Thursday, January 04, 2007


You have to feel for the state-house reporters and editors of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In the months before their favored candidate for governor, Anybody-but-Doyle (otherwise known as Mark Green, although you are forgiven if you forgot him already), the J-S content-providers were busy working up their front page for January 4, 2007. In their mock-up, “A New Day” competed with “A New Day in Madison” for the headline over Green’s happy, just-inaugurated face, the longer headline losing out only because it required a smaller font size.

But, despite their best efforts, such was not to be. Green was properly thumped, losing by more than 10 points. The stunned J-S-ers could hardly believe it, blaming the result on “late-deciding voters” on the morning-after, even though Doyle was ahead the whole race. After brooding about it for a week-and-a-half, state-house veteran reporter Steven Walters went off on Doyle in the opinion pages for no good reason, claiming he was poisoned by ambition, obsessed with the second term even while his poor mother watched him get sworn in the first time and urging him into retirement.

Since then, the Journal Sentinel proudly front-paged a story about contributions to the Boys and Girls Clubs for special inauguration parties, claiming that Doyle was selling access by, um, getting people to give money to the worthy charity. This drew a rebuke from the president of the Boys and Girls Clubs, who got space in the next Sunday opinion pages to let the J-S and “WTMJ (620) talk shows” (read: Charlie Sykes) have it: “Yes, it's a sad day when public servants and community benefactors are criticized and derided for doing good for their communities and for the less fortunate children in our state. Alas, none of that seems to matter for some people if there is a way to twist it into a story.”

But the Journal Sentinel, when not twisting non-stories into scandals, continues to try to twist Doyle away from the perception of success. Just last week, the J-S front-paged yet another anti-Doyle non-story about a minor violation of ethics rules for accepting and paying for football tickets, the sort of thing that sent Tommy Thompson and his former gang of ethically-challenged professionals scurrying to the law books, hoping for a lenient statute of limitations for such things, and worse. (Worry not, Tommy – not that you ever had to with the J-S “watching” during your days of pioneering pay-for-play in Wisconsin).

Now comes the inauguration of Doyle for a second term. This is the sort of thing that has always been played on the front page the day after; a journalistic ritual much like the somber coverage of a former president’s death that we just endured. But good news for Doyle, again, means bare-minimum coverage in the Journal Sentinel. The article about the inauguration and Doyle’s speech ran on the bottom of the Metro section and jumping – you guessed it – to the Obituary page. Before the article falls off the bottom of the page, a photo is included of Doyle passively watching the passing of a color guard.

But, no, the J-S will squeal – we had a color photo on the front page! And what a picture it was. The governor is shown in a shot from the rafters, behind the lectern as a small speck, dwarfed by an American flag and the LaFollette bust. If you didn’t know Doyle was bald, you wouldn’t know it was Doyle speaking.

The article on the Metro page showed the under-whelmed Walters and Stacy Forster (hardly a two-writer story) yawning at their keyboards, barely able to stay awake while they produce the bare minimum of inches for the story. “As he did four years ago…” they write, and, god, who can read anything after that? Doyle had to share the story with the swearing-in of the new legislature and AG J.B. VanHollen. In paragraph 19, deep on the obit page, the article makes its only mention of what Doyle “said” his accomplishments were in the first term. Hey, J-S, don’t hurt yourself giving Doyle his due or his say.

With a Democratic Senate and a more-friendly Assembly, Jim Doyle may well be able to get some things done in his second term. He can expect nothing in term of help or credit from the strangely hostile Journal Sentinel.

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