Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bush Republicans as axe-wielding apes

The Lawrence Journal-World on May 10 published a Pat Oliphant editorial cartoon in which "Bush Republicans" were portrayed as axe-wielding apes outside Bill Moyers' office at PBS. It also published an accompanying column by Jonathan Chait, a senior editor at The New Republic, that attacked "Republican hacks" for "strangling" PBS and NPR.

Chait notes that Kenneth Tomlinson, the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which controls NPR and PBS, " has appointed a pair of ombudsmen who can report on the networks' political bias."

" One of them is William Schulz, a full-blooded movement conservative," Chait writes. The other is Ken Bode, whom Chait claims "tries to be painstakingly evenhanded." Chait did not mention that Bode was a strategist in liberal Democrat Morris Udall's 1976 presidential campaign.

Chait's column was definitely argued from the left, so, if a political cartoon was to accompany it, it would not be unreasonable to expect a cartoon that balanced that arugment. Instead, the Journal-World opted to publish a cartoon that not only attacked those who see a liberal bias at PBS (even Current, a newspaper founded in 1980 by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, a forerunner and parent of both PBS and NPR, recognizes the lack of balance on PBS), but suggested those who make those claims are irrational beings. We all know that liberals would never be portrayed this way in the pages of Lawrence's daily newspaper.

Here's something the Journal-World should keep in mind the next time it is tempted to portray Bush Republicans as axe-wielding apes:

According to the latest Audit Bureau Circulations data, the Lawrence Journal-World had an average daily circulation of 19,449—(6*daily + Sunday)/7—during the six months that ended on March 31, 2005.

The 2005 Editor & Publisher Market Guide placed the total number of households in this market at 52,712 in 2000. E&P also estimated the number of households in Douglas County would grow from 35,591 in 2000 to 41,620 in 2005. This estimate would bring the total number of households in the market to at least 58,741. Using this figure, the Journal-World’s household penetration rate is, at most, 33 percent, down from over 60 percent just 25 years ago.

John Kerry won Douglas County in 2004 with 57 percent of the vote, and it would be reasonable to expect the Journal-World’s editorial page to reflect the slight liberal advantage in its home county.

However, it should also be noted that the number of Bush voters (20,544) in Douglas County was greater than the Journal-World’s daily circulation.

If your household penetration rate is dropping at a rapid pace, it might not be a good idea to publish cartoons that insult a large percentage of your readers.