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Alan Riquelmy: What matters is your opinion

Alexandra Tara Reade, a western Nevada County resident, reached out to The Union for the first time over a year ago.

A handful of women last year had publicly accused Joe Biden, who at the time was still considering a presidential run, of inappropriate touching. Reade said she wanted to add her voice.

The gist: Biden, a U.S. senator in the early 1990s, allegedly touched Reade inappropriately when she worked in his office. Reade claimed Biden put his hand on her shoulder and ran his finger up her neck. Reade said she left his office, or was pushed out, after declining to serve drinks at a function.

Last year Reade provided the contact information for a friend who she said could corroborate the account. I listened to Reade, contacted the friend and wrote a story based on her account.

A key difference in Reade’s allegations from last year and two months ago is in 2019 Reade made no mention of sexual assault. That significantly affects how we approach a story, and why one took several days while the other took about two months.

In 2019 a handful of women made similar accusations about Biden. Reade provided information showing she was employed by Biden’s office from late 1992 to August 1993. Her friend, granted anonymity, said Reade told her about it at the time. Biden himself made a statement acknowledging the women, saying he’d “be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future.”

Perhaps most importantly to our story, Reade lived in Nevada County. The Union is a local paper that covers this area. If she didn’t live here, we wouldn’t have written about it.

Ultimately, we must ask ourselves these questions about every story: Why are we writing this? How does this impact the community? Why do people want to know this?

People want to know about a woman living in our community making these allegations against someone who at the time was a large figure on the presidential field.

They certainly want to know when, a year later, those allegations include sexual assault and the accused is the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party.

There’s a world of difference between Reade’s accusations last year and those she made in March. I first spoke to Reade on March 18 about her allegations of sexual assault. The Union’s story about them printed last week.

As the saying goes, “Everyone wants to be first. I want to be the first person who’s right.” Bigger, national media outlets broke this story before The Union. I regret not being able to vet this story like the New York Times, Politico or Business Insider and break multiple stories on this issue. However, I have no qualms with spending the time necessary to conduct follow-up interviews, make repeated email requests to various agencies and have several conversations with my editor before this ever saw print.

Many media outlets have contacted me and requested an interview about Reade. I’ve declined all of them.

The reason is because my opinion on Reade and her allegations doesn’t matter. What I think about a particular exchange between her and another reporter, or her and myself last year, doesn’t matter. What’s important is the process the media used to gather information and write its stories.

What matters is your opinion, based on reporting you find in this publication and media outlets across the country and world.

And, ultimately, what really matters is how you act on that opinion.

Contact City Editor Alan Riquelmy at ariquelmy@theunion.com or 530-477-4239.


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