Hmm. I originally wrote a lede to this post in which I accused the Seattle Times editorial board of flat-out “lying,” but I’ve decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and accept the possibility that they may have only been inadvertently, but flat-out wrong.
In an editorial today advising state legislators to exercise fiscal restraint — a sentiment with which I don’t necessarily disagree — the Times characterizes our current state budget as the largest increase in spending in over a decade… technically accurate, for whatever it means. But then the Times slips in a totally gratuitous piece of GOPropaganda:
[The budget] followed the 5-percent increase of the previous two years presented by Sen. Dino Rossi.
Yup. There you have it: the Times editorial board echoing the key Rossi campaign talking point that he authored the 2003-2005 budget. Only problem is, this talking point was directly contradicted way back in 2003 by Dino Rossi himself, and in the Times’ own reporting:
The Republican budget has much in common with the all-cuts plan that Democratic Gov. Gary Locke unveiled in December. In fact, Rossi opened a press briefing yesterday with a PowerPoint presentation titled: “Following the Governor’s Lead.”
That’s right, Rossi was only “following the Governor’s lead.” And in fact, according to the Times’ reporters, he actually presented a 1-percent (not 5-percent) increase in spending, which would have been largely achieved by leaving 46,000 children without health coverage.
The myth that Rossi authored the 2003 budget is largely that, and while I suppose its inclusion in the unsigned editorial may have been an honest mistake, the total irrelevance of its inclusion to the subject at hand suggests otherwise. Fresh on the heels of a campaign season in which Times editorialists aggressively and intentionally misled readers about the facts pertaining to the issues and candidates endorsed, the Times seems to be already gearing up for the 2008 season.
Dino Rossi authored the 2003 budget the way, you know… Dave Reichert caught the Green River Killer. But considering how unremarkable Rossi’s legislative career really was, prepare to see the Times repeatedly trumpeting this fictional accomplishment over the next 23 months.
Of course the Times has the right to use their op-ed pages to present their own opinions — opinions with which I often agree — but they do not have the right to present their own “facts.” Even if you buy into the argument that there is a wall between editorial and news that protects the ability of reporters to remain objective, it is a wall that is entirely invisible to the readers. The average reader may understand that editorials represent the opinion of the publisher and the editorial board, but he also expects that the information used to back up these opinions is as factually accurate as that presented in the rest of the paper. Thus when an editorial misleads the readers either through a lie of omission or through a deliberate or accidental misstatement of fact, it diminishes the credibility of the publication as a whole.
Today’s editorial is filled with hard numbers that one assumes have been appropriately fact checked, and then almost as a non sequitur it throws in the factoid that Rossi deserves credit for authoring a fiscally responsible budget… an assertion that is refuted by the Times’ own reporting. It is this type of blatant electioneering that made the Times op/ed page a laughingstock during the 2006 campaign and which threatens to carry our state’s largest paper further down the road towards irrelevance. Eventually, we’ll just come to the point were the only people who bother to read Times editorials are the copywriters putting together Republican political ads.