Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Opinion Piece Is Front and Right of Center

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when Wendy McCaw bought the Santa Barbara News-Press way back when, didn't she vow to keep the news separated from the opinion?

Well, that line was definitely crossed last Sunday when the front page of the paper had an article in the right hand column, written by Lanny Ebenstein, asserting that retirement funding is hampering the county budget.

"Hampering" the county budget? I doubt he would characterize the costs of law enforcement or firefighting as "hampering" the budget. But keeping its obligations to retired employees, who throughout their years of service have paid into the retirement system, is something the county is required to do just as it has an obligation to make our communities safe. (And yes, for the record, I am a retired county employee.)

Ebenstein is not a reporter. However, he's active in Republican politics and has been a regular contributor to the News-Press editorial pages (ever since Travis Armstrong resigned as editor of that section) writing "guest opinions" that usually bash local government.

For my money his Sunday article was just another opinion piece, but this time stuck prominently on the front page of the paper. It was solely his own viewpoint on the pension funding problem and didn't have any quotes from anyone in the know to back up what he was putting forth. If he had made any effort to talk to anyone with an opposing point of view, whatever they might have told him didn't make it into the article.

In other words, the page one article was pure propaganda.

Of course, sticking propaganda in a newspaper and passing it off as news is hardly unprecedented. Except that the newspapers that engage in that practice are usually called Pravda or Granma.

And if you play your cards right, you can usually pick them up for free.

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