Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hometown newspaper sinks to new low

You know, I stopped reading the Inquirer after they hired Rick "Man-On_Dog" Santorum as a columnist. I kind of wish right now that I had a subscription that I could cancel in disgust, though, because the Inky just hired John Yoo, Philadelphia native and torture memo author, as an Op-Ed columnist.

Philadelphia is a pretty heavily Democratic city, so I can only wonder who the Inky is targeting with this new hire. Are they counting on Web hits going up when liberal bloggers link to Yoo's columns in outrage, or do they think there's a secret market for Republican pro-torture propaganda in a city so liberal that they only have Republicans in the city council because it's mandated in the city charter that the minority party have representation?

Thankfully, I'm moving at the end of the month (NYC, baby) so I won't even nominally be represented in Newspaperland by a paper willing to pay for the opinions of a man whose opinions may soon get him disbarred.

Will Bunch, Daily News columnist, said it:

But while promoting public discourse is a goal of newspaper commentary, it should not be the main objective. The higher calling for an American newspaper should be promoting and maintaining our sometimes fragile democracy, the very thing that Yoo and his band of torture advocates very nearly shredded in a few short years. Quite simply, by handing Yoo a regularly scheduled platform for his viewpoint, the Inquirer is telling its readers that Yoo's ideas -- especially that torture is not a crime against the very essence of America -- are acceptable.

This is exactly the kind of "on one hand, on the other hand" cowardly practice that has become a cancer destroying the moral DNA of America's newsrooms. "On one hand, torture is not only immoral but a violation of international and even U.S. law, but on the other hand, check out our 'provocative' new columnist, John Yoo, who can't travel to Europe because he might be arrested for war crimes!" This is wrong -- horribly so. For more than five years, American newsrooms have helped to normalize the inhumane practice of torture, giving into the government's Orwellian terms like "enhanced interrogation" and failing to call for accountability of those responsible for these crimes, including -- but not stopping at -- John Yoo. For a much-honored newspaper like the Inquirer to pay someone like Yoo to write a regular column is surely the exclamation point on a dark period in which most of my profession flunked its greatest moral test.

Yep. "He said, she said" at its absolute worst. I might suggest, if the Inquirer is looking for opposing viewpoints, hiring Mumia Abu-Jamal to write a column to run alongside Michael Smerconish, or perhaps hiring some of the "let newspapers die" crowd to write a column about how the Inquirer has outlived its usefulness.