“I’ll never print anything from you.” – Monterey Herald’s Royal Calkins
After HOPE received an unusually high number of Herald political censorship complaints (on top of their complete lack of response to HOPE’s carefully written Better Water Supply Commentary) I called their letter editor, Royal Calkins, leaving a message asking to meet with him.
He never called back. Reflecting back over the years, he’d never returned any calls and had avoided my many requests to meet with him. However, not one to give up, I kept calling until he answered his phone on July 24, 2009.
After at most two civil sentences from him, when I courteously asked to meet with him about letters not getting printed, he not only refused to meet with me, his voice rose rapidly until he was yelling at me. At that point Calkins said (shouted actually) clearly “I’ll never print anything from you.”
Since I find arguing a waste of time, I said I was going to hang up; and did.
Hmmm. His admission explained a lot. It didn’t explain “why,” but all of a sudden I realized that since Calkins had become the Herald’s letter editor five years previously, the Herald had not printed a single letter of mine, nor any of the several commentaries I had submitted. It explains that he fully intends to block any mention of the cheaper faster, better solution to our Peninsula Water crisis. Never mind that it is the primary project of our Monterey Water management District.
Calkins has never given any reason for not publishing any of them, and has always avoided my requests to meet with him. I had reached him a week earlier (on July 16, 2009) and we spoke for about 10 seconds about HOPE’s Water Commentary. I now realize he intentionally mislead me yet again into giving him the benefit of doubt, believing he might still have some journalistic integrity by falsely promising “I’ll read it in the next day or so.”
Since our community was familiar with my letters and commentaries over the past 20+ years and had generally responded strongly in favor of them this seemed an odd position for the Herald.
I did not respond to his amazing Blacklisting outburst, but I did write it down. After hanging up I called to make an appointment with the Herald’s President Gary Omernick (1). I did not explain why I wanted to meet with him, just gave my name and affiliation and an appointment was promptly set.
A week later, on July 31, 2009, as I sat down with Herald President Omernick, his first words were “Royal Calkins told me he did not say ‘he would never print your letters to the editor.’ and “He won’t be joining us, but his boss Joe Livernois will.”
Wow. Since I had never mentioned Calkins’ outrageous admission to anyone at the Herald, nor even responded when he said it, why would Calkins deny something before he was accused of it?
More importantly – how could Calkins know what he was accused of – unless he knew exactly what he had said and how wrong it was; unless he was guilty?
Of course Calkins knew exactly what he had admitted in his fury – that he had added me to his Blacklist. His problem was that now I had gone over his head and taken it to his boss, Herald President Gary Omernick.
He needn’t have worried, Herald President Omernick backed him up. But Calkins has an extremely thin skin and a volcanic instability . . . Do you predict he would just forget these events? Stay tuned . . .
After this stunning statement by Omernick, I handed him a copy of an agenda of issues I proposed we talk about for the meeting.
We chatted for a while about newspapers losing readers until the Herald’s City Editor, Joe Livernois joined us (the City Editor has responsibility for all local stories).
Hmmm, while I don’t want to put the Herald out of business (they’re doing a bang up job of that themselves), I wonder if we should all get together and pursue a class action suit against the Herald for failing to stop Calkin’s systematic, false, public and spiteful attacks? I suspect a jury would easily find his attacks fill the criteria of defamation and “malice aforethought.”
Update #2 February 17, 2014: Calkins was forced to “retire” as Editor and is apparently no longer at the Herald. Lets see if the Herald has deleted their “Blacklist.” (Can’t help but wonder if he was directed to take Anger Management classes.)
The earlier version of this story inexplicably referred to the Herald Publisher and President as “Eric Orme.” His correct name is Gary Omernick.