Monday, August 14, 2006

Lock-step diversity

The editorial page at my old newspaper The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal has always irritated me. While in Lubbock during my vacation, I had the opportunity to catch up on a week’s worth of the local paper’s editorials and the thing that struck me was the diversity of the syndicated columnists that they use, or rather the lack thereof.
In a typical week, the paper runs eight nationally syndicated columns, plus three local columns and one from Austin. Of the eight nationally syndicated colunists, four are black males and four are women - two Hispanic, one Asian, and one white.
That’s quite a diverse lineup, obviously meant to balance out the fact that the paper’s editorial board is composed entirely of white males. However, while you may have diversity of color, gender and ethnicity, there is almost no diversity of opinion whatsoever. All but one of the eight syndicated columnists are hard-right conservatives. They have three black male conservatives - Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Larry Elder - (Leonard Pitts is the sole liberal); two Hispanic female conservatives - Linda Chavez and Kathryn Jean Lopez; Suzanne Fields of the Washington Times and the loathesome Michelle Malkin. I guess the biggest surprise is that they don’t run Ann Coulter.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought that having a diversity of opinion on the editorial pages is a greater service to the readers than anything else.
This brings me to the larger issue that has always bugged me and that is the expectation that so-called liberal papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post must run a balanced editorial section with equal number of conservative columnists to the liberals, while conservative papers like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times run solidly right-wing editorial sections without the slightest compunction.
Over at the NYT we get John Tierney and David Brooks while The Washington Post has made George Will and Charles Krauthammer into household names and the LA Times gives editorial space each week to Max Boot and Jonah Goldberg, among others. But the WSJ editorial pages and the Mooney Times are certifiably liberal-free. And I bet that if someone did a survey of newspapers across Texas, they would find that the Lubbock A-J is not alone in its lack of editorial diversity.

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