I was somewhat encouraged when the Orange County Register was purchased earlier this year. I was hopeful that new ownership might breathe some balance into the Register’s dusty editorial pages. It appears that my hopes were optimistic at best, naive at worst.
Given the fact that there was no turnover in the editorial writing staff, and no new columnists with a center-left bent, it became quickly apparent that their knee-jerk-libertarian and right-wing positions would continue. Before the sale the paper had instituted a ‘From the Left’ section in the online version of their opinion section. For the most part that has been maintained by pulling a few syndicated columns here and there to provide some center-left perspectives. Rarely would the Register’s editors include commentary from local authors. We haven’t graced the Register’s pixels on the “From the Left” section for quite some time.
But over the past several weeks it appears that the Register has abandoned even this pretense of balance. The last commentary they included in their “From the Left’ section was a September 17th commentary by Bill Keller: The Grand Old Straight Men’s Party. That’s right, it’s been three weeks since the Register editorial staff has had the occasion to find a single left-leaning commentary worthy of gracing their online pages in the midst of a critical election in a county with more than a half-million registered Democrats in their circulation market.
In contrast, there have been 43 national commentaries from conservative columnists in their National Columnists section since September 17th.
The Register’s editorial bias even creeps into their coverage of national political news. For example, Yesterday Governor Mitt Romney gave, what his campaign described as, a major foreign policy speech. Today’s edition (online at least) has no coverage at all of this address which has been widely panned as having nothing new and few specifics (Politico: Experts pan Romney foreign policy speech). Apparently his address was so bad that the Register decided to pretend it never happened rather than cover it.
Since the Register seems to think Orange County is only a GOP/Conservative community, here are some numbers they may want to consider. Republicans make up only 42.01 % of the registered voters in Orange County. Democrats are 31.33% of the registered voters and 22.25% of Orange County voters claim no party preference.
Orange County is hardly a GOP only town, and the Register’s editorial pages should at least provide it’s readers with some semblance of balance in editorial coverage. Twenty-one days of zero commentary from a liberal perspective is just embarrassing.
Now I will concede that the Register does periodically provide counter-point opportunities to their editorial positions in the form of occasional reader rebuttals. They have even published a few from me. But often these are lost in the blizzard of conservative and Libertarian commentary on their pages. So much so, that you need a shovel to dig them up. There is never a straight-on column from a center-left point of view even though the Los Angeles Times features conservative blowhard Jonah Goldberg on its pages. The New York Times features conservative commentary and has a policy of allowing conservative letters to the editor to be prioritized for publication. Even the conservative Wall Street Journal will carry a liberal columnist or op-ed piece from President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, and others.
We talk about this at Drinking Liberally from time to time. Dan Chmielewski believes the Register’s editorial page editors are afraid to add a liberal voice to its pages. At the very least, a paper that could capture 10 percent of the half-million Democrats in OC as readers would increase their circulation by about 25 percent. Dan says a newspaper should be a marketplace of ideas from every perspective. But the Register only offers a view from the right. And failing to maintain a page devoted to “The Left” for three weeks in the middle of a critical election should speak volumes to Democrats in this county.
The time has come for the Orange County Register to stop operating its editorial pages as though the only point of view is a conservative one. Just a little balance is all I’m really asking for.
Maybe if I hold my breath till I turn Blue…