The highest and best use of an editorial page

Look! The local newspaper has given us another Editorial of the Third Kind (i.e., FILLER) in which they praise the work of a worthy organization. Today, it’s the Dane County United Way. The Dane County United Way is — absolutely and unquestionably — a force for good, and so we, too, here and now, offer our praise, also, for this worthy, local organization:

Statement. From TheDailyTissue, For Immediate Release: stands steadfastly behind the tireless work of the Dane County United Way.  Further, we denounce and reject all enemies of the Dane County United Way, if any shall appear. 


Now, is there anything wrong with offering easy praise for the praiseworthy? Well, a newspaper could certainly do worse. As we have said previously, it’s possible that ‘praise-filler’ is as good as the WSJ editorials get.

Praise-filler at least does no harm, even if it offers a thought that no one doesn’t already think.

The only quibble lies in opportunity lost. Real estate appraisers consider the “highest and best use” of property when they consider its value.

A popcorn stand located on the lake might be nearly valueless as used today, but if the same real estate were used for condominiums, the value would skyrocket. The “highest and best use” (in terms of financial valuation) is elsewhere, so the value of the real estate can’t be fully judged by looking at its current [popcorn stand] use.

Is it necessary to continue this discussion as regards the State Journal editorial page?

We defend the one true system

Every once in a while the State Journal puts together an editorial like today’s which begins to challenge our belief (described in our very first post) that they only publish 5 Types of editorial.  How do we classify their effort here today??

The editorial argues that once a fellow gets elected to the state Assembly, he ought to give up any previous elected office, and just do the Assembly job. Well that just makes pretty good sense!  But is it a Type II Surprisingly Correct editorial?  No, it is not. There’s no surprise! It doesn’t meet the Outlaw Biker Test. We’ve discussed this before:

The important thing about a Type II is the surprise-yness not the correctness… [W]hat makes a really outstanding Type II editorial is when the Journal goes “against type” to surprise the reader.  Like when an outlaw biker smiles at you and hands you a little bouquet of posies. It’s surprising.

So when the Wisconsin State Journal criticizes a Republican policy or officeholder, it’s like the biker and the posies. It’s surprising!

Today’s article doesn’t criticize a Republican, so there’s no proper surprise. So if it’s not Surprisingly Correct, what is it??? We felt our anxiety mounting. Rapidly. The system of The Five Types is an article of faith with us, and it cannot be violated. By Definition!

Other-Senior-Editor D. could see that we were starting to have an attack, and as usual, she made it worse by telling us, “It doesn’t matter.”  Then, as usual, she makes it even Worse still, suggesting

Why not just have Three Types: “Dull, Disappointing, and Disastrously Wrong”?  Or how about One Type known as “Not-That-Good”?

We have to admit those could work. But those would be lesser systems. For one thing they don’t have 5 categories, and we believe there should be 5. Like always before. And will be, forever. 5, we feel, is best.

Look, [she says] this Five Types thing is turning into some weird ideology that must never fail…

To which we always reply

La-la-la-la-la-la… We can’t heeeeaaar yooooo…

So finally (why can’t we remember this ourself!) she reminds us

Just do what you always do then… call it a Distractor.

That works!  The woman is a genius. Done!  The System lives on!!!


       Somehow Related (according to her)

Wisconsin State Journal – The 5 Types of Editorial

The Wisconsin State Journal publishes, we believe, exactly 5 types of editorial.  New readers might take these editorials seriously.  But really, they are best taken as a game.  It’s not a “fun” game exactly, because the intent of the WSJ editorials is, in the end, always to assist the already-powerful in local, regional and national debates, against the interests of ordinary people.  But it’s sort of fun to see these bricks fall off the end of the assembly line six days a week, and shout, “Oooh, it’s a 5!” [or whatever number it is].

These are the 5  types:

1.  The Genuine Meat Here are the core ideological messages.  Usually published on Sunday, the day of widest print circulation.  Endorses a candidate, policy, belief or attitude.  Or maybe it assigns blame, or focuses resentment.   Does what it can to tilt readers’ thinking, and no doubt does influence some readers, possibly through sheer repetition.

2.  The Surprisingly Correct.   “What?” asks the reader.  “Surprising in how sensible it is!!”  The Type 2 editorial is a reminder that some things can be clear to almost anyone.  Like the blind squirrel finding an occasional nut, the WSJ editorial board occasionally proclaims the obvious.  Being right for a day helps to rehabilitate their reputation – “See, they’re not always wrong.”  All such efforts to appear thoughtful/balanced will be undone, however, when they publish a Type 1 or Type 4 editorial, or by the invariably calamitous decision to publish a 5.

3.  Filler Deadlines arrive relentlessly.  When nothing else is ready to print, the WSJ might praise the Girl Scouts, or bratwursts, or being neighborly. They might remind us to always have spare batteries for our flashlights. Or they might take someone else’s press release or a piece of their own reporting and rewrite it slightly, adding their own editorial “take”.  The Filler takes just minutes to prepare and serve.

4.  The Distractor.  Designed to distract attention away from something else.  These can run the gamut from somewhat subtle to very obvious.  The obvious Type 4 Distractor must be embarrassing to publish, but there they are.

5.  The Unintentionally Hilarious (or Just Plain Sad).   The Type 5 editorial adopts a ludicrous, counterfactual or illogical line of argument which then has the actual, unintended effect of showing that the editorial writers — had they gone to law school — would have become very, very bad lawyers. Sometimes, there is no argument per se, just unconnected thoughts, sputtering or slogans. These last tend to be worrying, but by the next day the editors are always back to their old selves again.