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News Bias

by on October 20, 2010

Sudoku publisher The Buffalo News often touts how much a purchaser of their rag can save by clipping coupons.  While it’s nice getting vouchers for Emerald Nuts and sundry frozen pizzas, Democratic candidates can additionally save by having de facto campaign ads placed for free.

The paper’s determination to run interference for liberal causes in the election’s run-up is as disappointing as it is unsurprising, although a weak double example in different sections of Sunday’s edition was egregious even by the paper’s own slanted standard.

First, “News” should be in quotes on the masthead if judged by the work of reporter Charity Vogel.  She likes libraries and thinks you should, too, as indicated by the first line of her first-page dispatch:

First the good news: your local branch library won’t close next year.

That’s the bottom line of an otherwise grim budget picture for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library for 2011, as outlined for The Buffalo News in detail by Library Director Bridget Quinn Carey.

The library faces a projected shortfall of $6.75 million next year. That includes a $4 million cut in the system’s county funding by County Executive Chris Collins.

She does include quotes from a Collins spokesman detailing the decision’s nature.  But there’s no response from anyone defending the cuts themselves.  Oops:

”We will be making no changes on that budget, including what we’ve proposed for the library,” said Grant Loomis, a Collins spokesman. “That’s final and it’s been delivered to the Legislature.”

But Collins planned the $4 million cut as a one-time event, and does not foresee cutting any more into the system’s budget, administration officials said.

“The county executive does not have any plans in the future to cut the library subsidy [again],” Loomis said. “Chris has a very good working relationship with Bridget Quinn Carey. The lines of communication are very good there.”

What isn’t very good there is that Vogel fails to recognize the viewpoint that libraries take from authors.  Passing around a communal copy means that they aren’t compensated for the number of people who enjoy their work, not to mention that every library purchase amounts to a government endorsement of whatever editions they buy.

The alternative, namely that people buy their own books, is never mentioned, much less that lower county spending will ultimately result in more money remaining in the private sector.

Also, she could have tracked down someone who advocated letting libraries support themselves by charging fees.  Such a system would mean users would get to pick what they wanted while those who don’t patronize them are freed from obligation.

Of course, one is entitled to disagree about government’s role in funding book barns.  What one is not entitled to do is write an article that leaves out one of the two sides, specifically the one holding that Erie County deciding to buy less stuff for people isn’t awful.

By contrast, viewpoint section pieces are supposed to be slanted.  But that doesn’t excuse obliviousness to how repeating the mistakes of the 1930s will fix our problems today.  You think we need another Works Progress Administration?   Join a very lonely club with Mark Sommer, who thinks the answer to obesity comes in the form of patronizing buffets:

Because of the WPA, War Memorial Stadium and Memorial Auditorium were built, the Buffalo River was widened and straightened, and an unused portion of the Erie Canal was filled in.

But these projects could have been completed without federal infusions.  In fact, the stadiums might have been cared for properly and not torn down if a private owner with profit motive had incentive to keep them standing.  But don’t tell that to a leftist actor who maintains that it’s just fine to use federal money to entertain prisoners in a Shakespearian manner:

“They were tough times,” recalled Buffalo playwright Manny Fried, 97, who said acting with the WPA’s Federal Theatre Project in New York City, for whom he appeared in “The Taming of the Shrew” at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining.

“Actors at that time had a soup kitchen at Actors Equity where you’d go to get a meal. The Works Progress Administration provided the food. It was the difference between eating and not eating,” Fried said.

It was either that or working outside of the theater.  Office or private construction work might have just been beneath some actors, although there would have been many more such jobs available had the feds not sucked so much capital out of the economy.  But he wasn’t the only one who expected a personal bailout:

The WPA employed 8.5 million people, many of them laborers, in 1.4 million projects nationwide.

And yet for all the shovel-pushing, federal meddling didn’t soften unemployment over time; sadly, only World War II did that.  Depression spending created only dependency and a growing behemoth in Washington.  Blame Smoot-Hawley, not laissez-faire.

It doesn’t need to be repeated what happens to those who don’t learn history.  But we’re lamentably seeing it happen, anyway, as a ruling party with long-term memory issues has spent a trillion dollars or so in a panicky, misguided effort that raised only debt and unemployment. On the other hand, we so desperately need paintings on buildings:

Public artwork, especially murals, remain visible throughout Western New York. It includes canvasses in post offices in Springville, Orchard Park, Akron and Attica, in Bennett and Riverside high schools, at Fort Niagara in Youngstown and in the Buffalo History Museum.

As with library books, people can pay for their own art or find sponsors for public projects.  At least the paper’s editorial policy is consistent.  Unfortunately, it’s consistently in favor of letting the government subsidize subjective work.  As for the opinion-churner in question, he also wants the same bloated, monopolistic entity deciding what gets built:

President Obama hasn’t called for a new WPA, and his $787 billion stimulus plan in early 2009 wasn’t meant to be one. But on Tuesday, Republican leaders immediately denounced his relatively modest $50 billion program for rail, highway and runway improvements, predicting its failure.

“Relatively modest” and “$50 billion” never belong next to each other.  Anyone who thinks the projects have been properly vetted and will come in under budget should call the Capitol, as they want you to lend them some money.

The present game may not be called the WPA, but it employs the same principle: let the same unaccountable monolith that initiated the present economic doldrums by encouraging subprime mortgages fix it with more intervention.  They’re trying to put out the fire with kerosene.  To be fair, Sommer cites a few nonpartisan voices in favor of his venture:

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Princeton Pulitzer Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, Yale economist Robert J. Shiller and filmmaker Michael Moore are among those who think a contemporary WPA program is needed to reduce high unemployment and stabilize consumer demand.

Oh, wait: those are all hyper-partisan left-wing disciples.  Proclaiming that people who see the world as he does agree with him doesn’t quite make for a convincing argument.  I bet Keith Olbermann and the ghost of John Maynard Keynes are on his side, too; maybe their names were cut for space limitations.

As usual, the city’s lone paper has made a specialty out of biased reporting paired with specious editorials.  The publication date is interesting, too: on this occasion, it’s obvious to notice they are publishing such shameless advocacy in the election’s run-up and ponder if there’s a connection.

But it’s not a conspiracy, as they print flimsily skewed copy that should never make it past an editor all the time.  We’ll sadly keep seeing stories in The News after November 2 about evil conservatives who want you spending your own money.  Maybe the paper’s staffers just don’t like that people are still free to avoid purchasing their product.  Are the coupons worth it?

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