On October 27th, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel endorsed John Kerry for President.
For anyone familiar with the paper, this was about as shocking as finding out that Christmas is scheduled for December 25th, so I can't claim to be too outraged.
But I was impressed by the lengths MJS went to assure its readers it was making an informed, objective decision. While skewering his record, the endorsement called Bush a decent man who never deliberately misled the nation, and a man with a "big heart" who just wasn't as good a choice as his opposition.
As I said, I was impressed. I didn't buy any of their attempts at appearing bipartisan, but I was impressed by their efforts.
Unfortuantely, their claim to the high ground lasted only ten days. Immersed in a deep fugue over Kerry's loss, MJS editorial page editor O. Ricaardo Pimentel decided to empty both barrels in the Saturday November 6th edition.
"[The President's] campaign . . . might be the most dishonest we've ever seen, in keeping with a first term that fits the description as well." Ouch. What about the somber claim of the editorial 'we' (of which Pimentel is 1/9th) that Bush never deliberately lied to the country? Well, maybe Pimentel was just letting off some steam. Then again, we go on to read the following:
"The president who pretty obviously dodged war as a youth . . ."
"The campaign against Sen. John Kerry was just one big Willie Horton ad . .." (nice touch, bringing in the whole 'Bush dynasty' issue.)
"We were sold a bill of goods [on Iraq]"…
"[Bush voters presume]the guy whose blunders have made us less safe is the guy to make us safe."
"the willingness of so many Americans to swallow all of this is [breathtaking] …More than that, it is frightening."
Now, I could give a Kerry bumper sticker over what Pimentel does or does not believe. He can have his opinion, and he is entitled to express it.
But I'm drawn back to that endorsement of Oct. 27th, and in particular to a note from the editor that accompanied it. Martin Kaiser, MJS's editor, wrote the following: "There is a wall of separation between the newsroom and the Editorial Board. As editor, I enforce this wall. No reporters who cover the news . . . participate in the discussions that dictate Editorial Board decisions."
Neat-o. But a crock.
I do not believe for one second that a reporter can do anything more than try to separate his work from his personal views. I believe that most do try. But I think their attempts are doomed to fail in a professional culture whose editorial and administrative climate not only condone but embrace the left-of center views of their reporters.
And yes, the problem cuts both ways. Whether true or not, Fox has become tied to its reputation as the 'conservative' network. That has hurt its credibility, and when faced with attacks from the left they step further to the right. I can't imagine that's good for the profession.
There's no easy solution of course. I would encourage young, smart conservatives to try journalism, but too often they wind up pigeon-holed on the editorial page or on talk radio. As a consumer, I'd advocate taking in as many news sources as possible, and making up your own mind.
And take notice when journalists fail to even try to be objective. Like the edition that followed Pimentel's rant, where the editorial, written presumably by college graduates, began "mandate, schmandate."Charming.