The Principal Issue

June 1st, 2015 · No Comments · journalism

By Arthur Alpert

When grocery shopping, I particularly enjoy the bottled juices aisle. It’s the creativity of the labels, their brilliant use of words, graphics and numbers to persuade consumers to buy colored water under the impression it is juice. I am impressed, as well, with the major corporations behind those profitable deceptions.

And then I shrug. Commercial values do not preclude lying to make a buck, so all one can do is smile and remember Roman wisdom – caveat emptor.

We expect higher ethical standards from a newspaper, of course; though a profit-seeking business, it’s supposed to deliver content fairly. Sadly, nurturing such expectations of the Albuquerque Journal would be naive.

Where to start? Well, back on May 18 I noted the Journal’s dedication to clobbering Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate for president, while sparing most Republican hopefuls any attention at all, except for some adverse criticism of Jeb Bush and two friendly stories on Ted Cruz. So let’s pick up with Mrs. Clinton.

Friday, May 22, the editors ran an AP news account on A2 headlined, “Friend figures in Clinton’s Benghazi emails”.

As the Journal’s web site will confirm, the editors have found the Benghazi story impossible to resist, rarely passing on opportunities to remind readers that Mrs. Clinton ran the State Department when terrorists rampaged there.

However, a House Intelligence Committee led by Republicans told a radically different story last November. The Journal ran an Associated Press account Nov. 22, 2014:

“A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.”

That was reporter Ken Dilianian’s lead. Here’s his second graph:

“Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.”

He recapitulated what led to the inquiry under the leadership of Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., noted this was the seventh investigation to reach similar conclusions and continued:

“In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016.”

Again, the Journal did publish that story. I don’t remember where it ran but a commenter on the Journal site complained that it should have been on Page One.

But here’s the point – the Journal continues to publish opinion pieces indicting Clinton on Benghazi that fail to mention that Republican House Intelligence Committee report.

I would like to avoid the conclusion that the Journal is out to defeat Hillary Clinton and will use its opinion and “news” pages to do so, but it’s impossible.

Oh, one final note on the May 22 AP story. The second deck of the headline read, ““Man gave her advise about Libyan affairs”.

Those italics are mine, of course.

If the Journal wanted my advice, I would advise adding an editor familiar with our language.

OK, I apologize for that. It’s unkind to ridicule illiterates. But what if it’s more than illiteracy?

Consider that one day earlier, a Journal editorial on PNM told us ”when some of the principles pulled out of the complex deal, etc., etc.” And followed up with “Now PNM and the new principles want the PRC…”

Somebody doesn’t know how to spell “principal.”

If it were simple ignorance, I would forgive but what’s happening here – the principal issue – is not so easily explained. Anybody can make a mistake, that’s why we have editors. So how come an editor didn’t catch those errors?

My educated guess is that Journal editors are distracted from basic duties – overseeing spelling, grammar and usage – by their (unprincipled) determination to politicize the news.

Me, I prefer the bottled juice folks whose lying labels are spelled properly.

Incidentally, the Journal’s animus toward Hillary Clinton – in its news and opinion pages, remember – is just part of a larger subject, how it’s covering the Presidential campaign. Fecklessly, is the brief answer, which judgment I plan to justify in a future post.

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