James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Monday, October 04, 2004

You CAN influence the press

You can influence the way newspapers cover some stories, and make them back away from careless and biased approaches. I’ve said that before, but here’s a bit of evidence:

Over a period of several months, into September, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis routinely referred to MoveOn.org, America Coming Together and other liberal-leaning 527 groups as "leftist organizations." The phrase was used in every article in which those organizations figured.

In August, I wrote letters to the newspaper’s "reader representative" – a feeble imitation of an ombudsman – and high-ranking editors, protesting the description and demanding they define the term and offer proof that it was accurate, or ban the use of the unfair and politically loaded phrase. I also sent e-mails to a couple of reporters.

Soon after, I heard about other people who had made similar protests. Two or three letters to the editor carrying the same message were printed on the paper’s editorial pages.

Today, Oct. 4, the newspaper had a story on the front page of its local news section about a Bruce Springsteen concert set for tomorrow, to be played as a fund raiser for MoveOn and America Coming Together. The story, fairly, tells of various fan reactions to Springsteen’s openly choosing sides in the current campaign.

The two liberal beneficiary groups are described as "progressive organizations," not "leftist."

If you see something you recognize as unfair and/or biased, write your newspaper. Write letters to the editor, but also address notes directly to the publisher, editor, managing editor, to the editor in charge of political coverage, and to the reporters.

The names of upper level editors are found in the newspaper’s masthead, a list of the publication’s top officers and editors which is printed every day (or week). Usually, their e-mail address are included. You also can simply call the publication, ask for the city desk and request the names so that you may write the people in question.

Do it, please. It makes a difference.