North Dakota's Editorial Bullies

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Have the rest of you noticed the tone of the state’s editorial boards, specifically those of the state’s two biggest newspapers in Grand Forks and Fargo, becoming increasingly shrill?

As a conservative, you get used to hostility toward your ideas and philosophy from the state’s media. That’s nothing new. Nor are intemperate diatribes from the Fargo Forum editorial board, where editor Jack Zaleski (widely acknowledged as the author of the screeds) has risen invective to an art form.

But lately even the more measured tone of Grand Forks Herald editor Tom Dennis has become far more ideological. Terms like “zealots” and “anti-government” have begun popping up with regularity (see today’s editorial about pro-life legislation as a case-in-point), and the tone of the supposedly objective reporting of these publications has taken on an ideological bent as well.

I would think the state’s editors might have toned down their rhetoric a bit on the abortion issue after a pro-abortion activist was arrested last week for threatening a state Senator, but no. They continue to pour gas on the fire (I can’t wait for the next time one of these editorial boards lectures us about civility in politics).

Obviously, I can’t criticize anyone in the media for having a point of view. I wear my ideology on my sleeve. But many politicos in the state I talk to tell me that it’s becoming increasingly hard to trust the objectivity of the Grand Forks Herald and the Fargo Forum.

It’s not difficult to see why. In addition to the leftward tilt of the editorial boards, there’s not a single regular column in either publication from a right-of-center commentator. There’s plenty of left-wing columnists – former Democrat Lt. Governor Lloyd Omdahl and de facto Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Jane Ahlin to name two – but nobody providing a more conservative perspective.

Why? Who knows. These publications position themselves as objective. They bill themselves as the forum for news and opinion in their regions (one of them literally). And yet, their editorial mandate seems to be to bully those with conservative views (the Fargo Forum once called me fat in an editorial).

I’m not trying to be self serving – I write a column that’s picked up by a half-dozen smaller newspapers in the state including, most recently, the Dickinson Press – but it would be nice to see the Herald or the Forum do something to actually accomplish the objectivity they claim. I’m not saying they have to run my column, but are we really to believe they can’t find anyone from the right to comment on statewide issues on a regular basis?

It’s not a matter of “can’t.” It’s a matter of “won’t.” That speaks volumes.

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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