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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is Your Newspaper Run By Moe?

First noted by a Milwaukee Magazine writer on Rep. Paul Ryan's exclusive deal with the Racine Journal Times, it appears newspapers have figured out at least one way to politicize the inter-connectivity of the Web to their editorial advantage.

Most folks including myself probably wouldn't have noticed the scheme going on right under our noses, but thanks to the MM article, I have now refocused on this ever so subtle activity with our local newspaper, the Janesville Gazette.

Here are just a few examples of this from the past few days...

In Sunday's paper, the Gazette published a series of unfortunate statements that typically emerge from personal disputes. In a frivolous complaint against the Rock County Coroner(D), the Gazette grossly over-inflated the seriousness of the situation and published mostly unfounded allegations as fact. They eventually posted the article on the open Web and subjected the coroner's reputation to so much undeserved criticism and hearsay that they had to delete the entire comment section.

On Monday, the Gazette published a jobs op-ed by State Rep. Mike Sheridan(D) and also posted it on their Web Site with an open forum for comments - as it should be. Honest and engaging public officials should welcome public input to their op-eds. The Sheridan column has been running on the Gazette main page for several days now.

On Tuesday, the Gazette published a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about Congressman Paul Ryan's national fund raising activities in their hard copy. However, they did not publish it on their Web Site as of this posting. Of course that means no public interactivity or local input. The Journal Sentinel web article is also closed to comments. Is this merely a coincidence? Hardly.

In Wednesday's paper, the Gazette posted a creatively written "reinforcement" newspaper editorial supporting the original trumped-up allegations article to once again fuel public opinion against the county coroner. However, this editorial is not on the open Web because frankly...the newspaper is special. No comments. No interactivity.

Those few examples are not the exception, they are the rule.

The fact is, nearly all Gazette editorials are deliberately kept off the free Web. The few editorials that are republished at the Wheeler Report for instance are not direct-linked, instead they are in PDF format without offering any interactivity. Why is that? For the most part, I believe it's done for complete control presenting an infallible socio-political message designed to steer public opinion without challenge. But I also think there's an even more sinister if not cowardly element at play here.

Of course, not all newspapers share this policy. One newspaper, the socially friendly online-only Capital Times not only post all their editorials on the free web, they also are all subject to open public debate. Kudos to them.

But how ironic it is that the folks who constantly harp in defense of free speech and demand open and free access into government records, are among the first to shut it all down when it's their turn to live by those standards. Janesville residents are left powerless and disengaged with no alternative but to eat it if they read it, as the Gazette is the only local mass media in the area. We couldn't fire them if we wanted to.

I've often wondered how the Gazette has been able to avoid the same public scrutiny they subject others to, particularly with the social interactivity of the Web. Finally, now we know. They have no misgivings about subjecting the average private citizen or certain politicians and local officials to fierce Web scrutiny and rebuttal, yet keep Paul Ryan op-eds and stories on other favored officials including their own editorials from the same.

Are they above the fray? Why certainly. Of course they'll swear all day long they're not partisan. They have the ins-and-outs of "communication deficit" down to a science. It's a special talent. However, this policy reminds me of a Three Stooges comedy short where the snickering Moe Howard pulls Larry up by the hair for pie throwers to target while he luxuriously hides under the table.

There's only one word for Moe. But I'll leave that one up to your imagination.

Note: This posting is the independent perspective and opinion of its author. Laurel & Hardy and the Three Stooges were used here simply to make a point. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Beloit Daily News also posts their editorials on the web and welcomes comments.

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