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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Newspaper Editors Explain Imbalance and Influence

Last Sunday, the Janesville Gazette editor posted an editorial titled "Some special groups get special attention" in what appeared to be an attempt to justify the newspaper's biased focus.
Gazette Editorial Excerpt: (Not available on open Web)
GM workers, teachers and law officers. What do they have in common? All get special treatment in the Janesville Gazette. Some say they get unfair treatment, but I disagree.

What the people in those groups do, how they are compensated and how they are disciplined interests many of our readers.
How's that for objectivity?

This is how I understand it. Reality is like a wheel. It spins and wobbles at its own leisure, sometimes it's very smooth, other times it's very erratic. It loses its roundness on occasion but always bounces back - on its own, it has to. As they say, it is what it is. Now, enter the newspaper editor. To the apparent satisfaction of his readers and political model, he throws a lead weight into the spinning wheel. But not just anywhere, he's got a specific area targeted. And the weight is special too. It's checked for content, volume, density, weight and of course, direction. So the wheel picks up a whole new dynamic momentum. But there's a problem. Reality begins to lose shape, the wheel is no longer round.
Gazette Editorial Excerpt:
We are frequently criticized for singling out these groups, and we are sensitive to the perception that we are unfair to them. While we're comfortable with our decision making, we consciously work to balance our coverage by providing positive stories about GM workers, teachers and police officers.
So at some point the editor decides to throw in another lead weight, but this time it's to have an opposite effect from his last course of action. Its purpose is to bring the wheel back into compliance. The main problem of course is that the wheel has been tampered with. It's back into somebody's definition of compliance, but it's not back into reality. Its been spun. Call me a simpleton.

A few days after that editorial, the newspaper's opinion editor had this to say about editorial influence on his blog.
Gazette Blog Excerpt:
...I've tried hard to focus our editorial comments largely on local and state issues, as well. After all, that's what we know best, and these are the arenas where we can exert the most influence. If the Gazette editorialized on Afghanistan, do you think it would hold sway with anyone in Washington and the decisions they make? Neither do we.

But we do believe our opinions can influence local and state decisions.
I'm not disputing any statements made by either editor nor would I make any suggestions. They confirm most of my observations posted on my blog.

So let's look at the bright side. Other than the editors statements regarding their class war journalism, spin balancing and built-to-influence editorials, the Janesville Gazette really isn't much different than any other newspaper.

In the "Briefs" section of Thursday's Gazette is a schedule of listening sessions hosted by Wisconsin State Assembly (D-43rd) Representative Kim Hixson. The newspaper titled it "Politician Plans December Conversations."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this "reality is like a wheel" analogy. It fits the Gazette perfectly. -- Cindy W.

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