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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Newspaper Injects Partisan Politics into Local Non-Partisan Elections

Today, much like over the past 10 years or so, the only party politics openly exhibited in local non-partisan races in Janesville and Rock County has been created and disseminated by one source ...the Janesville Gazette. No doubt they think of themselves as the innocent messengers, but I believe it's important not to confuse the Janesville Gazette and their anonymous publishing "Sound Off" column gimmick with innocent bystanders who are merely reporting on local partisanship.

On the other hand, in no way am I trying to prove that political partisanship does not exist between candidates or in non-partisan offices. That is not the case here. My main point is it's the newspaper that is the guilty party for projecting accusations of partisanship on candidates simply for their friendships and affiliations, and then pushing an attack campaign against them for being transparent.

Predictably, the very first partisan attacks on local candidates this season did not come from political parties, special interests or from the candidates themselves. Not at all. Instead, they came in the form of anonymous comments published by the Janesville Gazette.

Janesville Gazette "Sound Off"
(anonymous column, Dec. 21)
On city council:

Check out the candidates. It appears there are a couple of hard-core political activists running. We don't need more politicians running for a nonpartisan council.

Janesville Gazette "Sound Off"
(anonymous column, Dec. 18)
On Democrats:

Regarding Democrats elect officers, Page 10A Wednesday, people of Janesville and Rock County beware. If you want the city and county to be the same financial mess that Gov. Doyle and President Obama have led us into, allow all of these people running for council and Rock County Board to get elected. Educate yourselves.

Of course the above flame-throwing comments were not posted where they could be challenged, like on a political blog or called into a radio show. Instead, they were published "anonymously" in the print edition of the Janesville Gazette! This is outrageous stuff.

Just for comparison, the Gazette editors recently refused to print a signed letter sourced from a Janesville resident because they claimed the core premise of the writer's letter was deemed false by Politifact. Unbelievable. But the newspaper prints this other unsourced cockamamie bullshit?

Yet, the editor claims to publish the best or most representative comments (in their view) of the community in their "Sound Off" anonymous column. So do they really believe the basis on what those comments are founded on to be true? Were they Politifact vetted?

If you happen not to like the comments published in their anonymous column, the editor laments, "well, they're not pretty." Which tends to say that the published anonymous comments really are more representative of what the editors think, without them actually saying it, OR what they want you to believe are representative of the community. At the same time, they admit to eliminating comments that are out of bounds or in bad taste, comments that actually could be representative of the community. But we'll never know. The question to ask is why in the world are they publishing an anonymous column at all?

Make no mistake. It is a powerful publishing tool and a political weapon to help shape public opinion.

So, after the above false and bigoted statements were published in print, the newspaper then does their usual "follow-up" a few days later by conjuring up a faux news article with statements from unassuming candidates that the newspaper purposely reframes against their newly invented partisan backdrop. The paper even digs into certain candidate's backgrounds further by pointing out their friendships and where their mom's have worked. They are way out of bounds, but we can expect a supporting editorial blasting away at the candidate's partisanship and the sad state of politics within the next week or so.

Since I began blogging here in 2006, all of the candidates and incumbents running for local non-partisan offices in Rock County, whether they referred to themselves as Democrats, Republicans, Independents or whatever have done a good job of keeping partisan politics out of their campaigns. They rarely if ever used true partisan differences against one another. The truth is, it's only the Janesville Gazette that feeds on the partisan distinctions and reshapes them into ad hominem attacks against targeted candidates.

As typical of the Gazette, the newspaper frames Democrats and unions as the subject partisans throughout the article and then attempts to "balance" their hit job with a few statements from a counter source, this time the local Republican party, but not until they limit and reconstruct the Republican position as a concluding response to the democrats "obvious" partisan infractions. They've been doing this for years.

Older Posts Related To Gazette's Partisan Attacks On Local Candidates:

Anti-Partisan Crusader's Selective Rage Targets Labor Unions (April, 2011)

When Phony Non-partisans Come Home (May, 2008)

Phony Non-Partisans Complaining About Open Advocacy (April, 2008)

Non-Partisan Elections Like Throwing Darts (March, 2007)

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