Source: Helen Louise Herndon
My parents were avid readers of the daily newspaper. I can’t remember a day when they didn’t read in full their newspaper of choice, the Pulitzer St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As members of the working class, they chose the Democrat-leaning St. Louis Post-Dispatch over the more Republican-leaning St. Louis Globe-Democrat. In those days, it was a recognized national newspaper. Today, one could say it is basically a local newspaper and, sadly, no longer a good one.
For 60 years, whenever I’ve lived in St. Louis, I’ve been an ardent reader and subscriber, breaking away only during my college years in South Carolina and the eight years I spent in France and Tunisia. For most of that time, I found the Post-Dispatch to be balanced and trustworthy as to its editorials—written without sensationalism, without a too-pronounced bias, and rooted in substantive reporting.
The Commentary Pages represented diverse views from both conservatives and liberals. As a freelance writer, many op-ed articles I wrote found their way to the Commentary Pages. One might say those were zenith days of newspaper journalism. Sadly, I fear today represents the nadir days of a once-prominent newspaper—nadir not only in fortune but nadir in respect.
When the paper’s founder, Joseph Pulitzer, retired, the platform he wrote included the paper’s obligation to “. . . always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party.” Now, though, the paper appears to belong to one party.
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One might ask “On what basis do I make this claim?” It’s not just that the majority of editorials and commentaries are definitely left-leaning and Democrat party-prejudicial. As noted above, it’s always been Democrat-leaning. What’s new is a tone that’s mean-spirited, sensationalistic, heavily anti-conservative, and anti-Republican. The news is stringently selective with noteworthy news omitted to support the biased tilt and allegiance to a specific political party. The lack of fair, balanced, and objective treatment of both parties and politicians is too evident to miss—and rejects Pulitzer’s platform.
Image: Chromolithograph of Joseph Pulitzer superimposed on a composite of his newspapers (circa 1904). Public domain.
As just one example of florid hostility to Republicans, the paper published an article arguing for a duplicitous, even devious, election tactic. On February 20th, the Post-Dispatch published an op-ed article entitled “Why I’m voting for an unfit demagogue in this year’s Republican Senate primary.” The author was Kevin McDermott, a primary editor.
McDermott opened the op-ed by stating, “Eric Greitens is the worst of the worst!” He then described the sexual assault allegations that caused Greitens to resign as Missouri’s governor and other questionable practices. This is legitimate. Many conservatives and Republicans have expressed concern about this candidate for senator. Even the Wall Street Journal wrote a factual, objective, and substantive editorial about him.
But then Mr. McDermott writes this:
It really is difficult to imagine anyone more demonstrably unfit for public office than Eric Greitens.
And I’ll cast my vote for him on Aug. 2.
That’s the day Missouri voters will go to the polls to pick the Republican and Democratic nominees for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt.
…I’m planning to vote for Greitens in the primary, and will encourage it for others who understand how important it is to prevent the GOP from retaking the Senate.
Such crossover voting is legal in Missouri, which has open primaries. The argument is that strategically participating in the other party’s primary (known as “tactical voting”) is a form of political sabotage, and not what voting is supposed to be about.” After reading his preliminary sentences, one may say, “What?” or even “Whoa!”
The August 2 election is a primary election. Farther into the op-ed article, he explains, as a Democrat:
I’m actually somewhat sympathetic to that argument, and very uncomfortable about casting a vote for someone like Greitens — not in hopes that he will win the office, but that he and his party will ultimately lose it.
And should Greitens end up in the Senate instead, making Missouri look still more ridiculous while further proving that a party-wide psychosis now grips the GOP — so be it.
I’m not sure this couldn’t be deemed subterfuge; it is certainly devious and hypocritical. McDermott’s 900-word op-ed contains nothing less than a mean-spirited rant against the Republican Party and all its candidates. My question is, does this sound like what Joseph Pulitzer desired for his beloved St. Louis Post-Dispatch in his platform with those honorable words, “. . . always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party?”
Worse, the opinions in the op-ed do not come from just any writer; they come from a major editor of a newspaper that claims not to “belong to any party.” It also comes from the only daily newspaper in a large metropolitan area.
When I read the piece, I was appalled at how low a previously prominent national newspaper had sunk. How many reporters or writers seek the esteemed Pulitzer Prize in writing? And yet here we see Pulitzer’s own newspaper host a steep decline in ethics—perhaps even morality and journalism.
The hypocrisy of voting for a man one claims to be “an unfit demagogue” is overwhelming. Add to that, inviting others to do so to “prove that a party-wide psychosis now grips” one’s own opposing political party is nothing less than creating or inventing a “psychosis” that otherwise does not exist. As an Independent voter, I could hardly believe what I read. If I were either Democrat or Republican, I would cringe at such a deceitful, Machiavellian mentality.
Such underhandedness may, unfortunately, be expected of politicians, though we wish not. For many, character still counts. However, for an editor of a daily newspaper that subscribers would like to believe is honest, objective, trustworthy, and truthful, this editor’s brazen and unashamed admission and the newspaper’s unconcealed biases—political, religious, and social—cause serious concern that the once-honored Post-Dispatch has irrecoverably become a Democrat party propaganda vehicle as opposed to a trustworthy free press that serves all equally.
If this is one national newspaper’s steep decline, what else is out there? Is this truly a sign of the times? If it is, God help us, God help America.