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LA media failing to help citizens through election season

As I noted in the previous posting, Louisiana’s media can be selective in its political coverage to the point of inadequately informing the citizenry as evidenced by its failure to ask pertinent questions concerning Sen. Mary Landrieu’s relationship, if any, to indicted campaign finance fundraiser Norman Hsu – an error of omission. Unfortunately, some other recent stories appearing in the state’s press show the media makes errors of commission that likewise fail to assist the public in its quest for knowledge to help it make electoral decisions.

One recent example about which I wrote deserves re-emphasis. The Baton Rouge Advocate editorialized that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Bobby Jindal’s agreeing to fewer “debates” than it desired had a negative impact on information for voters, which I demonstrated was a shoddy argument at best and at worst displayed rank bias against Jindal who looks likely to agree to about as many debates as he did in 2003. Yet incumbent Democrat Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom has agreed to none – and yet we hear not a peep out of The Advocate condemning Odom.

Another recent subject I covered also deals in part with an Odom action. The Blueprint Louisiana organization has released a reform agenda that mostly hits the mark, yet major office candidates, even those like Jindal strongly identified with reform, have not formally endorsed it, with one exception – Odom, whose political career is the antithesis of reform. Just by way of illustration, one part of the agenda deals with ethics reform, yet Odom has been plagued with past charges, some still pending, not only of misuse of power but outright corruption in office.

Yet Louisiana media to date have not pointed out this obvious contradiction (see this typical reaction). Nor do they bother to question other dubious claims apparently when Democrats are involved. So when it is reported that the Louisiana House Democratic Caucus also said is supported the Blueprint Louisiana agenda, the media seems not at all curious as to how the voting record of many members of the Caucus shows the exact opposite of this stated intent. For example, almost every House Democrat supported SCR 76 last legislative session to rebuild New Orleans’ charity hospital in a fashion far more grandiose than the agenda’s health care plank would recommend.

But when something involves Republicans, oddly the media suddenly becomes interested in connecting the dots to find inconsistency – to the point that they do it in the wrong way. Thus, we get a report that Jindal criticizes higher state spending while arguing for more spending, including federal dollars that he supported in his present position, in certain policy areas, which is called a “seeming contradiction” – compounded, it is argued, because much higher state spending in the past couple of years has been courtesy of federal dollars for recovery.

It’s nothing of the sort, because the writer in this instance doesn’t seem to understand Jindal’s issue preference here. Jindal, and many others, are against the actual purposes to which this increased spending was put – new entitlements, growth in government positions even as population declines, unnecessary salary increases, etc. – independently of recovery funds, and particularly relative to the alternative of tax breaks for all Louisianans. To try to equate this attitude as contradicting a desire to spend more money on a high-priority area is at best intellectual laziness, at worst a tortuous exercise to create something from nothing.

This column exists precisely to help readers sort through the issues of the day and, as part of this mission during election season, to equip them to make decisions regarding candidates. I would appreciate it if Louisiana’s media would do a better job in joining me in performing this service.

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