Yes, Matt Ocker has ‘history’. It is all explained for anyone who cares to read about it. I am not going to defend Matt’s history or his behavior. On the three occasions that I have had the opportunity to speak face to face with Matt, I have found him to be nothing but polite, knowledgeable and interesting to talk to. And for those who are wondering, he cleans up pretty well, too, if that sort of thing matters to you. I am not here to convince you to ignore the Advocate and vote for Matt Ocker if you weren’t already going to do so. I want to talk about the ethics of the article. Matt Ocker’s history is of no relevance for me at this point in time.
First, was this article really necessary? Are there really folks out there who are not aware of most of this? I am not sure that most folks don’t already know the high points of Matt’s history as that had been splayed out on the Advocate forum many times. Did we need the details? I don’t care if he is running for public office, did we need the details? I don’t really think so. I appreciate the fact that Pozzi’s criminal record was mentioned. He was arrested on a drunk driving charge, and was unlawfully carrying a weapon. The Advocate is worried about Matt’s temper and we have a drunk with a weapon?
Secondly, let’s look at the folks the Advocate asked for comments on the story. We have County Commissioner Gary Burns commenting and making this comment, “I do worry about his mental stability," said County Commissioner Gary Burns, a fellow Republican.” Well, if I wanted to guarantee a negative comment about Matt Ocker, I’d go straight to Gary Burns, too. Everyone in the county, including, probably my dead Aunt Pearl, knows that there is no love lost between Gary Burns and Matt Ocker. How fair was that? Then we have Matt’s ex-brother-in-law, Travis Eddleman. Another excellent choice, if I do say so.
Having ‘experts’ weigh in from various colleges lent absolutely no credibility to the article in my opinion. These folks were provided with who knows what information and we have no idea as to how they formed their opinion. Even though they are speaking generically, the fact that their opinion is attached to Matt will probably have the desired effect that the Advocate is seeking.
Last, let’s talk about the comments section being disabled. It was a nice gesture to offer folks the opportunity to write a letter to the editor. I’m sure we’ll see some of those. It was nice that both Matt Ocker and Don Pozzi were invited to submit columns in response. We might see that. But the clever offer, in my opinion, was to offer readers a chance to write a blog where folks could post. We’ve seen that. Advocate Blogger Bsspotter wrote a blog, http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/weblogs/paradigm-shifter/2010/aug/01/character-assassination-of-matt-ocker/, critical of the Advocate’s story.
Chris Cobler, editor of the Advocate, also posted a blog asking us to weigh in on the topic of restricting comments on stories. His blog is located at http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/weblogs/your-advocate-an-editors-blog/2010/aug/01/when-is-it-ever-appropriate-to-restrict-online-com/ . He has 35 comments already. Folks are being very vocal about this and many are speaking in favor of Matt Ocker, despite the information in the story. By the way, in the online poll, “Who will you vote for as Victoria County Judge?” Matt Ocker is leading with 133 votes to Pozzi’s 119.
Back in October, during all the ‘does the Advocate have a credibility issue’ debate, I looked at the Mission Statement of the Victoria Advocate. I’m reprinting it here for you to see. Read it and ask yourself if the Advocate has lived up to it’s Mission Statement with this particular article.
We are our market’s dominant provider of relevant and compelling content.
We delivery timely and accurate information to consumers,
and we deliver targeted audiences to advertisers across multiple mediums.
We value honesty, fairness, respectfulness, and service to our community.
Was this article relevant? Was it fair and respectful and did it provide a service to our community? If you can answer yes to all of those questions without hesitation, then you should have no problem with the article. If you think the article was unfair and disrespectful, then you see where I am coming from. And where I am coming from is this: in the coming days, weeks, or months will we see this sort of article on District Attorney Stephen B. Tyler and his opponent, former Assistant District Attorney Deborah Branch? While it will not be a scrutiny of their criminal records, it could be one of their prosecution records. That would be relevant, compelling and certainly of a service to our community in as much as a prosecution record is usually what gets a DA elected.
Chris Cobler states, “We consider it part of our First Amendment duty to help inform the public about their candidates for public office.” I think there was a lapse, somewhat, in good judgment here, and that is a disappointment. I eagerly await the Tyler/Branch exposé.
So, until next time,
"Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you." -- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.