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Editors reveal pro-McCain bias
by Jake Highton
May 17, 2008 | 566 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A vignette out of Washington, D.C., recently reveals one of the many problems of the press: Newspaper editors at an Associated Press luncheon gave John McCain a standing ovation.

Why? He’s a warmonger, lusting to fight in Iran and willing to stay in Iraq for a century. He is a reactionary who would give aid and comfort to the rich. He would push tax cuts for the wealthy and cut the corporate tax rate 10 percent.

He voted 95 percent of the time with President Bush last year. Some maverick! He has always opposed abortion rights. His national health plan would swell the swollen profits of the insurance industry. He would pack the federal courts with right-wingers like Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.

McCain is Bush redux

The wild applause was highly unprofessional for supposedly neutral editors. And how do you suppose the editors treated an appearance of the liberal, forward-looking Barack Obama? Tepidly.

‘Tabloidish’ Washington Post

Dennis Myers, news editor of the Reno News and Review and astute observer of media shenanigans, cites a recent teaser on the Washington Post home page declaring that the private wedding of Jenna Bush, the president’s daughter, “disappoints a public fascinated by her coming of age.”

“Really?” Myers asks in an e-mail. “Who can really claim that the public is fascinated by Jenna Bush? I think it’s actually something that is becoming more common in journalism, packaging news stories in the hyperbolic language and trappings of celebrity reporting.”

He’s right. The public doesn’t care about the wedding of Ms. Bush just as it doesn’t care about weddings of British royals. The Washington Post has always been a mix of serious journalism and supermarket tabloidism. The New York Times, on the other hand, maintains the dignity and restraint of The Times since its founding in 1851.

Media pranks

KNPB, the Channel 5 PBS outlet in Reno, shows its logo continuously during “Masterpiece.” It’s highly distracting — and it’s bush league. A station ID logo once every 15 minutes would be ample. The Reno Gazette-Journal gives three paragraphs to a story on page one then repeats the information inside. Ditto with the front page of the sport section. Reader reaction is obvious: “I already read that story.”

Even worse, the RGJ has taken to overlaying an ad over a sports statistics page. Newspapering long since sold whatever soul it had to mammon. But the ad is absurd, making the stats extremely hard to read.

Other annoying ad tricks at the RGJ: page one sticker ads that must be removed and half ad pages that must be removed to read the page beneath. Money always comes first in the Newspaper Business.

Gibbons urged to quit

CityLife of Las Vegas is the best newspaper in the state. It prints stories no other paper dares to. It has the guts that newspapers ought to have. If newspapers were more like CityLife their circulation might not be freefalling as it is in the Age of the Internet.

CityLife, an alternative weekly, recently ran a cover story by editor Steve Sebelius urging Gov. Jim Gibbons to resign. The six-part indictment began:

“Governor, it’s time to go.

“After 15 months in the statehouse, it’s unmistakably clear that you don’t have what it takes to be Nevada’s chief executive.

“Your adminstration is marred by lies, incompetence and bad decisions. You’ve failed every major test of leadership, bungled every crisis. … The phrase most commonly used to describe you, by friends and enemies alike, is this: ‘There’s no there there.’ ”

Here are the six counts: 1) Lying to and misleading the public. 2) Instigating a constitutional crisis. 3) Lack of facility with policy. 4) Placing philosophy over people. 5) Subverting campaign finance law. 6) Yielding power of government to private interests.

With CityLife it is not just rhetoric. It is solid reporting, using copious facts to back up the indictments.

Rule by judges

Gibbons is obviously a public official. His business is the public’s business.

So how can a Washoe District Court judge, Janet Berry, declare that documents explaining the governor’s improper handling of a concealed weapons permit be off limits to the Reno Gazette-Journal? Similarly, how can a Carson District Court judge, Bill Maddox, seal the governor’s divorce papers?

This is rule by judges, not by the people. The judicial rulings are counter to an order of the Nevada Supreme Court published earlier this year demanding more open government.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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