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January 25, 2002 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-25

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4 -The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 25, 2002




daily. letters@umich.edu

SINCE 1890

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the Daily's
editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

Its early, yes,
but it may already
be time to award
the Leaden-Footed
Lobbyist award for
the year.
- Washington Post columnist Mary
McGrotyin this week's column, on former
US. Chief ofStaffJohn Sununu's attempts to
convince the state of Nevada to store
other states' nuclear waste.

AT LASrJ1i T f, IALtiNl Ivy. ovtD
r/"(=) /
Y ax
a V"

The perils of corporate press

Occasionally, The New York Times Editor-
ial Board - which authors the unsigned, offi-
cial positions of the newspaper - editorializes
on the Yankees, as it did in a piece called "The
Likable Yankees" last October. But The New
York Times Company, which owns the Boston
Globe (and as of last week, a stake in the Red
Sox), would never direct the Globe to run the
same editorial; Red Sox fans
in the Globe's readership COLUM
would be scandalized. N Ew YORK
Or worse, imagine if
Knight-Ridder forced its 32 daily newspapers
to run an unsigned staff editorial calling for
normalized relations with Cuba to stimulate the
economy. The proposition, however well-inten-
tioned, would alienate Cuban expatriates in The
Miami Herald's readership - no small con-
stituency - because their positions are
informed by experiences that writers in Knight-
Ridder's San Jose office lack. As far as they're
concerned, Cuba's socio-political ills outweigh
its possible contribution to the GNP.
The point, of course, is that newspapers -
and especially editorial pages - should serve
their readership rather than a centralized, corpo-
rate entity. Not since the fledgling days of the
gritty industry have major dailies been mouth-
pieces for their owners; journalism of today
purports an underlying philosophy of even-
handedness and truth.
Not so in Canada. The Southam newspaper
chain, owned by the powerful Asper family's
CanWest Global Communications Corp., has
decided that its 14 major metropolitan dailies
will run national editorials authored in the Win-
nipeg corporate headquarters - as many as
three each week. Moreover, Southam's editor-
in-chief Murdoch Davis wrote that the newspa-
pers "should not contradict the core position of
the national pieces in editorials of their own,"
even if the national positions disregard the
nuanced politics of the local readership. But
each region of Canada has its own issues, opin-

ions and voting blocs; that's why, as in the
United States, it is divided into provinces rather
than united as a single state.
The decision has caused no dearth of agita-
tion. Reporters at the Montreal Gazette - an
important voice of Anglophone dissent in a
majority Francophone province - withdrew
their bylines to protest their diminished autono-
my. They wrote in an open letter, "CanWest
will be imposing editorial policy on its papers
on all issues of national sig-
B1A U. nificance. We believe this
centralizing process will
weaken the credibility of
every Southam paper." And what value is there
in journalism if it lacks credibility?
An editorial in a Southam competitor, the
Toronto Globe and Mail, asked, "What does
that tell each newspaper's readers about how
much stock Southam and CanWest, put in the
people who produce the paper they have been
buying?" The Quebec National Assembly
unanimously passed a resolution condemning
the editorial policy.
Then began Southam's backlash. A
Gazette sports columnist was briefly suspend-
ed without pay for sending a critical compa-
ny-wide e-mail. An internal memo threatened
"suspension or termination, against those who
persist in disregarding the obligations to the
employer." A columnist's article was bowd-
lerized and two more in Halifax quit when
their pieces, critical of the Aspers, were
A letter writer observed the "total blackout
within the pages of the (Gazette) itself of any
reporting on this story ... Suddenly, the lowly
letters section ... has been elevated to the status
of the sole site in which actual freedom of
speech still exists within our paper." Southam
had muzzled its dissidents.
In a defense dubiously titled "Southam Edi-
torials a Sign of Freedom," David Asper wrote,
"Sometimes (the) local view is not always what
is arguably best for the nation as a whole." The
first national editorial announced that tax relief

for private charities would be "best for the
nation as a whole" without also noting that the
Aspers control one such charity.
That editorials should be delivered from on
high is a perversion of legitimate journalism.
Fortunately, it's also "an unwise business deci-
sion, likely to backfire," wrote Fred Fiske, the
outgoing president of the National Conference
of Editorial Writers, in an open letter to David
Asper. Readers expect their editorials to inter-
pret issues in accordance with their local and
regional concerns.
Could such irresponsible journalism happen
here? Some American media conglomerates
provide unsigned editorials to be used at the
editors' discretion, but none demand that they
be run. The NCEW's current president, Phil
Haslanger, told me that "American conglomer-
ates will continue to respect local discretion,"
because successful newspapers are driven by
profits, not ideologies. He said that readers will
turn to newspapers that better represent them if
they feel Southam dailies deliver opinions from
a corporate-length remove. After all, why read
the local newspaper's editorials if they take the
same position as every other newspaper in the
Of course, readers in Southam's single-
paper markets will not have an alternative daily
from which to seek divergent opinions, and the
policy is most devastating for them. John Tay-
lor, the NCEW's vice president, told me, "If
you own the market, you can do what you want
and it's not going to affect you tremendously."
But if they "dismiss the corporate editorials
as of no consequence, they begin to undermine
their value - and the value of those newspa-
pers," Haslanger reminded me. And irrele-
vance, ultimately, will be the policy's undoing.
An editorial voice whose agenda diverges from
its readers' is a voice no reader wants to hear.
Let it be silenced quickly.
Kushner writes for the Columbia Daily Spectator.
This viewpoint was distributed via U- WIRE.



bathrooms make life
I should have seen it coming. The
introduction of transgender bathrooms
must be the next logical step in the
advancement of the homosexual agenda.
We have gay marriages, gay adoption, so
why not have gay bathrooms?
Allow me to answer this. The article in
yesterday's Weekend, Etc. magazine
("Unisex bathroom creates alternative for
people in need," 1/24/02) tells that these
bathrooms came into existence (first in the
Union and soon to be in the University
Health Services building) so that those
who don't ascribe themselves to a typical
gender or sexual preference won't have to
feel uncomfortable in a regular bathroom.
Gay rights groups on this campus would
certainly like you to believe these bath-
rooms are normal, being that you are one
of the few heterosexuals still wandering
about the University's campus (picking up
the sarcasm?).
Big numbers proclaim about 10 percent
of the population of the United States to be
gay, while in reality that percentage is
slightly less than 3 percent. So what's hap-
pening with these bathrooms? The vast
majority of people are put in an uncom-
fortable situation so that a small group of
people who have made a choice to live a
certain lifestyle can feel comfortable with
themselves. For me, this just doesn't add
LSA freshman
Raiji's column too
hard on God,

appeal to universal human rights. But on
what basis do human beings have rights?
Every person has a different answer.
My answer is Jesus Christ, God him-
self, who dignified the human race with
his presence, and showed us how much
our lives are worth. If God exists, and if
God is good, then there is no realm of
human experience in which God is irrele-
vant. I agree that it is expedient to leave
God out of discussions of social impor-
tance. I'm just not certain whether it's
School of Education student
Religious should
'promote views,
shun mediocrity
Manish Raiji's column ("I don't care if
God tells you it's wrong," 1/23/02) seemed
to take a very unkind view of religious
Of course people do a lot of really
dumb things in the name of religion - and
they do dumb things on their own, too. But
if I profess to follow a religion, wouldn't I
be a rather mediocre follower if I didn't
think it was the true one? Most religions in
America are hardly pluralistic.
If I honestly believed that these were
God's commands, I should take them seri-
ously indeed, and I should promote my views
to the best of my ability. Otherwise I'd be
like the guy with the answer to the home-
work in a room full of frustrated students
who doesn't give out the answer (or at least
the correct method).
Now, it would be nice if people would
use a little wisdom and consideration for oth-
ers when they go about promoting their
points of view, but I don't think we should
fault them for doing it. If you don't want to
be convinced, just don't listen.
A TfrNA T QTrnwr

exploitation," 1/24/02).
He complains that a previous letter,
which expresses hope that Taliban/al-
Qaida prisoners "rot in hell," is a piece of
"xenophobic trash." While I agree the "rot
in hell" argument wasn't very sophisticat-
ed, Caron's letter doesn't display a much
more advanced arguement. It merely
rehashes a bunch of overused anti-Ameri-
can themes that fall apart under a little
First, Caron said that you could claim
"Americans kill without reason," just as
the Taliban/al-Qaida do. There are 3,000
good reasons lying dead in New York and
Washington. The Taliban/al-Qaeda kill
because they hate Americans and our
Western values of tolerance and plurality.
We kill in order to prevent future innocent
deaths and head off further terrorist atroci-
ties. It is sheer blindness to call these aims
morally equivalent.
Second, Caron claims that "this country
was built on blood and exploitation."
That's a very trendy statement to throw
around these days, but that doesn't mean
it's true.
The United States has a lot of warfare
and racism in its past, and nobody is proud
of that. But it also has a lot more hard
work, ingenuity and statesmanship. Coun-
tries that are truly founded on "blood and
exploitation" - like, say, the Soviet Union
or Third World dictatorships - don't end
up doing very well. Our success has been
despite, not because of, the ugly parts of
our history.
Third, Caron claims that Americans are
only motivated by money, and that they
will kill to make more money. Let's see,
we're spending about $2 billion a month to
fight terrorism, plus millions more to
guard the peace in Kosovo, Bosnia, etc.
Not to mention the millions in aid we
recently promised to Afghanistan, and
ongoing aid to dozens of other countries.
Oh yeah, our foreign policy is just raking
in the dough.
Finally, Caron writes, "we have no
right to damn n therc fn'r rdntihat Uwe


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