Santa Clara Weekly, City Hall Reporter Carolyn Schuk Fail to Disclose Conflicts of Interest

The term “fake news” gets thrown around frequently these days, but the Santa Clara Weekly might want to slow its roll in claiming moral high ground. Earlier this month, Fly reported on Weekly publisher Miles Barber’s lawsuit against blogger Robert Haugh, who’s been critical of his former employer—particularly about favorable coverage for the San Francisco 49ers and certain elected officials. A day after the story was published, Weekly editor Angie Tolliver emailed a demand for correction, noting that Haugh was fired instead of departing voluntarily. Having been accused last year of “hipster racism”—whatever that means—by Weekly reporter Carolyn Schuk, Fly elected to pose some questions to Tolliver and ask why Haugh was sacked. Tolliver replied by email: “You know I legally can’t disclose the reason for an employee’s termination.” Fly informed Tolliver it did not know this, as state law doesn’t forbid former employers from disclosing the reasons for a termination, though there’s civil liability exposure for maligning a person’s employment prospects, which includes disclosing that they were fired.

Carolyn Schuk founded the Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation and then went about getting money from the same people and companies she covers as a reporter for Santa Clara Weekly. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Carolyn Schuk founded the Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation and then went about getting money from the same people and companies she covers as a reporter for Santa Clara Weekly. This was never disclosed to readers. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Fly also asked how the Weekly felt about its City Hall reporter, Schuk, reporting on a nonprofit arts foundation she created without mentioning this little detail to readers. Melissa McKenzie, a fellow Weekly staffer and board member for the nonprofit, also neglected to disclose this conflict to readers. Fly then asked if it was ethically appropriate for its journalists to report on elected officials who have also supported the Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation. Elected officials who have given tax-deductible cash to the nonprofit, according to its website, include: Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s real estate company; council members Teresa O’Neill and Pat Kolstad; City Clerk Rod Diridon Jr.; U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna; and former Mayor Jamie Matthews. Other donors include the 49ers, who were noted as “outstandingly generous sponsors,” and developers who have major contracts in front of the City Council, such as the Related Companies’ $6.5 billion retail project. Tolliver then said all of her emails with Fly were “off the record,” which again is not how journalism works. Common practice requires both sides to agree to speaking terms before a conversation. Tolliver told Fly that she doesn’t believe Weekly reporters are influenced by their volunteer organizations.” Schuk refused to meet with Fly to review her nonprofit’s financials, which do not have to provide itemized accounting to the IRS because the nonprofit reports annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less. Schuk ignored emails asking why she and the Weekly have repeatedly failed to disclose her conflicts of interest to readers.

Correction: In the March 22 Fly column “Record Skips,” Fly wrote that Santa Clara Weekly writer Carolyn Schuk had “routinely” reported on a nonprofit arts organization that she founded and operates, according to the nonprofit’s website, without disclosing an apparent conflict of interest. We should have more precisely written that she wrote two bylined stories, according to the nonprofit, which doesn’t necessarily add up to a routine, and that Weekly writers, including Schuk, wrote at least 10 stories about the Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation over a three-year period. And while it is true that Fly asked if it was ethically appropriate for journalists to ask story subjects for money, we didn’t have any actual proof that writers were “shaking down sources for money” as we indelicately put it, or that Schuk personally benefitted in any way from the philanthropy. An attorney for Schuk notes that her client “receives no salary or any other sort of monetary compensation” from the nonprofit. San Jose Inside regrets the errors.

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25 Comments

  1. Great work Fly,
    When are you going to do a story on Dianne Feinstein’s millions and how they landed in her pocket?

  2. Note to Wounded Warrior, stop using Bill O’Reilly, you have a conflict there. Bill should focus more on raising money for Wrestlers for Charity. Robert Haugh only keeps 70 percent of that money for expenses.

    • Typical.

      James, time to double your dose.

      Nobody’s paying Robert Haugh.

      But the city you left behind is paying plenty to Miles Barber.

  3. The Santa Clara Weekly is not a real newspaper. It delivers about once a month to my neighborhood and no one reads it. It’s the Penny Saver with typos. It’s clear that Angie Tolliver is not a real editor. Her answers are embarrassing. And it’s obvious that Carolyn Schuk is not a real reporter. She clearly has no ethical standards nor the guts to answer publicly for her actions. Shameful.

    • Is the Fly a “real reporter” or just an insect? I assume a “real reporter” is only one you with whom you agree.

    • To stop deliveries of the Santa Clara Weakly: Send a signed letter to Santa Clara City Hall, Business License Division, 1500 Warburton Avenue, S.C. 95050, identifying yourself and requesting that your address be placed on the City of Santa Clara **Handbill Restriction List**. Give it a week or three, then call the Business Tax office at 1(408)615-2310 confirming that your address is listed.

      If deliveries of the Weakly persist after a month: Call A&A Distribution at 1(408)436-2300 and remind them that your address is on Santa Clara’s “Handbill Restriction List,” and that the Weakly is not to be left anywhere on your property. A&A may have changed their name, but they’re the same folks.

      Ref. 1: http://www.codepublishing.com/CA/SantaClara/#!/SantaClara09/SantaClara0915.html#9.15

    • Limiting dropped leaflets is a deterrent to household burglaries. Also, it’s not my job to clean up someone else’s trash.

      It matters not one whit that the Weakly is the “adjudicated publication” for the City of Santa Clara – it’s still an unsubscribed drop advertiser. The city ordinance applies to them as it does to anyone else who wishes to leaflet residences in the city of Santa Clara.

      If you don’t want to receive the Santa Clara Weakly: Miles Barber should not be forcing it on you.

      Ref. 2: http://www.standupforsantaclara.com/tags/santa_clara_weekly )

  4. Nearly as scandalous as Murky Gnus Editor Barbara Marshman getting caught trying trying to fix an election… not really. If readers didn’t demand BM be flushed, I doubt there will be much consternation about SCW.

    • Barbara Marshman might be the most obvious “baby boomer HR lady trying to build a relationship by misapplying her own personal experience from the to what’s going on now” I’ve ever been forced to exchange emails with.

      No seriously I get why the chamber (or the refreshingly more honest new branding they are trying put now) cons her.

  5. I wrote a reply Bevmo’s comment about an hour ago. It showed up with a statement “waiting for moderation”. It hasn’t shown up here even though there has been at least one comment printed/posted since then. What exactly does “moderation” mean? Who is “moderating it”? I used clean language. Is there specific criteria to make the cut? I had made a comment prior to that & disclosed my email address before posting. Haven’t seen or heard anything of it. (this is a test).

    • (Sorry. I posted my Bevmo reply very early in the morning, so I guess that was the problem since it’s on hear now. Though I did see that other, later, posting. My reply to the article itself may have been a technical issue from my side. I’ll try again.)

    • I will gladly provide contacts at UCLA Health in Southern California that supported and were well aware of an event Wrestling For Charity presented that was an awareness and outreach event, as well as fundraiser – unfortunately, that particular event wasn’t as successful as Wrestling For Charity and partners of that event had hoped. You are obviously referring to the “Fighting For Acceptance” event held Sept. 2016 in San Jose, CA at the now defunct Broken Spoke Saloon.

  6. This is what happens when you get rid of LBJS Greatness society. Well meaning people want to do good, but need money. Money comes from relationships.

    And on and on the circles goes – but the FLY has the paper to dead to rights

  7. I’ve read Robert’s site, it has some informative value, but he’s clearly got an agenda, he’s more gadfly than journalist.

  8. Most of these posts are unreadable gibberish and somewhat bizarre. Do any of you read the article or automatically scroll down to the “leave a reply” to post pure nonsense and wait to see if your posts are recorded.
    Carolyn Fchuk is neither a reporter or a journalist. She is merely a contributor who sadly has her rants published in a small town nickel ad advertisement publication.
    Used to be journalists were educated and had standards but now anyone with a Wi-Fi connection and too much time on their schedule can give their opinion and pass it off as “news” and claim to be a journalist or reporter. What a pity!

    • I didn’t even read your comment before I replied. Lighten up Kidd most of us can’t get passed annoyed.

  9. I would like to compliment “The Fly” and San Jose Inside on this story. Though there’s a huge issue with a growing amount of anonymous comments and negative posts by folks throughout the Bay Area and beyond, as well as a seemingly lesser and lesser amount of ethical journalists, it is great seeing watchdog journalism bringing to light issues in and facing local communities.

    Speaking of the Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation, I have additional information about a $12,000 contribution that former City Manager Julio Fuentes allegedly authorized paid to SCPAF, with no process and no documentation about what the money was used for. Read about it here: https://santaclaranews.org/2017/03/23/conflicts-of-interest-carolyn-schuk-miles-barber-and-the-santa-clara-weekly/

  10. I would also like to add that I have the utmost respect for Melissa McKenzie. She did work at the SC Weekly. however, she is one of the most ethical journalists and people I know. She shouldn’t be drug into the issues surrounding Carolyn’s arts organization. She was a volunteer for that organization and had zero intent on using that organization to solicit or take money from anyone she wrote about. In fact, she was the one who initiated much of the arts coverage that was previously neglected by the weekly.

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