Finally, Mr. Milfred pipes up on Trump Wisconsin State Journal: Clinton, not Trump

[Almost] no American newspaper has endorsed Donald Trump for President.

Stalwart Republican newspapers like The Arizona Republic have warned their readers don’t vote for Trump.

Newspapers that have never before taken sides in a presidential race (e.g., USA Today) have called Mr. Trump “unfit for the presidency”.

So, we had wondered back on August 21,  “Will the Wisconsin State Journal ever start addressing the Trump phenomenon?”

It’s true that 5 months earlier the State Journal had published an earful when Trump threatened to “open up our libel laws” (?) to sue news organizations for being too critical.

“If I become president, oh, do they have problems. We can sue them and win lots of money.”

It’s true that this anti-constitutional dumbassery deserved pushback, very strong pushback, but still we had to withhold credit at the time, because Mr. Trump had been offering multiple stupidities, lies, and reversals week after week after week. And yet, seemingly, it took a threat to the newspaper industry to get Mr. Milfred aroused? We were not wowed by the moral clarity of defending one’s very own wheelhouse.toles-trump-covers-every-side-of-every-issue

But now at long last, on Sunday, Mr. Milfred put forward an official endorsement for the 2016 race: “Hillary Clinton — by far — is best prepared to lead our nation toward peace and prosperity.” And his essential brief against Trump? “[H]e can’t even work with his own party. He’s tearing the GOP apart.”

So that was pretty good. You know, accurate. So, pretty good!

Mr. Milfred might have said that Trump is tearing America apart, not just his beloved GOP. But baby steps….

Now if, if, if Mr. Milfred hopes to rebuild a winning future for conservatism, or America, or the world in general, he could stand to read not here, but the blog of NYU professor of journalism Jay Rosen. Many of the old rules of journalism are fried, he says. There is actually some bipartisan agreement on this starting point.

Paul Ryan: Statesman or Un-glued Nutball? Feel the "intellectual heft"

The New York Times castigates two prominent Republicans (care to guess who? it’s not that easy) for a howling storm of  misrepresentation following President Obama’s executive announcements on gun law enforcement.

Winning answers: Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan, nut“From Day 1,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, “the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding.” Mr. Ryan said that “rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens. His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty.”

Oh, fer pete’s sake. More examiners to process our existing background checks for gun buyers. Is that really a ‘form of intimidation’? An ‘undermining of liberty’? Good grief.They're coming for our cars

The only detail making Ryan’s words less stupid than the militia occupying that bird place in Oregon is that Ryan didn’t capitalize the “L” in liberty. That could’ve been the cherry on top. Let’s thank Ryan for foregoing the cherry.

And let’s note, this wasn’t just an off-hand comment from the Congressman. As Speaker, he has now got a communications team of nine full-timers. The Times (above) was quoting his official press release which was reinforced by a Twitter tweet, a flattering photo, and all helpfully tagged ‘Second Amendment’ for the benefit of text-based search engines

Can this be the same Paul Ryan our fawning, local newspaper hailed as a ‘statesman‘?

Wisconsin State Journal cuts staff again The shrinking news. It's less fun for dogs to fetch.

We just learned (five days late) that the Wisconsin State Journal has once again cut its newsroom staff. Story from the invaluable Bill Lueders at Isthmus online. Were we the last to know? Could be. Look, we never said we had connections at the State Journal, or any newspaper. We just used to read the thing. Regularly. For many years.

So 7 more newsroom professionals are gone from the State Journal, although one of them, Dee J. Hall, the paper’s best reporter, had departed for a better job, managing editor of Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The State Journal won’t fill her position, so it’s a cut for the State Journal.

Our first reactions were sorrow and a peculiar narcissistic shame. We don’t want anyone to lose their job, certainly not journalists working in Madison. And the shame? We’d stopped buying the paper and now seven journalists were gone. Were we partly to blame? Maybe we should’ve hung in there despite the difficulties.

Can these cuts possibly do anything other than compound the difficulties?

Not just wrong but harmful Wrong question, wrong time

Yesterday on Super Bowl Sunday, in a fit of pique, we lambasted the Wisconsin State Journal’s editorial of the day. We may have left the impression our principal complaint was the tone-deafness of such an editorial on America’s sacred wintertime blowout festival day of foodbawl and fun…

That was part of it.

Yes, the editorial was tone-deaf, but also, we asserted, it was “wrong”.  And yet wrongness isn’t even exactly at the heart of our objection either. It’s that the message was and is harmful, and not for the first time. The State Journal has been publishing variants of this same bad advice ever since conservatives pivoted from merrily building up the national debt (the Bush II years) to suddenly weeping and rending their garments at the thought of debt accruing during the Obama years. Literally, the pivot to new talking points began the very day that Obama put his hand on the Bible and ‘W’ flew off to Houston.

Now, there is a time for a nation to address its level of debt. The time for that is when the national economy is booming. Need it be said that “booming” does not describe the current American economy? There’s still plenty of slack. We are still struggling to get back to job and wage levels that existed before the housing/financial collapse of 2007.  We have lost somewhere around 5 trillion dollars of potential economic progress by letting people, equipment, talent and potential go unused.

All that scaremongering about debt and deficit since 2007 has been harmful. To the tune of trillions. Much of the scaremongering was a conscious political strategy by Senate and Congressional Republicans intending to prevent anything good from occurring on Barack Obama’s watch. And, of course, additional hand-wringing was provided in the usual peanut galleries and echo chambers. (This may describe the State Journal editorial page. There’s no way to see inside the motivations.)

In either case, millions of people have been hurt. We don’t ever like to say, “lives were ruined…” because is any life ever truly ruined? But bad results were widespread. How do you characterize it? Does losing a job when you’re 50 years old and never really finding another job “ruin” your life? [Note: none of this is self-descriptive… we are fortunate.] Let’s just say that a LOT of lives have been damaged. It shouldn’t have happened, and it shouldn’t have lasted as long as it has.

We should have been rebuilding roads and bridges and mass transit. We should have been putting people back to work. The recession was the time for stimulus, and when the stimulus showed itself to be inadequate – and it did show that – exactly – then it was the time for more stimulus (yes, more debt… just like in the 1930’s), not more pulling back.

But of course fiscal stimulus was blocked whenever possible by the Republican congress. For political reasons nothing good for the middle- and lower-working classes would be allowed to happen on the Obama watch.

Even things that had long been in place — automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance and food stamps — came under conservative attack. Conservatives insisted on austerity, on fiscal ‘rectitude’, on fears about debt, on angst about “debasing the currency”, on balancing the budget, on trimming the social safety net, on “reforming entitlements”, on getting the unemployed out of their “hammocks”, on “encouraging the job-creators”, and on and on… a litany of strategies and slogans that were either useless or actively harmful in a time of recession.

Regular readers of the Wisconsin State Journal will recognize how often these terrible memes were repeated and reinforced on the editorial page.  The bad memes were handed out all during the great recession, and they were handed out yet again yesterday. For the umpteenth time.

We are exhausted and frustrated with this run of incompetence. There have been multiple natural experiments in the real world comparing Keynesian and austerian policies for rescuing capitalist democracies from economic bubble-deflations. If the State Journal is going to weigh in on this kind issue, they need to study up and get right.

That $700,000 from Gogebic

Jim Rowan writing at The Political Environment doesn’t normally gripe about the state’s newspapers. Not the way we do. But he does today.

He’s waiting for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to use its editorial page to say something about that secret $700,000 donation from Gogebic mining. Thus far, on the editorial page, the Milwaukee paper has said not a word.

And Rowan correctly criticizes the Wisconsin State Journal for delivering a weak ‘they’re-all-doing it’ editorial opposing secret money in politics, in general.

Boo to the State Journal for insulting readers and voters with false conflation that helps give Walker – – whom the paper endorsed in 2010 – – a pass

Does Rowan know the Wisconsin State Journal the way we do? (actually? of course) But nothing else could be expected. Wisconsin Republicans can do anything they want. It doesn’t need to make sense. It doesn’t need to match any previous or current stance. It doesn’t need to pass any “smell test”. No matter how odious their actions, the worst that Wisconsin Republicans can expect from the State Journal is a general sermon blaming everyone (and thus no one) and urging everyone to be better.

drinking gameYes, it’s boring. And predictable. And completely worthless. Although it does form the basis for our famous Wisconsin State Journal editorial drinkin’ game

 “…the drinking game requires no actual facts or actual journalism. It simply requires the WSJ editorial board to do what it obsessively does. They apparently cannot help themselves.” 

Remember to always read responsibly


More bad news for news — the looting continues reports the latest out of Lee Enterprises, Inc.

Mary JunckMary Junck, CEO of Lee Enterprises, has once again been awarded a financial bonus ($700,000) for doing utterly routine work. She — or more likely, accountants brought on temporarily — have restructured Lee Enterprises’ corporate debt. Again. Wow.

(Note: Lee Enterprises owns the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison’s last remaining daily).

If managing corporate debt is somehow not within Ms. Junck’s ordinary job description, we cannot imagine what is. And yet, here she receives another gigantic bonus for doing what’s expected. We’ve griped about this kind of LOOTING before. It’s shocking to the conscience. Why should these Lee executives be specially rewarded for doing a re-fi?

Meanwhile, the working journalists at Lee Newspapers get nothing.

Romenesko’s FaceBook page has comments.

Did the Wisconsin State Journal “name” a new publisher?

Googling wisconsin+state+journal+publisher we happened to notice that most of the stories announcing the new publisher were headlined much like, or exactly like, the State Journal’s own headline; i.e., “Wisconsin State Journal names new publisher”. Of course that’s an artful misstatement of the facts. The State Journal didn’t choose a new publisher. Corporate owner Lee Enterprises chose the new publisher.

Only business-oriented appeared in the first page of Google search results with an accurate headline (“Lee Enterprises Names Group Publisher for Madison and Tucson”).

It’s a small thing. We know why the State Journal might choose a misleading headline. It sounds better. But why would so many other online sites — many belonging to newspapers where staffers surely know better — use the same misleading headline?


Wisconsin State Journal gets new publisher

Lee Enterprises has selected John M. Humenik as the new publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal. Here’s the State Journal story.

John M HumenikHumenik has been president and publisher of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson for 3 years.

Here is (to us) the most interesting part of the State Journal story… interesting because we can’t understand it.

Humenik will be handing over publisher duties at the Arizona Daily Star to a successor still to be named. However, even after that transition, Humenik will oversee all newspapers published by Lee Enterprises in the Tucson and Madison areas as “group publisher,” the company announced.

“By staying connected and involved with our Tucson operation, together we will be able to explore important synergies,” Humenik said. “I believe that relationship will prove to be a tremendous advantage for our group, especially as we build upon our print and digital successes.”

Are there synergies between Tucson and Madison? We shall see.

Just last month Lee Enterprises named the Arizona Daily Star as its “2013 Enterprise of the Year”.  Here’s the press release.

We found the press release mostly interesting for showing that the Lee executives are quite knowledgeable about print and digital revenue. And also pre-printed grocery advertising. They did mention journalism, too, although it didn’t sound as heartfelt (you know, to us). You read it, if you really care. And to be fair there’s nothing wrong with Lee executives being business-oriented. It’s a business.

To Mr. Humenik, welcome to our fair city. It’s colder than Tucson, but it’s got groceries in need of advertising — wait, is that a synergy? Is it working already?  Maybe if the advertising works out, you could please hire more reporters.

Wisconsin State Journal backs same-sex marriage

The Wisconsin State Journal has now endorsed same-sex marriage for Wisconsin.

That’s a good thing.

Some will say that it’s about time. Hell, former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman has been out of his closet since 2010… and campaigning ever since (!) for gay marriage.

Some will say that it’s peculiar for the State Journal to proclaim, “Wisconsin should lead on the issue, not sit back and watch the rest of the world move forward without us.” Yes, technically, it’s a little late to actually “lead” on this, since Iowa and Minnesota have already approved it. But we can try not to be last. There’s still plenty of time (presumably) to beat Mississippi.

Will we beat Mississippi? Hard to say. There’s nothing going on in our safely gerrymandered Republican state legislature that’s positive for gay marriage. But the State Journal says it’s not a partisan issue. So maybe surprising progress will break out amongst our GOP legislators. Maybe those journalists on the State Journal editorial board are sitting on a surprising scoop!

In the meantime, let’s say it again. Great work, WSJ editorial board!

Toles - Same-sex marriage

Why do they bother?

why botherFrom time to time we still see the Wisconsin State Journal.

  • Metcalfe’s grocery gives away the WSJ for free on Sundays.
  • And the nice neighbor lady still, as she says, “takes the newspaper.” She passes along an accumulation every couple weeks, and we glance at them.

Today we got the free one from Metcalfe’s. Just for old times’ sake, we opened up the editorial page. Jeebus! What a forlorn and witless effort. And on a Sunday! Sunday is their prime time. If they’ve got a best effort, it oughta be on a Sunday. They were telling readers how Wisconsin’s economy ought to be organized, which they summarize, quite fairly, as follows:

Wisconsin needs its farms and machine shops
but also more research and technology.

How do they come up with this stuff??? Could anything be any more humdrum and worthless?

We don’t grade middle-school essays, but we imagine that this could easily be the homework of an eighth-grade essayist with a deadline and an eighth-grade understanding of economics. Why does “Wisconsin’s Independent Voice” offer this up? And on a Sunday. Can’t we demand better?

Jeebus, maybe we’re not done…