Two weeks ago I wrote about a couple of days' worth of anti-Clinton articles and columns found in our local "newspapers." Since I don't believe that this was a one-of-a-kind occurrence or that a newfound commitment to objectivity or a sense of fairness will suddenly overcome the editors, it may be time to create a separate category to keep track of what will certainly be more such editions. "Documenting the locals' anti-Clinton agenda" will try to call attention to some of the ways the locals ignore the journalistic standards of objectivity and fairness on their news pages while allowing their editorial pages to be dominated by columns and editorials whose primary reason for existence would appear to be to attack the candidate.
Bias on the front page can take a number of forms. What is covered, how it's covered, what the accompanying headline says, where the information came from and what the accompanying picture/graph communicates are about the presence of a story. But what if an important story is totally ignored? Such was the case with this morning's Intelligencer.
Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave a major foreign policy address that most news coverage saw as an attack upon Donald Trump's foreign policy credentials. Here is how the Associated Press began its article on the speech:
Hillary Clinton may have found her message.
Wrapped in the guise of a foreign policy speech, Clinton delivered a political thrashing of Donald Trump on Thursday that was unquestionably a standout moment for a candidate who has often struggled to focus her White House campaign.
Clinton's sharply targeted remarks served notice on the presumptive Republican nominee that she's prepared for a bruising general election fight, one that's centered squarely on his competency to serve as commander in chief.
"He is not just unprepared — he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility," Clinton said.
Most media saw the speech as important: the evening network newscasts covered it as a top story and this morning's news channels seemed fixated on the speech and Trump's reaction. If you google the AP article as I did earlier today, you'll get over 2,000 news sources that covered the AP version word-for-word. (That total doesn't include sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post which had their own analysis.)
How did the morning Wheeling Intelligencer cover the story? They didn't -- there was no mention of the speech anywhere in the paper. Did they use any Associated Press articles? (Given that the legislature passed a budget yesterday, maybe there just wasn't any room for a national news story from the AP.) This morning's front page had two national AP stories on it: the more important (it was above the fold) was "Payday Lending Under Scrutiny" along with "Coal Miners PAC Backs Rob Portman" below it. (Around 800 sources covered the AP payday lending story.)
Question: In what universe is a story about payday lenders more important than a major foreign policy address by a presidential candidate?
Answer: In a universe where Ogden Newspapers have a virtual monopoly on the news.
If you turn to the editorial page, you'll find columnist Rich Lowry taking us back to the 1990s in order to lecture women about feminism with "Yes, Hillary Was an Enabler." (The Clinton campaign certainly has brought back a nostalgia for the 1990s among right-wing pundits.) His conclusion:
If consistency mattered, feminists would demand safe spaces whenever Bill Clinton approached a college campus.
Hillary's answer to Trump's offensive is telling - nothing. Sometimes there's just not a good answer.
And below him on the page is Michael Barone arguing that "Clinton's Policies Would make the Pay Gap Larger." His explanation for the gap:
Which is to say, the gap results not from institutional barriers but from personal choices which tend to be rooted in biology. Science — we all respect science, don't we? — tells us men and women are different. Only women give birth and, it turns out, they're more likely to take parental leave and choose work that requires limited and definite hours — and which accordingly pays less.
(Just a thought - since Barone is an Intelligencer regular columnist, does he "respect science" on the issue of climate change?) Barone does make additional points. You can read the full column here.
My hunch is that both these columns made it to today's editorial page because their purpose is to undermine Clinton's support among female voters. I find both of these columns to be very condescending. (Note -- I'm a male and I do "respect science.") Male Lowry lectures feminists on feminism and male Barone tells women, too bad - it's biological determinism. Just a hunch but I don't think that either of these columns will change anyone's mind.
The afternoon News-Register did print a shortened version of the original AP story about Clinton's speech. The front-page story dropped the following paragraph midway through the article:
"This isn't reality television. This is actual reality," Clinton said as she chided the real estate mogul and political novice for his lack of experience on the world stage.
It then dropped the last six paragraphs of the original including two paragraphs that had Republicans praising her speech:
Trump himself appeared to be watching Clinton, too. He took to Twitter midway through the speech to remark that his likely Democratic opponent "doesn't even look presidential."
There was notable silence from many other Republicans, some of whom made similar arguments about Trump's temperament and inexperience during the GOP primary. A handful of Republicans even praised the likely Democratic nominee.
"I have to say, Hillary is giving a hell of a good speech on national security - taking down the Donald while making a convincing case," Eliot Cohen, a foreign policy official for Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter.
For Clinton's strong showing to have lasting impact, it will need to be more than just a one-off moment.
Some of Trump's primary rivals had fleeting success in rattling the supremely confident businessman and in raising issues that appeared to give voters momentary pause. But those arguments were rarely made in a sustained fashion and in some cases came too late to change the trajectory of the Republican race.
If Clinton plans to avoid those same mistakes, she now has the message she needs in hand.
Note -- No link for the News-Register version. I could not find any version of the AP article on their web page.