FRESNO, CA--Could it be a trend now seeping into local politics, where even local media are broadly being labeled “fake news?” Some would argue, what’s the difference?
Local independent media would say, “big difference: there is more corporate dollars attached to nationally owned media compared to micro-local news outlets.”
However, President Donald Trumps’ battle with national media could be influencing broad propaganda as a generalized rule for all media outlets.
The press, an entity which began as the people’s establishment, protected under the Constitution, obtained its golden value when freedom of the press was established in the American colonies when John Peter Zenger, publisher of the New York Weekly Journal, was acquitted of libel charges brought by New York Gov. William Crosby on Aug. 4, 1735, according to an article from the Chicago Tribune.
In this era, the media as a protected form of speech is often forgotten; do most people remember what the First Amendment really protects?
Adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights, The First Amendment word-for-word states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of
the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of
Perhaps lost in translation, this forgotten act of Congress speaks volumes in today’s political climate, charged with the nouveau politician, alarmed by media reports and ready to attack such news outlets or journalists.
Locally in the Central Valley, In June, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes launched a very long video ad over two-minutes long against The Fresno Bee for its coverage of a controversy surrounding a winery in which Nunes is invested, according to Vice News video and article. The winery controversy story was written by Fresno Bee reporter Mackenzie Mays.
As a result, Fresno Bee reporters received a lot of hate mail, angry social media posts and threatening voice mails; the attacks are becoming more vicious, according to Vice News, where reporter Mays said she received voicemails calling her and her colleagues “corrupt bastards."
In fact, the attacks became so intense that the Fresno Bee launched their own editorial, reminding Valley residents, “…we are far from being ‘enemies of the American people,’” they stated in a print editorial.
The ethnic media is not immune from such media attacks from local politicians; ONME News has been continually attacked by members of the community who are very passionate about their candidates, but have a difficult time expressing it without threats, attacks, or personal anguish and harm—and they are not considered members of President Trump’s base as often stereotyped.
Over the last several years, ONME News has covered news and events in the Black community for its online and mobile users, as well as, hiring and mentoring local students who have wanted to enter the mass communications field. The community looks to ONME News to cover news items that often get overlooked in the mainstream. Last year, it was proposed to launch a fundraiser to help furnish intern staff, production and equipment costs and the like.
In November 2017 at a sit-down meeting with Fresno Downtown Partnership, a directive was suggested by the interim director, Craig Scharton, to host a cultural music event in Downtown Fresno; something groups, organizations, individuals and businesses do all the time to help raise funds. The planning commenced in December of 2017, and the best Black cultural holiday, Juneteenth, was chosen based on the best weather, since the venue was outside, and would be in the evening after popular afternoon event.
Interim director Scharton entered the Fresno city council district three race in early 2018—a totally separate decision that had nothing to do with the planned ONME Media Group’s event in June.
Seemingly threatened Black candidates assumed ONME News was a part of Scharton’s decision and campaign effort. Opposing candidate, Daren Miller, pounced on the opportunity to propagandize the false premise, suggesting the ONME Media Group was hired specifically to help Scharton with his campaign through the event, which would reach many members of the Black community.
Without getting the facts or truth of the matter, Miller sent an unsupportive email to members of the community; the Fresno Police Dept.; Fresno County Supervisor, Brian Pacheco; District 3 Councilman Oliver Baines; Fresno EOC executive director, Brian Angus, and other community leaders, cced to a member of the ONME News.
Ironically Miller, who is the fraternity brother of one of the ONME Media Group owners’, Lennice Najieb, saw Najieb the night before at a public event, greeted him, but never commented that an email would be going out the very next morning to denounce the planned ONME Media Group event.
The purposed misinformation seeped into the Black Community as an issue colliding with the popular day event, something discussed already with said organizers at least a few weeks before Miller’s email. He also purported that the purpose of the evening Juneteenth Jazz & Blues event was to boost Scharton, "a Caucasian male,” to the traditional ethnically elected seat. Members of the Black community were fired up and corralled to councilman Baines’ office without the presence of the ONME News owners who were funding the hosted one-day event. ONME News was shocked to find that non-organizers or non- event funders changed the date through Baines’ office. ONME Media Group owner, Julia Dudley N., called Baines after the found-out meeting to clarify any concerns; there were no concerns at the time, as Baines stated the two events were completely separate, in separate locations and at separate times. However Baines has never addressed or called ONME Media Group to address the abuse of authority to change a civilian or event organizer’s date, without talking to the event permit submitter; he had such an opportunity to request such a change or bring up any concerns during the call.
The community attacks became so threatening, that at a public newsworthy, free event at the West Fresno Resource Center location,
The Maxie Parks Center, funded by taxpayer dollars, a community leader and relative of an organizer of the afternoon Juneteenth event, JePaul White, kicked out an ONME News representative, while councilman Baines and other community leaders sat back and watched the defiling shouting from White against ONME News representative.
Other non-related threats continued from another Black candidate, J. Tate Hill, who began to spew negative campaigning tactics against ONME News, telling people, “ONME News is insignificant,” and paraphrased, he would not be making any appearances on any of ONME News political shows. ONME News owners did not respond to Hill’s comments, nor did he attempt to explain or resolve issues he had with the media outlet—it was therefor considered a tactic to prevent people from reading credible news information about him, although some information and facts could come across negative to the public.
Finally, at a free community event at a local Black business hub, a member of ONME News was attacked verbally by Hill who threatened that he would, paraphrased: shut down ONME News and the network when he got into office and cancel any contracts affiliated with its progress. This would be the first time owners Dudley N. and Najieb would find out that Hill’s vendetta against the media outlet was personal and possible raw from the intel already gathered about him.
Meanwhile, ONME News was continually confronted with very serious allegations about opposing Latino district 3 candidate, Miguel Arias, in which the submitters wanted the media outlet to print rumors that had been circulating the Black community for months. ONME News researched, and could not find a basis for the serious allegations nor a credible source. The presented information was unfounded and incorrect.
UPDATE: Community members who recently sent in more allegations to ONME News regarding Arias and where they submitted a complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) about possible taking of funds from a non-profit organization, in confronting candidate Arias about the issue, he was able to provide proof just recently of the unfounded allegations. (Please see below photo.)
As Hill continued to attack, ONME News publicly stated its findings in an article posted after the primary elections. The article recounted a Fresno Bee news article related to Hill’s challenges for the upcoming November 2018 election, concerning members of the gay community. It had been found that Hill took campaign contributions from a publicly anti-gay supporter, Brooke Ashjian. ONME News made reference to it from the The Fresno Bee May 31, 2018 article; it was also stated in the article that ONME News could not get a statement from Hill due to his sentiments about the news outlet.
In August, a comment was posted on social media by another presumed community leader, and Hill supporter, Kina McFadden, attacking ONME News personally by requesting that members of the community give her information to use to attack the owners Dudley N and Najieb. McFadden has known both owners for several years, has spoken to them on several occasions, and has their personal cell phone numbers to contact—no attempt was ever made by her. However defamatory comments were posted to thousands of people on social media, geared toward gathering negative intel on the media outlet owners.
Thereafter anonymous sources submitted information regarding Hill’s integrity, criminal records and false endorsements; ONME News then began fact checking, calling up the endorsers, finding that anonymous tips were correct. Criminal background information and bankruptcies were checked to find more validity to the tips received.
In an Op-Ed, owner Julia Dudley N. addressed Hill and his angry threatening supporters suggesting that they do their own fact-checking before endorsing a candidate just because he was Black, although under-qualified and lacked integrity issues. In fact this past Sunday’s Valley Black Talk Media Group show, Dudley N. addressed the public in an audio about the importance of the Black community having a list of demands or requests to present to local candidates running for office.
It seems that after addressing the concerns via the op-ed, ONME Media Group owner Dudley N. was under-attack from Hill after voicing her First Amendment Rights to freedom of the press.
Open threats and bullying tactics from event promoter and avid Hill supporter, Adrian Harris, became more prevalent; Harris would repeatedly call owner Najieb, suggesting, paraphrased, that if they both (ONME News owners) did not comply, "They" would release damaging information," (ex-cop Baines is a dedicated Hill supporter advocating for him to different campaign donors, according to the ONME News team research.) He also said that "they" were going to create a false narrative about one of the owners stealing money from a non-profit organization she chaired for the last several years to ruin her credibility. Harris has already released their credit information to members of the Black community, considered a serious federal crime, which could garner up to 10 years in prison per offense.
On Sept 1, 2018, Najieb received a phone call from Harris threatening to release their credit report and other fake rumors to the public; he began to read detailed items from both reports over the phone. Dudley N. was also in the room to hear the call on speaker phone as Harris revealed her personal account history information.
Thereafter, ONME News released a video from a vetted source to the public addressing Hill: Grindr app date, one-night stander, Alexander Grimaldi, who interviewed prior with the Fresno Bee, felt that it was important for the people in Fresno to hear his story; Grimaldi was concerned with Hill’s integrity issues. Grimaldi was not paid for his interview, nor was ONME News paid to interview by opposing candidate, Arias, as some might have thought.
It became more evident how serious the local city council election-matter was when a call Friday morning, Sept. 7 was received to Najieb's phone, where an individual was attempting to frame the phone call for such an incredulous allegation concerning Dudley N.’s non-profit volunteer effort.
After this past weekend, both owners’ realized their personal and credit information were clearly in jeopardy for over the past year. However, the situation became more apparent about the information breach when Dudley N. and Najieb discovered their credit reports both revealed the same inquiry on different days, during the same year from Hill’s place of employment, former Fresno CDFI, otherwise known as Access Plus Capital, a subsidiary of Fresno EOC. Hill is employed as the senior manager. The inquiries were discovered toward the beginning of September 2018. Candidate Hill manages loans for minority-owned businesses seeking business loans through the Access Plus Capital office. Neither owner had applied for a business loan from the former Fresno CDFI during 2017; unauthorized hard pull requests were pulled from Najieb’s credit on Feb 24, 2017 and Dudley N.’s credit on March 1, 2017. Both owners had applied for a loan from that organization two-three years prior to Hill being hired in 2016, but decided to go an alternative route.
Julia Dudley N.’s credit pull information:
As a police report has been recently filed locally with the Fresno police department and federally, with the Federal Trade Commission by both owners, on two separate cases of identity fraud, some are questioning why the owners’ credits were pulled a year prior to the elections, and to what extent is former Fresno CDFI board chair Baines and other Hill supporters’ involvement: The ONME News team has been made privy to serious allegations against Baines concerning possible unusual business dealings he is involved with, Fresno EOC money disbursements in the hundreds of thousands of dollars without prior board approval, and unethical money acquirement for his Valley Apprenticeship Center (VAC) program he directs, partially funded by the Fresno EOC, who used Head Start funds and Fresno EOC employees to sustain his annual $500,00.00+ budgeted program. ONME News found that his program was solely approved by Fresno EOC executive director Brian Angus, according to preliminary, documented files and research ONME News has obtained.
As there is a continued investigation into these and more serious allegations presented involving staff and owners at ONME News in relation to candidate Hill, there will continue to be an in-depth research into to the current city councilman Baines connection, who is one of Hill’s biggest supporters, and possibly most profitable benefactors if Hill takes the district 3 seat.
ONME News will continue to keep the public informed for its active online and mobile audiences.
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