It's All-Star Week in the Bay Area, so of course the Mercury News felt obligated to weigh in. No, not just on the sports pages and Page One (careful readers will see Media News synergy in action as the All-Star coverage shows the value of Dean Singleton's clustering approach, pooling stories from all his Bay Area properties and eliminating redundancy), but on ... the Opinion Page.
"What Applause Bonds deserves depends on how you see him," intones the lead headline Monday. Twelve inches later, in a piece signed "The Opinion of the Mercury News Editorial Board," we see -- you guessed it -- two sides! Good Barry/Bad Barry theme.
It's not that it's wrong, but it's presumptuous, misplaced and increasingly irrelevant to the age we live and read in.
Beyond the fact that the Good Barry/Bad Barry theme has been bludgeoned to death, we don't need the Editorial Board (7 people) of the Merc to explore it. The world has changed all around editorial pages, yet they often act as if it hasn't. Readers can find far more insightful, passionate, humorous and original Barry commentary everywhere, courtesy of ESPN, blogs of all kinds , radio, sat-radio, on and on.
It's no surprise, I suppose, that editorial pages are stuck in what CBS' Leslie Moonves once called "The Voice of God" syndrome (speaking of TV anchors). As once mass-market, monopoly vehicles, many well-minded editorialists have tried to do the right thing. But as papers become more niche than mass, and just a part of the conversation, we're seeing is a fight for relevance in the early 21st century.
We all remember the history of a century ago. Then, vituperative, highly partisan editors charged ahead in the newsgathering, and often with their own political agendas. Readers could choose from a cacophony of voices. No one pretended to be neutral or objective.
Then monopoly newspapers, birthed by post World War II economics, emerged. Those have been the papers of our times. Editorial pages took on a certain decorum, and with it, a certain boredom. Good-government commentary certainly seemed, well, good, but often missed the point that citizen readers care or know about. And the pages have lacked fire.
Now the blogosophere is all about fire, passion, and no-holds-barred commentary. And readers expect a person, not a board, to be associated with a viewpoint.
Curiously, today the Chicago Sun-Times, essentially announced its political (re-)conversion, offering a "liberal-leaning" editorial page again. That seems a throwback (pre-Murdoch in Chicago), but may be just one more sign that newspapers -- successful news companies -- may take on some of the characteristics that fueled their great growth a century ago.