It’s difficult not to wish The Oklahoman editor Ed Kelley good luck with his new gig leading the newsroom and opinion section of The Washington Times.
Kelley has been a longtime fixture in Oklahoma journalism, and, though, he admittedly led one of the most irrational, fallacy-filled, ultra-conservative editorial pages in the country, he did soften the newspaper’s bite after former opinion editor Patrick B. McGuigan’s reign of rhetorical terror ended in 2002.
There’s no question that eventually Kelley sold out to conservative ideology and promoted the class-based, oligarchical philosophy of the newspaper’s owners, the Gaylord family, but he tried to temper it with allowing commentary that actually criticized the actions of some of the state’s strange right-wing wackos, such as religious ideologue state Rep. Sally Kern, ironically brought to power at least partially by the newspaper’s entrenched, narrow-minded views.
But Kelley’s departure to one of the weirder, non-profitable conservative publications in the world does raise some interesting points:
(1) Is this a step up for Kelley, who became editor of The Oklahoman in 2003? If so, what does that say about The Oklahoman? The Washington Times was created in 1982 by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Unification Church leader. The Washington Times, according to several media sources, has yet to make a profit, and Moon has apparently spent at least $2 billion to maintain the newspaper’s operations, which presents extremely conservative views. If there’s anything we know about The Oklahoman, it’s that it has made a profit through the years, and, well, its owners are probably less freaky than Moon, whose followers think he’s the messiah. I don’t think the staff at The Oklahoman think that the newspaper’s current leader, Christy Gaylord Everest, is the messiah, but I’ve been wrong before. I think that spot is reserved for her brother-in-law, Clay Bennett, widely hailed as a savior for bringing the NBA’s Thunder to Oklahoma City. (Okay, I don’t think anyone really thinks he’s considered THE Savior.) In any event, let’s hope for his sake Kelley has a contract. My point here is that Kelley’s decision makes The Oklahoman look even worse than it does now, if that’s possible.
(2) The decision strips away any pretense that The Oklahoman has ever tried to be fair not only on its editorial page but also in its political coverage, especially its Washington coverage. If Kelley has no problem taking over the editorial control of a publication, such as The Washington Times, then you know he had no problem doing the bidding of the Gaylord family and probably anticipating its world views when it came to producing The Oklahoman on a daily basis over the years. The newspaper’s Washington correspondent Chris Casteel, for example, is one of the most biased, supposed “journalists” in the nation and presents what is essentially conservative commentary. Watch for Casteel to either join Kelley or move up The Oklahoman hierarchy. So, here’s the bottom line: Kelley, a former Washington correspondent himself, was always an ur-conservative, who probably tempered his view to get along with some of the more creative members of his staff. He actually BELIEVES in the right-wing tripe.
(3) Kelley’s move could be one those “I’m finally getting out of Oklahoma!” decisions, but that seems unlikely, given his age-he’s 58-and the fact he’s worked at The Oklahoman since 1974. He has two children in the Washington area so that was probably a factor in the decision. Maybe he’s going to make a lot more money, and this is his last hurrah before retirement. Maybe it won’t work out, and he’ll be back in Oklahoma in a year or two. It doesn’t make much difference for us here. We’re still stuck with an unfair, imbalanced newspaper, which will undoubtedly continued its mission to keep its readers oblivious and brainwashed. Unlike The Washington Times, the newspaper here has made money with this approach, though one wonders if this is still going to work in the future with all the changes in the media, primarily new electronic delivery methods.
I know most of what I’ve written here has been sarcastic and critical so let me end with this: I worked with Kelley at what was called then The Daily Oklahoman in the early 1980s. I knew Ed to be a nice guy, intelligent, articulate and concerned with the staff he supervised. He was always gracious with me, and I do wish him the best. I guess someone has to edit The Washington Times. It might as well be Ed.