Will The Oklahoman editorial page become even more strident and less fact-based since its former editor Ed Kelley left the paper for The Washington Times?
It’s too early to tell, but so far it seems to have become more hostile to community engagement, varying views and inclusiveness. Some editorials rely even more on ad hominem attacks, faulty logic, clichés and dreadful extended metaphors that seemingly mock the very idea of careful argumentation.
The newspaper’s ownership-the Gaylord family-had an opportunity to expand the voices on its editorial page after Kelley left but apparently decided to double down on the right-wing rant by appointing J.E McReynolds as its new editorial page editor.
Let’s be clear. McReynolds will continue the tradition of ultra-conservative writer Patrick B. McGuigan, a former editorial page editor at The Oklahoman and now a toady for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank. Kelley, who replaced McGuigan, had brought a somewhat softer and, at times, reasonable tone to the editorial page, but that’s probably gone now.
Let’s look at just three recent examples.
The editorial page attacked Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid for raising concerns about the new convention center, which will be built under MAPS 3. The newspaper, in a vile editorial, essentially told Shadid to shut up.
Think about this. Here’s a local leader, who diligently, with studies, statistics and compassion, made a careful and extended argument about an important project in Oklahoma City, yet The Oklahoman attacked him and tried to marginalize him.
The editorial prompted this response from Shadid. Meanwhile, it’s obvious that the coverage of MAPS 3 by The Oklahoman has been biased and slanted to benefit corporate interests over ordinary people, many of whom want to enjoy the sidewalks, trails and expanded public transportation promised under the initiative.
In another recent editorial (“Poor economic trends lost in hubbub surrounding debt ceiling,” Aug. 3, 2011), one obviously representative of what we can expect under McReynolds, the newspaper based its argumentative position on this cliché: Can’t see the forest for the trees.
The excruciatingly inane editorial contained more than 20 references to tree-related subjects. Here’s an example of a paragraph that passes for good writing in the state’s largest newspaper:
In the copse of conventional wisdom, we all knew the debt ceiling impasse would be broken. Only the lumbering details were left to be hammered out. But the economy remains an acorn instead of a mighty oak. When will the growth rings start to appear?
Note the references to “lumbering,” “hammered out,” “acorn,” “mighty oak,” and “growth rings.” That’s just one paragraph in a senseless anti-Obama tirade that gives no evidence for its claim that the president is completely responsible for the current condition of the economy.
The editorial states:
President Barack Obama has benefited, if only temporarily, from our focus on the trees instead of the forest. No longer able to blame his predecessor for the economic thicket, Obama leads a country in which the economy expanded at a dismal 1.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter. This followed even slower growth in the first quarter.
But many would argue it was former President George Bush and recalcitrant Republicans who have wrecked the economy and left Obama with hard choices that have left people on both the right and left upset with him. Obama DID inherit the mortgage and banking crisis, which still influences the economy. Current Republicans HAVE held the economy hostage with threats of debt default. You won’t find any reference to these counter arguments in the editorial. It’s as if such arguments don’t even exist.
Another recent editorial brief (“Scissor Tales: “Global warming science is far from settled,” Aug 6, 2011) makes a big deal about how the science of global warming isn’t settled no matter what the media reports, basing its logic on a mistake in a 1884 editorial in The New York Times. (Yes, 1884, not 1984, and, yes, it’s a false comparison.)
The editorial creates a problem that doesn’t exist to almost certainly create a false narrative that global warming skeptics, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, are treated unfairly by the media, which is simply not true. Inhofe gets plenty of press for his argument that global warming is just some liberal ruse. To repeat, no one weather event-even this hot summer-proves or disproves global warming, but this summer does deserve scrutiny, just like any extreme weather. Maybe the next two or five summers will be way below average in temperatures. That, too, will deserve study and will not prove that climate change isn’t or is happening.
We do know the overall global temperature has been going up and the arctic ice cap is melting at a fast rate. J.E. McReynolds and company would obviously prefer we don’t pay attention to it; instead, we should pay attention to supposed media bias as we swelter in the heat this summer.
Right now, the business model at The Oklahoman seems to be this: Let’s alienate as many readers and potential readers as we can and continue to lay off our workers, including editorial staff.