Murphy’s Law: Ron Johnson Vs. Journal Sentinel

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Ron Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ron Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Last week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an op ed entitled “Sen. Ron Johnson says ‘Mainstream media person abused the spot vested successful them by the public.’”

It was the 2nd clip the paper has tally an op ed by the Republican U.S. Senator which was filled with attacks connected the Journal Sentinel. In January it published a Johnson column blasting the paper’s “unhinged and uninformed editorial,” accusing it of publishing “baseless charges” and a “partisan screed” with “baseless and incendiary allegations against me.”

The insubstantial ran the file successful an annotated fashion, with numbered links to footnotes astatine the bottommost taking contented with astir each assertion by Johnson. 

For past week’s op ed the paper went without immoderate footnotes, seemingly deciding that attack didn’t work. (Does immoderate scholar fuss with footnotes?) Which near the mode adjacent clearer for Johnson’s full-bore onslaught against the newspaper. “I find myself having to respond to yet different unwarranted deed portion by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and its Wisconsin affiliates,” Johnson wrote. “I constitute this effect with nary warrant they volition tally it but with afloat assurance that, if they do, they volition people an accompanying smear successful response.”

“The measurement of their misrepresentations and distortions is truthful extended that it is intolerable to adequately respond,” Johnson went on, repeatedly accusing the paper of “yellow journalism” and publishing a “defamatory deed piece,” and of being portion of “a wide mainstream media” who are are “allies of the Democratic Party.” 

I’m hard pressed to deliberation of a akin lawsuit wherever the paper repeatedly opened itself to specified attacks. You mightiness person to spell each the mode backmost to the 1970s and Milwaukee Mayor Henry Maier to find thing similar. 

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As a 1987 diagnostic communicative I wrote for Milwaukee Magazine reported, Maier was a relentless antagonist of the day Milwaukee Journal, past the astir ascendant quality work successful the state. He blasted it arsenic a “monopoly” (it besides owned the Milwaukee Sentinel) that ran unfair stories. The politician refused to speech to the paper’s reporters, froze them retired of quality conferences and opening with his 1968 reelection campaign, ran arsenic overmuch against the paper arsenic his opponent. The insubstantial erstwhile ran a tedious, three-day editorial effect to Maier’s complaints, implicit with pictures of aged quality stories Maier said it hadn’t covered. 

After 2 years of this war, the paper decided successful 1970 to springiness Maier a play op ed, to beryllium it was committed to editorial balance. Maier proceeded to onslaught the insubstantial its ain pages, blasting its quality stories and eviscerating its reporters by name. After 57 specified columns the insubstantial enactment an extremity to Maier’s reign of terror.

Maier would repeatedly kick that the media didn’t springiness him “his lines,” meaning it didn’t punctuation each of his cautiously composed comments connected an contented of the day. There was an echo of that successful Johnson’s ailment that JS newsman John Fauber’s story, charging the Senator has a “history of promoting views astatine likelihood with technological research,” didn’t see each of Johnson’s answers. Those answers, reproduced by the legislator connected his website, spell connected astatine large magnitude and if quoted successful their entirety, would effect successful a communicative nary 1 would read. 

What Johnson, Maier and others suffer show of is that the media’s occupation isn’t to service the politicians and others they cover, but to serve the readers. That inevitably tin enactment the media and politicians astatine odds. But erstwhile it gets to all-out war, which happened with Maier and is present happening with Johnson, readers thin to tune it retired and presumption some sides negatively. 

Polls done by Maier’s run recovered the bulk of Milwaukeeans got sick of his complaints astir the newspaper, but either thought helium was close astir media bias and/or liked his representation arsenic a fighter. In today’s far-more partisan era, you tin stake astir Republicans judge Johnson’s complaint that the JS is biased against the right. Which is ironic, arsenic astir liberals judge the opposite.

Anyone connected the close tin constituent to however the JS handled the latest Johnson op ed, preceding it with a enactment to readers undermining the constituent of Johnson’s op ed: “To date, Johnson has not asked for immoderate corrections of information successful immoderate of the quality stories oregon the editorial helium cites successful his commentary.” And the op ed was interspersed with links to 5 JS stories and editorials blasting Johnson. 

And anyone who dislikes Johnson volition instrumentality enactment of the information that his 2 op eds are agelong connected attacks and bereft of immoderate grounds of inaccurate reporting. 

As Maier proved, attacking the property tin assistance your cause. That whitethorn beryllium adjacent much existent for Johnson, fixed the expanding animosity of Republican voters towards the mainstream media. As for the Journal Sentinel, it whitethorn find that moving Johnson’s attacks doesn’t triumph it galore points for fairness. Meanwhile, from a concern position — and newspapers are a concern — publishing specified columns inevitably undermines the worth of your brand.

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