Newspapers are free to take sides, always have been. But what happened to the journalistic convention of separating the editorial page from the news columns, and flagging on the latter any departure from just-the-facts as “analysis” or “opinion”?
The Denver Post front page story today (print edition) on refusal of state House leaders to take up the gay civil unions bill had a snarky headline condemning the measure’s “uncivil end.” Readers were provided no evidence of Speaker Frank McNulty and Majority Leader Amy Stephens, acting for the GOP majority, behaving or speaking uncivilly, however.
But in the opening grafs of the piece by Lynn Bartels, we learned first that someone screamed from the gallery at Speaker Frank McNulty, “I hope you (expletive) die,” then that social conservatives were “enraged” by Republican members having voted for the bill in committee.
So the Post reporter’s allegation of rage was lodged against opponents of civil unions, even though the only example of actual rage originated with proponents. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Interesting that neither the headline alleging incivility, nor the “hope you die” outburst from a pro-gay onlooker (and staunch opponent of hate, you can be sure) appeared in the web version of Lynn Bartels’ story as of 1pm this afternoon.
Interesting, too, that Bartels was named No. 5 among Colorado’s 10 most influential women in a Denver Post straw poll last Sunday. Is it a good thing for what used to be called a journalistic drudge, a mere ink-stained wretch, to have, or be perceived to have, or imagine herself to have, that much power? Not by what a lot of us used to think were the standards of disinterest and public trust that a major metropolitan daily paper should uphold under the First Amendment.