Walking the line

“Everyone knows The Evening Sun is a Republican newspaper.”

“Don’t trust the liberal media.”

Two reader comments, as far apart on the right-left scale as you can get, both made in the same week. Week after week. When it comes to politics, a newspaper just can’t win.

Not that we’re trying to, of course. The Holy Grail of journalism is objectivity, that steady, middle-of-the-road absolute that is, in the end, utterly unattainable. The mere fact that every morning I pick and choose which stories to put in the newspaper and where based on what’s given to me by The Associated Press, my own reporters and the space available, already puts a chink in our objectivity armor. What you see in this newspaper today is not all the news there is, nor even all the news that’s fit to print ... rather, it’s likely all the news that fit.

More than in any other, the arena of politics – world, national, state and local – is one in which we strive for objectivity as much as humanly possible. But again, the reports we receive from the AP and those of our own staff are colored to a degree by the eyes of the reporter who wrote the story, choosing the topic, the presentation, the photo, the quotes and all the words in between.

The news you read in a newspaper, hear on the radio or see on television is by its very nature subjective – filtered through the minds of those who present it to you. Pure objectivity, as I stated before, is a noble, yet unattainable goal. Insert “Fair and Balanced” joke here, “30 Seconds” crowd.

What can we strive for, and achieve, is to be fair. To give equal play, to tell both sides of the story. This applies not only to the political arena, but every other story as well. Try as we might to publish as many pro-drilling stories as we do anti-drilling, we still end up being accused by one side or the other of being on the opposite side of the fence. As I tell my trusty reporters, as long as we’re hated equally, we’re doing a good job.

I’m sure that there are politically-minded readers out there who have assumed they know which way my personal politics lean, or the affiliations of our corporate higher-ups and staff. All I can say is this: Don’t assume anything. Speaking for myself, when I first came to the paper I changed my voter registration to specify no particular party designation. “Neither an Elephant nor a Donkey be,” a Polonious-paraphrasing editorial sage once told me. Which has worked out just fine, except when it comes primary time and I can’t vote (that judge’s primary last fall killed me). The price we pay for our dear old friend objectivity, I suppose.

As for the staff, over the years I’ve seen everything from right wing to left wing to no wings at all. Some have chosen to divulge their personal politics in editorial columns and blogs, others have not. None, I can assure you, have done it on the front page. Democrats, Repbulicans, Independents, Apathetics – it’s that eclectic mix of politics and personality which makes for a tasty newspaper stew, in my humble opinion.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunjeff.

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