Madison Cap Times: Editor Fanlund fans on an easy pitch

Paul Fanlund — editor of the Cap Times (aka The Capital Times, aka CT…. Note to business office: too many brand names.) — pissed us off this week when he bungled what should have been a perfectly easy gripe about the sad state of our media information systems. And, hey, that’s our beat — “the incredible shrinking news”™! — but there’s plenty to go around.

Somehow, however, in mid-grumble, Fanlund lapsed into American journalism’s signature error! — pointless False Equivalence. In particular he seems to imagine that Fox News and MSNBC are similarly horrible. Has he ever really watched ’em?

Let’s look at a recent YouTube in which British comedian Russell Brand is watching Fox News. Now Mr. Brand has a particular look. Often (but not always) he tends to look like a borderline maniac, the kind of guy who gets on the subway and causes everyone else to think, uhoh…. Here, he’s watching an attractive lady who has her own show on Fox News. Can you guess which one of them will seem dangerously crazy?

There is nothing like that at MSNBC. Fanlund could search and search and search. He will never find. Now you could say — fairly — that both Fox News and MSNBC attract “tribal” audiences, right and left. That’s true. But that can’t possibly be a part of Fanlund’s gripe, can it? Fanlund is the editor of the Cap Times! (Here we will add, for the benefit of readers outside Dane County, the Cap Times is a distinctly and consciously liberal media operation which calls itself “your progressive voice”™.)

(Wait. “Your voice”? As in my voice? Well, not today, thank you.)

Look, Fanlund’s not always like this. He’s capable of good work. We can only assume he got some bad clams at lunch. Really bad clams, because he also held out PBS’s dismal Washington Week in Review  as commendable.

Jesus, he didn’t have stroke, did he? Well, no, we assume it was very bad clams. He’ll probably make a speedy recovery, but we’re keeping an eye on him, just to be sure.


Meanwhile, in actual news about why our news is pitiful, Rupert Murdoch — a man who has already done SO much to hurt so many — is hoping to add Time Warner to his gigantic portfolio of corporate media.

The only truly serious way to get a politician’s attention

This week The Cap Times published an editorial headlined, If J.B. Van Hollen doesn’t change course, he needs to go. That’s exactly right on the legal issue — Wisconsin politicians can’t flout the open records law because they’re wink, wink, “in session”… an amazingly dumb, new, legal theory from Attorney General Van Hollen. And it’s also exactly right on the justifiable election time consequences. He’ll need to go.

Seriously, that’s the way it works, or is supposed to work, in a representative democracy. If it’s a big-deal issue, either you get it right, or we start working to defeat you.

Now this makes us think of the recent unusually GOOD editorial campaign in the Wisconsin State Journal against gerrymandering. We predicted it would almost certainly fail, even though it was asking for just a little teensy foot in the door to good government. We predicted it would fail, because the levers of power in the state capitol are wielded by, well let’s just say it, sorry assholes driven by self-interest. Ouch! Such language. True, however.

Now, what’s supposed to happen to sorry assholes in public office — when we clearly see who they are, not always clear at first — is, we vote ’em out. So here comes the moment of truth for the Wisconsin State Journal. Will their unusually good campaign against gerrymandering continue? They’ve made two, nice, strong Sunday punches so far, and equally important, they’ve been coordinating with other Wisconsin newspapers.

But will it last? Will it continue? Will there be a third round, and a fourth? And if that doesn’t work, (and it won’t), will the State Journal do what the Cap Times did this week so easily and naturally? Will the State Journal call for removing the road-blocking Republican leaders?