Restore the Delta Spin Cycle: “Delicate” or “Heavy”? Depends on Your Local Newspaper

It’s well-established that Restore the Delta, the front group for big Delta water users, wealthy landowners, and even a Koch Brothers “Million Dollar Club” member, heavily engages in the art of spin. But a recent email to their supporters – complete with “fill in your name” sample letters to the editor – illustrates yet again how this group loads truths and facts into the spin cycle to produce untruths and alternative facts about California WaterFix.

While ghost-writing letters-to-the-editor for submission to your local newspaper is a common PR practice, the latest Restore the Delta tactic is a little puzzling. They send their members letters to respond to coverage… that hasn’t even happened yet. Apparently waiting to read the actual reporting is irrelevant to the group.

What’s perhaps most telling is that Restore the Delta will put the spin on “delicate” or “heavy”, depending on whether your newspaper is from Northern or Southern California.

For example, for letters (see RTD samples below) to be submitted to the Los Angeles Times, Southern California Newspaper Group or San Diego Union Tribune, Restore the Delta’s prefabricated letters-to-the editor complain that [reporter] “missed the mark” and [media article] disregards the fact”, [publication]has not published well-balanced, fair reportingand even “I cannot help but raise an eyebrow at the blatant omission of facts and opinions that critique the proposal”.

Again, all of these transgressions – BEFORE THE ARTICLE IS EVEN WRITTEN.

Heavy spin cycle for these reporters!

But for submission to Northern California papers including the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle or the East Bay Times, the prefabricated Restore the Delta letters-to-the-editor are put on “delicate”. These letters praise “[author of article] for their balanced reporting” and encourage the paper to “please continue coverage on this topic”.

Did we mention this praise is heaped BEFORE THE ARTICLE IS EVEN WRITTEN?!?

Restore the Delta. Rinse. Spin. Repeat.


Below are the sample LTEs crafted by Restore the Delta. Click here to request a copy of the email.

SAMPLE LTE’s (Please keep WC limited to 150 words)

Option 1: Responding to an author’s unbalanced reporting in Southern CA (LA Times, SDUT, and SCNG Papers)

Re: “Title of Article” (author, date)

[Author’s name] missed the mark on how the Delta Tunnels will impact Metropolitan Water District ratepayers. “Quote from article” disregards the fact that [reason why it’s wrong/essential facts they missed; see MWD myths vs. facts sheet]. It’s incredibly disappointing to read [Name of Publication]’s continued one-sided coverage on this issue when this decision could financially burden MWD ratepayers for thirty years. Since there is no public vote available–like there was when the peripheral canal was rejected by CA voters in 1982–the media must make a concerted effort to include both sides of the debate to encourage free-thinking and prop up democratic values during this turbulent time in our political history.

Your name, your place of residence

Option 2: Expressing general frustration of unbalance reporting in Southern CA (LA Times, SDUT, and SCNG Papers)

As a [place of residence] resident, I am concerned that [Publication Name] has not published well-balanced, fair reporting on Brown’s Delta Tunnels proposal. Specifically, coverage in opposition of the tunnels proposal seems to be an afterthought at best, and more often than not, missing entirely from the story. I cannot help but raise an eyebrow at the blatant omission of facts and opinions that critique the proposal. What does Metropolitan Water District NOT want us to know and WHY is [name of publication] protecting MWD’s interests over that of the public? Print and digital news publications are not forums for cognitive dissonance, but public resources that must be honored by journalists and editors. Please include more coverage that includes viewpoints from the opponents of the tunnels so that I as an MWD ratepayer can form my own opinion on Brown’s proposal.

Your name, your place of residence

Option 3: General request for more regular reporting on Delta Tunnels in NorCal (Mercury News, SF Chronicle, East Bay Times)

As Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) approaches a vote on financing Governor Brown’s Delta Tunnels in September, increasing coverage in the [publication name] is necessary to keep Bay Area ratepayers in the loop. Since the proposal is not up to a public vote, much of what is happening in the world of CA water is taking place behind closed doors. Through the State Water Project tax, Santa Clara County could increase property taxes in addition to raising water rates to fund the Tunnels. That said, continuing coverage on the tunnels and local WaterFix hearings is essential for encouraging democratic process via public comment during SCVWD board meetings.

Your name, your place of residence

Option 4: Gratitude for reporting on Delta Tunnels in NorCal (Mercury News, SF Chronicle, East Bay Times)

I wanted to applaud [author of article] for their balanced reporting on the Delta Tunnels proposal (re: name of article). Though the proposal most directly affects Delta communities in San Joaquin County and Contra Costa County, Silicon Valley residents will be affected by the tunnels as well through water rate hikes and increasing property taxes. Please continue coverage on this topic in the coming months as Santa Clara Valley Water District inches toward their September decision date to fund or reject the CA WaterFix proposal.

Your name, your place of residence