Extra! Extra! Newspapers and Bloggers Edition
Biased? Who? The Alaska Press Club?
The Alaska Press Club is planning to give one of its awards to a woman who wrote an email highly critical of Sarah Palin that was widely reprinted on the Internet during the past campaign. What’s that I hear? Right-wing Republicans claiming the media are biased against them? Gee, I wonder where they get that idea.
A Treatise On A Newspaper Crusade
These are tough times for newspapers. Lower ad revenues. Competition from the Internet. Jobs being cut. Newspapers closing. I have a lot of sympathy for people in my former business. At smaller newspapers, where the reporters and editors are inexperienced, it’s a challenge to put out a decent paper every day, without worrying about whether your parent corporation has made bad business decisions that could put you out in the street.
None of that, though, is an excuse for the shoddy journalism practiced by the Juneau Empire and its reporter, Pat Forgey, on the subject of legislative compensation.
An aside: I may just be another politician complaining about a newspaper, but I have some experience in the subject. I worked for most of my adult life as a journalist in Alaska, for both the Anchorage Times and the Anchorage Daily News, as a reporter, editor and columnist. I know the difference between factual reporting and opinion.
So when Forgey writes, as he did earlier in the week that the bill establishing the state officers compensation commission “slipped below the public’s radar screen last year,” my antennae go up and I ask myself, as editors used to ask me and, later, I used to ask reporters, “What does that mean?”
Does it mean that the bill slithered through the legislature? No, the bill was heard in four committees, two in the House and two in the Senate, and voted on on the floor of both houses.
Does it mean whoever was behind the bill tried to sneak it past the guardians of the press? No, I was the sponsor of the bill, and wrote about it in four different editions of this e-news before it passed. I know that Forgey reads my e-news, because he used to take quotes out of it and pretend like I said them to him.
Does it mean that the journalists covering the capitol ignored it? Why, no. In fact, the Juneau Empire did three stories about the bill before it became law. The Anchorage Daily News did one. A couple of TV stations did stories. And there may have been more that I missed.
So, how in the light of all this publicity did the bill “slip below the public’s radar screen?” In fact, it didn’t. But Forgey has a problem with the commission and/or its recommendations, and he’s using innuendo to try to make his readers think something bad was done. In other words, he’s using a false claim to shore up his opinion.
I’m not going to try to list here all the evidence that Forgey’s reporting is biased, but one other example from this story is too good to pass up. Here’s the sentence: “The commission was then stocked with former legislators and others favoring pay raises.”
Now, how does Forgey know that the members of the compensation commission were chosen because they favored pay raises? He doesn’t tell us. (Note to Forgey’s editors: WAKE UP!)
So, instead, let’s look at the actual selection process. The bill called for five commission members: one selected from a list submitted by the Speaker of the House, one from a list from the President of the Senate and three others. The governor made all five appointments, which were not subject to legislative confirmation.
So does Forgey mean that Sarah Palin or someone in her office asked people whether they favored legislative pay raises and then picked only those who said, “Yes?” Sarah Palin, who refused to accept a pay raise, did that? That’s so many kinds of crazy that I can’t even list them.
No, clearly what happened is that the Juneau Empire failed in its duty on all levels. It’s Pat Forgey’s duty to keep his opinion out of the articles he writes, and he failed – miserably – to do that. It’s his editors’ duty to make sure Forgey does his duty, and they failed – miserably – to do that.
PS: The latest entry in Forgey’s crusade against the compensation commission bill appeared in Thursday’s Empire.
Anonymous Blogger Anonymous No More
The identity of the person who writes the liberal Democratic Mudflats blog has been secret since the blog began, protected by the Anchorage Daily News, among others. My own theory about the public process is you can say what you want, as long as you are willing to stand behind it using your real name. So I was interested to learn that the woman who writes the blog is Anchorage resident Jeanne Devon.