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Filthy liberal rag

While the customer is always right, the reader may not be.

The Sun has published a letter from a subscriber, William Engle, about “the same old bias” displayed in its coverage of the general election this week. Specifically, the article on the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives was “buried on page 13.” The paper does not give substantial “coverage for any Republican victory, national or local, in a Democratic leaning state.”

I was, as you might imagine, at the news desk on election night, and the front page that we worked on contained these elements:

* A two-line banner headline at the top of the front page: O’Malley wins 2nd term; / GOP set to take House.

* A secondary headline underneath those: Harris unseats Kratovil in 1st Congressional District rematch, about the only race in the state in which a Republican challenger defeated a Democratic incumbent representative.

* In the election highlights summary on the left side of the page, a photograph of John Boehner, the prospective speaker of the House, and the tally of races that had been declared by that point, showing the Republican lead.

All of this was above the fold.

The material interred on page 13 was, as it happens, a full page of coverage of the House and Senate races, including colored charts showing the relative strength of the two parties. There were also on the facing page, 12, a full column of information about Republican victories in governorships and a half-page article on tea party influence in the elections.

I offer this information so that you can determine for your own satisfaction whether The Sun, out of bias or ineptitude, concealed from its readers that last Tuesday was a good day for the Republican Party.


Posted by John McIntyre at 12:19 PM | | Comments (11)


Nonetheless the lead (despite the Janus head) was actually about the victory of the Democratic state governor. That's an editorial decision I'm far too far away to be able to judge the appropriateness of, but it doesn't seem to be the case that your reader's comments were exactly groundless.

By the way, your H&J programme seems to split Annapolis after the "p" - can that be right?

Also, you have a stray "was" in the 8th paragraph.

Plus, hey, did anybody ever tell you that you look a lot like Clark Kent?

Picky, what has happened to the shrinking American newspaper over the past decade is a shift in emphasis. National and foreign news is so readily available from so many sources, that newspapers have come to see local coverage as their franchise.

Thus, the gubernatorial race in Maryland, between the incumbent and the previous governor, whom the incumbent had unseated four years previously, was the major statewide race and the one that The Sun could cover for a Maryland audience more thoroughly than any other outlet. That explains its prominence on the front.

The House headline may have been subordinate, but it was still a banner head in big type at the top of the page. Hard to ignore, except by an act of will.

Ms. Lansbury, what an honor. The superfluous was has been excised. Thank you.

In the 1980s, the era of the Superman movies, as I walked along the street in Cincinnati in suit, tie, eyeglasses, and fedora, urchins would follow me, chanting "Clark Kent! Clark Kent!"

John: I understand exactly what you mean about the daily press concentrating on the local, because exactly the same has happened to the provincial daily press in the UK.

But can I suggest that what may be in your complainant's mind is that although local normally rules the roost there are times when the national/international story is so big it has to dominate. Whether this was one of those times is a question on which I'd defer to your opinion - and of course it may anyway have been a night when the exceptions to the "Republicans win" story were the news.

Just be pleased that there are still people who think the choices the press makes are important to them.

Yeah, but Picky: the complaint was wrong. There was plenty on the front page about the GOP taking the House. And the Harris victory was indeed given coverage.

Just because he wanted no Dem coverage at all doesn't mean there was none for the GOP.

After hearing about complaints about placement of stories for so many years, I believe that a) you can't ever please everyone and b) the complaints tell you more about the complainer than they do about your own work. When you get a lot of them is the time to listen, like the year we decided not to publish all the local suburban lists because, we thought, anybody who wanted to could get them online hours before they got the paper ...

It seems as if your typical American right winger is the same as your typically Dutch one: everything wrong in his or her country should be blamed on the Left, even if the Right has been in charge over the last years.

And even when the Right is in charge again they still keep bitching about how the Left ruined the country. There is no pleasing these people.

Actually, Laurent, it is not limited to one side or the other. Here in the States, there is no pleasing either side when disgruntled. I bet it's pretty much the same the world over (and having lived overseas, my own experience bears that out at least for the countries I am familiar with).


P.S. I ended my parenthetical comment with a preposition! Woo-hoo!

Thank you, Timothaeus. In fact, the chronic complaining is one of the privileges of living in a free country. Not much whinging from, say, North Korea.

@Tim: well, you may have a point there. It's just that this permanently disgruntled fraction of the population seems to have concentrated itself in a specific kind of political party here in Europe.

It's interesting, Laurent, that although we Europeans are used to thinking of US politics as being naturally to the right of ours, America seems on the whole immune to absolutely racist or fascist parties of the type that we have gnawing at us. Or perhaps they are just very conservative in both directions.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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