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Editorial Pages Report the News

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Increasingly, all the news that's fit to print does not include the news that editorial writers deem significant. The New York Times and many other newspapers have developed the habit of writing lengthy editorials about news stories that never make it into the news section. One example of this trend is the story of last Monday's presidential signing statement. If you don't know what a signing statement is, you should consider flipping first to the editorial page to get your news.

Congressional Quarterly, which has a readership of about 8, first reported the story in an honest-to-goodness straight news report, with all the bells and whistles of pretended "objectivity." The Boston Globe did the same. The Globe's article presents its readers with the basic facts of what happened, written in the manner which people have been trained to find most credible and important. The Guardian newspaper in England did the same. But the United States outside Boston and Capitol Hill was out of luck. An Associated Press article touched on the topic but avoided the main points. A Virginian Pilot article buried the lede. And a late-coming Washington Post article missed the boat.

But editorial page writers clearly believed the public deserved to hear about the end of its representative democracy. The New York Times led the way, followed by the Roanoke Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a chain of New England newspapers, the Times Argus, the Denver Post, the Charleston Gazette, and the Las Vegas Sun. These editorials both presented the information and took an opinion on it, all of them sharing the same basic perspective: the President of the United States had just shockingly seized unconstitutional powers, effectively elimintating the legislative branch of our government.

Opinion columns took up the cause as well, beginning with After Downing Street, the Center for American Progress, and Gary Hart on the Huffington Post. Air America and Pacifica Radio discussed the story. A Washington Post website-only columnist took up the matter at some length, perhaps motivating the print edition's poor excuse for a news article, which came the next day. Consortium News and Dave Lindorff wrote about it. Time Magazine touched on it. A student paper at the University of Wisconsin covered it, and a St Louis Post-Dispatch columnist published the most recent take on the matter. Even the cable TV comedy program "The Daily Show" reported the news and offered its comentary, probably providing more people with the information than any other source.

Why is the Boston Globe the only newspaper willing to report this type of story as a news story? It's obviously not impossible to do, because the Boston Globe has done it. But it would, I suspect, be very difficult to do while continuing to publish so many of the other stories that newspapers do print. Imagine the news story the day after some magical revelation that the world really was created in six days a few thousand years ago. You could print it, but you'd have to stop running every other article based in modern science. If you ran a story on the president's efective elimination of Congress, how would you be able to keep printing all the usual stories based on the notion that Congress still exists? If you were to let on that the president was disobeying long-standing laws, allowing only the creation of laws he liked, vetoing everything else, and with long complex bills erasing the sections he didn't want to obey with signing statements, wouldn't the biggest news story of the past year and the coming year (the endless election horse race) have to change? Isn't electing an emperor different from electing a democratic executive?

I guess we should be grateful to the editorial writers. But the news stories are what the television gab-fest producers look to for their daily agenda. And television is where Americans go for edification and citizen involvement. As far as I know, this story has yet to make it onto TV news. Below is the collected reporting. I recommend reading the Boston Globe article, the editorials, and the columns.


Congressional Quarterly

Guardian (England)

Boston Globe

Associated Press

Virginian Pilot

Washington Post

Los Angeles Times


New York Times

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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