Editorials should be welcome on local stations

Corrections
<b>CORRECTION (9/11/10):</b> In Thursday’s Mediaology column, the name of the editorial board chairman of Sunbelt Communications Co. was misspelled. His name is Perry Rogers.

Dime a dozen? Try a penny a million.

Always cheap, opinions once were the former, now are the latter in online America, where every brain belch pinballs around the Internet on blogs, comment pages and chat boards.

We need more unsolicited yammering (including from media critics) like a moon crater-size hole in the head, right?

"Ever acted out of anger? Then when you calmed down, you couldn't believe the mistake you just made? After watching the debacle (of) the Sharron Angle campaign, Nevadans who voted for her must identify with the regrets that come when we react without considering all the consequences of our actions."

Credit that quote to Percy Rogers, editorial board chairman of Sunbelt Communications Co., in a recent editorial on KSNV-TV, Channel 3. Flash a thumbs up, too, not because of any stance on senatorial candidate Angle -- that's your business, voter/viewer -- but because News-3 still values what many stations devalued to near-extinction: management editorializing.

Reporting in July on New York's WNYW-TV and WPIX-TV adding commentaries, New York Daily News TV writer Richard Huff wrote that "editorials are as old-school as TV gets, yet there's a movement to resurrect the format." Last year, in an article in Broadcasting and Cable magazine, Jack Sander, a senior adviser with the media company Belo Corp., owner of 20 stations, endorsed the notion, noting: "I don't think we can leave that just to newspapers and bloggers."

Significantly invested in political discussion beyond straight news coverage -- primarily "Face to Face," "Nevada Newsmakers" and owner Jim Rogers' chats with local public figures -- News-3 is gutsy airing editorials, occasional though they may be. (Also credit the balding, middle-age Percy for goosing his spots with self-mockery, quipping: "Sharron Angle as our next senator is a little like having me try to replace Brad Pitt.")

How much does News-3 risk by civically spouting off? Quite a lot. Station editorials are a throwback to less polarized times and a less inflamed electorate, when viewers were more apt to distinguish between neutral coverage and editorials, trusting the latter didn't skew the former. Long a staple of newspapers, editorials haven't endured as well on local TV, their credibility shredded by ideologically loaded cable news, turning viewers skeptical about whether any public affairs coverage anywhere on the tube comes without a political agenda.

Straining to maintain a reputation for objectivity, what reasons justify stations tempting viewer ire with opinion?

Knowledge and balance. Stations' business is immersing themselves in the public life of the community, lending their viewpoints authority -- even more vital today when reasoned, informed opinion must counteract so much screechy, uninformed blather flooding the Internet and yanking down the level of public debate.

Food drives and foster-kid campaigns are fine as public involvement, but stations' accumulated knowledge shouldn't be squandered, as long as editorials are clearly separate from newscasts and fact-based, as was News-3's, which backed its anti-Angle argument with examples of her public positions.

Penny -- perhaps even worth a dime, a quarter, all the way up to half a buck -- for their thoughts?

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.