Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Recall the Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has obscenely served as handmaiden and enabler as the radical Republicans in Madison continue to take a blunt ax to state government and democracy.  The paper has sat on the sidelines, alternately cheering, offering encouragement and laughably trying to talk some sense to the nonsensical.  Having endorsed Scott Walker for governor, the Journal Sentinel will have nothing but blood on its hands as the Republican jihad continues to damage the middle class and the working poor, while lavishing supposedly scarce state funds on the rich and the road builders.

On its news pages, the paper has been bad enough.  Its PolitiFact project has run interference for Walker and his fellow travelers (not the least of which: would-be Medicare-killer Paul Ryan), “ruling” that black is white and red is blue on numerous occasions – always for the benefit of some Republican scheme or personality. 

When state school superintendent Tony Evers had the temerity to call out the school choice scam as the fraud that it is this week – especially when the public schools are taking an $834 million hit in Walker’s radical budget document – the news story on the entirely justified rant by Evers was staged as a point-counterpoint exercise where everything Evers said was allowed to be countered by some dweeb at the heavily-right-wing-funded School Choice Wisconsin prop “organization”. 

“Low-income students in MPS have higher academic achievement, particularly in math,” says Evers; “choice” “students” graduate at a higher rate, says the flunky.  “Choice” “schools” are dependent on public funding, says Evers; an “exaggeration”, says the Koch-funded mouthpiece.  It’s an amazing piece of slanted reporting, pitting the elected DPI chief with over 25 years in school advocacy and administration against a hired gun for out-of-state interests interested only in destroying the notion of public education.

But, if you expect bad from the increasingly talk-radio-inspired right-wing tilt of the news pages managed by George Stanley, you can expect the absolute worst from the pathetic editorials supervised by the new editorial page editor, David Haynes. 

The latest outrage among many for the editorial “we” in the sad Walker era is a “laurel” the paper bestowed on the governor in Saturday’s paper for an alleged “upswing” in the perception of Wisconsin as a “good place to do business”.  The excuse for this undeserved award was a new ranking of Wisconsin in the supposed “best states to do business” in Chief Executive magazine. Wisconsin jumped 14 places in the annual survey of 500 Monty Moneybags running businesses from the rarified air of their penthouse suites and mahogany-appointed offices around the country. 

Thus did Wisconsin (24) leap-frog over supposed business hell-holes like Oregon (33), Minnesota (29) and New Mexico (32) to join such august company as North Dakota (21), Kansas (25) and Alabama (26).  I mean, what state doesn’t aspire to be as attractive as Alabama? Still literally in the middle of the pack, Wisconsin has a ways to go to claim the same lofty heights as Texas (1), Indiana (6) and Georgia (5).  Be ye not too bold Wisconsin – with any luck, next year we can be as “good” as Oklahoma (11).

This is all nuts, of course. Nobody with any sense would choose any of those places over Wisconsin to live or do business.  The quality of life has always been the most attractive incentive for people to do business here.  The fact that Walker’s attack on the middle class and the environment might make the state more attractive to those who are only interested in raping and pillaging both is not a good thing.  Making Wisconsin safe for strip mining should not be anyone’s goal, regardless of how many dirty, dangerous, unhealthy temporary jobs it might create.

But the CEOs who casually position copies of Chief Executive on their office credenzas to read while their assistants fetch their lattes to read up on the best way to spend their perks of power (“the trick to buying second homes is always following your heart — and never having to pack”) are the last people to decide what is best for the state of Wisconsin.  As they fly over the dusty flat land of, say, Nebraska (20) in their private jets, they see – if the politicians are cooperative enough – opportunities not to make the world a better place, but to exploit resources and a weakened, powerless workforce without having to deal with the inconvenience of effective government.

For the Journal Sentinel to fall for this bullshit in a glossy niche magazine with a circulation of about 40,000 as evidence of anything is the height of deliberate cluelessness.  Unable to call the Madison Republicans out for the radicals they are, the Kings of State Street act as willing fluffers to Scott Walker as he prepares to wind up and deliver the next item on the Koch brothers’ agenda.  Their weakness, even when they have to disagree (“legislators need to think carefully” about throwing state money at the rich in the form of venture capital. Whoa, take it easy there, Haynes.  You wouldn’t want to be accused of having an un-talk-radio opinion) is pathetic.

“Perception isn't everything, but it does count for something” starts the ridiculous “laurel” to the radical governor. Yes, it does.  And the Journal Sentinel stands perceived as a ludicrous enabler of a dangerous, power-drunk Republican party in Madison.  Just like “my” state senator, the soon-to-be-recalled Alberta Darling, the paper stands by, makes excuses and, when push comes to shove, props up the wrong people and casts the wrong votes.  Darling will be recalled, fired and sent home.  The Kings of State Street deserve the same fate.


Other Side said...

I thought it interesting, too, that the JS set up a Politifact watchdog on Chris Abele to see if he keeps his promises. Where is the one on Scott Walker?

John Casper said...


It's tough to argue your point.

I kinda speed-red what you wrote; I saw no mention of Journal Communications CEO, Steve Smith.

"Journal Communications CEO paid $2 million in 2010 "


Under Mr. Stanley's editing, Dave Umhoeffer won a Pulitzer in 2009 for uncovering a Walker pension scam (buyback, not lump sum). Meg Kissinger was a Pulitzer finalist in 2007 for her reporting about Walker dropping HUD housing funds for the mentally ill. Raquel Rutledge won a Pulitzer for Wisconsin Shares fraud that Walker and Doyle both missed. Kissinger and Rust did some terrific reporting on BPA. John Schmid's reporting on the U.S. Patent Office imho is must reading. Karen Herzog is another outstanding reporter.

Compounding Mr. Stanley's challenge have been the cuts to the jobs of his union reporters at the same time Mr. Smith was "rewarding his failures." It might have helped a little if you had mentioned that editors determine what's in the piece, as well as the title.

On balance, however the thrust of your post is imho on target. The JS ignored its own business plan, which demands a local economy that drives subscriptions and advertising.

Anonymous said...

My goodness, a "news story" where both sides of an issue are "allowed" to be presented. It's the end of journalism as we know it.

Anonymous said...

Although I was put off at first at the intemperate tone of Plaisted's letter,I agreed with most of what he wrote. Yet, I have reasons to love the newspaper (My father worked for the old Milwaukee Journal for close to 50 years. . In those days the Journal had a virtual firewall between advertisers and even powerful individuals, friendly as they might be. My second reason is that my son works at the JS. Finally, I admire the many excellent reporters and columnistcatabs that strive to and do get important stories out to the community.

BUT the Journal Sentinel made a terrible mistake when they endorsed Walker. They could regain some of the respect of what is fast becoming the majority of Wisconsin citizens and, let us hope, voters by admitting that mistake and publicly withdrawing that support. Recall Walker!