Today we compare the editorial page of the Wisconsin State Journal to a hill of beans

And… the editorial page does prevail.  Let’s acknowledge it — right off the bat —  the WSJ editorial page does, in fact, amount to more than a hill of beans.

Or, as our graphic seems to suggest, “bean salad”.

That said, if you publish a newspaper, any ‘hill of beans’ comparison is not one you’d actively invite your readers to think about. But they do. Or did, back before they stopped buying the paper.

Yesterday the ‘editorial’ was quite literally a re-purposed news story with a piffling bit of value-judgment tacked on, so it sounds vaguely like what readers expect of an editorial. The print edition was then padded with a commentary from Karl Garson’s online blog, an editorial cartoon, and 5 letters to the editor.

Today another small-bore editorial praises redevelopment at the old Bancroft Dairy on South Park Street (and several other redevelopments around town). Most readers probably see this as normal progress, the sort of thing we expect.  But on the editorial page it’s goose bumps, to the point where the whole narrative becomes confused. The well-worn ‘Madison-can’t-put-two-bricks-together’ insult is presented, as always:

…some progress at improving Madison’s image. Our city needs to be a place where big projects can succeed, despite elaborate bureaucracy.

Good grief. The editorial is literally celebrating redevelopment projects going on, inexplicably they would have us believe, all over the city… “despite elaborate bureaucracy.” This is just not very good work. It’s pea-shooter small, and inconsistent, to boot.

The editorials do amount to more than a hill of beans, but let’s be honest. It’s because they’re in the Wisconsin State Journal, which is [approximately] the 90th largest newspaper, by circulation, in the U.S. The editorials ride along on the coattails of the news coverage, and comics, and ads, and probably a sense among some readers that they’re just supposed to follow the local paper.

But for anyone who is genuinely interested in opinion, analysis, and how a crazy world can be better understood, the State Journal editorial page is never a useful destination. Can we really say “never”?  “Never say never,” they say, but we’re damn close to saying it here.

We read the State Journal editorials not for thoughtfulness, not for enlightenment, but to know what they might be doing to our precious information environment. This city and this region deserve much, much better. Look at today’s weird, lackadaisical choice of editorial. Look at yesterday’s. Look at the day before that. These weren’t the worst of what happens on the local editorial page — they weren’t harmful, merely tiny — inviting comparison to a hill of beans.

It would not be out of line to consider shuttering the whole editorial page operation. Save some money. Save some trees. Save credibility. Who’s going to miss it?