Just say no to editorial boards at newspapers

I had high hopes after leaving the latest meeting with the Dayton Daily News editorial board– thinking that they would be as thoroughly disappointed  as I was with the incumbents’ flat and meaningless answers, and deer-in-the-headlights responses to questions about large campaign donations, and either not endorse, or choose change over the same old, same old.

But, I should have known. Don’t go into meetings like this without a recording for all to hear, so you won’t see your words twisted and minor points sensationalized.

That may be the last invite to appear before the kings and queens of the Cox round table in this town, as their sister paper, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, has now vowed no longer to preach their editorial opinion by endorsing in races. It may just be another cost-cutting move, or it may mark a true change in the way “newspapers” have started to realize their job is to inform, not to take sides:

After listening carefully to readers and thinking deeply about the modern role of a newspaper in elections, the AJC Editorial Board is taking a new approach to election coverage, beginning with this November’s elections.

Going forward, our board will use its unique position to work for readers in pursuing with candidates the issues that are critical to the future of our community. The board will provide readers with clear, concise information about candidates’ positions and records. The AJC will no longer endorse political candidates….

We have heard from readers — and we agree — that you don’t need us to tell you how to vote. What readers tell us they need is information on who the candidates are, what they have done and what they want to do in the new job….

Since the early days, U.S. newspapers have put their stamp of approval — or disapproval — on political candidates during election seasons. It’s a system that goes back to days when cities had many newspapers, each with very clear political agendas….

That world has changed, steadily and more rapidly in recent years. We see our role now as providing you with information to help you make decisions — and not trying to make them for you….

We are using the newspaper voice — through the weekly editorials — to push for progress in our community. That initiative, “Atlanta Forward,” examines key issues facing the Atlanta metro area and the state of Georgia.

via To Our Readers: AJC takes new approach on election  | ajc.com.

For years I’ve railed against the practices of the Montgomery County Democratic Party and its behind-closed-door screening committee– that always asks “If you aren’t endorsed, will you still run?” I’ve said that these people, often appointed by politicians and labor leaders, shouldn’t be the kings in choosing who should and who shouldn’t run- that’s what primaries are for.

Why shouldn’t the same logic apply to newspapers? There is no recording of the editorial board meeting (although there easily could have been)- and the four members, Ellen Belcher, Martin Gottlieb, Scott Eliott and Kevin Reilly are no more qualified to pick winners and losers than the party insiders.

There may be no more damning statement from the last editorial than this:

“That’s partly because a lot of people  who might put together a strong candidacy have left for the suburbs.”

Isn’t that what the Dayton Daily News did when it first built its printing facility in Warren County and then moved its offices closer to Oakwood?

And although the newspaper still claims a wall between its journalistic side and the business side, Cox Ohio, owner of Channel 7, WHIO Radio, K-99 and the Dayton Daily News, will profit from ads run with the dirty money that Nan Whaley has accepted, where quotes from the editorial are almost sure to appear.

I believe in open, honest discussion of the issues. It’s a main part of my candidacy, promising to open the doors of the secret illegal meetings of the Dayton City Commission to you. It’s why I’m the one publishing the campaign finance reports, and providing video of candidates’ nights, and I’m the one allowing you to comment- and have a discussion. It’s my job to represent your interests, and that’s why I invest my time keeping this discussion open.

I tip my hat to the Atlanta Journal Constitution for its transformation.

In Dayton, it’s up to you to either rally against the powers that have been, and help change win this November Third, or, let us continue on the same tired path we’ve been on.

Your thoughts?

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17 Responses

  1. truddick October 13, 2009 / 10:15 am
    I tend to think that Belcher, Gottleib, Elliot and Riley are somewhat more capable than the average citizen to judge a candidate.
    I think so based on an assumption that I apply to lots of situations: an intelligent person who spends considerable time studying something is more likely to make wise decisions than anyone who’s not so well informed.
    DDN editors and reporters are professionals who spend significant time informing themselves on the workings of this community–specifically its political, economic, business and education sectors.  Why shouldn’t they exercise their traditional privilege of weighing in–and why do you skate on the edge of insulting voters by implying that too many of us are automatons who do what we’re told (even if it is true)?
    And if you’re upset about “minor comments” being blown out of proportion–and if you don’t mind a little advice from an alleged expert–quit making them, especially if they’re irrelevant and likely to off-put someone needlessly.  Yes, DDN moved its main offices to somewhere “closer to Oakwood” as you wrote above–a meaningless aside that weakens your point about their Franklin printing plant, one that inspires a response like “South Park is also closer to Oakwood, so is David Esrati planning on moving downtown soon?” rather than “perhaps DDN is less than faithful to Dayton.”
    Just stay on your core message and they’ll have nothing else to distort.
    I expect DDN will be changing its business model or it will be out of business in just a few years anyway.  Perhaps you’ll get your wish for less editorializing–or perhaps you’ll just outlive them.
  2. David Esrati October 13, 2009 / 10:43 am

    Thanks for weighing in Mr. Ruddick- but calling them more capable is a stretch.
    As to minor comments- again, you weren’t there, but how do we start talking about regionalism without putting regional assets on the discussion table? The airport isn’t going to solve the very real problems facing Dayton, and right now- shouldn’t we be focusing there? How else are we going to bring people to the table?

    There was a lot more discussed- and none of that made it in. As to the crack about them moving closer to Oakwood- touche to you. It was a crack- but, for them to claim to be “downtown supporters” but act differently- is about putting your money where your mouth is.

    I believe that their new location is “downtown”- but I’ve been scoffed at for years by most for suggesting downtown be bigger than 6 square blocks.

    btw- thanks to ShortWest Rick for the tip on this post.

  3. Roger October 13, 2009 / 12:31 pm
    truddick: “and if you don’t mind a little advice from an alleged expert”…  LOL. I don’t believe that David Esrati is serious about his candidacy, because he is not serious about actually doing what it would take to get the job. Keep his mouth shut.
    Today’s post is so typical of his inability to control his blather. Sour grapes.
  4. David Esrati October 13, 2009 / 12:45 pm

    @Roger

    When you want help running for office, give me a call. Why don’t you try having an online conversation over at the Mayor’s site- or Nan Whaley’s? Oh, that’s right- you can’t.

  5. Roger October 13, 2009 / 12:51 pm
    @David
    If you want to get elected, it is better to have no conversation, if it is going to be like this.
    Don’t feed the trolls.
  6. Roger October 13, 2009 / 12:54 pm
    When you actually WIN a campaign, I’ll come to you for help running for office… LOL
  7. Ice Bandit October 13, 2009 / 1:54 pm
       The Old Bandito once had an associate that got a summer gig driving an ice cream truck. And though he had an unblemished driving record going back two decades, he did have one flaw. And the defect wasn’t minor; it was an pathological, highly visible and outspoken disdain and hatred of kids. For a few days rude and crude attitude dude drove the streets of east Dayton selling his wares for what he thought was a great return. However, after his consumers recoiled at being cussed out and at, and their parents later layed for his return in hopes of administering  an East Fourth at Van Lear Street beatdown, his employers grabbed his truck keys, told him not to let the door hit him where the good Lord split him, and went about an ad-hoc fence mending tour.  There was, the employers knew, no shortage of multi-colored, music playing, frozen sugar dispensing trucks navigating the 937 area code, and a loose cannon could destroy a customer base.
        Similar is the situation at the Dayton Daily News, and countless other city newspapers.  Trapped in a box of political correctness and groupthink, the DDN editorial board effectively angers a high percentage of the demographic they need to stay afloat. If the editorializing were balanced and stayed on the op-ed page, very few would care. But the bias has bled through the coverage of news stories and other writing. The Old Bandito remembers, when Columbus was being considered for the National Rifle Association convention, the DDN comparing NRA members to “pimps and hos” on the entertainment page. Or a reviewer libeling the crowd at a Hara Arena rock concert because some waved Confederate flags. Or an editor calling the management of the Dayton Mall racists because they were considering a weekend, evening age limit. The Old Bandito has just scratched the surface of these offenses, he is confident your readers have their faves.
       And here David is the 1,000 pound gorilla that you are too great a gentleman to address. How objective can one be when they are hitched to the Grand Poo-Bah and Potentate of a local political party?
        Sometimes Christians were thrown into the lions den, and other times they jumped the turnstile and volunteered for martyrdom. But regardless of how they got there, the results were pretty much preordained. So why the surprise, Dear David, that you were dissed on and pissed on????????
  8. Molly Darcy October 13, 2009 / 5:40 pm
    “And although the newspaper still claims a wall between its journalistic side and the business side, Cox Ohio, owner of Channel 7, WHIO Radio, K-99 and the Dayton Daily News, will profit from ads run with the dirty money that Nan Whaley has accepted, where quotes from the editorial are almost sure to appear.”

    That’s quite a slanderous claim there, even for you David.  What “dirty money” has Nan accepted?  It’s one thing to blabber on about some contribution she received that you’re pissed about, it’s another to claim it’s dity money.  You better show the proof when you make a statement like that.

    This is a new low even for you.

  9. David Esrati October 13, 2009 / 5:52 pm

    @Molly- and donation of $5.5 k from a demolition contractor in a city facing millions in demolition dollars- is tainted.

    Note, even on the high side- donations are usually no more than $1000.

  10. Molly Darcy October 13, 2009 / 9:22 pm
    No it’s not “tainted” and it’s definately not “dirty money.”  $50 is a high donation to you David, so until you join the ranks of someone who actually works to win an election keep your crying to yourself.  Serious candidates raise money, period.  By your definition Obama is the dirtiest crook on the planet. Give me a break.
  11. Hall October 13, 2009 / 11:03 pm
    @Molly: What “benefit” does this person get from donating to Whaley’s (and McLin’s) re-election campaign ? Or are they just personal friends ?
  12. Molly is Bent October 13, 2009 / 11:27 pm
    Without a doubt: Don’t Live Anywhere Near Dayton + Demolition Contractor + Dayton Has Demo Contracts to Sell + Clearly Disproportionate Donations = Dirty Money
    Only a fool disagrees.  Ha Ha… Ha Ha Ha… Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Cough… Gag… Cough… Ha Ha… Cough Spit…
  13. Jeff October 14, 2009 / 5:02 am
    I think the contribution is a mix of influence buying and a “vote of support” for Nan’s advocacyof a stepped-up demolition program.  In other words this is at the level of policy.  I don’t think it descends to the level of Nan actually influencing bids to go to this specfic contractor.
  14. David Esrati October 14, 2009 / 7:38 am

    @Jeff

    The only influence that should be at play is that of the voters. Voters in Dayton don’t have $1000 to give to political races thanks to the devaluation of our property from badly executed policy and leadership from City Hall.

    Joey Williams says he’s never received a $1000 donation. The same can’t be said for his “teammates” Nan Whaley and Rhine McLin. Pre-election finance reports are due on the 22nd. Everyone will report. I’ll post complete filings on my site.

    We’ll see where the money is coming from.

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