By Tracy Dingmann
I wrote earlier this week about the puzzling appearance of the words “punishing business” in the headline of an Oct. 17 news story about combined reporting. I thought it was odd, because there was nothing in the story about “punishing business” and the people quoted in the story as opponents of combined reporting did not use those words.
Why is this notable? Because editorializing in a headline is generally something respectable newspapers avoid. It all traces back to the time-honored journalistic tradition of maintaining a strict firewall between the opinion side and the newsgathering side.
The Journal’s slanted headline took on a deeper meaning the very next day, when similar wording was echoed in an Oct. 21 editorial endorsing candidates for some state house races.
Regarding the District 21 race, Journal editors wrote:
“Political novice Antoinette Marie Baca is taking on longtime Northeast Heights incumbent Mimi Stewart, who over the years has risen to a position of power in the House but unfortunately supports growing government and punishing the private sector as a way to fix the state’s foundering economy.” (Emphasis mine.)
Using the exact same language in both the supposedly objective news headline and the editorial is curious and revealing.
In countless editorials, the Journal has come out harshly and often incorrectly against a number of recently proposed measures on the basis that they will unfairly “tax” businesses. Combined reporting is but one example. That’s arguably fine for the Journal to express that in editorials – which are supposed to contain opinions. The language in the endorsement editorial is Exhibit A.
But when opinionated language spreads to supposedly objective news headlines – that’s when the state’s “Paper of Record” goes too far.
We’ve noted this disturbing problem at the Journal many times in the past – and it appears the problem isn’t going to be addressed any time soon.