I’ve touched on this topic before but now I’m going to take a more comprehensive look at the editorial “balance” on the pages of the San Antonio Express-News.
Yesterday (March 26) we had the tag-team of George Will and Austin Bay, two nationally-syndicated hard-right columnists taking on locally-based and non-syndicated Kathy Clay-Little. Will’s topic was about how liberals are all hateful and mean while conservatives are saintly and proper. Bay, to his credit, had a non-partisan column about how Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe is a bad man and applauding recent efforts by neighboring countries to oppose him.
Clay-Little, typical of most local E-N columnists, was focused on a relatively uncontroversial local issue, that being efforts by the local community college to attract more African-American males into its student population.
On Tuesday, we had two more hard-right, nationally syndicated columnists teaming up against a lone, borderline liberal. First up was National Review editor Rich Lowry with yet another anti-Global Warming screed complete with a political cartoon mocking Al Gore. Then we had Mona Charen lauding Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson as the savior of far-right conservatives in 2008.
On the other side is Froma Harrop. Who? Yeah, that’s what I said. She is a syndicated columnist based in Rhode Island. She had a good column about illegal immigration that sympathizes with both the plight of illegal immigrants and the struggles of working-class Americans whose jobs they are taking while placing blame equally on Republicans and Democrats alike.
Do you see a pattern here? So far we have a 2-1 mismatch each day, and that is putting it lightly.
On Wednesday we will have locally-based hard-right columnist Jonathan Gurwitz squaring off against wishy-washy Boston-based Ellen Goodman who only writes a political column once in a blue moon. The rest of the time she is like a cross between Ann Landers and Erma Bombeck, writing about feel-good, non-controversial domestic issues. On Thursday, they will trot out New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd whose sharp tongue can sometimes skewer the right, but not consistently. For some reason, the E-N editors believe that only Northeastern women (Harrop, Goodman, Dowd) can speak for the left. They adamantly refused to run Molly Ivins’ columns while she was alive and did not acknowledge her untimely death to cancer earlier this year.
The one and only hardcore lefty in the lineup - Mansour El-Kikhia is considered highly controversial because of his ethnic background, his Muslim faith and his shrill rants against the Bush administration, which generally raise more hackles among readers than enlightenment. While I have no problem with El-Kikhia’s views being published once a week, I am disappointed that his is often the only voice on the left challenging the hard-right views of the current administration. And as if to provide a direct counter to El-Kikhia, the E-N recently ran out and signed up right-wing military analyst and former NBC talking head Ken Allard to do a regular column. We wouldn’t want people to think that the paper is too liberal, now would we?
Most of the local editorial columnists on the E-N staff — the above-mentioned Kathy Clay-Little, Maria Anglin, Gloria Padilla, Victor Landa, Paula Allen — stick to non-controversial, local issues in their columns. The same goes for editorial page editors Bruce Davidson and Robert Seltzer and Washington correspondent Gary Martin. I can’t remember the last time Davidson wrote a column that I thought was worth reading. Martin’s columns are just collections of news tidbits and updates, void of any actual opinion. Seltzer comes across as an aging liberal who is too timid to express his views very forcefully and tries to couch everything with humor. His latest column from last Sunday very boldly took on Donald Rumsfeld — six months after he left office — and compared him to the Slim Pickens character in “Dr. Strangelove.” Hardy-har-har!
The one bright spot on the editorial page is relatively new columnist Rebecca Chapa who seems to be slowly gaining more confidence about expressing her liberal views in her columns. Last week she actually came out against the War in Iraq — four years into the mess. Of course, if she gets too carried away, the E-N will just have to run out and hire a couple more right-wing scribes to maintain the proper (im)balance.
Next we come to the actual editorials that supposedly represent the consensus view of the paper. These have been consistently pro-Iraq war and pro-Republican over the past four years. The E-N has supported President Bush for election each time and seems to have an unwritten policy of endorsing incumbents and/or Republicans in every race.
They will occassionally take a liberal position on a piece of legislation or a particular social policy, but this is then undercut by their endorsements of politicians who oppose those views come election time. Whether or not they actually see and recognize this inconsistency is a mystery to me.