Chicago Tribune public editor Timothy McNulty took to the op-ed page this morning to defend the paper's decision in recent weeks to run two controversial pieces of journalism. First came Kathleen Parker's syndicated column, headlined "The Bubba Vote," in which she ...
Chicago Tribune public editor Timothy McNulty took to the op-ed page this morning to defend the paper's decision in recent weeks to run two controversial pieces of journalism. First came Kathleen Parker's syndicated column, headlined "The Bubba Vote," in which she attempted to divine America's "patriot divide" using the white supremacist playbook:
It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.
Some run deeper than others and therein lies the truth of [West Virginian Josh] Fry's political sense. In a country that is rapidly changing demographically -- and where new neighbors may have arrived last year, not last century -- there is a very real sense that once-upon-a-time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity.
Salon's Glenn Greenwald described it as "one of the most repellent columns one will ever read." Steve Benen likened Parker's views to those of the nativist Know Nothing movement in the 1860s. Blogger Hilzoy asserted that those publications who ran the piece "should be ashamed of themselves."
McNulty responds to such objections by claiming: "I would rather see it on the op-ed page so that people can hold it to the light and repudiate the notion rather than deal with it as a whispering campaign." But this notion of Obama's lack of full-blooded Americaness ceased being a whispering campaign months ago! Sure, it started as one pushed virally by conservatives who found the critique more nimble and socially acceptable than explicit racism, but it's a meme that's filtered into our national discourse and has dogged Obama throughout the entire campaign. By printing trash like that in its op-ed pages, the Tribune isn't vetting this point of view -- it's legitimizing it. Parker's toxic analysis has no place in a major, respected publication.
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Those statements reflect racist views, but does that mean the news media shouldn't report them?
Of course not; it is far better to honestly relate what people are saying and thinking—even if the sentiments expressed are racist—than to hide or pretend those attitudes don't exist.
McNulty is right in saying that such views should be documented. But context always helps as well, something the story failed to provide.