Not all editorials are local
To the editor:
A recent letter to the editor from Henry Parnass noted a “strong right-wing orientation” in the ADE’s recent editorials. Henry urged the paper’s editorial board to instead “raise your eyes above your foggy horizon and focus on the conditions that can best serve the best interests of your North Country readers.” I couldn’t agree more with my old friend Henry, but I would offer another perspective.
These editorials are not a recent phenomenon; they’ve been appearing in the ADE with regularity for many years. They’re relatively easy to identify since they take a right-wing slant on national political issues and their style is slick and snarky, with an “inside the Beltway” air.
It’s natural to assume that editorials in small-circulation papers like the ADE express the views of the local editors. Indeed, each ADE editorial is signed, “Editorial, Adirondack Daily Enterprise.”
It appears, however, that the editorials in question originate not with the ADE’s editors but with its owner, Ogden Newspapers Inc., in Wheeling, W. Va., which, according to its website, operates “40 daily newspapers, several magazines, weekly newspapers located in 12 states from Florida to upstate New York and as far west as Maui, Hawaii.”
Ogden’s role is evidenced by the fact that the same editorials are published in multiple editions of their newspapers – and only in their newspapers. For example, Henry’s letter to the editor questions a June 20 editorial that urges us to “take back the freedoms that make us Americans.” A Google search shows the same editorial printed in the Wheeling Intelligencer, Wheeling, W. Va.; the Fort Dodge Messenger, Fort Dodge, Iowa; the Northern Virginia Daily, Strasburg, Va.; the Minot Daily News, Minot, N.D.; and the New Ulm Journal, New Ulm, Minn. – all news outlets owned by Ogden. Every search I conducted on suspect editorials, including the most recent one on June 21, produced multiple publications.
To be sure, a newspaper owner is entitled to pursue whatever editorial policy he or she chooses. However, the charm of a small-town newspaper is that the readership comes to know – and hopefully trust and respect – its reporters and editors, and considers the paper one of the institutional pillars of the community.
I don’t know how much pressure, if any, Ogden puts on its “employee” papers to run these editorials, but the potential exists. This, I submit, damages the ADE’s credibility and diminishes the trust of its readership. Remember the community’s outrage in 2008, as reflected in the Oct. 31 Brian Mann / North Country Public Radio blog, when Ogden appeared to force the paper to run an editorial endorsing John McCain for president? (The blog can be accessed on NCPR’s website.)
If Ogden wishes to continue its practice of distributing “canned editorials,” at a minimum, wouldn’t it be preferable if it claimed ownership for them – as it did with respect to the McCain endorsement – so that the paper and the community can, in Henry’s words, “focus on the conditions that can best serve the best interests of your North Country readers?”
(Editor’s note: An editorial is a newspaper’s own statement, intended to spark thought and discussion. The editorials on the Opinion page of the Enterprise may be written by the editors and publisher of this newspaper and/or by sister newspapers, but nevertheless they reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)