Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Borg has come for you

Conform or die! One news outlet at a time:
"On Monday, Mike Corum, who writes the From the Left column for the weekly Pella Chronicle, stopped by that office to welcome the new publisher to the community from Ottumwa, where she's been living. It wasn't until later that day that Corum understood why she seemed disengaged.

The publisher's first official act related to the newsroom was calling up the editor and ordering him to scrap Corum's column.

The editor, Hal Hatfield, refused, and resigned in protest. The publisher, Sandy Selvy, didn't try to change his mind....

For all the hype about the so-called liberal press, one growing reality in an era of media consolidation is that there are fewer outlets for viewpoints critical of the administration. If anything, papers should err on the side of views that differ from the official one. Fully thinking through the issues is fundamental to a functioning democracy. After all, this is the free press we hope to export to fledgling democracies....

It would be impossible to read the publisher's mind on this, and certainly a small community newspaper needs to highlight community news and perspectives. But no newspaper can thrive if the fear of offending people drives decisions on content. And there are red flags in the sudden way this was handled.

Historically there's been a sacred wall separating the news and business ends of the operation. The publisher represents the business side and the editor the news and editorial side, and advertising or circulation considerations aren't supposed to interfere with the integrity of news and editorial judgments. Opinion pages are supposed to be a forum for lively discussion of opposing viewpoints.

That's how it's been until now, [former editor] Hatfield says...."