Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Albany Democrat Herald gives us a lesson in cheap shots and dishonest dealings

Last week over at Blue Oregon, Anne Martens wrote a piece discussing the racist language and overtones of a commentary in the McMinnville News Register by Jim Ludwick. Martens also noted that Ludwick had sent a letter to the Secretary of State's Office regarding a "How To Start A Business In Oregon" Guide written in Spanish. Ludwick's commentary built a very racist bridge from illegal immigrant to Mexican. Martens piece legitimately criticized what was very obvious racism coming from Ludwick.

Martens' piece additionally criticized an anti-immigration rally to be held in Salem in which Representative Linda Flores would join Ludwick and others. Martens snarkily but accurately wondered aloud if Flores would need to cover up her name, given Ludwick's previous racially tinged statements.

Martens comments touched off a rightwing blogosphere temper tantrum, including casting aspersions at her job in the Secretary of State's office. Martens posted a disclaimer, reminding the toddler tempter tantrum set that she is a private citizen entitled to her opinion, and was not speaking for anyone but herself when she published at Blue Oregon.

Fast forward to today's Albany Democrat Herald, where the editorial staff has issued this melodramatic tome worthy of lining the birdcages at your local pet shop:

Anne Martens, the communications director for Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, last week felt moved to post a disclaimer on Blue Oregon, a liberal Web site. She stressed that a commentary she had written earlier was her own opinion and had nothing to do with her employer.

Would that things were that easy in public life. But they’re not. A person is a single entity, not two or three different parts who can separate themselves from what the other parts are doing.

As the spokeswoman for Bradbury, one of the top state officials, she must have realized that her private views on a hot political issue would inevitably reflect on her role as a person on the public payroll.

Had Martens been bragging in the piece about her job with the Secretary of State, or used her tax payer funded job as a platform to express her ideas, then this commentary from the DH might make sense. However private citizens have the right (and the duty if they feel strongly) to express themselves politically. Its apparent that she wasn't speaking for Bradbury or anyone but herself, as a private citizen. This is a cheap shot at Martens..and betrays the editorial staff at the DH as having an agenda beyond that of keeping government employees on the straight and narrow.

The DH piece continues:

In her commentary, she had likened opposition to illegal immigration to racism. She slammed one of these opponents, state Rep. Linda Flores, saying she “must make an extra effort to overcome the ill effects of her Hispanic surname.”

Another cheap shot, offered up without any context whatsoever. The DH completely disregards the main idea of Martens post: the racism in the things stated by Ludwick. In fact, the DH makes no mention of Ludwick in their entire editorial. These two sentences are nothing more than a dishonest set up to make Martens look bad for not sitting down and shutting up, like a good girl.

I'm sometimes confused by what the media in this state considers worthy of column inches. But this tripe by the DH seems clearly motivated by a conservative, hard right agenda. These editors aren't interested in giving their readers the whole picture. They cherry-picked bits and pieces, completely disregarding the context of the commentary Martens offered.

We can agree and disagree on key issues involving this state and this nation. But when our media decides to deal dishonestly with the public--those conversations become impossible to have in an informed and necessary way. The editorial staff at the Albany Democrat Herald has done a grave disservice to their readers.