by its story.