By: Brian Sikma
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is featured prominently as a prop and piece of supporting evidence in the latest Barrett for Governor television commercial. The advertisement, released Thursday, has Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett talking directly to the camera about the state of Wisconsin’s economy and job creation. Halfway into the ad Barrett waves a copy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with the headline, “State Job Losses Worst in U.S.”
The paper has come under increasing criticism from watchdog groups and conservative opinion leaders for its failure to provide balanced coverage of public policy and political issues.
Democrats and far Left groups have repeatedly said that Wisconsin has led the way in job losses. What their talking point fails to note is that under Governor Walker’s leadership, the rate of job losses first slowed, and then tapered off with Wisconsin’s unemployment rate declining over the past 18 months. Data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says that over the past year Wisconsin created 18,498 jobs.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s headline, intentionally or not, came straight from the Democrat Party of Wisconsin’s talking points. What the article failed to mention, and what the paper buried days later and without a page A1 headline, was that last month the majority of jobs lost in Wisconsin came from the Milwaukee metro region. As mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett’s policies, or lack thereof, directly contribute to the overall jobs environment of the Milwaukee metro region.
Impartial newspapers pride themselves on holding all sides accountable. The Journal Sentinel‘s coverage of the Wisconsin jobs situation has been anything but impartial. Time and time again the newspaper has published headlines and stories with a negative narrative for Governor Walker that reflects the message strategy of the Democrat Party. This could written-off as a simple quirk were it not for the fact that repeatedly the paper has compromised itself by failing to offer rigorous coverage of stories that could reflect negatively on Mayor Tom Barrett.
From Milwaukee jobs numbers to the credit downgrade of the city’s debt to the crime rate and ongoing failure of various economic development plans from City Hall, the Journal Sentinel has gone to bat for Tom Barrett to a degree that would embarrass most news professionals. While chasing after Pulitzer’s the newspaper has become a shallow outlet emphasizing tabloid journalism at the expense of old-fashioned critical reporting.
A reign of censorship under the leadership of editors like George Stanley, who on the one hand refuses to run stories picked up by other outlets while also using the paper’s columnists as pawns in a political war against those same competing news mediums, threatens the future of the paper. The paper’s decision to deep six a MacIver Institute expert’s column after asking the think-tank to participate in an editoral page debate is a very recent example of this brave new era of news and opinion censorship.
It is to be expected that politicians will seize upon headlines to prove their point; it is not seemly for a single paper to provide one politician with ample coverage of his opponent while censoring from public view his own flaws and shortcomings.