Friday, April 8, 2011

Difficult to balance liberal, conservative views

Reader Robert Hughes Sr. wrote in the other day saying he kept a tally of the columnists on our Opinion Page from Dec. 31 through Feb. 27 and during that time we featured 46 liberal columnists and only 27 conservative ones.
He freely admits the classification was “based on my opinion of liberal and conservative points of view.” He knows that others doing the same study might arrive at different numbers; in fact, he encourages them to do exactly that.
I’d like to thank Mr. Hughes for his efforts; I like the fact that people care what appears in their newspaper.
I’ve spoken to Mr. Hughes several times. He’s not the only one who thinks the “mainstream media” are filled with liberals who want to foist their views on America.
For what it’s worth, I take comments from readers to heart. I want our Opinion Page to reflect the wide range of thought that exist among our readers.
I do my best to balance things given what’s available and pertinent on any given day. I love it when I can run two diametrically-opposed points of view on a particularly partisan issue. But this isn’t always possible. There might be room just for one column on a subject. Sometimes, in cases like these, I’ll run a cartoon that takes another point of view. Since Mr. Hughes only tallied columns, these would not appear in his analysis.
I don’t have the ability or the inclination to answer for other news outlets, but I believe this paper’s most pronounced prejudice is in favor of diversity of opinion. And I believe the stable of columnists that appear on our page represent a wide range of viewpoints.
I don’t find it quite so easy to brand most of them as liberal or conservatives, but here are my own opinions of each of our regular columnists:
Liberals
• Donald Kaul - This retired Des Moines Register columnist has been a leading liberal voice on the national scene for years.
• Will Durst - San Francisco-based comic calls himself “Raging Moderate,” but his jokes are usually at the expense of conservatives.
• Donna Brazile - She was Al Gore’s campaign manager. ‘Nuff said.
• Gene Lyons - This Arkansas Democrat columnist is co-author of the book “The Hunting of the President: The 10-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton.”
Conservatives
• Katherine Lopez - She’s editor of the strongly-conservative National Review online.
• Byron York - Former National Review columnist, he’s a conservative voice for the Washington Examiner.
• Michael Reagan - The late president’s adopted son, he’s a popular radio talk-show host.
• Tom Purcell - Columnist for the conservative Pittsburgh Review, Purcell’s humor almost always has a conservative slant.
Not so easy to label
• Nat Hentoff - While he stands up for individual rights, much as many liberals and conservatives say they do, he agrees with conservatives on abortion and Fidel Castro.
• Morton Kondracke - The Roll Call editor sometimes agrees with the Republicans, sometimes with the Democrats and sometimes finds a position in-between.
• Peter Funt - Son of “Candid Camera” creator Alan Funt, he sometimes takes liberal stances, but more often than not writes about things that have no conservative or liberal platforms.
• Jim Hightower - Populist who opposes what he sees as the increasing power of corporations over indiduals in America. He writes short, to-the-point columns, so he can appear virtually every week.
• Andy Rooney - He says he’s a liberal, but rarely writes about politics.
• Martha Randolph Carr - Writes mostly about personal struggles.
• Tina Dupuy - L.A.-based stand-up comic frequently goes after conservatives, but will also give a tongue-lashing to liberals.
• Steve and Cokie Roberts - They certainly aren’t conservatives, but a lot of their writing is informational and not so partisan.
• William A. Collins - Likes to write about government waste.
• Jim Mullen - No politics, just humor.
• Michael Gormley - The Albany Capitol editor also writes news stories in addition to frequent analysis pieces. I haven’t noticed any biases either left or right.
Anyone who regularly reads our Opinion Page will recognize these names, but also know that some appear more often than others.
We will always try choose the opinions of local people on local issues over any of the national columnists speaking on national issues.
From a nuts-and-bolts point of view, Reagan, Purcell, Carr, Durst and Rooney write shorter than Hentoff, Kondracke and Brazile. Since whole sections of short columns don’t have to be eliminated to fit onto the page, shorter is better.
As always, I love to hear from people who disagree with decisions we make in presenting the news. It’s good to know people care what’s in their news report.
As they say, the opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite of love is indifference.
I welcome your response.

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