Mr. Blackburn, It’s Time for Your Medicine

CalCoastNews co-founder Dan Blackburn

Amid the sensationalism, shoddy reporting and innuendo primarily directed at the left, CalCoastNews co-founder Daniel Blackburn took the opportunity to pen a scathing, rambling editorial about District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill and his so-called “toadies.” Would you be surprised if I told you Blackburn considers me one of Hill’s “toadies”? Don’t be.

Blackburn screwed up, once again. It’s epic.

On April 7, Blackburn wrote an editorial that expressed outrage over the Facebook page “Deport Karen Velie.” Created on April 1, “Deport Karen Velie” contained undoubtedly inflammatory posts similar in nature to the page “Fire Adam Hill.” But in order to explain why “Deport Karen Velie” exists, I need to explain the phenomenon of “Fire Adam Hill.”

On “Fire Adam Hill,” page owners have shared photos containing Supervisor Hill and his wife, which were stolen from their respective Facebook profiles. Some of the same personal photos — that “Fire Adam Hill” used — were republished by CalCoastNews without their permission. One could make the argument that photos posted by elected officials on their Facebook profiles are “fair game” because they are public figures, but it speaks volumes about a publication when they prefer using personal family photos of elected officials than photos taken of the same elected officials at government meetings. There’s something deeply vindictive about making that choice, and making that choice consistently.

Blackburn takes exception to a photo posted on “Deport Karen Velie” showing Velie and her newborn, now deceased daughter Autumn.

According to the father of 13-year-old Nailani Buchholtz — who I spoke to last year — Velie mentioned her daughter because she wanted to convey to Mr. Buchholtz that she understood the pain of losing a child. Velie contacted Mr. Buchholtz after Nailani committed suicide, and she used her daughter’s passing as a way to create trust. But it turned out that Velie got the story wrong. Nailani did not commit suicide because of bullying. In fact her suicide was deeply rooted in undiagnosed clinical depression, which she reportedly hid from her family until it was too late. Ultimately the “bullying” claim was unsubstantiated. The local school district and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department issued statements concluding that there was no evidence of Nailani being bullied.

Adding insult to injury, without the consent of the Buchholtz family, Velie published personal photos and videos of Nailani along with a fictitious and facetious quip from her father, who allegedly said her daughter was “a chunky little girl.” Not exactly the most tasteful quote to use in a story, especially a quote from a grieving father.

During their time of grief, Nailani’s family demanded corrections and a retraction of the story — the premise of which was completely unsubstantiated. Velie told the father that she would “speak to the editor,” but refused to make corrections and refused to call him back. Relatives descended onto CalCoastNews’ Facebook page to criticize Velie for her article. Hours later their comments were deleted, and Velie insisted the father claimed her daughter was bullied into suicide.

Frustrated, Mr. Buchholtz pleaded with The Tribune to correct the misconceptions Velie created. In April 2014, The Tribune’s AnnMarie Cornejo did what Velie should have done: provide the complete story.

Here’s what Blackburn didn’t mention. “Deport Karen Velie” shared that article. By omitting that conveniently overlooked detail, Blackburn is telling readers that Velie’s suffering should weigh on readers’ hearts more than the suffering she inflicted on Buchholtz’s family through her negligence. Blackburn is telling readers that sharing Velie’s personal photos, which are readily accessible it seems, is far more shameful than their gluttonous obsession is mining personal photos from other people’s Facebook photos.

But at the end of the day, Blackburn feels that Supervisor Hill should be held responsible for his selective outrage. That’s dishonest.

In his editorial, Blackburn waxes about CalCoastNews’ alleged journalistic successes from covering the “sex scandal” surrounding former Paso Robles police chief Lisa Solomon to the various improprieties of former Atascadero developer Kelly Gearhart. Each of the those stories suffered from the same sensational malaise that consumes their current work.

For example, Blackburn referred to the 2014 Arroyo Grande election in his editorial, but he conveniently missed a few details.

“[Former Arroyo Grande mayor Tony Ferrara’s] official actions caused community angst in Arroyo Grande, and he ignored a last-second write-in candidate only to get ejected from office at a particularly unfortunate time for him. CalCoastNews’ reporting was again controverted by the daily, which did everything to support Ferrara short of hiring a public relations firm.”

Here’s what Blackburn didn’t tell readers. Blackburn is alluding to Ferrara’s actions stemming from a “sex scandal” that Blackburn and Velie concocted. They claimed former City Manager Steve Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish were caught in a late-night “tryst” at City Hall when no evidence of said “tryst” existed. The mayor agreed. Internal and independent investigations arrived at the same conclusion: no evidence. Surveillence footage turned up nothing but a clearly inebriated city manager with an untucked shirt. Police memorandums from officers on the scene revealed nothing. The sensationalist-driven outrage resulted in a write-in mayoral candidate defeating incumbent Ferrara in the election.

That write-in mayoral candidate was Jim Hill: a CalCoastNews contributor. On one side of neon-green campaign signs scattered throughout Arroyo Grande, it read “Jim Hill for Mayor.” On the other side of the sign…

CalCoastNews shouldn’t talk about other publications serving as stealthy public relation firms.

Strangely enough, Blackburn turned his crosshairs onto New Times cartoonist Russell Hodin. Blackburn claimed, “ In one post, Hodin claimed Karen started a website critical of Hill; she didn’t. Hodin then claimed Karen stole one of his cartoons and placed in on the website; she didn’t.”

Turns out I have a screenshot of that post Blackburn is referring to. Here is what Hodin actually said:

Hodin never said Velie “started a website critical of [Hill]” nor did he say that Karen stole one of his cartoons and placed in on the website. That’s completely made up. In fact, Velie appeared under that same thread to deny that CalCoastNews is involved in “Fire Adam Hill,” and even made the same assertion that Blackburn is now claiming.

“As a member of the media you should have had the ethics to call and ask before calling someone a thief. Please remove your untrue statements,” wrote Velie.

Hodin understandably replied, “ You are once more grossly misinterpreting what I state, and that you, of all people, should be most circumspect about lecturing other media on accuracy or motive.”

Blackburn made it up, yet he froths when Supervisor Hill shared allegedly spurious claims about Velie having issues, including the claim that Velie is ex-con, which he says she is not.

Actually, yes, she is. She was convicted of suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in 2014. Coincidentally, she based her defense on a conspiracy claim — a claim Blackburn himself echoed on CalCoastNews — that Supervisor Hill and his wife somehow orchestrated her arrest. The jury didn’t buy that.

Blackburn also claimed Velie remains banned from 920 KVEC due to “badgering” from Supervisor Hill and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department chief Ian Parkinson. But public records show that both Hill and Parkinson had expressed concerns over comments Velie made on-air about them and false information about police investigations — and the criticism of Velie wasn’t limited to CalCoastNews publishing “unflattering articles” about them, as Blackburn claims.

Blackburn also makes a myriad of statements about Hill that he doesn’t prove, and that he never tried to prove before. At one point, Blackburn claims radio show host Dick Mason “was subsequently terminated by management at KKJL after complaints from Hill” when CalCoastNews reported months earlier, “Mason says his dismissal is not related to recent discord with a local public official or attempts by management to temper his reporting.”

“Mason was terminated on Thursday by station management because of budgetary restraints,” wrote CalCoastNews on Dec. 31, 2015.

Blackburn later brought me up, stating Cal Coast Fraud was “perhaps coincidentally” founded around the time several anonymous Craigslist ads appeared, seeking to pay a blogger to “change public opinion” in SLO County. I can’t comment on Craigslist ads I haven’t seen or responded to, but my criticism of CalCoastNews predates the launch of Cal Coast Fraud. Blackburn is especially aware of this because he attempted to set up an “aggregate” partnership with me in June 2011, which I opted out of because of their incendiary reporting. I described the dissolution of that partnership agreement in 2013, one year before I launched Cal Coast Fraud.

“Ochs claims he’s not being paid by anyone for his efforts, which if true only confirms his lack of acuity,” wrote Blackburn. An insult that makes no sense.

Blackburn calls my site “slimy” and my work “garbage.” His opinion. He’s entitled to it.

He even shared a Photoshop image that I created — and I proudly stand behind — showing Velie’s face placed on every member of the Addams Family except Lurch. That image was in response to a spurious claim by Velie sent to the County Board of Supervisors that I had posted photos of her children and grandchildren on Cal Coast Fraud back in early 2015. But Blackburn left that detail out, of course.

Blackburn also makes a wild claim that Karen’s grandchildren were once taken from their home by one of my readers: Lee Collins “of the county’s Public Health Department under the auspices of Child Protective Services.” Except Blackburn knows that Collins himself didn’t physically take Velie’s grandchildren from their home.

How would I know? After all, Social Services never told me specifics about the case because — oh, you know — confidentiality.

Blackburn’s son Alan shared an anonymously produced video outing the case workers who were involved in the purported “kidnapping.”

Blackburn goes on to imply that Collins “violates” confidentiality about the case by writing to me on Cal Coast Fraud about Karen Velie. Absurd and delusional.

Seething with rage, Hill sloppily reconnects Hill to now-defunct PB Companies and claims the company has been “surreptitiously been using Hill as a paid advocate.” He even reveals new “evidence,” which he doesn’t reveal (of course) that CalCoastNews’ articles “prompted internal company discussions of hiring ‘a hit man’ to terminate the reporting, and the reporter.”

Seriously.

Blackburn encouraged Hill and I to let the insults fly. He hopes the “insults” and the fodder he provided “can distract for even a short time your despicable assaults on Karen [Velie].”

In the grand scheme of things, Blackburn’s laughably poor exercise for an editorial is emblematic of CalCoastNews, and why I write about them regularly. Their lies are getting crazier, including his. But it’s sad to see that some people still cheerfully buy into their lies, which seem to confirm the false notion that “liberals” are so heartless that they would have the gall to attack blameless reporters and their flawless reporting. Then, their faithful anonymous few launch into hysterical tirades that serve no purpose. Then comes the harassment. Then comes the threats. The vicious cycle continues.

Blackburn’s editorial definitely shows he lost his bearings. He flounders about in his demented prose, crafting an elaborate and factually free tale of lies, deceit, poisoned family dogs and “hit men.” Blackburn is a serial, likely senile liar — although let’s be fair, his recent screed is a lobotomized masterpiece.

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