Monday, November 5, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance -- Part II

ur opinion of the news side of the Democrat and Chronicle was not improved by the uninspiring regulation-issue newspaper-biz platitudes deployed by Michael Kane, the paper's publisher, on Bob Smith's WXXI show last week.   But we no longer know what to think about the editorial side, of which we had thought better.

Our reservations are not related to any particular endorsement.  We think criticizing a newspaper for endorsing a candidate is a waste of effort.  It's a matter of opinion and they're entitled to endorse whom they want.   But the pattern of D&C endorsements emphasizes something curious:   there's no internal logic to what these people are saying, even from day to day.

This judgment is independent of whether you happen to agree with the paper's editorial positions or not.   Agree or not with the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, probably everyone can see a coherent internal logic to that paper's editorials over time, and in the aggregate. The same can be said for the editorial page of the New York Times.

Then there's the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. We'll use as an example the topic that seems to be of highest immediate interest in the local political world. If everyone followed precisely the paper's recommendations for Monroe County Legislature candidates, we'd end up with a continued majority of Republicans in that body. Yet over the past weekend the same editorial board tells us to vote against all candidates in whose district a particular mailing was sent out. Since this was a generic Republican piece, they're now telling us to vote against all the Republicans.

We think our criticism is of a related nature to criticism of the D&C editorial effort we've seen in some of the other blogs to which this page links.

Another example.   The D&C says the Taylor Law, or at least its binding arbitration provision, has to go.   Yet the paper consistently has endorsed incumbent state legislators who would not under any circumstances drop the Taylor Law and whose political patrons, the public employee unions, would drop them in an instant if they did.  As the sun will rise in the east, the paper will endorse every one of those same people in next year's state legislative races.

Go back to the county legislator endorsements.   The editorial board calls constantly for a county legislature that is, and individual legislators who are, "independent" of County Executive Maggie Brooks.  By every light they've given us to understand what they mean by "independent" they appear to mean "who will oppose" Brooks, at least for much of the time.  Then, as already noted, their pattern of endorsements is such that a majority of Republicans would be returned.   If there's any logic in this, we don't see it.

We give them credit in many instances for identifying particular problems that afflict our region and its economy.   Then they support people for public office whose careers are dedicated to perpetuating the precise causes of each of those problems.

We believe the phenomenon of one-newspaper towns or regions is a public evil.   Such a paper doesn't have a monopoly on the news, but it has a monopoly in a particular way of reporting news that, from historical tradition, gives it a position of prestige and credibility.

We've read that Craig's List is a dagger to the vitals of daily newspapers.   Here's the link to the Rochester Craig's List.   Not even a drop in the bucket, to be sure.   But you do what little you can.

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