I wasn't going to say anything, but the day has passed, the papers were printed and the fallout has fallen. Obviously, a few people in Washington weren't fans of the editorial coordination led by the Boston Globe last week. I'm not going to respond to the criticism because, as others in our editorial family have said (see elsewhere on this page), It will do little if anything to help the situation.
No. I hope what I do have to say will at least be helpful as the discussion continues. The papers which responded to the Globe's call — it's worth noting this paper didn't — have been accused of collusion for their effort. Strictly from the dictionary definition of the word, you could make that case — though more modern definitions add the negative tone with words like "in order to cheat or deceive others," which I don't think the various editorial writers did. But, that's fine. What I find hard to swallow is the accusation that the editorials (each of them with distinctly individual content from their distinctly individual staff) was on par with the now-famous TV spot created by Sinclair Broadcasting (each of them word for word the same and required of all local anchors).
For reference, it was Ari Fleischer, former press secretary under George W. Bush who equated to two.
To break that down to basics, Fleischer seems to be saying the Boston Globe's call for any news organization to voluntarily create content is the same as a parent-company mandating content from each of its news organizations. Maybe that was too much. Let me condense his claim a bit more — volunteering is the same as being told you must.
But, of course, Mr. Fleischer is wrong. I'll go ahead and hedge that comment by saying it's just my opinion but, at the very least, it's close enough it can tell whether truth brushed its teeth this morning (I'm sure truth has immaculate oral hygiene).
Anyway, Fleischer's off the mark because papers, like ours, were free to refrain from joining the effort. Under Sinclair's model, no stations under its umbrella were able to say no and refuse to run the pre-scripted message — ironically on the subject of trustworthy media sources. The issue at hand is freedom of the press and, to me, one of those presses sounds a bit more free than the other.
Now, please note, I've not said anything about politics right or left. I'm not saying we shouldn't listen to voices from all sources and discern which are most trustworthy. And I'm not saying we don't all need to prune our own belief systems when they get a bit wild from time to time.
What I'm saying is we should not confuse voluntary action with mandated obedience. One is freedom. The other is subjection. I don't know that I have to say it but, "This is extremely dangerous to our democracy." At least Sinclair got that part right.