Everyone knows that newspapers are under severe threats to their survival and have been for some time. The Davis Enterprise is no different. Yet newspapers play an essential role in informing the community, fostering community dialogue, and forging community. That makes me loathe to criticize the Enterprise. But when the new Editor, Sebastian Oñate, engages in practices that undermine those very goals, I feel as though I must speak out. I do so not to hurt the Enterprise further but rather in the hopes of changing his ways, or if that is not possible, to encourage the paper to find a different Editor.
The problem with Oñate’s practice is this: he has engaged in practices that demean and disparage readers. This serves to reduce participation and harm one’s sense of community, not foster it. An Editor should always take the high road and be seen as open and fair to all. Unfortunately, Oñate has not done that, as the following examples illustrate. (If images are too small to read, you can click to enlarge, or just follow the links).
In response to a commenter on an Enterprise article who said, “the University must take on the responsibility of housing their students and not look to Davis to meet that need” – a widely held view – Oñate stated that “the idea that we can just ignore the students and let other entities deal with them is the worst sort of head-in-the-sand denial.” That is an insulting and demeaning response that fails to take into account the reasons why someone might hold such a view.
Another example is Oñate holding up a reader’s writing to ridicule. This was a reader who has submitted an op-ed and was unhappy about having her work reduced to the length of a letter to the Editor. Whether that was the right decision or not, she did not deserve to be the object of Oñate’s criticism.
Both of the subjects of these attacks were women. Two is not a pattern, but then again, this tweet together with this tweet suggests that Oñate might not have the sensitivity towards women and women’s issues that one would expect the Editor of a newspaper to have.
And then, there are remarks that are downright snarky and unnecessarily insulting, asking whether there is “a class in law school on composing super-jerky emails” and, a few days later, complaining that the “lawyer who wanted special treatment for her letter to the editor finally gets it to me, with the name of the candidate she's backing misspelled.” Is this how people who submit their thoughts to the Davis Enterprise should be treated?
Apparently, though, Oñate feels that, even after being “lectured on how, as the capital-E editor at the newspaper, [he is] supposed to keep [his] yap shut when people criticize us online,” it’s “not going to happen, folks.” (I don’t know which incident this is in response to, but if anyone does, please leave a comment below).
Maybe some don’t find these examples as egregious as I do. If you are in that group, consider that Editors need to uphold a higher standard in order to properly serve the goals of the community – that what might be tolerable for an individual to do is simply unacceptable from the person who is guiding both the overall direction and the day-to-day decisions of a newspaper. The practices of the Editor of the Davis Enterprise need to change.