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--- Another "aren't we great" column

Published by waner in Wheeling "newspapers" · 13/4/2015 09:55:00
Tags: Myer
Living in a glass house, throwing a Rolling Stone

Okay, I didn't get it just right but I was close.  At the bottom of my post ten days ago on the Intelligencer's plagiarism of a Chaleston Gazette article (see four posts down) I speculated that we were due for another one of those "why we're such a great newspaper" editorials.  But I was off a bit in my prediction.  It's not an editorial - it's a Mike Myer column (a distinction without a difference?), and it's about more than just the local's credentials, it's also about how Rolling Stone magazine's has tarnished the reputation of newspapers because too much of the public lumps them together under a "media" heading.

Early in the column Myer tells us that "he'd like to pop a few people at Rolling Stone magazine in the mouth."  Before doing so, he might take a closer look at his own "newspapers." This post is not a defense of Rolling Stone magazine -- their actions are indefensible. No, this is a look at Myer's hypocrisy in claiming some sort of moral superiority to the magazine.

1.  How about misrepresenting a source?  Scroll down one post and you see how the Intelligencer cherry picks its quotes.  An isolated incident?  Hardly -- see posts on December 20 and February 21, for example.

2.  How about lying about what a source says?  Go to a December 20 post about a prevailing wage editorial ("How low can they go?") in which the Intelligencer claims a study found that the prevailing wage cost West Virginian $224 million in one year.  If you actually go to the study you'll find that the study was about Michigan; West Virginia is not mentioned anywhere in the report. But that didn't stop the editorial writer from telling us about how the prevailing wage had cost West Virginians so dearly. (Who's going to actually bother to check, right Michael?)

3.  What about editing out of Associated Press articles material which didn't agree with their biases?  In the most egregious example last year, they edited out polls from an AP report that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans believed in limiting greenhouse gases? (See my post of June 10 in the old section.)  And how about dropping the last couple of paragraphs which criticized Republicans in another AP story after the most recent inaugural address in January?

4.  How about refusing to carry stories about climate change?  When the most important study of climate change in 2014 was released, neither paper carried the story (see March 26).  When the largest worldwide rally on climate change took place last September most papers featured previews and then published long AP stories on their front pages about the event with pictures. The locals ignored all of this except for a couple of paragraphs about it on an inside page.

5.  How about plagiarism - stealing from another source without proper attribution. Check the April 2 post below titled "Plagiarism."

And then Myer says:

We draw a hard line between our news pages and those on which we as an institution and as individual writers provide our opinions.

Yeah, right.  Ironically, my first-ever post on this blog a year ago was about a biased headline on the front page. The story concerned a suit against the EPA and instead of using "High Court Climate Case Examines EPA Power" or something similar to that as every other newspaper I checked used, the Intelligencer used "EPA Hot Air Going to the Supreme Court." (See March 2 in the other section).  They then followed it up two weeks later with "Holder: Give Drug Dealers a Break."  (You might also check the anti-Obama headlines before the State of the Union Address. (See January 19 and 20).

Finally, I'll end with Myer's opening sentence:

Here at the Wheeling News-Register and The Intelligencer, we make our money by selling a single product to readers: trust.

I would disagree. The "newspapers" make money largely because the Ogden Corporation has a monopoly.  What choice does the reader have other than going to Kroger to buy the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review which doesn't cover our local stories? ("The Trib" is a conservative newspaper but at least one that separates it's biases from its news pages.) There is no competition in the newspapers as you have in Charleston, for instance, where you have a conservative afternoon paper balanced by a more liberal morning paper. How about local TV and radio?  Since the deregulation of radio and TV, the news has to pay its own way and thus it's tough to justify much expenditure on something that costs a lot of money to do the right way. Yes, people subscribe to Ogden "newspapers" but they want local sports and obituaries, election results, recipes, classified ads and comics. Yeah, Republicans and right-wingers probably "trust" the papers (read the online comments section sometime) but I doubt that many Democrats or liberals do.  So, please spare us the sanctimonious crap.  Clean up your act then maybe we can talk about trust. 

--- Headlining Capehart's new job

Published by waner in Wheeling "newspapers" · 12/3/2015 17:30:00
Tags: CapehartIntelligencerWestLiberty
Headlines, especially on the front page of a newspaper, should objectively describe what has happened and accurately reflect the contents of the article that follows. On a number of occasions this past year I've highlighted the Intelligencer's clearly biased headlines. In all of these cases the bias was clearly negative. (All were against the Obama administration and all were on the front page - the page supposedly reserved for objective reporting.) Today, the Intelligencer went the other direction -- it presented a positive spin to a very negative story.

The story is that after all three West Liberty University constituencies (faculty, staff, and students) gave him a vote of "no confidence" and facing an April meeting before the state ethics commission, West Liberty President Robin Capehart tendered his resignation yesterday. (If you have been anywhere in the Ohio Valley for the last six weeks, it would have been hard to have missed the original story.) Here are some of today's headlines:

From WV Public Broadcasting:

West Liberty University President Robin C. Capehart Resigns

From the Charleston Gazette:

Facing ethics charge, Capehart resigns as president of WLU
from the Associated Press:
West Liberty University president resigns amid ethics probe
Similarly, Inside Higher Education (a trade publication)
West Liberty President Resigns Amid Ethics Review
And here's the Wheeling Intelligencer:

Capehart has new job at WLU

----- ----- ----- ----- -----

The Intelligencer also tells us that Capehart's resignation becomes effective this Sunday when he will begin his new job as a "legislative liaison and consultant" for which he will be paid (if my math is correct) $182,378.92 for the rest of the year. West Liberty does not currently have a "legislative liason and consultant" (whatever that is) but I'm sure they'll get their money's worth. Except for one detail -- the legislature finishes its business this Saturday night at midnight. Capehart starts the next day and it would have been nice if an Intelligencer reporter could have asked a board member the obvious question: how is Robin Capehart is going to earn his huge salary?

That leads to other questions: financially, how can the WL board justify $20,000 a month for a liason to a legislature that won't be in session? Like other state institutions, West Liberty is feeling the effects of the state's budgetary crunch. According to friends: vacant positions aren't being filled, routine maintenance is being skipped, basic educational supplies, such as paper, are in short supply. With all those other pressing financial needs, how does the board justify giving away $180,000 for something that will have little or no return?

Maybe most importantly, is Capehart being punished or rewarded for his violations?

There were no tough questions asked by the Intelligencer because Capehart is a friend and the Intelligencer seldom publicly embarrasses its Republican friends. Capehart has been a good Republican - he's their former treasurer and he ran for govenor as a Republican in 2004. Back in 2007, on the day that the WL board's was to make its presidential decision, the Intelligencer took the unusual step of editorializing on its front page that Capehart should be chosen as the new president of West Liberty even though neither the staff, nor students, nor the faculty had him as their first choice.

Capehart has earned the paper's love -- he's moved the university to the right politically. Under Capehart, West Liberty has sponsored the BB&T/Ayn Rand speaker series which brings to Wheeling right wing libertarians without anyone to balance their views.  West Liberty has also invited and paid for Republicans hopefuls such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to speak in Wheeling. Last year, West Liberty invited Shelley Moore Capito to speak on campus and in Wheeling. Democrats, liberals, and middle-of the roaders don't get invited to talk politics. Natalie Tennant did speak on campus a number of years ago, but like other Democrats, her purpose was not overtly political or tied to a particular election. (Democrats often get to speak at graduations.)  Finally, Capehart has established ties to the Koch empire. (See here.)

Public universities ought to present a wide range of political opinion from the far right to the far left with stops along the way - a marketplace of ideas. West Liberty only presents right wingers and libertarians and so it's no wonder the Intelligencer loves Capehart. Maybe a new president will restore some balance for everybody's sake.

--- Playing softball: the News-Register’s Sunday sit-down interviews

Published by waner in Wheeling "newspapers" · 16/11/2014 21:07:00
Tags: NewsRegister

From time to time, the Sunday News-Register gives us an extended interview with a newsmaker in something called "Sunday Sit-Down." These interviews have two things in common: the newsmaker is one whose message the "newspaper" almost always agrees with, and consequently, the interviewed is never asked even a semi-tough question. A recent list of those interviewed include: local university presidents, Catholic Schools Superintendent Vince Schmidt and Senator Joe Manchin. (The only person interviewed in the last year that surprised me was Rodney Bartgis from the Nature Conservancy. Even so, the published interview, with the exception of one edited answer, avoided the issue of climate change.)  In these interviews, the questions that are asked usually resemble softballs although occasionally something about the size of a watermelon is also tossed.  

My "favorite" sit-down interview was with WV Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Brent Benjamin in March 2013.  Benjamin was first elected in 2004 when his candidacy was the beneficiary of Massey Coal’s Don Blankenship’s $3 million dollars campaign contribution aimed at defeating his opponent, Warren McGraw. Not surprisingly, Benjamin would later be in the 2-1 majority that reversed an earlier large financial judgment against Massey. (The U.S. Supreme Court would later reverse the decision and Justice Kennedy would label this conflict of interest "extreme.") Yes, this could have formed the basis for a number of excellent questions in the interview but it didn’t happen. Instead, we got just the opposite. For example, Benjamin answers the question: What about the public's perception of the court?

Benjamin: I think there was a concern for a long time that it mattered, in many cases, who was in front of the court rather than what their case was when it came to their case being adjudicated. Now people have seen that judges decide cases on a case-by-case basis, they apply the law, there's a lot more stability and predictability in how we decide cases, we use precedent.

Wouldn’t that have been an excellent moment to ask Benjamin about his vote in the Blankenship case? Of course it would have been if the paper was trying to inform the public instead of just giving Benjamin a public forum and some publicity.

The pattern continues with today’s interview of State Republican Chairman Robin Lucas – he’s a friendly source and so he gets softball questions and no follow-ups on any of his assertions. An example:

Has anyone done a spending breakdown on the legislative races? Were Republicans outspent, or vice versa? Or was spending fairly even?

Lucas: We're always outspent. We're used to that. There are a few different ways to look at it. You have to look at the candidates themselves, the parties, and then the outside groups that have already disclosed and the outside groups that haven't.

Lucas later hedges what he has asserted but is not pressed on any of it. I checked (something the interviewer could also have done) and the WV state legislative spending numbers are still incomplete. If the numbers aren’t out there, how would Lucas know what the Democrats and Republicans spent on local elections? This question wasn’t meant to elicit a real answer; it was asked to allow Lucas an opportunity to assert anything he pleased – in this case, how Republicans triumphed even though they were "outspent" by the Democrats.

Here’s a final thought for the News-Register. Why don’t you invite the Chairman of the Democratic Party for a Sunday Sit-Down about this election and toss him some softballs? I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be interested.

--- Mudslinging at "ground zero"

Published by waner in Wheeling "newspapers" · 2/11/2014 15:13:00
Tags: Intelligencermudslinging

Liberals are at it again

Okay, folks, a show of hands - who didn’t think this was coming? Yesterday’s lead editorial tells us that "Liberals Go All Out for Control." Since we’ve seen slightly different forms of this editorial/Myer’s column many times before, I’ll try to keep it relatively brief.  It begins:

Independent liberal organizations are going all-out - both in spending and character assassination - in an attempt to keep Republicans from taking control of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

While they normally support Democrat candidates, their campaign this year is especially harsh, well-funded and comprehensive. It often uses mudslinging advertising directed against Republican candidates for the House.

Some thoughts:

1.  the headline is funny and an insult to the reader’s intelligence – it’s only liberals who are going all out for control. I guess Republicans would never want control unless they won it in a genteel and dignified manner.

2.  As I argued last week, calling someone or some group a "mudslinger" without telling us what they said and why it’s an example of mudslinging is just another form of mudslinging.

3.  Without any evidence, the editorial tells us that it is liberals that are doing this. I guess for its core audience, calling someone a liberal is like calling someone a communist sixty years ago – we don’t need proof but we just know it’s bad.  (And of course, it could never be considered "mudslinging.")

4.  Since the editorial mentions only Democratic groups that are putting money into various campaigns, we can assume that Republicans would never let some outside group run negative ads against Democrats. Yeah, right – this took all of two minutes to find (in the conservative Charleston Daily Mail of all places):

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse has spent almost $202,000, mostly on mailings attacking Democrats and boosting Republicans. The group fault Democrats for taking campaign cash from trial lawyers. Del. Tim Manchin, D-Marion, is facing $20,800 worth of advertising attacks from the group.

And of course, none of these Republican-supporting groups would ever break the law:

Also Thursday, Hensley filed election complaints against Grow West Virginia Inc. and Campaign for Liberty, two political action committees targeting Democrats running for House and Senate seats.

Grow West Virginia PAC has spent more than $100,000 on direct mailers and ads to oust Democrats in recent weeks, but hasn’t filed any reports with the Secretary of State’s Office since Oct. 14, Hensley’s complaint alleges. (Hensley is caucus director for the House Democratic  Legislative Committee.)

Both the editorial and the Myer column would have you believe that only Democrats use outside money to attack their opponents even though they know that’s not true. It doesn’t bother them because they have an election to win. For the propagandist, truth is irrelevant - the ends justify the means.

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