Recall Memo: MKE Journal Sentinel Moves Recall Bias from Editorial Page to Front Page

Ok, if I seem to be picking on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a bit this year, I am sorry but they keep tossing me soft balls.

And this Recall Memo isn’t directly about either of the gubernatorial candidates either.

Yesterday I had a little innocent fun with MJS when I pointed out the irony of publishing two stories about clean water on the front page of their local section. The first about a man who is walking across the state to raise money for clean water in third world countries. And the second article talking about contaminated municipal water in…well…WISCONSIN.

But today I want to point out a not so subtle attempt to influence the recall through apparently innocent juxtapositions of photos, headlines and articles on the FRONT PAGE of the main news section of the Sunday June 3rd edition! What a crock!

Let’s start with the article…Craig Gilbert has written a very engaging look at anger and action in the political environment…particularly here in Wisconsin. It is worth the time it takes to read it in it’s entirety. But to get a taste here are the opening graphs:

In the War for Wisconsin, voters here have become famous for three things: participation, polarization and discord.

In plainer language, they’re active, they’re divided and they’re angry.

The first is thought of as a good thing. The other two aren’t. But it may be impossible to separate them.

An angry citizen is an active citizen. That’s what pollsters believe. That’s what scholars have found. And that’s what 16 months of protests, petitions, rallies and recalls suggest.

Bitter partisan conflict has coincided with extreme political engagement.

“Anger drives turnout. Happiness doesn’t drive turnout,” says GOP pollster Gene Ulm.

“Anger can powerfully motivate political participation,” reports a recent study by political scientists that found that anger, more than other emotions such as anxiety or enthusiasm, has a distinctly catalyzing effect.

Now let’s look at the title that the online editors chose for Mr. Gilbert’s article:
“Wisconsin: state of anger, state of action”. But in the print version of the paper, this title was placed immediately above the following photographs of Mayor Tom Barrett and Governor Scott Walker (these photos are the property of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel…and are being used here simply to illustrate my point…the photographers are credited below) and Mr. Gilbert’s article in print is titled, “Raw emotion heightens election participation”.

So were the print editors enjoying a bit of irony or maybe a bit of sarcasm when they placed this photo of Mayor Barrett by Rick Wood at the left side of the page along the spine under the “Wisconsin: state of anger” portion of the headline? Or was it blatant editorial bias?

Immediately to the right of the Mayor Barrett photo is this John Klein photo of Governor Scott Walker:

By now I would imagine that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has thousands of photos of each candidate…and probably hundreds from the last few days of the campaign when these were taken. But you tell me it was coincidental that an unflattering animated photo of Mayor Barrett is directly beneath “The role of anger”? This is the best they could do? While a serious photo of Governor Walker appears immediately adjacent and almost beneath the headline portion “A look to the future”? One photograph of the governor without a glazed over deer in the headlights stare or the shifty I am looking anywhere but at anyone? Really?

I am not suggesting they should have used a different photo of the governor…it’s a strong photo and it’s one of the best I can remember seeing of Governor Walker…but there was no hidden agenda with the Mayor Barrett photo? We couldn’t find a similarly serious scholarly shot of the mayor?

I’m not buying it guys!

BTW: here is the slide show currently available at jsonline that includes these photos and a few more from the same time period. Again, these are the best you have? Really?


Related Articles

4 thoughts on “Recall Memo: MKE Journal Sentinel Moves Recall Bias from Editorial Page to Front Page

  1. I don’t know…I actually like the photo of Mayor Barrett…shows he has passion for WI.

  2. Perceptive catch, Ed. I’m not buying it either. I’d call this instilled pattern recognition, a visual dog whistle that illustrates (and thereby reinforces) the conservative narrative of aggressive threat and union thuggery.

    “The eye – it cannot choose but see;
    We cannot bid the ear be still;
    Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
    Against or with our will.”
    ~ Wordsworth

    What could be more appropriate on recall eve than a little dash of loathsome panic?

  3. Is it true that the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is considering changing the name of the paper to MilWalker Journal Sentinal?

Comments are closed.