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Whether you love him or hate him, San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre is good at grabbing headlines by grabbing issues of public concern.

This week, he issued a report entitled, " KPBS Abrogated its Duty to Maintain Objectivity and Balance in its Local Public Affairs Programming by Cancelling the Full Focus Program (PDF) ." I want to be among the first to thank him.

Oh, I don't think he makes a very good case against the station. Even his bold display of KPBS' internal emails fails to substantiate anything approaching an abrogation of balance and objectivity. In fact, I'm afraid Mr. Aguirre may have embarrassed himself and his office for pressing what appears to be a personal vendetta against an editor for the Union-Tribune who frequents our air.

For readers who don't have the time to digest Mr. Aguirre's report, you should know he establishes several facts: that KPBS operates as a public service with funding from various sources, that KPBS is obliged to an ethical code defined by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and (among others) the Public Broadcasting Service , and that KPBS cancelled its daily television public affairs program in August. 

Where Mr. Aguirre departs from the facts is in his assertion that the cancellation amounts to a violation of ethics. Taking Full Focus off the air was certainly a loss for our community -- because he's right when he says it was one of the few sources of balanced, in-depth civic discourse on San Diego television. But it was removed for failing to draw viewers, which amounts to a responsible programming decision, not a dereliction of duty.

But what is even further afield in his report, departing from its very premise, is his concern with a Friday morning radio program, Editors Roundtable .

By switching the topic to KPBS Radio (89.5 FM), Mr. Aguirre completely ignores the significant investment KPBS has made there in its local news, public affairs and news analysis. Editors Roundtable is but one hour among the more than 15 hours a week that we produce to help our region better know itself.

And if the bottom line in his report is to suggest that U-T editorial page editor Bob Kittle is some kind of controlling force in KPBS programming, that's just plain silly. Mr. Kittle certainly informs the producers about what topics he can speak about (the two times per month he appears). And if Mr. Aguirre is upset that Cox Channel Four only seems to cablecast those episodes featuring Kittle (and Tim McClain and John Warren), well then he should take that up with Cox. But Mr. Kittle appears as a guest of KPBS and does so with all due respect for being invited.

But back to my premise. I want to thank Mr. Aguirre for his time and attention to the matter. It's a legitimate concern that San Diego be covered with depth and objectivity. And it's a righteous position to take -- insisting that a single newspaper editor not dominate the civic agenda of a community. And, frankly, until this, how much time has the average San Diegan spent pondering the ethics and standards of its local media?

Mr. Mike Aguirre deserves our thanks for caring about San Diego... and about the editorial health of KPBS .

Sincerely: Thank you, sir.

We'd have a better city if more people cared as much as you.

-- Michael Marcotte is the news director for KPBS. Please read our guidelines before posting comments.



See also: Michael Aguirre spoke on These Days about this issue (he appears 28min into the program) .


Jimmie Sober
October 05, 2007 at 04:56 PM
Mike Aguirre pokes sticks at all of the moral, ethical, and probably illegal corruption in our elected officials, and government unions. When found out, that bunch, screams, shouts, and with the help of Union Tribune's Kittle, whose own objectivity and honesty are grossly suspect, attempts to destroy Mikes edification. Mike knows that you can not raise an issue by remaining in the closet. -----

Maura Larkins
October 05, 2007 at 11:59 PM
Your essay is well done, Mr. Marcotte. I, too, appreciate Mike Aguirre's efforts to address issues of ethics and legality in public entities and publicly-supported institutions. And you are quite right that it is the San Diego Union Tribune that looks bad when journalistic ethics in San Diego are examined.

w. calderon
October 08, 2007 at 06:16 AM
Can someone explain to me what the role of the city attorney is? How does the cancellation of a tv show have anything to do with city business? Why aren't KPBS journalists asking those questions?

October 08, 2007 at 08:12 PM
Perhaps "Full Focus" would have been more successful in attracting viewers if someone other than Gloria Penner was the host. Her interviewing style is rivaled only by Tom Fudge's for inteptness. Perhaps someone can send Mr Marcotte some airchecks of Larry Mantle at KPCC or Warren Olney at KCRW for examples of how a good interview is done.

Robert Levin
October 10, 2007 at 11:58 AM
The notion that Full Focus was canceled due to its small audience seems suspect. I find it hard to believe that the size of the audience of any KPBS program has any relation to Mr.Myrland's decision to broadcast it. Silly, you say? If popularity determines KPBS programs, then why is it that every time they want to raise more money (in part to pay for Mr.Myrland's $190k salary) the normally scheduled programs are all replaced by golden oldie music specials? Obviously, the music specials draw a bigger, and more generous, audience. So why not run the baby boomer nostalgia-thons all the time? Whether canceling Full Focus was a breach of ethics is perhaps unclear. That Full Focus played a vital role in our city is clear. Even if the audience was small, Full Focus was a safety valve for the build-up of corruption and incompetence in San Diego. The Sunroad debacle and the anti-recycling nonsense are two examples of stories that were kept exposed by the show. Now, insofar as TV is concerned, these stories are muted.

Nick Bates
November 02, 2007 at 12:30 PM
Your title to this story says it all about Mike Aguirre. "In Appreciation of Mike Aguirre, Our Biggest Critic." This is the problem with Mike Aguirre. He is constantly criticizing and not being constructive. If it is his personal agenda to criticize KPBS for their non-effort in keeping the show on the air, then wait until your out of office (which will hopefully be soon) before making such comments. Mr. Aguirre is constantly trying to muddy our cleanest waters. Suggestion to Mr. Aguirre, "Stay in your arena and do your job you were ELECTED to do!" I don't understand why Mr. Marcotte appreciates this guy. He is the biggest joke in this city.

Christine from Hillcrest
April 04, 2008 at 10:17 PM
Aguirre may have flaws, but ALOT of us feel that he is the best thing to ever happen to our city. If it wasnt for him, the corrupt machine that is the city of SD would have continued w/o interference and cost us billions! He has just gotten to the tip of what is sure to be an unimaginable amount of city scandal that has continued for decades and I suggest that if people really care about this city, they will keep him in office and allow him to fight for the citizens. There is a HUGE amount of money that wants him out so I urge listeners to use critical thinking skills when they hear the criticisms of this controversial guy. He is a hero as far as I am concerned.

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