Ethics Hero: The Daily Commercial’s Editorial Board

dailt-comm

The Daily Commercial, a local paper serving Leesburg, Florida, issued a striking editorial apology for its biased coverage of the Presidential race.

In an open letter titled “The media, the election and bias,” the editors apologized to its readers and observed that the paper “hasn’t done enough to mitigate the anti-Trump wave in the pages of this paper….You deserve a more balanced approach to the coverage of elections and other weighty issues.”

The editorial says in part…

…For months, the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has commanded the nation’s attention like no other story, so of course that’s what we’ve focused on as well. There isn’t really a question whether we should cover the presidential election. The question is how…. Because we have limited space and resources, smaller papers are generally limited to covering the horse race — the day in-day out happenings on the campaign trail.

…Still, we watched the national media for months as it tried to be deferential to both candidates, treating them professionally and with some measure of balance and objectivity. Then something happened along the way.It’s as if a number of national media outlets finally said the heck with it, Trump is a bad guy and we’re not going to dance around it any more.

Has the media been biased against Trump? Yes, we believe so, especially lately. Trump’s every utterance, no matter how innocuous, is now parsed, analyzed and criticized by a litany of political pundits. The wire services that the Daily Commercial subscribes to churn out stories almost daily that fact check Trump, which is warranted given his penchant for exaggeration and duplicity. Yet those same services turn out so few stories that fact check Clinton, who also has a strained relationship with the truth.

And while hundreds of stories have attempted to shed light on Trump’s feelings about women, minorities, his business dealings, his taxes and more, so little has been written about some of Clinton’s questionable decisions as secretary of state, her emails and the fact that she and Bill have somehow amassed incredible wealth during their political careers. That certainly deserves scrutiny.

Here’s the mea culpa: The Daily Commercial hasn’t done enough to mitigate the anti-Trump wave in the pages of this paper. We’ve tried to be circumspect about the stories we run, the headlines we put on them, the political cartoons we publish (we recently abandoned our usual cartoonists in favor of a service that is not so unrelentingly anti-Trump). Our editors have even re-edited some wire stories that we thought used loaded language to describe Trump. But in retrospect, we haven’t gone far enough.

To be clear, this is not an endorsement of Trump, a candidate whose brutish, sometimes childish antics are responsible for his sizable deficit in the polls. Rather, it is a recognition that you, the voter, deserve better than we in the media have given you.

Bravo.

There are 1,387 U.S. daily newspapers.

That’s one with integrity.

 

44 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

44 responses to “Ethics Hero: The Daily Commercial’s Editorial Board

  1. Other Bill

    Would that the editorial board members of the Leesburg Daily Commercial were hired en masse by the New York Times or the Washington Post to replace theirs. I doubt they have the requisite credentials.

  2. Wayne

    Thank God! It’s a start.

  3. charlesgreen

    What, pray tell, would constitute “even-handed” coverage if Alfred E. Neumann were running?

    Must there be a 50-50 ratio of critical articles for each candidate NO MATTER HOW OUTRAGEOUS one of them might be?

    The phrase “false equivalence” is meaningful. Not every pairing deserves “equal weighting.” The editorial says, “Yet those same services turn out so few stories that fact check Clinton, who also has a strained relationship with the truth.”

    Many services have pointed out that Clinton’s relationship with the truth is about par for the course for politicians in the last half-century or so. By contrast, Trump’s is off-scale outta-sight fantasy-land. Yet this editorial seems to suggest that Clinton isn’t fact-checked as often.

    First, tnat’s not true. Most MSM fact-checks, after the debates for example, specifically touch on both candidates. The fact that one’s list of lies is far longer and more egregious than the other is not the fault of a biased media, it’s the fault of a reality-challenged loose-with-the-truth candidate.

    God knows Hillary has enough of her own problems without trying to artificially trying to put one’s thumb on the scales and argue that their truthiness is anywhere equal.

    • Eternal optometrist

      The problem is that there are two neumann’s running. Three, if you throw in Johnson.

    • The editorial is correct, but too mild. The Clinton Foundation corruption is infinitely more complex and requires explication and coverage, yet the MSM has chosen to obsess disproportionately over Trump’s repeat vulgarity and misogyny. Yes, we knew that. Most people don’t understand the Clinton’s influence peddling, but it has barely been touched. You saw this: http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-media/2016/10/study-91-percent-of-trump-coverage-on-broadcast-news-was-negative-230297

      That stat’s about right. Meanwhile, actual coverage of the collapsing of Obamacare, the massive increase in the national debt, the widening racial divide and much more, all part of the administration Hillary is promising to emulate, has been muffled to make coverage about defeating Trump. The NYT announced that it wasn’t going to bother with balanced coverage, just anti-Trump advocacy, because he was “a special case.” So the leaders in the field do it, they admit they’re doing it, they are obviously doing it, and you are saying it’s all imaginary?

      The negative coverage of Trump is largely earned; the light touch on Clinton’s ethical void is the problem. The Washington Post ENTHUSIASTICALLY endorsed Clinton. So did the Times. No new source fairly and objectively covering her could dare do that…they could only do it because they have gone out of their way to mislead the public about how corrupt she is.
      Here is Ann Althouse, a moderate-left professor who I assume is votiing for Clinton, in one of her many explorations of the phenomenon you seem to be denying…

      Because I think the NYT is terribly slanted toward helping the Clintons, I read everything with an eye toward getting to normal. I think: How would the equivalent material be presented in an article about Trump? And then I try to average it out, back to the middle. It’s annoying, but it’s possibly a good mental exercise, not unlike what I do when I read what I have to read for my job: judicial opinions. I don’t have to read The New York Times, but where else am I going to get the news? Everything else is also bad in its own way, and I’m accustomed to the bad that is The New York Times.

      This morning what I’m reading is “Chelsea Clinton’s Frustrations and Devotion Shown in Hacked Emails,” by Amy Chozick. I assume the damaging material — which would be right up front in a Trump article — begins to appear many paragraphs down. I’m not going to tarry at the mushy beginning. (The first paragraph reads like a children’s book: “Chelsea Clinton was alarmed.”)So let’s skip ahead:

      Though her housecleaning role had Hillary Clinton’s tacit approval (“My mother strongly agreed,” Ms. Clinton said in one email laying out proposed changes at the foundation)….

      Ugh! Not far enough! (But let me just say that language-oriented feminists would chide Chozick for that “housecleaning” metaphor.)

      Ms. Clinton, 31 at the time, had held various jobs, including positions at McKinsey & Company and Avenue Capital, a hedge fund owned by a major Clinton donor. She had degrees from Stanford, Oxford and Columbia but had not quite found a way to harness all of her academic wherewithal…

      Translation: Chelsea was at loose ends, drifting, unable or unwilling to make anything out of her long and very elite education. The word “wherewithal” is particularly silly, especially with the mixed-metaphor verb “harness.” “Wherewithal,” the noun, is usually a polysyllabic way to say money. The unnecessary reaching for polysyllabic words is an old-fashioned form of humor. H.W. Fowler cautioned against it all the way back in 1908. What is this urge, suddenly, to write like George Eliot or Charles Dickens? They were not bullshitting us. Are you?

      And the funny thing is, Chozick sees that Chelsea Clinton is dipping into inane polysyllababble*
      :

      Ms. Clinton often gravitated to weighty policy discussions and interspersed statistics and SAT words into casual conversations.

      Hours after the 2012 attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, she mused about the unrest in Egypt and Libya in a late-night email to her mother. “Such anathema to us as Americans — and a painful reminder of how long it took modernism to take root in the U.S., after the Enlightenment, the 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th amendments,” she wrote. “Much to discuss when we talk, hopefully tomorrow?”

      In another email addressed to “Dad, Mom,” Ms. Clinton seemed apologetic, writing, “I hope this mini-behemoth is not rife with grammatical errors or inadvertent gaps; I am sorry if either true.”

      “SAT words” is putting it kindly. Why would a 31-year-old woman who went to Stanford, Oxford,** and Columbia use words like “anathema” and “behemoth”*** so badly, and why would the only offspring of Bill and Hillary Clinton even feel the need to try to impress her parents in the first place? What did they do to deserve it? Does it have anything to do with why Chelsea was at loose ends so late in her privileged life and why they installed her in their charitable operation? Now, the meat of the Chozick piece is the “cascade of grievances, gossip and infighting” that the installation of Chelsea unleashed at the foundation:

      Ms. Clinton had already started to fret about the intermingling of foundation business with Teneo, the corporate consulting firm co-founded by Douglas J. Band, one of her father’s closest aides. She suggested an audit of the charity and wrote that she was concerned that Teneo’s principals had been “hustling” business at foundation gatherings….
      Band fought back with a 13-page memo about all the millions he’d raised for the foundation and Bill Clinton:

      “We have solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the president and his family — for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like,” Mr. Band wrote.

      The subtext was clear: Where Ms. Clinton saw a messy overlapping of business and charity that could haunt both of her parents, Mr. Band saw an ungrateful daughter who was naïve about how what he called “Bill Clinton Inc.” made its money, and how her own expensive lifestyle was funded.

      “I just don’t think any of this is right and that we should be treated this way when no one else is, only because CVC has nothing better to do and need justify her existence,” he wrote in one email, using the initials for Chelsea Victoria Clinton. Mr. Band, who had already planned to leave the foundation to focus on Teneo, often expressed frustration at the global charity’s nepotism, pointing to Ms. Clinton’s installing her friends in central roles….

      That is buried in the center of Chozick’s piece, which proceeds into some fluff about a note “from the Bon Jovis” and Bill Clinton “buying clorox wipes” and Chelsea’s feeling “profoundly disturbed” about the Haitian earthquake. Remember the headline: The idea is to leave you with an amorphous, generalized empathy for Chelsea with her frustrations and daughterly devotion.</strong>But the story from the leaked emails is about the inner workings of the Clinton foundation — how the Clintons got rich finagling in a way that Band justified and Chelsea seems to have been able to see was quite wrong.

      That’s the style of “critical” Clinton reporting. Ann gets it. It’s different in kind. The Trump reporting is uniformly hostile. That’s not balance, it’s not fair, and it’s not professional.

      • Wayne

        I think Chelsie should have gone to a community college somewhere or perhaps Arkansas State College where she could have gotten more help from her professors. Stanford was a waste of time for her.

        • luckyesteeyoreman

          But she met her husband there, didn’t she? If so, then going to Stanford was not a waste of time for her, in a personal sense at least.

      • . The Washington Post ENTHUSIASTICALLY endorsed Clinton. So did the Times. No new source fairly and objectively covering her could dare do that…they could only do it because they have gone out of their way to mislead the public about how corrupt she is.

        How enthusiastic was their endorsement?

      • Other Bill

        CNN took the same tack on the Clinton emails. They published an article about how much angst there is every morning among political operatives in D.C. as they wake up dreading one of their emails will be disclosed during the day’s news cycle. Complete misdirection. I suspect the tactic was articulated in a directive from the Clinton camp sent to their media allies (but I repeat myself).

        • The media covers almost all negative Clinton and Obama stories this way. Never “Leaked e-mails show pay-to-play Clinton efforts”-–that would be Fox– but “Podesta e-mails leak assailed by Clinton critics.” It’s blatant, and obvious, and it is stunning that anyone tries to deny it.

          • luckyesteeyoreman

            Just checking – I have never heard of this, but maybe it has happened, and I just missed it: Has a major U.S. paper ever RETRACTED and WITHDRAWN its endorsement of a POTUS candidate?

            • I don’t know—I doubt it. But Hillary’s former pollster just withdrew his endorsement of her.

              • luckyesteeyoreman

                90 minutes late, I just saw what you said there. That withdrawal is something. I am wondering now if Congress (or a group of Congress members) can file a suit or seek an injunction to freeze the Foundation?

          • charlesgreen

            Again with the unfortunate examples. The reason you haven’t seen “Leaked e-mails show pay-to-play Clinton efforts” is simply because they haven’t. None have.
            Disagree? Show me one single example of a State Department decision that was influenced–one “play”–by a contribution to the Foundation–a “pay.” None have been shown, hence such an example would be an outrageously unsupported statement, unlike your Podesta example.
            Didn’t the Supreme Court just rule that you have to show a quo for a quid in order to support a claim of illegal influence peddling?

            • Well, yes, Charles, and that’s why legislators claim that correspondence between their contributions from monied interests and votes favoring those interests are quid pro quo. Clinton pardoned fugitive Marc Rich, his wife gave a huge gift to the Library/Foundation, but there was no “proof” of quid pro quo.

              Influence peddling is completed when any power or entity seeking favors or access with officials solicits or recieved significant funds motivated by the presumption of future considerations, whether or not those assumptions are ever realized. Bill Clinton accepting huge sums to speak on the anticipation that his wife might be President is influence peddling. Hillary accepting huge speaking fees from Wall Street firms that hope it might buy them a meeting is influence peddling, and it is definitely the appearance of impropriety, since it is improper.

              Why would you spin this? Or do you think paying absurd funds to soften up policy-makers is just good business, and accepting them is just SOP? Bill and Clinton accepted valuable gifts from entities hoping it would get buy them favor. That’s corruption.

    • “Must there be a 50-50 ratio of critical articles for each candidate NO MATTER HOW OUTRAGEOUS one of them might be?”

      This is where either your willful obtuseness, blind partisanship, or outright ignoring of reality gets you into trouble, charles. You really must think Hillary isn’t THAT if you think Trump is inifinitely worse. He isn’t. They are both pretty well hovering around -50 to -55 on a 0 to 100 scale. Arguments are made that Trump is just a hair worse than Hillary and therefore the preferred candidate.

      But you are blind to how awful Hillary is.

      • charlesgreen

        “They are both pretty well hovering around -50 to -55 on a 0 to 100 scale.”
        SERIOUSLY?!!

        Here’s Politifacts’ specific ratings:

        Clinton
        True 69
        Mostly True 76
        Half True 66
        Mostly false 40
        False 29
        Pants on Fire 7

        Trump
        True 13
        Mostly true 34
        Half true 46
        Mostly false 61
        False 106
        Pants on fire 55

        Spot the pattern? In what mathematical universe do you compute those to be “both pretty well hovering around -50 to -55?”

        In case you don’t see it, here’s a graphic display by Mann Metrics.
        http://mannmetrics.com/who-lies-more/
        In case you don’t notice, of the 20 politicians ranked in order of their proven track record of lies, you’ll note Mr Donald Trump tops the list, just ahead of Michelle Bachman. Ms Hillary Clinton is next-to-most-truthful. (It’ll of course drive you nuts that Obama is most truthful). No way they’re “both pretty well hovering around -50 to -55.”

        OK, this is where you say Politifacts itself is completely bogus, in the tank for Clinton, etc. First, read the fine print on the Mann Metrics piece.

        And then I say well you could check the NYTimes version of it:
        http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/fact-check.html?_r=0

        And you say no, the NYTimes can’t be trusted.
        OK, maybe you’d prefer the LA Times?
        http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-first-presidential-debate-fact-check-sg-storygallery.html

        No? They’re in the tank too?

        Maybe for economics, try CNBC’s analysis?
        http://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/27/fact-checking-clinton-trump-claims-on-taxes-economy.html
        No? Not good enough for you?

        Maybe you’d pay attention to The Economist, who writes about Trump’s fight with reality in an article called “The Art of the Lie?” No? Not “fair and balanced” enough for you?
        http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21706525-politicians-have-always-lied-does-it-matter-if-they-leave-truth-behind-entirely-art

        And YOU’RE calling ME willfully obtuse, blindly partisan, or ignorant of reality?

        Whose reality are we talking about here? Yours, or the real reality?

        • This is a Straw Man Extraordinaire, Charles. The issue isn’t mathematical equality, but tone, prominence, placing, biased selection of facts—all the ways the news media warps reporting. Glenn Reynolds approvingly cited this twwet as encapsulating the problem, and he’s dead on:

          FBI finds 650k Hillary State Dept emails on PC of notorious dickpic pervert. Headlines: “Comey Embroiled in Controversy”

          • charlesgreen

            “650k Hillary State Dept emails on PC…”

            Really? You picked a horrible example. It lies somewhere between extremely unlikely and an outright lie, because all the reports I’m seeing say that nobody knows how many are from or to Hillary, much less having to do wit State Department, much less classified.
            But you’re approvingly citing someone who writes “650k Hillary State Dept emails on PC…”— and claiming media bias the other way?
            In what universe is that a fact-supported claim?

            • It’s a hypothetical that illustrates the point. It doesn’t matter whether there ARE that many relevant e-mails. The illustration is that IF there were, this is how the biased MSM might report it, given its track record. I guess it’s a bad example because it gives those wishing to avoid the issue an opening to attack the mode of raising it…but I don’t expect you to do that.

        • Did you REALLY just cite Politifact ratings as a measurement of candidate outrageousness?

          Would you like to walk that back?

          You know why that’s absolutely retarded? Because of selection bias. No one is able to record every word these candidates speak, and weigh each utterance against the truth, so fact checkers have to pick and choose what they check, and the process by which they choose which statements to check can be biased. It could be possible that Trump lies more than Hillary, or it could be that Politifact only chose to rate things that Trump lied about or Hillary told the truth about (And I don’t envy the job or trying to find things Hillary has chosen to be truthful about, I’m just saying.) This is, if you’ll remember, the organisation that labelled “If you like your Doctor, you can keep your Doctor” As the lie of the year in 2015, despite never actually rating it as a lie (worst rating was ‘half-true’), and not rating it at all in 2015.

          • charlesgreen

            Uh huh… and the other four citations?

            Can you suggest an alternative at-least-as-thorough fact-checking initiative?

            • I’m just saying that if I wanted to show that I was fair and balanced on a topic, I wouldn’t lead with the most prominent bullshit artists in the sector. I’m just saying.

              As to your second question: No, I can’t, because unbiased fact checks don’t exist anymore. They’ve all been hijacked by a load of partisan hacks of one stripe or another.

              But fear not, dear Charles. You hold in your hot little hands a tool that gives you more access to information now than the President of The United States of America had 25 years ago. It’s called the internet. And with only a few strokes of the keyboard, a little effort and time, you can basically sort through at least the raw basics of almost any situation ever.

              You’re welcome, I’m here all night.

              • charlesgreen

                “unbiased fact checks don’t exist anymore. They’ve all been hijacked by a load of partisan hacks of one stripe or another.”

                “…with only a few strokes of the keyboard, a little effort and time, you can basically sort through at least the raw basics of almost any situation ever.”

                Since the rest of the printed world has been hijacked by partisan hacks, why don’t you do us all a favor and sort through the raw basics of a representative sample of statements, to create a truly un-biased fact check? I for one would be eager to read it.

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