By Steve Outing
On Sunday, the Denver Post had an unusual front-page editorial that blasted Colorado governor Bill Ritter for his executive order allowing state workers to join unions. The tone of the editorial was particularly harsh, comparing Ritter to “Jimmy Hoffa” and calling him “a toady for labor bosses” and “a bag man for unions.” (Colorado Confidential has a good analysis.)
The editorial was fairly obviously put on the front page at the behest of Post owner Dean Singleton; Post editor Greg Moore commented to Colorado Confidential, “I don’t have anything to do with editorials.”
Front-page editorials are extremely rare, for the simple reason that they can blur the line between a newspaper’s “objective” news coverage and its corporate opinions as expressed on the editorial page. By blurring the two, the Post runs the risk of turning off a segment of its readership who may strongly disagree. (I wonder how many union members cancelled their subscriptions?!)
But I’m going to argue that this may be a good thing. Research shows that many readers think that newspaper news coverage is biased, so how bad can it be if an overt opinion — properly labeled as such — is expressed on a “news page”? Newspapers are in a decline and need to do something different. Perhaps showing some spunk and spouting opinions is one of those somethings.
I don’t know the answer. But the current newspaper model in print isn’t working well. (The latest proof.) Editorializing off the editorial page has risks, but really, isn’t it time to shake things up?