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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

How to Manufacture 'Balance'


Wisconsin Daily Asks Readers to Send Pro-Bush Letters

NEW YORK According to polls, President Bush's popularity has been dwindling since the Iraq war heated up again last month, but has it really come to this? A Wisconsin daily newspaper, in a novel twist, has resorted to asking readers to send in pro-Bush letters to the editor to balance out the many critical of the President.

In a notice to its readers, The Post-Crescent of Appleton, Wis. (weekday circulation 54,193), observed that with the presidential race heating up, the editors have found themselves in a "quandary." They feel their Views page takes "the political and social temperature of the Valley." But now the question is: "How can we balance the perspectives and topics of our letters when many of our submissions have been coming only from one side?"

"We've been getting more letters critical of President Bush than those that support him. We're not sure why, nor do we want to guess. But in today's increasingly polarized political environment, we would prefer our offering to put forward a better sense of balance ...

"Since we depend upon you, our readers, to supply our letters, that goal can be difficult. We can't run letters that we don't have.

"If you would like to help us 'balance' things out, send us a letter, make a call or punch out an e-mail ... We'd love to hear from you."

In a letter responding to that editorial published Tuesday, Ellen Kunz of Neenah wrote: "Could it be that you are ignoring the current temperature of the Valley? If you are getting more letters critical of Mr. Bush, it is likely because the Valley is more critical of him. And for good reason ...

"If you are receiving so many letters, indicating an imbalance of opinions, it is because your readers feel they need to do your job for you. They are telling you that there isn't enough public scrutiny of this administration's policies and actions."

Also on Tuesday, Della Besaw of Appleton asked: "Whose bright idea was it to solicit reader support for Bush? Was it a P-C executive decision, or Gannett headquarters?"
Okay. That's about enough brazen and ridiculous bullshit posturing as a "newspaper."

On the one hand, here here for the good people of Appleton. On the other, yet another ounce of outrage. I have my own suspicions about Gannet news outlets; I wonder how many, if any, other Gannett papers were soliciting the same sort of "balance." More later.

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