Dorso Column: State Editorial Boards Are Hypocrites About Civil Discourse

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I have to admit I read the editorials of the Grand Forks Herald, the Fargo Forum and the Sarasota Herald Tribune. My wife says I need to do that so I know what the other side is thinking. That certainly insinuates that I a conservative am not in sync with the editorial boards of these papers. I tend to think of journalists as liberals but certainly there are a great plenty of conservatives with national columns.

What should surprise most is that in North Dakota the three major papers tend to be liberal in a state that is conservative by nature. Yes, you have elected some Democrats to congress who voted liberal while campaigning as middle of the road politicians. While in Washington D.C. during the 90’s I was often asked how we could elect the three amigos (Dorgan, Conrad and Pomeroy) from a conservative state.

The three major papers seemed to have a love affair with our liberal Democrat representation in Washington. Seldom did they find fault with the actions of the three. I was told by a reporter that because the papers didn’t have their own reporters in D.C. that they had to accept as gospel what the three sent out in their daily press releases. It was also confirmed that the three Democrats had a well oiled media relations group that flooded the news rooms with their side of the story. I don’t think that completely explains the phenomenon. I do believe the editorial boards in question would be considered middle of the road in the estimation of the New York Times but then we know how very liberal they are.

My real beef is the convoluted logic they display. In the main they endorse conservative state legislators and statewide office seekers. When the conservatives are elected and put forth their agenda the editors prefer to use denigrating language and slurs to describe some of the folks they endorsed. While wailing over the lack of civil discourse in the legislative arena they themselves descend into the kind of name calling they say they despise.

Healthy criticism of the acts of the legislature or statewide office holders is to be expected. We never minded that criticism if it was based on facts. What got most of was that the press, who was supposed to have the time and resources to investigate a story, often missed the mark by a mile. Some legislators, including myself, avoided some reporters because we knew their stories would be biased and not based on facts. I have no doubt that those incompetent reporters also biased the editorial staffs at the newspapers.

What infuriated many was that even when confronted with the facts editorial boards never published an apology for their errors. I was there when a well known media person had a lively discussion with a legislative leader. The leader was able to prove this person had it all wrong on an issue but weeks went by without a change in the slant the paper took on the issue. Are journalists taught that they are infallible or are they programmed to never admit a major mistake in judgment?

When legislators or statewide office holders are held in small regard the papers can take some of the blame. The old saw your mother used “if you can’t say anything nice about someone don’t say anything at all” certainly doesn’t apply to journalists. No doubt a few politicians deserve the scathing editorials but I found that most were following through on the same convictions they displayed when running for office. If being true to your convictions is something to be scorned God help us all.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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