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The Shredder New Times Refused to Publish

Name the most influential local newspaper column of the last fifteen years and “The Shredder” in New Times wins hands down. No contest. Not even close. Created by Steve Moss and Tom Fulks in the early ’90s, Shred quickly became the must-read item in town every Thursday. Brilliant writing. Scathing humor. Dead-on political analysis. The Shredder had it all and public officials and businesspeople knew better than to run afoul of New Times, or they’d end up in the column. I was “Shredded” a few times myself, so I know the feeling.

Of course, now Steve Moss is dead and Tom Fulks has moved on to Sacramento. And the Shredder? Oh my god. The once mighty Shredder has been neutered, reduced to bland, babbling, pap mixed in with religious feel-good notions about supporting Christian radio stations and the true meaning of Christmas. New editor Ryan Miller is to journalism what Donny Osmond is to music — he has neither the guts nor the inclination to maintain the critical watchdog function that has been the backbone of New Times for 20 years. He avoids controversy, backs down when he gets complaints and wants zip to do with investigative journalism. Why publisher Bob Rucker doesn’t send him packing back to Santa Maria is beyond me.

If you don’t believe me, check this out. This is a “Shredder” column submitted by the co-creator of Shred immediately after Steve’s death. I certainly don’t agree with everything written here, but these words capture the tone and spirit of what the Shredder was supposed to be. But the column was refused and it now makes its public debut on this blog.

So enjoy. And then weep. Because those days are over. Meanwhile, Miller and Rucker should just drop their lame “Shredder” all together and come up with something new. They can’t replicate Steve Moss. Why even try?

One last note before you read on — when I started calling out Rucker and company, I felt like the lone voice in the local media woods. (or as Rucker might (allegedly) say, “You’re the only one who feels that way.”) Thankfully, that is beginning to change as the word drifts around town and old-timers begin to share my alarm for the direction New Times is heading.

Here’s the Shredder submitted in April 2005 — and rejected for publication.

New Times, April 28, 2005
 
Steve Moss has gone and done it. He has left without finishing this
damn column and now it’s up to me to get it in. Once again. On my own.
Figures.
 
He’s always doing stuff like that – dropping the ball, hiding the
salami or whatever you want to call it.
 
That’s his modus operandi (that’s “M.O.” for you cop-aholics out
there). He gets things started and then just flakes out – kind of like
the kid who’s got this bright idea and doesn’t follow through,
expecting someone else to pick up on his natural brilliance and finish
the deed by osmosis while the savant is out goofing off.
 
“Take a memo,” he’d say. “I’ve got this brilliant idea and I want to
make sure it’s on paper so I don’t forget it before I go out to goof
off.”
 
That’s what he’d say. But this is what he’d be thinking: “Once this
brilliant idea is down on paper, and I don’t have to think about it
any more, and I’m on to my next brainstorm because I am a savant, then
you’ll be stuck with the task of actually doing it, and if you don’t
like it then you’re fired, because you’re a lousy writer anyway, and
people like you come fast and cheap around here, and Cal Poly is a
labor factory that keeps my business stocked with people who can pound
out copy, be paid a pittance and replaced on a whim, and I’ve got
plenty of whims, and don’t you ever forget it.”
 
Steve thinks he’s so special because he uses words like “savant” and
then lords it over the rest of us, making like he’s so much smarter
than everybody else. All right already. It’s down on paper. Sheesh.
 
Like the first time he and that pal of his, Tom Fulks, sat down – I
don’t know how many years ago, 12, 13, whatever – and put to paper
this lousy idea to write an anonymous column that would piss off just
about everyone in town, dead or alive. Is that possible? No
responsibility. No standards. No ethics. No nothing but trouble.
 
“Yeah,” Steve says back then, “that’s the idea. Call people pig f’ers
like that guy at Cal Poly, and make ‘em deny being pig f’ers, and
we’ll come back and say, ‘So-and-so isn’t a pig f’er. So sorry. The
other guy is, though.’ Do you think people will read it?”
 
Then Fulks says, “But Steve, everyone’s going to get real mad, and sue
you, and you know, take your newspaper away. Are you sure you want to
do this?”
 
Then Steve says, “If they do that, then they’ve proven my point: They
are pig f’ers. Take a memo.”
 
And so these two clowns end up writing the plans for me, El Shreddo,
on a taco-greasy napkin, all the while drinking and laughing so loud
that the people over at the other table think they’re smoking crack.
Crank, such a low-rent drug, is in now. But crack, much more chi chi,
was the addiction of choice back then.
 
So Steve calls Tom the next day and says, “I’ve got the name. We’ll
call it ‘The Shredder.’ I’m brilliant.”
 
And Fulks says, “I think that’s a really lousy idea, Steve. I’ve been
writing about my cat, Shredder, for years. If you call your sneaky,
underhanded, evil, devilish, immoral, corrupt column ‘The Shredder,’
everyone will think it’s me, and I don’t like that idea at all. Who’s
going to write that piece of sh’t column anyway? You’re an idiot. F
you.”
 
And Steve says, “I knew you’d like it. The logo is all done and we’re
running the first column tomorrow. Don’t worry. No one will think it’s
you. Besides, no one likes you anyway.”
 
And so the Shredder – ce moi – was born. Notice how I, Shred-meister,
carefully avoid using the actual “f” word and “sht” words here so as
to be polite but at the same time accurately portray the true
conversation as it went down at a rear table of the then-Pete’s
Southside Café so many years ago. The reason the Shred shall remain
f-less and sh’t-less is because of Steve’s direct order years ago to
… to …
 
… Hang on a minute, I’ll be right back. Gotta go … .
 
… Ah, feeling better now. Deadline, shmedline. You gotta go, you
gotta go.
 
Where was I? Yes, I don’t use the “f” or “sht” words or other curse
words or juvenile slang in this column as a result of Steve’s direct
order to avoid using bathroom humor to make a point. He said it was
stupid, it made his newspaper look stupid, made it look as if his
writers were too stupid to write something clever. He hates that. Me
too.
 
Rather, I’m to use the more urbane – the more sophisticated – approach
for the Shred zone. As former county Supervisor David Blakely (one of
my favorite targets of old times) used to say, “We can disagree
without being disagreeable.” Whatever.
 
Am I the only one ever to notice that Mike Ryan, Blakely’s
replacement, has an uncanny resemblance to Tom Delay – short, ugly and
mean as a cur dog? Maybe that’s why Ryan got beat by what’s-his-name,
Jim “Clean and Perfect” Patterson. Now there’s a real Mr. Personality.
 
What the Board of Supervisors needs today is a good sex scandal. Hmmm.
Take a memo.
 
I can’t be disagreeable, after all, because I could be anybody you
meet on the street, and no one you meet on the street in this town has
anything nasty to say until you turn your back.
 
For the record, Steve (God bless his soul) has carried to his grave
the secret of who I really am. No one will ever know, that’s the way
Steve wants it, so that’s the way it’s going to be.
 
Think about it. What fun would it be if I were to be outed? The
guessing game would be over and people would have to return to their
boring little lives instead of living vicariously through me, wishing
they had told off this potentate or ratted out that hypocrite or
rubbed elbows with the mavens of high society. You will never know
because you don’t deserve to know. Indeed, the peasants are revolting.
 
Over the years, I could have been Alex Madonna (God bless his soul),
pimping my pig farm right here on these pages. Or Walter Capps (God
bless his soul), mumbling and bumbling my way into Congress. Or Eric
Seastrand (God bless his soul), breathing fire and brimstone in the
Assembly. Or Jeff and Ann Fairbanks (God bless their souls), running
the Tribune by day, Shredding by night. Maybe I was all of them. Maybe
I wasn’t.
 
I can’t deny that I could be Abel Maldonado, unable to make up my mind
whose ass I want to kiss next or to which public office I aspire to
grovel. Then again, I could be Sam Blakeslee, unable to wash the
deer-in-the-headlights from my eyes while aspiring to any office
Abel’s not in. Or I could be Lois Capps, unable to speak to even the
most devoted group of bootlickers without referring to my index cards
cribbed from staff talk points.
 
I won’t deny that I could be Arnold Schwarzenegger, unable to remove
my right hand from society’s left butt cheek while striving to rid the
merchants from the people’s temple of government. Or, I could be
George W. Bush, too smart or too stupid to stop the merchants from
selling the people’s temple of government.
 
Or, I could still be Steve Moss, playing Huck, watching my friends cry
at my funeral.
 
Hmmm. Take a memo. Make it out to Steve.
 
Tell him the Shredder lives, and so does his secret.
 

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  1. Anonymous
    December 29, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    You obviously know nothing about the Donny Osmond of today. Your loss.

  2. JerryDinAZ
    December 29, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    GREAT POST…PERFECT PRISTINE PROOF WHY THE OLD SHREDDER HAS BEEN BURIED…AND NOW RESURRECTED IN THE LIGHT OF JESUS CHRIST!

    THE OLD SHREDDER WAS SCATOLOGICAL, AND IRRESPONSIBLE, AND JUST PLAIN WRONG! THE BRAINSTORM OF A PROVEN MANIACAL EGO MANIAC!

    GOSSIP, NASTY GOSSIP AT THAT BELONGS IN THE CHECK OUT STAND AT THE GROCERY STORE.

    GOOD RIDDANCE ALL YOU SELF RIGHTEOUS ANONYMOUS SPOILED CAL POLY LIBERALS! IN THE END…YOU LOSE!

    ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS! THE BORN AGAIN NEW TIMES IS NOW THE PAPER IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALL ALONG!

    ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE THAT WAIT ON THE LORD!

    ISN’T TIME TO MOVE ON NOW! WITH ALL THAT’S GOING ON IN OUR NATION AND WORLD TO SPEND SO MUCH TIME ON A SMALL TOWN RAG TURNED TO GOD?

    REALLY…MOVE ON! OR PONY UP AND BUY THE PAPER. WE’LL SEE HOW LONG YOU CAN GO WITHOUT INCOME FROM THE PUBLIC THAT SECRETLY DESPISES WHAT YOU ARE DOING…AND DESPISED BY THOSE THAT WON’T PAY TO HAVE THEIR BUSINESSES IN YOUR RAG!

    LET’S SEE HOW THE PAPER DOES NOW. YOU ARE ALL AFRAID OF THE OBVIOUS. IT WILL NOW SUCCEED!

  3. mikey ray
    December 29, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    yeah jerry

    just like the repubes won the house and senate in the last election

  4. atascadero Chuck
    December 29, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    I think New Times will always be around, but they’re likely to take a hit on readership if things don’t change. With me, I don’t read it as often (I’m 42), but maybe I’m outside their target demographic. I mainly read Starkey’s stuff about music and check out local headlines.

    The Shredder hasn’t been funny in years. I agree with Dave that they should drop that column and try something new.

  5. Marilyn
    December 29, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    Hi Dave,

    I am using this topic as an opportunity to address a seemingly unrelated topic but which really is.

    I listened to the podcast of the CodePink ladies, Dawn and Hedy, and I am glad you had them on because papers like the Tribune or the New Times will not give the time to such important and in depth issues that touch the heart and lives of people in existential ways.

    I fully support the activities of CodePink and I think that it is in the interest of our soldiers and our poor people to get ourselves educated on the real motives behind the continuation of the occupation of Iraq and the destabilization of the Middle East.

    I am a firm believer that if people do not want the war, they should not be joining the military. At the same time, I believe that soldiers do sign up under certain requirements (the obeying of lawful orders, and the emphasis is on lawful). When the legality is contested, it is up to the civilians to investigate under the request of both the military and the citizens. There is enough proof that this war is illegal and was conducted under false pretenses with non-existent evidence. It is, therefore, our duty as citizens to seek redress and to stop the killing and destruction on all sides.

    I am one of those who truly believe that President Bush should be impeached and brought to trial under the crimes against humanity act and lying to his people and the world community.

    I did sign the petition to impeach when it was first started by Ramsey Clark. Unfortunately, there remains support for the war among the civilians, including some of the liberals. Soldiers who do not agree with it feel they cannot object and it is up to us to get things changed and help those of them who want to object.

    Laws can be oppressive and unjust. How far should a soldier’s consent extend? What if they were asked to shoot unarmed protesters and detain children and abuse and rape in a time of war? Do we excuse such a behavior? It has happened before in the United States. It can happen again.

    I am one of those who will be at Mitchell Park on March 17th. You bet I will also be at the other soldier memorial vigils and rallies just as we have been doing for the past 5 years through Women in Black and Code Pink.

    I hope to see many of you there. Our children are our greatest gift that we live for in this world. To squander their lives in such an unholy and deceitful manner is an affront to humanity and all that is sacred. It is a betrayal to them. Many times I wonder what goes through their minds as they lay dying in a pool of blood and mud. Do they think of their families and children back home and do they wonder what their sacrifice was for as they gasp for their last breath? I surely hope that in this season of “love and peace” we are really evaluating our “supporting the troops.” I wonder if we conducted a poll, especially with those whose tours were extended forcefully, how many would say they want to come home NOW?

  6. JerryDinAZ
    December 30, 2006 at 2:05 am

    HMMMM…I THOUGHT IT WAS
    “CODE PINKO”…OR AT LEAST IT SHOULD BE!

    ENJOY THE PARK AND THE FREEDOM WE PROVIDE!

  7. Marilyn Farhat
    December 30, 2006 at 5:28 am

    Last time I heard, God did not play favorites. The blessings are to all people around the world in this holy season. I am sure most real Christians would agree. And no one’s death, no matter how evil we think he/she is, is reason to gloat.

    Saddam is dead and there are tens of thousands more dictators left in the world, including our home grown ones.

    Isn’t it ironic that Saddam had to be executed at this time? One of the holiest periods of the year? The time of the birth of the most pacifist person in the world, Christ, who was busy suffering to teach forgiveness and compassion, especially for the poor?

    But, march on “Christian” soldiers!! I am sure your prophet will be very proud of his “flock.”

    I can think of a homeless shelter in SLO right now that is in dire need of some volunteering to come its way from all the God loving (or God fearing) people who are full of religious sentiment in this holiest season. Please do not fall over each other heading that way like you are falling over each other cheering the slaughter of our soldiers and the people of the Middle East!

    Pinko, reddo, or blueo, many of us citizens will always love our soldiers and all other children who are being slaughtered in the name of power and greed. See you in March. Please sign up as a prayer flag bearer for March 17th. That is the least we can do for our soldiers. It is far more important than sending them T-shirts and chocolate while asking them to die for our greed.

    http://www.slocodepink.org/

    Peace to all. Maybe 2007 will be a better year for all of us.

  8. rickjackoway
    December 30, 2006 at 6:59 am

    How fascinating to watch, from a vantage point of two years and 2,000 miles away, the sturm and drang over the new New Times. Let me point out, a la Shredder, that you all don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

    How are you wrong? Let me count the ways:

    Uno. It’s almost too easy to pick on Jerry Dogma, but I need to set straight his cockeyed view of newspaper economics. Jerry suggests New Times will find the road to riches and possibly salvation if it only would set aside its heathen ways and agree to print good news and print the word of the Bible, except for all that begatting. The problem is that there is not one scintilla of evidence that he is right. OK, he’s right, far, far right. But you know what I mean.

    Consider: When New Times was in its idol-worshiping, blaspheming heyday, we were publishing about 100 pages a week. Now I challenge Jerry to find even one ditto-headed, good-news-spouting weekly newspaper in any community even 10 times the size of San Luis Obispo that is that successful. Won’t happen. They don’t exist.

    And while I’m at it let me really set Jerry’s desert-dried hair on edge and suggest that New Times was never the mouthpiece of the far left that he suggests. If we could take a trio of conservative stalwarts from back in the day like Roger Freberg, Alex Madonna and Tom Bordonaro and put them in a room next to a panel of died-in-the-wool lefties – how about Peg Pinard, Pat Veesart and either or both Cappses – and ask them what they thought of New Times, I’m here to tell you that for certain the view from the right would be far more charitable than from the left.

    Two. This idea that to do a story about Jesus – during the week of Christmas for Chrissake – is somehow something that Steve Moss would not have put up with is just ridiculous. Now it’s true that Steve would have had a conniption or three about the premise of the story which I gather is that “there was a really popular and super controversial movie about Jesus a couple years ago and now there are three fairly unpopular and generally non-controversial movies this year, so we’re going to write about it.”

    Steve would have had a pointed critique that would have included the word crap a few dozen times, but he would not have opposed the idea of covering religion. In fact, some of my favorite stories from my New Times days were religion stories — Jeff’s bizarre tale of the Bishop of San Luis and his missing digit comes to mind as does Glenn’s well-turned piece on the fight to get more contemporary music into churches.

    Besides the religious question is a red herring anyway. The real question is whether the paper is being pulverized into pablum by its new editor. I don’t know the guy and I can’t say what his motivations are, but I will tell you – as I’ve said before on Dave’s show – no newspaper’s editorial philosophy is set by its employees. As all editors, Ryan Miller will make a mark by the decisions he makes but the direction is set by the owners. Want proof? Remember Yo! No, of course, you don’t. Thank God. Yo! was The Tribune’s ill-fated, half-hearted foray into faux alternativism. Why didn’t it work? No, Jerry, not because it was cursed by God. Yo! was smote because the button-down establishment didn’t know how to be anything else and the people who work for them knew that as much as they said, “Yo! Go for it, my brother” they really meant “Make it look cool but don’t actually get anyone upset, particularly if they might actually advertise in this thing, which we’re only really doing because we can’t figure out how to make our daily relevant to anyone under 50.”

    So why is New Times heading headlong into the path of least resistance? Assuming it is – which frankly I don’t think we have enough evidence one way or the other – look to the top. That’s what matters. One meth mess may well have been enough to make more than a few knees buckle.

    Third. Dave’s a good friend, but I can’t think of anyone who has less reason to call anonymous opinion “chickenshit” than Dave Congalton. Here’s a guy who makes his living off of people calling in – what is it now, eight hours a day? – talk show and not giving their full names. Then he goes home and moderates a blog in which he allows anonymous posts. Am I missing something?

    Let me say this, too. Don’t be too concerned about story choice. When you’re walking the high wire of alternative journalism you are going to fall off a time or six whether from foolhardiness or an excess of caution. What concerns me more is the lack of innovation, of creativity. The Shredder held an online chat more than a decade ago, before any of us knew why, much less how, but just because we could. At a time when dial up was the standard, we put up a Web cam over Avila so SLO residents could see if was nice at the beach. I’m not nearly as concerned about Shredder’s religious leanings as I am about why Starkey isn’t blogging. And why aren’t they sticking a video camera in someone’s face so I can watch them squirm under tough questioning or at least catching a few flashes at Mardi Gras. You still have Mardi Gras, right?

    Well, I’ve prattled on long enough. Here we are coming up against New Year’s. 2007 isn’t 1997. New Times isn’t what is was and won’t be. Some will praise that. Others will grieve. For Steve Moss, who isn’t here to say it himself, let me say: Fuck it. Stop whining and go out and do something. Life is short.

  9. Dave Congalton
    December 30, 2006 at 7:48 am

    Rick —

    Great post and wonderful to hear from you. But you’re absolutely right — you are 2000 miles away and out of the loop. Believe me, I’ve been hearing from everyone from Rucker’s attorney to angry staffers inside the newsroom. One top reporter is already gone; I predict more in the editorial side will follow.

    Without rehashing, I stand by my original posts. New Times is backing away from controversy — they have squashed multiple investigative pieces in favor of soft news (like this week’s hard-hitting piece on . . . . Elks in SLO County) The use of the Shredder to highlight a Christian radio station needing a new transmitter and asking people to donate simply boggles the mind. You and I both know that would never happen under Steve. The Shredder has gone soft and the paper has move to “event coverage.”

    Meanwhile, my friend, you can’t claim with a straight face that the old New Times didn’t lean left. Peg Pinard never liked anything — that proves nothing. Do a content analysis of your Op-Ed pieces, for example, your Hodin and James cartoons, etc. and there’s no doubt which part of the political spectrum the paper landed on.

    In terms of the “Chickenshit/Anonymous” stuff, there is no issue here. Talk radio is a first name only basis NATIONWIDE. That’s how the genre operates. I think people who attack me on this blog under the protection of Anonymous are indeed chicken shit because they won’t attach a name to an opinion. That’s all. Of course, if I were that concerned, I could just have our web master trace the posting, but I don’t care.

    What’s truly at issue here is the death of New Times as a respected journalistic entity. The glory days are gone. It’s going to reinvent itself as a local arts and entertainment and events magazine. At a time when we need New Times more than ever, they’re truly taking the money and running.

    Email me and I’ll give you the horror stories from inside the paper. Reluctant to put too many on the blog because Bob Rucker has his attorney monitoring the blog. I’m quaking in my boots!

  10. JerryDinAZ
    December 30, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    DAVE,
    THE NEW TIMES WAS A LEFTY HATE RAG! CREATED BY AND RUN BY SECULAR PROGRESSIVES THAT HATE ALL THAT IS CONSERVATIVE AND GOOD ABOUT SLO COUNTY.

    THE NEW TIMES MANAGEMENT FIGURED OUT ONE MAIN THING…VIA AIR AMERICA AND ALL FAILING LEFTY TALK RADIO, AND FAILING LIBERAL NEWS RAGS! “HATES DOES NOT SELL”. SO THEY MADE A DECISION TO CHANGE THE COURSE OF THE PAPER. THEY OWN IT…THEY GET TO DECIDE.

    NOW…LISTEN UP! READY?

    IF ALL YOU BLEEDING HEART LEFTY SP’s ARE THAT UNHAPPY…PONY UP A FEW BUCKS AND START ANOTHER HATE PAPER…EASY TO DO! SLAM DUNK. THEN WE WILL SEE HOW YOU DO SPEWING HATE IN THE COUNTY. SEE HOW MANY ADVERTISERS STAY WITH YOU…GO ON! I DARE YOU!

    PUT UP OR SHUT UP! BUT AT LEAST LET THIS BE A LESSON TO YOU WHO LIKED THAT RAG.

  11. Jay from Oceano
    December 30, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    I wasn’t here for much of the Shredders’ glory days, but I remeber some of his columns and they were nothing like what there is today. I don’t bother reading anything in the New Times because it isn’t an alt paper anymore! I want an alternative viewpoint and am wondering who will step up to the plate? Thanks for that Shredder you put out, Dave. It was a blast from the past and one of the most entertaining things I have read in a while, no sacred cows, right or left or center, whatever!

  12. Polly
    January 2, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Reading the posted Shredder written after Steve’s death brought me to tears. I miss Steve. I miss his version of NT. I miss the thousand creative ways in which the Shredder pissed off this community. Jesus I feel old.

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