Sunday, October 13, 2013

At last, a glimmer of integrity

LA Times Letters Editor Paul Thornton, on October 5, explains why the paper did not publish letters arguing that Congress is exempting itself from Obamacare:

“Why? Simply put, this objection to the president’s healthcare law is based on a falsehood, and letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed.”
This quote is making the rounds because it's an unusual, perhaps unique, statement of policy against printing lies. There's movement afoot to encourage the country's other papers of record to adopt it, something that most readers of any political stripe ought to be able to support. It would be a very positive choice for the Courier as well, assuming the editors could pay more than lip service to it.

Doing this right would mean actually knowing or discovering what's true and what's not, caring about knowing, and going beyond the obvious in fact-checking not only the LTEs but the news stories and opinion columns. Anticipating the complaint that this would require more work than the paper can afford, I have to say that confidence in the veracity of what's on the page is the only reason anyone reads a newspaper, and should be the primary responsibility and professional goal for every editor.

Update, Tuesday: Need an example? It doesn't get better than this. Today the editors publish a letter exactly like the one mentioned above, based entirely on that specific witless myth. I guess I've been told.

Editorial: Playing the blame game

Catching up a bit, I have to weigh in on yesterday's editorial in which the unnamed editor asserts cagily that all of Congress and the President are getting the blame for the current show (or no-show) in Washington. More to the point, I'll have some actual Republicans weigh in, via Tom Beaumont and AP:

From county chairmen to national party luminaries, veteran Republicans across the country are accusing tea party lawmakers of staining the GOP with their refusal to bend in the budget impasse in Washington.
     "It's time for someone to act like a grown-up in this process," former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu argues, faulting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and tea party Republicans in the House as much as President Barack Obama for taking an uncompromising stance.
     Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is just as pointed, saying this about the tea party-fueled refusal to support spending measures that include money for Obama's health care law: "It never had a chance."
     The anger emanating from Republicans like Sununu and Barbour comes just three years after the GOP embraced the insurgent political group and rode its wave of new energy to return to power in the House.
     Now, they're lashing out with polls showing Republicans bearing most of the blame for the federal shutdown, which entered its 11th day Friday. In some places, they're laying the groundwork to take action against the tea party in the 2014 congressional elections.
    The Republican establishment also is signaling a willingness to strike back at the tea party in next fall's elections.
It's long past time to pretend that "they both do it" is a useful or informative position to take. This one is all on the Rs, with pretty much everyone publicly agreeing on the point save the teabaggers and the Courier editor.