Sacramento’s ‘bullet magnets’

Accentuate the positive: When it comes to war coverage, objectivity sometimes can be in the eye of the beholder. Witness the disparate journalistic treatments this week of the Sacramento Army Reserve’s 319th Signal Battalion as it prepares in Fort Bliss, Texas, for the coming Iraq reserve rotation. On Sunday, The Sacramento Bee put a relatively upbeat spin on its story, naming it after a Bee Gees song (“Staying Alive”) and accentuating the positive (sample quotes: “I’m pretty excited about it. It’s something new, and I’ve always wanted to travel.” “I’m prepared for it. It’s dangerous in Sacramento. Life is unpredictable everywhere.”)

Compare that to Monday’s coverage in London’s Guardian newspaper, featuring the same Sacramento reserve unit but with a decidedly weightier approach. The headline —“‘Bullet magnets’ prepare for Iraqi frontline”—is anything but whimsical, and the lead describes a desert disaster. “They were wiped out within the first five minutes of their drill on convoy movements, and the implications register quickly,” writes the Guardian reporter as she describes six Sacramentans “dying” in a routine maneuver. “We’re dead, dude,” laments a 19-year-old private, whose girlfriend learned she was pregnant two days before he went to basic training. “This makes me more scared. I am preparing for the worst.”

This difference is, admittedly, more subtle than the chasm between the Bee’s and Guardian’s coverage of Bill Lockyer announcing that Wal-Mart had suspended sales of rifles and shotguns in California stores after nearly 500 violations of state firearms laws (see “Simple minds”; SN&R Bites; April 24, 2003). The London paper reported it from half a world away. The Bee, being much more concerned at the time with Lockyer’s engagement to a younger woman, couldn’t be bothered.

Wedding belts: At press time, San Francisco’s wave of same-sex marriages had yet to produce the dire results Arnold Schwarzenegger predicted on Meet the Press. “All of a sudden,” the California governor warned the nation, “we see riots. We see protests. We see people clashing. The next thing we know, there is injured or there is dead people.” Of course, Bites could care less about any of this conflict over gay marriage because, hey, it’s not in my backyard.

Or is it? “We are in the process of gathering names of Sacramento residents who agree to ask the Sac County Board of Supervisors to push for marriage licenses in Sacramento,” explained Kinna Patel from the Sacramento chapter of Marriage Equality California (MECA). The organization wants to bring the war back to Arnold’s new home town by getting these terrifying documents issued right here in River City. Patel said interested parties can contact her by e-mail at

Vandal stole the handle: Erasing history was just the opposite of what Tony Platt had in mind last week when the professor spoke at California State University, Sacramento, about the racism and influence of local mogul Charles M. Goethe, one of the university’s “founding fathers.” Goethe regularly self-published on the glories of eugenics and forced sterilizations but still was lauded, without irony, for giving money to everybody, which inspires some sticky questions about how to handle badly behaved benefactors. Apparently, some unknown critics voted for obliterating Goethe’s memory altogether. The large wooden sign that used to proclaim the “Charles M. Goethe Arboretum” in gold letters was stolen from its posts on the CSUS campus. This was right after SN&R ran a news story on Goethe (“Darkness on the edge of campus” by Chrisanne Beckner, SN&R News, February 19) but before Platt’s talk. The incredibly brief police report on the CSUS Web site reads like a Sacramento Bee headline: “G.M. Goethe sign stolen from the arboretum.” At press time, the legacy thieves were still at large.