Daily Pilot Cup Fiasco
In what must be one of the biggest public relations gaffes in recent memory, the folks who conduct arguably one of the most positive and enduring youth sports events in our community - The Daily Pilot Cup - appear to have looked around for the biggest pile of feces they could find, then jumped squarely into the middle of it with both feet.
PARTICIPATION FEE INCREASE NO SURPRISE
As recounted in the Daily Pilot "Sounding Off" commentary on April 8th by Costa Mesa resident John Jason titled, "Soccer fee should apply to all equally", HERE, the organizers of the soccer tournament informed the team liaisons that there would be a 100% fee increase for participants - from $5.00 to $10.00. The increase came of no surprise since it had remained constant for many years.
What DID come as a surprise, however, was the fact that only players from private schools would have to pay the increase - public school participants would pay the previous amount. When the tournament organizers were questioned about the disparity they apparently were told, "Private school families can more easily absorb the fee increase and we do not want to add a financial burden to the residents of the Westside of Costa Mesa."
After their jaws hit the floor, the parents of private school children began looking for answers to this unbelievable situation. According to Jason, tournament Director Kirk McIntosh responded in an email that it surprised him and that he was "no longer involved in the financials".
THE EXCREMENT HITS THE FAN
However, what really caused the "stuff" to hit the fan was a subsequent explanation from Cara Stephens, promotions manager, who, according to Jason's account, sent an email that stated, "This year's pricing structure was determined by the Daily Pilot, NMUSD and CM... Unfortunately, private school students who object to the one-sided fee increase based on principle will not be allowed to participate in this year's Daily Pilot Cup."
WRITERS ARE UP IN ARMS
The heat generated in the comment thread of that commentary could light a small city - with good reason. In my view, as I said in that comment thread, Stephen's statement is the most arrogant, elitist bunch of drivel I've heard in years.
CITY DENIES A ROLE IN FEES
Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder fired off a press release denying any role in creating the fee structure on the part of The City. He emphasized that the City's role is to provide the use of the City's soccer fields and the promotion of the tournament to area youth.
DAILY PILOT MEA CULPA
New Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis wrote a column that appears online Friday night and will appear in print Saturday titled, "We made a mistake", HERE, acknowledging that the fee structure created for this year's event was a bad idea, although he did try to provide part of the thought process that went into it. He went on to tell us that the decision has been reversed and that every participant will pay the same fee - $5.00.
KIND HEARTS, SOFT HEADS
Certainly, an increase in the fee would be reasonable - even doubling it doesn't seem out of line. During the discussions, someone with a kind heart probably felt guilty about imposing the increase on less-well-off children on Costa Mesa's Westside - mostly Latino kids - so they decided to exempt ALL public school participants. It's hard for me to imagine how they ever thought this would fly without controversy. Cara Stephens comment, basically telling private school kids that if they didn't like it - if they disagreed "on principle" - well, they could just sit this tournament out - was the height of arrogance.
QUESTIONING DAILY PILOT'S JUDGMENT
What troubles me most is that the editors of the Daily Pilot went along with this scheme. It troubles me because it appears to be a symptom of a deeper problem - that the current decision-makers of our newspaper of record for more than a century are so out of touch with the community that they simply didn't realize what a firestorm of controversy their decision would create.
RESTORATION OF LOST "INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE" NEEDED
Please understand that I consider myself the Daily Pilot's biggest fan. However, it seems to me that all the editors of the Daily Pilot need a kind of full-immersion therapy session into the nuances of the Newport-Mesa community. One person writing on the comment thread of Canalis' column suggested a restoration of the "meet the editors" sessions previously conducted by former editor Brady Rhoades and former City Editor Paul Anderson. That would be a good start. Further, I might suggest to John Canalis that he and his senior staff personally carve out some time to get out and about in the community - attend council meetings, homeowner association meetings and school board meetings - to get a better "feel" for the community they serve. With the departure of former publisher Tom Johnson and Director of Editorial and Online Tony Dodero more than a year ago, much of the institutional knowledge of what makes our area tick was lost. To properly serve this community that knowledge needs to be restored.
WHENCE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT?
There are plenty of tensions in our communities that strain relationships along racial lines without the Daily Pilot being an unwitting facilitator of those kind of problems, as was the case in this situation. And, oh, yes - when do we hear from the School District about this fiasco?