August 24 and August 25 are probably the two most predictable days on this blogger’s calendar. I’m in my tenth year of blogging and often I write about Wheeling’s two Ogden newspapers, the Intelligencer and the News-Register. And while headlines and stories certainly change from day to day, the Wheeling Intelligencer’s August 24 editorial doesn't. On that date in 1852, the paper was founded by Archibald Campbell and for as long as I've been blogging, the Intelligencer has used that anniversary as an excuse to tell us what a great job they are doing.
For example, if you compare this year’s editorial with last year’s*, you’ll see that the only major difference is that this year’s version added the awards they won earlier this month in the state's annual newspaper competition. The 2021 version included the covid variable but otherwise it’s very much like last year’s. If you want to see how little things change over the years, go back to 2014 when the Intelligencer editorial appeared on the West Virginia Press Association's site and see how similar that nine-year -old editorial is to yesterday’s version. Yes, it’s basically the same editorial every year.
As an August 24 veteran, I’ve noticed that certain paragraphs are almost always included in the editorial. Here is one that I find especially outrageous:
Our editorial leadership is guided solely by devotion to the best interests of our readers, without regard to any political party or ideology.
Really? The various versions of the editorial always stress what most local readers already know about the Intelligencer, especially its editorial page: that despite the paper’s assertions, fairness, impartiality and a devotion to their reader’s best interests are not high on the list of Intelligencer priorities. Check “fair and balanced,” "Ogden favorite," or “Ogden newspaper bias” in my index for more examples including how Ogden favorites such as West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito or former Representative David McKinley received far more coverage than their opponents in the elections. For example, Capito’s opponent in the 2020 election was Democrat Paula Jean Swearingen. From the 2020 May primary to the November election, Swearingen’s name appeared only once (dismissively) in a Steven Allen Adams column while Capito regularly received long puff pieces, especially on weekends. As for David McKinley, here’s a front page from the Intelligencer before last year’s Republican congressional primary between McKinley and Alex Mooney:
In the editorial, other media are indicted for “blatantly slanted reporting and staunch, unquestioning support of certain candidates and ideologies.” By the way, this didn’t just happen in McKinley vs. Mooney. Taking it one step further, I would venture a guess that McKinley’s coverage on this one front page was greater than the sum total of all coverage received by McKinley’s Democratic opponents since 2014.
Here is another sentence that appears in every Intelligencer “aren’t we the greatest” editorial:
Our editorial pages provide a variety of viewpoints while taking stances aimed at improving the lives of local individuals and families, often through better government at all levels.
Yes, it’s a “variety” that runs the gamut from conservative to far right. Depending upon the reader’s politics, he/she might be able name a moderate that gets printed but has anyone seen a liberal on their editorial pages? Reactionary to rightwing – that’s quite a narrow array and it certainly isn’t a “variety.”
A look at the Intelligencer’s editorial awards
Yesterday’s editorial also noted that the Wheeling Intelligencer and its editor, John McCabe, had recently been given editorial awards by the West Virginia Newspaper Association at its annual gathering. The Intelligencer’s awards were among hundreds given in every imaginable category. (Example of another Intelligencer First Place winner: “Best Process Color Ad – Larger Than a Quarter Page.”)
Every year, the state’s newspapers compete in four divisions; the Wheeling Intelligencer is in Division 1 with the other large WV papers. (Note -- the Intelligencer covered its awards in a front-page story on Monday, August 14.)
Oddly, I checked the published results and, despite what yesterday’s editorial says, the Intelligencer won three and not two editorial awards: Editor John McCabe did win a first-place award in division 1 for “Mayor Right to Focus on Wheeling’s Future” and a third-place award for “Challenging Young Minds Always Good.” (By the way, I thought that this editorial was excellent and said so here.)
The third award was for “Best Editorial Page” and I found it odd that what would appear to be the most prestigious award of the group was not mentioned in yesterday’s editorial. If you check the results, they tell us that the Intelligencer's “Best Editorial Page” award was for content on February 10, 11, and 12, 2022. Given the paper’s track record on editorials, I decided to check out those pages.
February 10’s editorials included a local Wheeling editorial and a previously published Ohio editorial. February 11 had no original content as both editorials had previously been published in Ohio papers: one on book banning from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel and another on inflation from the Youngstown Vindicator. The two local editorials in the weekend edition on Saturday were noticeable improvements as one editorial defended the local Wheeling Park High School from a spurious CRT attack by a WV lawmaker (the 3rd Place Award winner) while the other criticized the district for not holding staff members fully accountable on a different matter.
So, three of the six editorials were likely not written locally and those outside sources were not given any credit. The Wheeling Intelligencer apparently had no problem accepting the award, however.
I have some additional thoughts I will save for a later post.
*Interesting. All of the previous August 24 editorials have been removed from the internet. Fortunately, I have backup copies.