Letter: A blurred line between 'news,' 'commentary'

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Most journalists adhere to certain standards of fairness and accuracy in reporting and commenting on the news. These standards are outlined in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. Journalists who follow that code pledge to “distinguish between advocacy and news reporting” in their coverage of national and local elections.

Suppose that a certain opinion columnist – the face on and of one of Maine’s principal daily newspapers – has never, not once, over a span of four to five years, written a single favorable or positive word about a certain elected Maine official.

His columns are invariably permeated with contempt, ill-will and ridicule about that official. Also suppose that the columnist’s employer regularly publishes his opinions as local and state “news,” rather than as “commentary.”

As we near the height of the election season, consider these questions:

1 — Does the columnist in question have any credibility as an impartial news source?

2 — Would it be reasonable to conclude that the columnist is working for the defeat of the elected official?

3 — Would it be fair to conclude that the newspaper in question cannot be trusted or relied upon to make impartial judgments about people running for public office?

A free and balanced media is crucial to the health of our country.

Walter J. Eno