A doozy of a letter appeared in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The writer took exception to the decision of the Post-Dispatch‘s editorial board to endorse President Barack Obama for another term. So far so good; disagreement about the reasons for the endorsement would be fine. However, the letterwriter apparently thinks that the Post-Dispatch‘s endorsement violated their journalistic obligation to report the news without bias:
I only wish you could read your masthead, the fine print at the top of the editorial page. It reads, in part: “never belong to any party” and “always be drastically independent.”
What would Joseph Pulitzer say if he were alive today?
Well, … it’s very likely that Pulitzer would say that the Post-Dispatch made excellent use of the editorial page, the place in the paper dedicated to opinion. Maintaining an “independent” stance in reporting news does not preclude an editorial position endorsing a candidate of either party – something that I assume the Post-Dispatch has been doing since its founding, right along with every other major U.S. newspaper – most of which also strive to report news in an unbiased fashion.
This letter was actually the second since the editorial endorsement appeared (the first seems to be no longer available online) to complain that the Post-Dispatch actually (gasp!) took an editorial stance. I suspect that the real bone of contention was simply that the editorial board’s position doesn’t jibe with that of the letter writers. But a more important problem lies in the inability of the letter writers to make categorical distinctions. How can we have a functioning democracy when our citizens are unable to either tolerate or distinguish between editorial and news functions? Such confusion may, however, explain why we hear conservatives – who, ironically, largely turn to the openly biased Fox News for information – blathering on and on about media bias.