By Marisa Demarco
Goodnight, Editorial Independence—It's reasonably safe to say that FOX News is slanted and bizarre, its anchors and analysts need only begin donning "I <3 righty, lol" T shirts to confirm what everyone else already knows. Even moderates joke about it, or let out long sighs, slowly shaking their heads at the latest bout of FOX "reporting." FOX owner Rupert Murdoch, who appears only slightly more innocuous and kindly than, say, Darth Sidious, is stalking the Wall Street Journal, his monstrous bags of money ready to snap into their saliva-sticky orifices another morsel of mainstream media. Goodnight, editorial independence.
Now the Journal's editorial pages were no beacon of liberalism to be sure. That hardly matters. Instead, it was the news writers who remained vital, self-ruling and flexible, a legacy that will surely wither if in the clutches of the Bush-supporting Murdoch media mafia. It's all well and good for MySpace mogul Murdoch to <3 the president, but when it trickles down to the news, we've got a problem. Always.
When the Alibi went to press, the Bancroft family, who owns the Wall Street Journal, hadn't yet decided to cash out, and Murdoch vowed to make all the "necessary promises" required to ensure the virtue of the publication. So perhaps it's too early to sound the alarm. But this is worth keeping an eye on as Murdoch circles yet another flailing rag.
More Than Pictures—Flip to the letters page. What's the first thing you see? A couple of headlines and, at the bottom right, Eric Garcia's top-notch editorial tooning. It never ceases to amaze me that Garcia can say in one great image what it takes me dozens of words to convey—without losing any subtlety. Whether that's a testament to his skill or an indictment of mine is a debate for another day. Nevertheless, it's hard to estimate exactly what editorial toons add to a paper. Some folks start there for their news and politics of the day, then after scanning some other headlines, move right to the funnies. Visual metaphors are still the best.
So it's sad to realize the industry is drying up. Tony Dokoupil wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review that the number of full-time toonists has fallen from 275 in 1957 to 84 today. The death toll has sounded on this industry before, and it's sounding again as the American Editorial Cartoonists preps the party for its 50th birthday. Pick up a copy of Killed Cartoons, a book of 100 killed op-ed toons stricken from papers in the last century. Wallis believes part of their shriveling is the result of wussy editors, unwilling to touch on hot topics for fear of pissing off the audience.
But you can't tell me when spitfire talk radio hosts, snarky-ass columnists and Steven Colbert capture ratings that now is the time for papers to pull their punches. Even in the Alibi, readers can't get enough of hating on "¡Ask a Mexican!" Though a few emboldened letter writers might pitch a fit over incendiary work, I'd be hard-pressed to believe they don't secretly need it, like ticks need blood.
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