Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A question for the Billings Gazette

Why wasn't this on the opinion page?

It advocates for a specific policy.

It is indistinguishable from the kind of information/opinion piece that is routinely published in the Op-Ed section.

It ends with a specific call to action.

So it belongs on the opinion page, doesn't it?

This is perhaps a picky point, since Dennison isn't subtle about his advocacy for a single-payer health-care system, which he straightforwardly says is the answers to all of our health-care problems. This isn't a sneaky piece of advocacy journalism in in which the message is contained in the form of a hard news story, where subtle subtexts, selective quotations, and unflattering pictures of the "bad guys" achieve the intended effect of persuading the reader.

So intelligent readers should be able to figure it out that Dennison is just spouting opinion -- opinion backed up by reasoned arguments, to be sure, but opinion, nonetheless. Reasoned arguments and facts are found in abundance in columns by George Will and Maureen Dowd, too. But they are still clearly labeled as opinion pieces.

Maybe we should actually be grateful that Gazette readers have a chance to see that yes, Virginia, some reporters do have agendas -- agendas that can at other times be pushed in less detectable ways. It will be hard to read any Dennison story -- certainly anything related to health-care -- in the same way again.

But still, these pieces by Dennison belonged on the Op-Ed page. They are a far cry from the kind of restraint that Chuck Johnson demonstrates in his "Horse Sense" columns, in which we get the benefit of Johnson's perspective and personality, but don't have his advocacy for a particular policy crammed down our throats.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more. I will never be able to read another Dennison piece in the same way. Sometimes I can try to pretend that maybe the media isn't biased, but that's just not working for me anymore.

Don't you also like the fact that many very liberal bloggers in Montana praised Baucus for his plan, but a reporter is saying the plan doesn't go far enough? Give me a break.

I need to cancel my newspaper subscription.