Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why call it journalism anymore?

The Daily Herald today promised to publish a series answering the important questions about Referendum 1, then made it clear that the series will be pro-voucher. I'm disappointed not because the Herald's editors have come out as pro-voucher but because they're playing both sides of the fence: pretending to be neutral and objective journalists serving an important role as investigators and public servants, but telegraphing their pre-determined conclusions in every-other paragraph.

Here are some examples of this ping-pong, here (

Neutral and objective: "Referendum 1 can win, but its backers will have to explain its advantages in clear terms."

Predetermined conclusions: "They have the philosophical high ground, with better arguments across the board than the public school lobby. But the opposition, heavily funded by organized labor, has been at work muddying the water with dubious claims and unsupported scare tactics. A strong turnout by special interests could be enough to kill vouchers."

Neutral and objective: "Would vouchers really drain the best students out of public schools, leaving only the most difficult cases, as opponents charge? Or would vouchers help students achieve their greatest potential? Do parents have a right to decide what is best for their children?"

Predetermined conclusions: "We believe that if voters will take a small amount of time to look at the issues, they will agree that vouchers are a terrific idea that will help individual students and the public school system alike. Rather than draining resources from the public system, vouchers will draw students out of overcrowded classrooms while leaving money behind to make things better. Vouchers will spark genuine free-market competition that will inspire public schools to improve. Perhaps most important, vouchers offer Utahns a no-lose proposition. If private schools perform as expected, the state will benefit. If the schools fail, they won't last, and any problems will disappear with them."

Neutral and objective: "From today until the vote on Nov. 6, the Daily Herald will focus on answering such questions. We hope you'll explore this issue with us..."

Predetermined conclusions: "...and that you'll be encouraged to go out and teach your friends and neighbors why they, too, should vote 'Yes' on Referendum 1."