Bad news: The Chron editorial board

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Rob Booth calls attention to a staff editorial in today’s Chronicle that is typical of an editorial board that needs to engage the news and new media more vigorously. The editorial condemns Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator who took money to promote Department of Education initiatives without disclosing the fact. The story was broken on January 7 by USA Today, and much (timely!) conversation ensued for several days. So, now that the story is mostly “olds,” the Chronicle comes along with an editorial that contains this revealing paragraph:

Right-wing commentators will charge that the “liberal media” is piling on Williams because he is a conservative, but they are wrong.

Rob Booth pointed out that he hasn’t seen much in the way of that argument.

I searched a little more, and did find this NewsMax article that asserts Williams is being attacked because of his conservative views; the “liberal media” is nowhere fingered. Most responsible conservatives (dis)regard NewsMax as an ideological and fantastic source of “news.” By fantastic, I do not mean outstanding, but something more akin to “prone to exaggeration and/or hyperbole.”

If NewsMax is the Chronicle editorial board’s source of conservative news and views, then no wonder the Chron‘s self-proclaimed “neither liberal nor conservative” editorial board is so frequently confused. We’d suggest they update their bookmarks and come join internet news and opinion consumers in the year 2005!

While they’re joining us, they might want to take a look at the reaction of any number of bloggers who might loosely be described as conservative who have written on this topic (La Shawn Barber, Glenn Reynolds, Ed Morrissey, James Joyner, Sean Hackbarth, Jonah Goldberg, and Michelle Malkin among others).

They’re not exactly defending Williams, and they’re not blaming the “liberal media” at all. As is frequently the case, the Chronicle editorial is just out in left field — criticizing conservatives for something that most aren’t saying. The result is embarrassing, especially given how old this story is now in “internet time.”

The Chron editorial board might avoid these sorts of embarrassing gaffes if they’d adopt our suggestion #1 that we made at the start of the year: The Editorial Board should have a blog, and members should participate actively. Had this been thrown out on an editorial board blog before publication, any number of readers would have commented or emailed links to the editors, they would have seen that the right-wing commentariat was not exactly defending Armstrong Williams, and their editorial product not to mention understanding would have been improved.

Instead, they’re exposed as lazy dinosaurs whose source of “conservative” thought on this topic seems to have mostly been their imagination.

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Kevin Whited
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