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Oakmont News, Opinion & More

Press Freedom vs. Corporate Requirements

A little over a month ago, Wednesday, March 14, I met with Kevin Hubred, our general manager, Martin Hirsch, Association attorney, Vice President Greg Goodwin and James Foreman, immediate past chair of the Communications Committee, to talk about the future of the Oakmont News. The Board of Directors, on March 6, had given authority to Kevin to review ALL articles written by members of the Communications Committee. The respective resolution reads as follows:

 “To appoint the Oakmont Village Association general manager to work with the Communications Committee Chair to oversee and approve all Oakmont news articles prior to publication and to revise the publication policy to be recommended to and approve by the Board, by no later than June 1, 2018.”

After the case of corporate exigencies and risk management had been clearly laid out, I needed to address the fact that finding experienced writers and journalists would be a near impossibility under these conditions. Writers are artists, they are immensely proud and protective of their efforts. Differences of opinion between editors and reporters are well known and documented. Retired journalists look back on their rewarding careers, and are not interested in having their work product handicapped by corporate management. They accept editing from a colleague who has achieved the editor’s post through climbing the ranks of his fellow writers.

The Oakmont News is essentially a corporate newsletter, but 8 years ago, I saw to it that general news would be featured on its front page. While previously only club news were published, the newly added content found great acceptance by the Oakmont readers. The journalists were deeply motivated and they enjoyed significant “press freedom,” while being cognizant that their newspaper was a corporate sponsored entity. As such, certain restriction prevailed; content was not to harm the image of the corporation/association. (See article by Kevin Hubred in the Oakmont News, under “Risk Management”, April 15, 2018.)

All went well until last summer, when a lapse in editorial judgment occurred, and an article found its way into the pages, dealing with the resignation of the then manager, Cassie Turner. A board member intervened and requested oversight over future pieces concerning sensitive personnel/legal matters. The editorial team resigned in protest over the alleged censorship and began writing for the Kenwood Press.

(A more recent article in the Oakmont News gave renewed rise to the same unease about bias.)

As fate would have it, 13 years ago, I found myself in similar circumstances; an amusingly tongue in cheek feature called me into the office of the then manager Ted Throndson and OVA president Bill Boyd. I was requested to submit all future writings to management. I demurred, taking my case to the Kenwood Press, the paper I subsequently wrote for during many years.

Two weeks ago, yet another situation presented itself, one that required the judgment of Solomon. On one hand we had Kevin Hubred, our general manager’s justification that his primary responsibility rested on the corporate dictum that no harm shall befall the corporation. He cited the case of a lawsuit that occurred during his previous employ. On the other hand, I was to be responsible to the ethics of a free and unfettered press to which all journalists subscribe, indeed, all people.

Mr. Hubred and attorney Hirsch, during the meeting in the former’s office, expended great efforts to emphasize that they would apply a light hand over the written work. They did not mean to edit the articles, but to simply watch out for obvious and not so obvious risks to the corporate image. Above all, they wanted the Oakmont News to continue to feature news that tell of the life and activities of the residents of our community.

With the seating of another board and a new liaison to the Communications Committee, the strictures on review authority by management were to be loosened. However, the task of having to rebuild the Communications Committee, with no willing writers in sight, proved too daunting, hence my resignation on April 4.

As we now learned at yesterday’s board meeting, the entire Marty Thompson team was subsequently persuaded to return to the hometown paper, the Oakmont News. The yearlong uncertainties since their resignation have, thereby, found a happy ending. We wish Marty and his associated writers good luck and contentment in their work for the paper, which they had led in the past for many years.
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6 Comments

  1. jim Golway on April 18, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Good write up Yvonne – and I have to say you are most tactful (as one would expect a cultured and refined woman like you would be). But calling the board’s action on the matter: “a happy ending” is pushing it (perhaps absurdly hilarious) but happy? No.

    Having written many news articles & features when Marty was the editor and later, for James F. and Michael C. I find the boards decision to welcome back ‘their’ journalists spiteful, childish and irresponsible. I expect they will also ignore or cancel the policy of having Kevin review all articles prior to publication – so much for Risk Management.

    I wonder how much hypocrisy Oakmont can tolerate.

    • Yvonne Frauenfelder on April 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm

      Hello Jim –

      I understand and appreciate your misgivings about my choice of words. While the return of the Marty Thompson’s editorial team is a happy ending for many Oakmont residents, not everybody rejoices equally in this event.

      But I see no merit in reliving and re-litigating the past. It was painful for all concerned. But they have been called back and welcomed by the new board, and my hope is that we will be able to let go of the despondency and the dejection.

      Can we give the old/new CC crew a chance and look forward to their contributions to the community? By remaining bitter, we hurt but ourselves. I know that we all share in the desire to heal the divisiveness that exists in Oakmont; forgiving old injustices might just be the answer.

      Cordially,

      Yvonne

      • Yvonne Frauenfelder on April 19, 2018 at 7:01 am

        Feedback from a significant number of readers took serious exception to my characterization of the Marty Thompson editorial team’s return to the Oakmont News as happy ending.

        The hue and cry about censorship last summer created an enormous tumult in our community whose waves have not ebbed away. There are lingering feelings of the gross injustices suffered at the hand of the Oakmont News group with their unstinting complaints about censorship.

        The injurious event is exacerbated with the Thompson team’s acceptance to have all articles reviewed by management. There is a definitive inconsistency at play, which is for some residents hard to understand. What is the difference between then and now; why did the board and the Thompson group overlook this glaring and conflicting incident and revert to the status quo ante?

        • James Foreman on April 20, 2018 at 10:51 am

          I think Yvonne is being very optimistic with all of this, but for many, including me, it is not a “happy ending”. I believe what is really at issue here is that this recent decision to quickly and definitively bring in the old team, without any real community discussion or consideration of past events, just exacerbates the divisiveness.

          Contrary to the perceptions of the newly elected BOD the last CC had some real value, statistical analysis, and expertise that the old/new CC does not have in the area of digital media and communications. Each new CC member is to be considered carefully with a resume and examples of past work, so was that done and was there an invitation to the community to find new people? Nope, just a notice in an email to find a new Chair, then an announcement that the CC was set.

          There has been little effort or correspondence with the last CC in any way, even though Yvonne, myself and others offered and worked to communicate with the new BOD members and OVA staff to assist in the process. I have had conversations with Steve in recent weeks offering my knowledge and experience, or to show and offer the digital archive system that was created in Google over the past 8 months. Nada.

          Sadly this is not a surprise to me since there was no offer, hand extended nor interest at all from liaison Al Medeiros or any of the prior CC members before or during the election. It seems that they are asking the community to just trust and hope for a better Oakmont News, while excluding those who worked diligently over the past year.

          • jim Golway on April 20, 2018 at 5:51 pm

            Excellent James — in my view the ‘happy ending’ line of Yvonne’s editorial was a big slap in the face to Michael Connelly. Surely, you did lots of ‘work’ keeping the ON alive as I did too (and others) but Michael did the heavy lifting — he wrote in-depth stories on OVA board meetings (far surpassing what Al Haggerty ever did) and was my go-to-guy when discussing story ideas, etc…Plus, as a writer, he was a great editor because he rarely changed a word of mine. (Ha!). And, the GM and former BOD pres. wanted to remove Michael from the OVA beat. Unbelievable.



  2. Yvonne Frauenfelder on April 20, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Michael has carried the Oakmont News single handedly for several month.
    Nobody is more appreciative of his dedication and selfless work than I am.

    I apologize to him for the insensitivity inherent in my unfortunate choice of words, calling the return of the Thompson editorial team as “happy ending.”

    The language in no way lessens my great esteem for him and his contribution to our community.

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