What you read is what you get

Part of an editor’s job is to read all the copy before it goes into the newspaper. To look it over for accuracy, punctuation and grammar. To try and make sure no one has been libeled. Most of all, to try and make sure what we’ve written about makes sense. That part is the hardest of all.

In covering the news, particularly political news, we find a few subjects who speak with a forked tongue. It’s not that they’re lying. More often they’re either just giving it their spin or they’re not quite telling us everything. We have to try and unravel what they said and then what it really means.

For example, there is the big fracas over the sex education program in the Malibu schools. What the critics said is, “It’s not sex education we’re against, it’s just that particular program.” I kind of suspect that it’s no longer hip to be against sex education, so rather than say, “No we don’t want it,” we begin to hear phrases like “not age appropriate” or “insufficiently academic.” What they really mean is that they don’t want it.

Or take the story we have this week about the cable television contract with Falcon and what we, the citizens of Malibu, are going to get in return.

The city says it would be wonderful if we had a public access, educational and governmental channel, the so called PEG channel. On the surface it doesn’t sound bad. Then I think. Imagine if a newspaper needed a government license like cable TV. You can bet that the city would want several pages of The Malibu Times for public use, pages that the city edited and controlled. Now it sounds innocuous enough, but what we’re really talking about is a governmental TV propaganda channel, funded by us through $170,000 in the city budget with a monthly charge for maintenance, and for what? So Carolyn Van Horn can get on to explain to us the virtues of composting toilets or Walt Keller can explain the virtues of Walt Keller. True, I’m not sure whether I could go on without my needed update of the Hollywood scene from Nidia Birenbaum, but I’m wondering if providing a studio for her and a few others is at the top of my priority list, or at least $170,000 worth.

I’m a Web surfer. It seems many Web sites ask if you mind if they put a cookie somewhere in your computer. Now “cookie” sound innocuous enough, but if I understand it, that means letting them put something onto your hard drive that tracks what you’re doing. Then, the next time you check into their site, they can read it and figure out where you’ve been. I, of course, always answer “No” to the cookie question, but that doesn’t stop them from making the same request over and over and over. I assume people ultimately get tired and give in, which is probably why they keep asking. It seems to me it would be the same as calling information for a number and having them say to you, ” By the way, for quality control reasons and to assure that we give you proper service, would you mind if we tap your telephone for the rest of your life?” What they say is, “It’s for you own good,” but this is valuable marketing information about you that they can use, manipulate and sell. It’s bad enough the government has it, but do you also want to share it with Microsoft?

Like the man once said, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

In this town we have a cluster of clothing stores, a multitude of cappuccino makers, a bevy of marinara sauce providers. What we don’t have is a full-service bookstore. Considering Malibu is a highly educated town, we absolutely should have one. Some of you might like or, but I like the feel of a book. So if anybody knows anybody who’s in the retail book business, and they’re looking us over, let me know, because I know a bunch of people who want a bookstore and might be willing to help.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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