While reading editorials from other newspapers over the weekend I?happened across a column by a colleague ranting about dealing with callers who believe his newspaper’s political coverage was slanted.

In a piece on the editorial page of the the Statesman Journal in Salem, Executive Editor Bill Church describes a visit by this year’s gubernatorial candidates and the calls he received about the newspaper’s coverage of the race.

The newspaper reported the visits by John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley in similar fashions, but after the stories were published, Church received the all too familiar phone calls.

One caller was convinced that the Statesman Journal must favor Kitzhaber because it had another story about him.

Church explained that the Statesman, like the Hermiston Herald, typically covers the major gubernatorial candidates when they come to town. Kitzhaber just happens to have made more appearances in the state capitol.

The campaign season can be exhilarating and annoying for editors. Politics make for good copy and give readers something to talk about. But Church badly wants to Mecurachrome the lips of rabid politicos who think the only way a newspaper can be fair and balanced is to lean their way.

What’s worrisome is when candidates and their handlers can’t distinguish between news and politicking.

Church gives another example:

“Senate President Peter Courtney had hip surgery last year and celebrated his recovery by again tackling the OfficeMax Hood To Coast Relay. Peter and the Wolves finished a respectable 556th, coming within two minutes of catching such asphalt Adonises as S’not Rocket Science, 11 Lords and I Pig, Old Guys Running and Super Cheeseheads.

The story proved popular because it’s human interest, and people normally don’t run a mini-marathon on a new hip.

But Courtney happens to be running for re-election, and the story prompted ‘unfair, unfair’ squeals from the Michael W. Forest camp, who likened running Hood To Coast to a weekend jog.”

And it gets better.

One candidate in a local race near Salem has refused to have his photo taken for an upcoming story unless the newspaper meets his demands regarding endorsements.

Another has made a point of critiquing paper, believing that the toning and placement of photos is directly related to how the publication feels about the candidates.

The most egregious example of the out-of-touch candidate has to be Jeff Greene, the Florida billionaire who has sued the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald, blaming their coverage for the butt-kicking he took at the polls.

While I?cannot say that I?have faced similar situations while here in Hermiston, I?have in the past experienced such things at previous jobs and heard all types of stories from editors far and wide.

While I?don’t mean to say all newspapers editorial are fair and balanced, I?would hope that readers can see the difference. In this era of super communication with emails, websites, tweets and a plethora of cable television heads talking about their view of the news, it is more important than ever to be a conscientious consumer of media.

As readers, listeners and viewers, we have to know what we are taking it. Stay away from too much junk food like the Daily Show and Fox News. Try collecting information on your own rather than being spoon fed whatever the expert du jour is putting out.

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