Audio: Fargo Forum Editor Defends SB2279 Front Page Targeting "No" Voting Lawmakers

In the middle of the furious response to the North Dakota state House voting down SB2279 – a bill which would have added homosexuals to North Dakota’s protected classes for employment, housing, and commerce – the Fargo Forum newspaper decided to run a front page listing the names and photographs of the lawmakers who voted no above the fold.

The lawmakers who voted “yes” were also listed, though they were below the fold.

To me the front page looked like a sort of wanted poster. It looked like the Forum was trying to bring mob justice into the political debate over this bill. And, judging by the thousands of social media responses and other reactions, I don’t think there’s any question that most people on both sides of the issue saw the front page as the Forum newspaper taking a side. The pro-SB2279 folks cheered the front page, and those opposing SB2279 didn’t like it.

I also had Forum Communications Company newspaper employee tell me that this sort of shock value is what the Forum is going for. “As an employee of FCC, it’s all about shock value now,” this employee, who will remain anonymous for obvious reasons, told me. “They want TMZ style clicks. That’s what’s gonna pay the bills in the future, and what’s worse is they’re probably right.”

According to Von Pinnon we the public see the world through the lenses of our personal biases, which we certainly do, yet we’re supposed to believe that newspaper editors do not?

That’s not so says Forum editor Matt Von Pinnon who has defended the front page. He wrote a column doing so about a week ago, and he has also now appeared on the Need To Know Morning Show on AM1100 in Fargo with Scott Hennen and Steve Hallstrom.

You can listen to the audio above during which he was asked about my post on the front page.

I thought the interview was interesting in that Von Pinnon continues to claim that the front page was entirely objective, and suggests that the reactions to are the product of people looking at it through the “lens” of their own personal opinions.

There’s some truth to that, but I think where this reasoning breaks down is when the journalists – Von Pinnon himself in this instance – fail to hold themselves to that same standard. According to Von Pinnon we the public see the world through the lenses of our personal biases, which we certainly do, yet we’re supposed to believe that newspaper editors do not?

That’s the fundamental conceit of the media. They believe that they are objective truth tellers and the rest of us are biased. Which isn’t true. They’re biased too, and I think we’d all be better served if they just admitted it.

We all know the Forum’s editorial position on SB2279 specifically and the Republican-led legislature generally (the support the former and hate the latter), and we’re supposed to believe those editorial positions and others don’t find their way into their news decisions?

That’s demonstrably untrue.

The Forum also has an editorial position on me (that I’m fat, I guess) and it leaks over into their news decisions all the time. Recently I broke a story about a wrong-way driving incident involving a North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper. In reporting a recent update on the incident, a Forum News Service story published in the Grand Forks Herald mentioned SayAnythingBlog.com. That exact same story published by the Fargo Forum edited out mention of SAB.

That seems to happen every time I happen to be mentioned in a story. I’ll get a mention in versions appearing in all of the Forum Communications Company news outlets except for the Fargo Forum itself.

It’s not a particularly big deal to me if the Forum cares to mention me or not, but that’s a clear example of the editorial biases of the newspaper impacting news decisions.

Von Pinnon’s claims that sort of thing doesn’t happen, but it clearly does. And that’s fine. The Forum is biased. They just need to admit it.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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