Tuesday, April 4, 2006

One Man’s Opinion: The Sun-Times Makes it Official

Congratulations to the Sun-Times for officially becoming the newspaper of record for the Democratic party! Candor will out!

On Monday the newspaper, run by publisher John Cruikshank and editor, John Barron gave a veiled but, at bottom, not-so-subtle warning to State Sen. James Meeks, who is considering a third party candidacy for governor. The paper warned Meeks, who has made overtures to social conservatives, not to end the gains blacks have received by endangering the reelection of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The editorial department—by which I mean Cruikshank and Barron—is taking an active role in defending Democratic preserves…along with Lynn Sweet who has been working like a George Tagge trooper trying to get Democrats reconciled in the 6th district (she calling Christine Cegalis to get her to say she endorses Tammy Duckworth). All of these are in the Tagge tradition.

The heavy-handed editorial order (too arrogant for me at first reading) nevertheless fits journalism giants of yore: Colonel Robert R. McCormick and William Randolph Hearst, both of whom were players in their respective parties (McCormick with the Republicans and Hearst with the Democrats with whom he split over FDR and later dominated Republican affairs). McCormick took a sickly-sweet saccharine Teddy Roosevelt-clone paper and made it a national sensation by fulsomely stressing conservative Republicanism and blasting liberal Democrats throughout the state and nation, explaining his circulation’s spectacular rise and impressive growth in national reputation by saying “it ain’t Little Orphan Annie, it’s the hair on our chest!” He was right and deserves to be proven right again. Like McCormick who had been elected president of the Metropolitan Sanitary District and for a time allowed his friends to float the suggestion he might run for president, Hearst toyed with running for president—only as a Democrat. His father had been a Democratic Senator from California and Hearst himself had run unsuccessfully for that job. But both McCormick and Hearst found satisfaction as Cruikshank and Barron are evidently are, by exerting great influence on the affairs of the Democratic party. Nothing wrong with that by old-time journalistic standards.

Since the two crooks left the Sun-Times (who were rather conservative, middle-of-the-road and faintly Republican-leaning especially on national policies) the paper has played an official cat-and-mouse game with frank partisanship: on one hand moving forcefully to the left, on the other hand seeking to hide behind the old “objective” mantra, disappointing many like me who want to see a return to the days when newspapers were flagrantly party-oriented: which would mean a more honest presentation of the news rather than following the old canard that it was “objective.” Objectivity cannot be maintained in the reporting of public affairs—only with traffic accidents, stock reports and the like. Now that we have a Democratic paper in deed as well as word, we need a Republican paper. One that covers conservative and GOP doings with the verve that Lynn Sweet reserves for Democratic liberals.

Does frank espousal of partisanship by the left mean the right shouldn’t read the paper? Of course not. The New York Times is as left as you can go without being an uptown edition of the Daily Worker and my day is not complete unless I read it thoroughly. Murdock’s Post , a sassy tabloid reminiscent of the Sun-Times is requisite reading as well—along with New York’s new reincarnation of yore, The Sun. To grow in respect, papers have to have strong points of view and reinforce it from news coverage through obituaries. Bland “objectivity” is dishonest because it’s usually stealth journalism.

The trend toward frank partisanship, flipping the kimono of objectivity, has been coming on in the paper for a long time. Do threats—such as the one made by the editorial to Meeks that he could be causing great harm to the African American community by endangering Blago’s reelection—go too far? No but is arrogant in the later style of McCormick and Hearst and displays of arrogance didn’t help them with the general public. Actually, it may unintentionally help Meeks now that I think about it. Even I’m beginning to get interested in him now that the big muckety-muck powers of Democratic journalism are threatening. He must be more dangerous to liberaldom than I thought. While I resent his flagrant in-your-face tactics with respect to church and state, he evidently poses a challenge to the established Democratic order. Maybe I should re-think. Your comments? Specifically, do you believe papers should be candidly partisan, slanted news and editorial warnings to dissenters rather than dishonestly so, burying their biases by writing news with catch words: “ultra-conservative,” “far-right” with no “ultra-liberal” or “far-left?” And also, if the ruling powers of Chicago’s Democratic newspaper are alarmed, does Meeks threaten the Old Order? Let me know what you think.


  1. Answer to Q1: Let them do what they want, but I would like to see political editors & op-ed writers disclose & discuss their voting histories on newspaper websites. Last time I checked (6 months ago?), the biographical info at one of our papers looked like it was written for middle school students.

    Sources of household income beyond the publication should also be presented. If individuals choose not to present this info, I would accept all explanations...then consider a news source with known sources.

    Q2: Does Meeks threaten the Old Order?
    A2: If there is order around here, I'm too dumb to recognize it.

  2. Too bad it is a Illinois Combine Republican paper. It is the paper that backed full pardons of the convicted murderers by George Ryan, the paper who endorsed George Ryan and Obama. The Tribune Company could care less about conservative values. They want to placate what they think the suburban voters (especially women) want and will not seek to offend anyone by backing pro life, pro 2nd Amendment policies. All they care about is the bottom line.

    I do read two conservative papers each day - The Wall Street Journal (which is left leaning in many articles) and the Washington Post. If you want a third one, someone will need to start from scratch.