Andrew Sleeth: Irrational defense

February 21, 2014 

Regarding John Drescher’s Feb. 15 column “Readers question news value”: Drescher’s defense against criticism that The N&O improperly skipped Dilbert comics slated for Feb. 7 and 8 because the strip’s creator, Scott Adams, generalized about real events in India and disparaged a nation in the process rang hollow when juxtaposed with a New York Times story you ran Feb. 16.

The news article’s headline, “Chinese ask Kerry to help tear down firewall,” caught my attention because I was reasonably certain neither the Chinese government nor a majority of its people had asked for anything of the sort. A copy editor pinned that generalizing headline to the NYT story, whose lead made clear it was a mere “group of Chinese bloggers” who had petitioned our secretary of state.

The Dilbert rationale again falters when one considers that you daily publish “Mallard Fillmore” on the comics pages – a strip that routinely takes potshots at “Americans.”

Today, local dailies are the town squares upon which swords are drawn in defense of intellectual liberty and expressive freedom. Their publishers hold the inalienable right to print whatever they want with whatever bias they choose. Naturally, news reporting’s credibility rises or falls depending on that bias, but I’ll defend to the death The N&O’s right to print whatever it wishes. What I won’t defend is its right to act irrationally.

Andrew Sleeth

Raleigh

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