I read the Opinion Section regularly of America’s three major ‘paper’s of record,’ WaPo, NYT, and WSJ. Reading the Opinion section has always been something that I personally enjoy, the gossip, the intrigue, and the outlook. But I’ve noticed something with Editorial sections during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic. By and large, it has taken Editorial Sections too long to begin wrestling with the large-scale questions brought on by the crisis.
I’ve noticed this none more so than in the paper of record of my local newspaper, The Erie Daily Times. I’ve long been a loyal customer of The Times and have appreciated their extensive coverage of local economics and business. However, I noticed that a particular piece praised local Elected Officials’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic only a few weeks after the release of Government guidance. I thought the Editorial, coming from The Editorial Board, gave the Elected Officials a “free pass.”
The bulk of Elected Officials’ response to the coronavirus pandemic is still largely untested from the top all the way down to local municipalities. Why would an Editorial Board give Elected Officials glowing praise before the fact? My concern is less about the Erie Times and more about how local Editorial sections are covering the coronavirus. Surely, they are not giving Elected Officials a “free pass” in areas where one particular political party might control the demographic majority. (Erie is a largely majority “Democrat” County and the Elected Officials in question were both Democrat).
In doing so, the Editorial process is cheapened as customers and Elected Officials alike would surely benefit from editorial oversight. Potentially Millions or Billions in some areas of Government assistance could flow to local municipalities in the form of small business assistance and public health aid. Now more than ever, a strong Editorial position is needed to protect the public trust and offer transparency and accountability.
I’ve noticed something else about Editorial Coverage, by and large. There is a growing sense that everybody is ‘waiting for the shoe to drop.’ What I mean is that Editorial Boards are not evaluating the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic crisis in its historical lens. US Congress has already approved one of the largest stimulus packages in history that will surely have financial ramifications for years to come, even after the bailouts of ’08-09 left Main Street reeling. Withholding judgement on the need of the bailout, the American Economy is in uncharted territory now. Why are Editorials not asking big picture questions such as ‘will the Federal Reserve survive coronavirus’ or ‘what would a post pandemic economic and financial look like?’
Not only are most Editorial Boards appeasing partisanship as demonstrated daily by the three major paper of records, but they are failing to help the American public truly understand the historical period we are now entering. My worry is that Editorial Boards are seeking to “whitewash” the magnitude of the financial crisis to both protect financial institutions such as the Federal Reserve and quell public unrest. This could have the very unintended consequences that Editorial Boards are looking to avoid, namely that the public becomes so appalled by the bailouts that a major political backlash occurs to violently overthrow the established order. A moderate version of this happened during the financial crisis of ’08-09 though it was constructively channeled to what is now understand as The Tea Party caucus of the Republican Party.
Of all Institutions, I thought the press would perform much better during this time of crisis. By tailoring public opinion based on readership party affiliation, and by waiting too long to ask the big picture questions about financial reform, history is repeating itself. And we just can’t afford that right now.
The time to begin America’s Great Economic Renovation is now!