Magazine article The Masthead

A Time-Honored Tradition Erodes

Magazine article The Masthead

A Time-Honored Tradition Erodes

Article excerpt

Let's face it--politicians are much less concerned than they used to be about newspaper support.

A newspaper's endorsement can perhaps influence an election, but its impact has been diluted by other media--by talk show hosts and late-night TV emcees and bloggers.

The Bush administration's indifference and just-below-the-surface hostility to the mainstream press--and its ingenious manipulation--is proving that newspaper support may often be irrelevant.

Too bad--not only for those in the newspaper business, but for the public, because, if nothing else, newspaper opinion represented (or should have) a reasoned conclusion reached after questioning and pondering input often unavailable to everyone.

This also may be eroding a time-honored journalistic institution--editorial board meetings with people in the public eye. It's not only informative for the press and for the readers, it's fun--for the editors and, often, even for their guests.

I recall being dazzled by obscure presidential candidate Bill Clinton's astonishing grasp of governmental minutiae--and his garrulousness. Eyes glazing, we tried to shut him up so we could go back to work. As he was finally being ushered out of the newsroom, he noticed a photo of Elvis Presley on the wall. This set him off again, on a monologue about his idol.

Future U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, then governor of Pennsylvania, stalked out of one session, saying, "I've had enough of this sh--. You guys have called me a liar," then allowed himself to be talked into returning.

Next day, at some event in Independence Hall, I tried to avoid him, presuming he'd be hostile. But he made a bee-line for me, and gushed: "Wasn't that fun?"

My favorite editorial board guest was Philadelphia's two-term mayor and former police commissioner, the late Frank L. Rizzo. He had a national reputation for being boorish and heavy-handed, which was not undeserved, but his opponents and critics (including us in the press) consistently underestimated how smart he was. …

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