National media outlets have often been accused of promoting the agenda of one political faction over another, or even working with certain politicians to defeat their critics. Some politicians have even been accused of bribing journalists and masquerading press releases as news stories.
Though biased cable television and talk radio hosts have surely tested the limits of objectivity, none have gone as far as to offer their favorite politician his or her own show. No sensible politician, for that matter, would ever ask for such treatment”they know that they must at least disguise their propaganda as legitimate news if they wish to be taken even somewhat seriously.
Forest Park officials, it seems, do not have such reservations about circumventing the free press, and neither does their enabler, the Forest Park Post. By allowing village officials to write their own columns and use them to rant about, of all things, journalistic integrity, the Post and the village are insulting the intelligence of their readers and residents.
We don’t have a problem with the Post serving as a feature newspaper. There are certainly many feel-good stories to tell in Forest Park, and we can’t catch them all. We also would welcome the competition of another legitimate newspaper if The Post decided to go that route.
But if The Post wants to expand its subject matter to include real issues, there are certain things it cannot do if it seeks to be considered anything but campaign literature.
It cannot paraphrase one commissioner’s view on a news issue without attempting to contact that person and then allow another to use the remainder of the article to refute that view. It also cannot allow the people who should be the subjects of the news to write the news.
The village might see the media as a “partner” in getting out the news, and though this is true to an extent, readers also expect the media to serve as a watchdog and to tell all sides of the story. By neglecting this duty, The Post absolutely forfeits any credibility as a news source, and those who use it as a platform while in the same breath claiming to be apolitical lose some credibility as well.
Village officials have called to voice their displeasure with our editorial stances many times, and we have always offered them the opportunity to have a letter to the editor printed expressing their views. They have almost always declined, as apparently they prefer to make their points in a venue that they can control.
They criticize us for adhering to the tired news cliche “if it bleeds, it leads.” Sure, attention-grabbing stories are likely to be placed close to the front of our newspaper or any other, though positive news can be just as exciting as controversies. The best strategy for the village would be to abide by a similar motto: “If it bleeds, don’t do it.”
Maybe these village officials masquerading as columnists will persuade a couple people to see things their way if they continue to manipulate the free marketplace of ideas. But if Forest Parkers are as intelligent as we think they are, many more will be turned off by the fact that those in power are willing to resort to such tactics.