OnMedia: The silliness of newspaper editorials
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel raised a few eyebrows with its political endorsements earlier this month, giving its traditional pre-election editorial nods to a Democrat, Russ Feingold, and a Republican, Scott Walker.
It was a ridiculous muddle that pleased no one, and looked like an attempt to appease both the right and the left.
And that muddle got worse this week when the newspaper editorialized on saving high-speed rail.
Whatever you think of the train or Walker, the guy who got the newspaper's nod for governor opposed it openly during the campaign. It shouldn't come as a surprise that he immediately started working on killing it.
The Walker endorsement editorial included this: "Stopping the fast train between Milwaukee and Madison reflects the kind of fiscal conservatism for which he is known, but it still is shortsighted."
Then there's the rail editorial a few days ago:
"Walker got elected governor as a job-creator. Does he really want to get the reputation as a job-killer right out of the gate?"
That editorial sounds naive after the newspaper's editorial page endorsed Walker.
This is just the latest example of how out of sync newspaper editorial pages are with modern journalism.
We live in a world of opinions, but we know where Bill O'Reilly or Keith Olbermann are coming from. And we know them, and love or hate them, as human beings.
Frankly, unsigned newspaper editorials have been an anachronism for decades.
When a strong personality owned -- and ran -- a newspaper, the editorial page provided a platform for the owner's causes that was separate from the news pages.
The Journal Sentinel, like most newspapers today, has no single boss. It's part of a faceless corporation But the newspaper editorial page doesn't represent the corporate ownership.
Instead, these sometimes conflicting opinions are decided by an "editorial board." While these editorials are supposed to be the newspaper's voice, they don't really represent anybody else on the newspaper.
I frequently hear from folks on the outside that these editorials are somehow marching orders for the newspaper staff, an example of the newspaper's bias. After spending more than two decades at the newspaper, I can tell you it isn't so; the editorial position of the paper has no impact on reporters, or anybody else at the newspaper.
But that perception is still out there.
It's one more reason why it's long past time to drop the anachronistic editorial "we."
I'm not suggesting that newspapers drop their opinion pages. But they should be filled with signed columns that are the opinions of the people who write them. If the editor or publisher want to express an opinion, let them, under their names.
The last remaining use of the unsigned editorial is to give radio talkers something to squawk about. It's long passed time to drop 'em.
On TV: Madison, Wis., native Russell Kook II is one of five finalists on Fox's "Hell's Kitchen." The 29-year-old sous chef, who currently lives in Chicago, is vying to get a head chef's position.
- BBC America will air a new "Doctor Who" Christmas special at 8 p.m. on Christmas night.
- For the second quarter in a row, pay TV subscriptions are down nationally. Figures from analyst SNL Kagan show 119,000 people canceled cable, satellite or other pay TV service in the third quarter of this year. That follows a second quarter decline of 216,000.
- One of the competitors for pay TV is Hulu, has cut the monthly fee for its Hulu Plus service by 20 percent, to $7.99. Hulu Plus allows subscribers to watch TV shows on computers, phones and TVs connected to the Internet.
- Dylan McDermott's "Dark Blue" has been canceled by TNT after two seasons.
- Snarky Joel McHale, of NBC's Community and E!'s "The Soup," will host "The Independent Spirit Awards." It airs Feb. 26, the night before the Oscars, on IFC.
- Anne Hathaway hosts this weekend's "Saturday Night Live." Let's hope she does better than last week's host, Scarlett Johansson.
An NPR Rap: Thanks to the Twitter feed of WUWM-FM (89.7) for leading me to this entertainingly uncool ode to public radio:
I'm in favor of keeping the Op/Ed section as is. It's the one section of the paper that is honest. You at least know it's an opinion, and therefore biased. Unlike the rest of the paper that hides its bias under the guise of 'reporting'.
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