The mailer, in politician-speak, is a hit piece, and a massive copyright violation besides. The people that put this out, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, should be ashamed of themselves. Supporting AIDS research and helping those suffering from HIV and AIDS — things the foundation does — are worthy. How it prosecutes — or persecutes — its causes should be examined, as should the head of its president, Michael Weinstein.
There are plenty of worthy causes out there, Michael, and ripping off our content and putting the News-Press in a bad light is a sure way to lose friends. And in your case, donations, when people read this and hopefully decide to support more reputable organizations.
Some background: A few weeks back, Ron Kaye wrote a column — an opinion piece — sharply critical of Gatto's actions in regard to a bill that would have required condoms in all adult filming statewide, a bill strongly supported by the AIDS foundation. (Los Angeles County voters recently approved a similar measure for porn shoots locally.)
In short, Kaye felt Gatto used parliamentary measures and excuses to kill the bill. Gatto claimed it was the state Senate that killed the bill, not him. Fine.
We covered this on the news side in only the briefest manner. As far as I know, no group has pulled a porn permit in Burbank, Glendale, Montrose or La Cañada in the history of film, making the issue somewhat moot locally.
However, because our area has but one assemblyman, and that happens to be Gatto, I gave Kaye the go-ahead to vent his spleen. Often, I hear from Gatto's people if they dislike something we do. I heard nary a peep.
Then came this mailer, and the fecal matter hit the whirling device.
On Tuesday, I left a pointed voicemail for Weinstein, demanding he explain himself. Instead, I got a call from the foundation's lawyer, Tom Myers. For his part, he was unfailingly professional, and said he understood my concerns. When he asked what I might want, I responded directly and simply:
Put out another mailer, sent to the same households that received the first one, stating the AIDS Healthcare Foundation did not have permission to use the piece and apologizing for doing so.
Myers said he would confer with others in his organization and get back to me.
"So what?" I hear you ask.
Here's why I care: By sending out this mailer, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation made the News-Press appear hopelessly biased. Since it's common knowledge you can't steal others' work, the use of the full column would appear we gave consent for its use.
If that were true, it would mean the paper not only wholly agrees with the foundation's aims and methods, but that the official stance of the News-Press is that Gatto is a rat and a liar. But it's not true. What is true is the foundation took something that did not belong to them and twisted it for their own political purposes.
As is the case with pretty much all of our local politicians, Gatto occasionally loves our coverage and occasionally loathes it. But we do our best to be fair, and this mailer severely dented our reputation in that arena.
I spoke with Myers again on Friday morning and repeated my demand that the foundation put out a mailer apologizing for the theft. He responded that the group was considering putting out a press release.
Not good enough. On Thursday night, an email blast went out to the group's supporters titled "Glendale News-Press Blows Whistle on Gatto's Deception in Porn Vote." In it, the group notes that the porn mailer had been sent to 16,323 homes in Gatto's district, and it contains this gem:
"…Gatto's hometown newspaper, the Glendale News-Press, peeled back Gatto's lies to reveal that he knew exactly what he was doing in sidelining the bill."
That sure makes it sound like it was the paper's opinion, not Kaye's.
Myers, by the way, is also the foundation's chief of public affairs, so it stretches credulity to think he didn't know about the blast, or that he didn't directly or implicitly approve of it.
I called again Friday evening to get an update on this and what the foundation planned to do about their odious actions, but did not hear anything further.
To be clear, I am not disavowing Kaye's column. I don't agree or disagree with him on the issue; I don't really care.
But I do care about an organization that callously and irresponsibly used our name and reputation for their own ends. Our standing in the community is our biggest asset, and I cannot allow it to be soiled.