Feb. 22, 2020
“Say It Ain’t So, CapRadio.”
Public radio station confirms blackout of Burdick for Congress
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In emails this past week to supporters and members of the Burdick for Congress campaign, leadership of Capital Public Radio revealed its decision to not cover any part of California’s 7th Congressional primary race that pits Rep. Ami Bera against the first Democrat to ever primary him, Jeff Burdick.
The blackout dates back nearly nine months to early June 2019 when Burdick declared his candidacy. Station ombudsman Rich Zeiger first revealed the news blackout by email Tuesday to Burdick supporters who had been encouraging CapRadio to cover the final two weeks of the March 3rd primary race. Zeiger wrote the station could not do so as the station needed to focus only on where “a genuine contest was likely.”
Forwarded the ombudsman’s response, Burdick emailed the station to dispute characterization of his race as not “a genuine contest.” California employs a top-two primary system. All candidates of any party affiliation appear on the same primary ballot. The candidates with the two highest vote total move onto the run-off on the November ballot. Like most incumbents, Bera is virtually assured one spot, but Burdick and three other candidates are engaged in a hotly contested race for the second slot.
“It’s fairly shocking a major news outlet would decide to cover nothing about a competitive Congressional primary race,” said Jeff Burdick, a Progressive Democrat and resident of Sacramento’s Arden-Arcade neighborhood. “The Washington Post’s current motto is ‘Democracy dies in darkness,’ but CapRadio’s news blackout only further dims our local democracy.”
He said the ombudsman’s frank disclosure did solve the mystery of why CapRadio had never responded to any of the scores of emails, voice messages, pitches and news releases the campaign had sent the station’s newsroom and public affairs programs.
CapRadio News Director Nick Miller later responded by email to Burdick explaining “we do not have the resources to cover every election contest in our audience region.” But Burdick called this disingenuous since he’s heard no coverage by CapRadio of any local race.
Plus, in the 37 weeks of Burdick’s marathon primary campaign, CapRadio has aired 160 hours of their hourlong “Insight” public affairs show, and the station also daily airs local stories and news headlines throughout the day – but none ever featured the CA-7 Congressional race.
“It was unfortunate to hear the string of alibis from CapRadio’s leadership. I am a former newspaper and magazine journalist, and when you hear so many different alibis that don’t float, then my old reporter’s antenna goes up and tells me something’s not on the level,” he said.
“This is also no ordinary news blackout. It’s literally a blackout of Sacramento democracy, which I’d never imagine I’d see from an NPR affiliate,” Burdick said. “CapRadio disagrees with the term ‘news blackout.’ But they have yet to dispute that every part of the definition of a blackout applies here: a conscious decision to provide no media coverage of otherwise newsworthy individuals, groups and events.”
Burdick added his campaign has broken major news and even offered CapRadio several exclusives. None of this ever prompted a return of a call or email.
The exclusives included revelations Rep. Ami Bera – a former medical doctor – had accepted tens of thousands of dollars from many of the largest opioid makers and distributors in the U.S. All of these donors are also currently being sued by Sacramento County. Burdick also unearthed that Bera last year raised more than $150,000 from 69 corporations fined a combined $99 billion since 2000.
“This kind of media apathy and dereliction of journalistic duty is pretty scary,” he said. “I have been running against our current corrupting campaign financing system. But without any local coverage of our elections, only candidates who are backed by rich donors and corporations will be able to publicize themselves.”
Burdick is running on both a traditional Progressive platform (Medicare for All, Green New Deal and Comprehensive Drug Cost Reform) and the most principled fundraising pledge in the nation. Not only won’t Burdick take any donations from PACs and corporations, but he’s pledged to accept donations only from voters in his district.
This pledge is also central to his proposed nonpartisan Election Reform Constitutional Amendment that he said would remove about 80% of money from federal elections.
A resident of Sacramento’s Arden-Arcade neighborhood, Jeff Burdick is running in California’s 7th U.S. Congressional district. Visit www.BurdickForCongress.org.