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.