Public Letter from Central Valley Safe Environment Network to the McClatchy Company Officers and Board of Directors

Central Valley Safe Environment Network

P.O. Box 64
Merced, CA. 95341

Senior Officers of The McClatchy Company

Gary B. Pruitt - Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer
Heather L. Fagundes - Vice President, Human Resources
Christian A. Hendricks - Vice President, Interactive Media
Karole Morgan-Prager - Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
Patrick J. Talamantes - Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer
Howard Weaver - Vice President, News
Robert J. Weil - Vice President, Operations
Frank Whittaker - Vice President, Operations

Directors of The McClatchy Company

Elizabeth A. Ballantine
Leroy Barnes Jr.
William K. Coblentz
Molly Maloney Evangelisti
Larry Jinks
Joan F. Lane
Brown McClatchy Maloney
Kevin S. McClatchy
William McClatchy
Theodore R. Mitchell
S. Donley Ritchey
Frederick R. Ruiz
Maggie Wilderotter

2100 Q Street
Sacramento CA 95815

P.O. Box 15779
Sacramento 95852

Tel. (916) 321-1855
Fax (916) 321-1869 Via: Email and Fax

Re: Public Letter from Central Valley Safe Environment Network to the McClatchy Company Board of Directors

Date: June 23, 2006

McClatchy Officers and Directors:

In late April, Merced residents complained to you about a racist column by regular Merced Sun-Star columnist, David Burke, that appeared during a highly inflammatory period of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on undocumented workers in the county.

At that time we asked for an apology from McClatchy for allowing a column to be printed that was an insult to the entire Hispanic community during a period when it is under mounting racist pressure.

To date, we have received no apology from the board or the Sun-Star.

We did receive a telephone message from Lynn Dickerson, vice president for operations, explaining that we had just misunderstood the satire, irony and sarcasm. We also read Sun-Star editor, Joe Keita’s editorial, which followed the same line – a lecture on irony.

We have waited, patiently, for nearly two months for some sign of community sensitivity from the McClatchy corporation, as patiently as we have waited for years for competent journalism from our city’s newspaper.

The Merced Sun-Star has steadily disengaged itself from the community of Merced since the arrival of UC and its induced development. We had hoped that once McClatchy bought the paper, we would get competent journalism in our rapidly changing county. Instead, the McClatchy Co. local organ has continued to ally itself with the propaganda of special, outside, exploitive interests. Worst, it substitutes cheap sideshows for solid news people in Merced County need – often desperately – to know. It is an untrustworthy newspaper.

In the days following his literary offense against an 18-year-old high school girl incarcerated at an ICE facility in Bakersfield, Burke tried several strategies to explain himself. His attempt to appear on a local Spanish-language radio station was refused. He asked Le Grand High School administrators (where the 18-year-old was attending school before her arrest) if he could come out to talk to the students. The administrators asked the students. The students said they did not want to hear Mr. Burke’s explanation. The administrators relayed the message.

Surely, the second largest newspaper chain in America, based in Sacramento, knew by late April that rightwing Republicans were going to make illegal immigration from Mexico a big campaign issue in the 2006 elections. Its Minneapolis paper is only a stone’s throw from the Wisconsin congressional district of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, author of HR 4437. Surely, McClatchy added the Merced Sun-Star to its holding because it was aware of the speculative real estate boom unfolding due to the arrival of UC Merced. How could the McClatchy organization not have known about the on-going, heavy development pressure on rural eastern Merced County, home of a large number of the county’s farmworkers and focus of the ICE raids in April. Certainly, a news organization as huge and sophisticated as McClatchy could figure out that the pressure on illegal Mexican immigrants in this part of the Valley is directly tied to escalating real estate values and developers’ plans for that region, which include icing farmworkers and endangered species as quietly as possible.

Into that explosive situation, the second largest newspaper chain in America injected this schmuck, Burke, this “former journalism professor,” and his “irony.” When we objected, we got an official explanation of irony instead of the simple, honest apology for a management oversight, which you owe this community and refuse to offer.

We are still waiting for that apology to our community for this insult. We live in one of the most ethnically diverse communities in America. We all make it work and this highly inappropriate column insults all of us, regardless of our ethnicity. When you insult the race and status of our neighbors, when you support (however “ironically”) policies that frighten people in our neighborhoods, you harm everybody. Just because McClatchy chooses to ignore – ostrich style – its insult to our community does not mean that the insult is forgotten. However, even at this point, a sincere apology might help.


Central Valley Safe Environment Network


Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 11:06 AM
Subject: Merced sunstar article

Hi, My name is xxxx xxxxx and I am just asking for help. On April 22 there was an article put into the merced sun star by a David Burke a journalist . I was truly offended , I happen to personally know Alma Osegueras older sister Christina and could not believe what this man wrote but, most of all I cannot believe that the merced sunstar would allow such racism . I am disgusted with this newspaper . I don't really know what I can personally do. can the residents of Planada and Le Grand start a petition to get this man terminated or what ??? I don't know if your office handles things like this. I am just so angry at the merced sun star and I can tell you as a resident of Planada I'm not the only one. Please help..

Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 9:39 AM
Subject: RE: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star

In case you haven't had a chance to read the Sun-Star this morning attached
is Joe Kieta's column as it appeared in our paper and on our website.
Hank N. Vander Veen
Publisher-The Merced Sun Star

Merced Sun-Star
Column wasn't meant to offend...Joe Kieta

David Burke was appalled by the strong-arm tactics U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents recently decided to write an ironic column that took the extreme opposite side in an effort to point out what he feels is the senselessness of the agency's actions. Unfortunately, some readers missed the irony in the column -- and for this we truly are sorry if anyone was offended. If used skillfully, a tongue-in-cheek comment or column can effectively crystallize an opinion; if the irony is missed, readers can be confused or outraged by the comments. ...some took his comments literally. ...he received an e-mail hours after it appeared applauding him for the extreme views. He since has received many more messages from readers who missed the irony. Burke's worried the column creates an incorrect perception that he's bigoted and insensitive. He wants to set the record straight: ...
For our part, the Sun-Star will be more careful in the future to make sure satirical columns are clearly labeled as such, which will eliminate any confusion. We could have labeled Burke's column accordingly, but didn't -- and for this, please accept our apologies.

Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:46 AM
Subject: Saturday's Sun-Star column...

I have received a lot of feedback regarding my column from Saturday’s edition of the Sun-Star. I understand that you found the article to be offensive and that you’ve formally complained to officials of the McClatchy Corporation on behalf of the Central Valley Safe Environment Network.

My intention with this piece was to use irony and sarcasm to draw attention to attitudes and actions that I believe are cruel, unfair, insensitive and un-American.

Irony, as you know, is a technique in which a writer, or speaker, makes a statement that is opposite to their beliefs. This incongruity can have a dramatic effect when combined with sarcasm, as I attempted to do in the commentary.

A problem with irony is that some readers may take statements literally and believe that the intended message is actually its opposite. I clearly failed to craft this piece skillfully enough to make the irony clear to some readers.

For the record, let me say that I abhor the treatment of Alma Oseguera and her family at the hands of immigration agents. I believe raiding their home at 3 a.m. is the kind of behavior that we expect from secret police or government thugs in other countries, but not in the United States.

I do not believe that U.S. citizens are “more equal” than people from other nations and I despise racism and discrimination.

I hope you’ll take another look at Saturday’s commentary. A second read might reveal that my use of hateful language was intended to get the attention of good people who have become polarized and now view immigrants unfairly. My hope was that by exaggeration I might open some eyes and force people to look at the impact current policies are having on individuals like Alma.

Finally, I have a track record with the Sun-Star and I believe my body of work provides clear evidence that I am an advocate for children and for causes that are completely inconsistent with racism and intolerance.

I invite you to take a look at back issues of the paper. One article that may be particularly revealing is still posted online. You may choose to visit the following site:

I hope you will reconsider your position regarding my column or at least accept that my intent was not to promote racism. Though I may have missed the target on Saturday, a dialogue has begun and I believe the end result may still be enlightenment. I hope you’ll participate in the discussion and that you’ll continue to read the Sun-Star and my column.


David Burke

Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 10:50 AM
Subject: Quepasa News
Merced Newspaper Article

The following is an article published by the Merced Sun Star. It is very disturbing and in the "Gray" area of Hate Mail. It was written by a retired journalist. A group called Central Valley Safe Environment Network has responded to the McClatchy Newspaper Company. I will print their response at the next QUEPASA NEWS.

Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 8:40 PM
Subject: Letter to The McClatchy Company re: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star

Wow - hard to believe they would publish that crap!
Juan de la Rana-Salta

Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 3:28 PM
Subject: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star
Re: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star
Date: April 25, 2006

McClatchy Officers and Directors:

We write you to protest the publication on Saturday, April 22, 2006 of a column by a regular contributor to the Merced Sun-Star titled “Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only.”

Speaking as citizens of Merced and for citizens of the San Joaquin Valley and of the United States, we will not tolerate racist smears of 18-year-old high school girls in our newspaper; we will not tolerate our newspaper publishing its contempt for an entire ethnic minority; we will not tolerate a vicious attack on a person little more than a child without any means of defending herself, presently in a Border Patrol holding tank in Bakersfield; we will not tolerate our newspaper bullying the weak and defenseless.

We are not asking for or demanding the immediate dismissal of the publisher and the editorial staff of the Merced Sun-Star that published this racial slander and libel against a high school girl. We expect nothing less than their dismissal and an apology from the McClatchy board for publishing material with racial hatred content intended to intimidate and incite.

This newspaper has entirely lost contact with its community and with decency.

Merced Sun-Star, April 22, 2006
Weekend voices: Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only

The Central Valley Safe Environment Network is confident McClatchy officers and directors will do the right thing in a timely manner, removing the “leadership” of this newspaper, which increasingly over the last decade become a source of unjust speech and propaganda.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 3:23 PM
Subject: Sun-Star article Weekend voices
By David F. Burke
Last Updated: April 22, 2006, 03:31:08 AM PDT

Get out of this valley, Alma Oseguara. Maybe after a few weeks in a Kern County jail you'll finally understand that we don't want you and your kind here in the San Joaquin Valley.

Never mind that you spent the last 12 years attending school here, and were weeks away from graduation at Le Grand High School. You and your bleeding-heart classmates need to understand that we expect you to obey the law of the land.

Even six-year-old illegals have to play by the rules and because you entered our country without permission when you were six, our agents were perfectly within their rights to "target" you and to bang on your door at 3 in the morning, demanding that you pack your bags and go directly to jail.

And don't start that old song about escaping from Mexico to get away from an abusive father, Alma.

Do you think we're the kind of nation that would welcome the wretched refuse of another country? Do you think we want more homeless, tempest-tossed masses of tired and poor people like you? Does our border look to you like some kind of golden door?

Forget that idea. We stopped holding the torch for your kind of immigrants long ago.

Liberty and opportunity are for Americans only. Did you imagine that we were talking about Mexicans when we said, "all are created equal?" Get real, Alma. Say goodbye to Le Grand High, to dreams of college and to friends and relatives you've known for a dozen years.

Bienvenidos a Mexico.

Let me explain how it works, Alma. My son looks a bit like you; he has the same skin tone. But Jesse had the good sense not to be born in Mexico - he was born in New Mexico.

About 300 years ago, his ancestors, named Garcia, came through Texas -- well, it may have been "Tejas" then -- and up into northern New -- I mean Nuevo -- Mexico and southern Colorado.

Then, 150 years later, my ancestors picked a fight with Mexico. We first tried to get what we wanted peacefully, offering our neighbors to the south $25 million for California. But the ignorant Mexicans thought the state was worth more than that.

So, we sent two armies into Mexico and a third to California, by way of New Mexico. The silly Mexicans refused to surrender, so we captured Mexico City and "convinced" our captors to accept just $15 million for the Golden State. The vanquished Mexicans threw in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Utah - about half of their country, all told - for free.

And that, Alma, should explain why my brown-skinned son -- who was born in New Mexico -- gets to stay while you -- who were born in Old Mexico -- must leave.

It's not personal. It's the law. If you like, you can think of it as manifest destiny.

Now, get out of my country. And don't come back until you are legal.


Hank Vander Veen
Publisher, Merced Sun-Star

Joseph Kieta
Editor, Merced Sun-Star



Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders