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There's Bias and There's Bias
For those of you who think our complaints about the news coverage offered by the Paxton Family Empire is unfounded paranoia, here’s a couple of reminders that even paranoid people get it right sometimes.
 
 
THE 1ST CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE: The Paducah Sun’s ace political reporter, Bill Bartleman, was one of two reporters to take part in the KET First Congressional District’s “Debate” on Monday evening. This is the debate that Heather Ryan showed up for and her opponent, Ed Whitfield, did not. Ryan spent almost thirty minutes answering questions on jobs, nuclear energy, coal liquification, trade, and abortion. The questions were rapid fire. The reporters were allowed follow ups. Bartleman and Ryan got into a few spirited exchanges. We know all this because we actually watched the whole show. If we had not, we would have not have known it happened.
 
The oddest question of the evening had to come from Bill Bartleman: “What is the greatest accomplishment of TVA?”  Unable to believe her ears, Ryan asked him to repeat the question. When he did, she gave the “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” answer – “supplying electricity to thousands of people”.
 
Whitfield followed the segment with a six minute address from a backdrop of the Capitol Dome. He was not in Washington. According to a report published in the Paducah Sun today, he was either: a) at a doctor’s appointment; b) at a Columbus Day rally in Lyon County; c) opening a Republican campaign headquarters in Madisonville; or d) all of the above.
 
The Paducah Sun published NOTHING of the substance of the Ryan KET appearance or of the Whitfield statement afterwards.  Not on Tuesday. Not on Wednesday. Not on Thursday.
 
What was published was a Bartleman report on Thursday about the controversy that began over the weekend behind Ryan’s back and extended into Monday morning when the decision was made to let Rep. Whitfield have his way. 
 
For the many voters in the distribution area of the Paducah Sun and its satellites, nothing happened Monday night. While the national candidates spin like tops and talking heads bury us under analysis that even they forget after their mike is turned off, the major news organizations in the First Congressional District didn’t run one single story of substance on the issues in this race.
 
FIRST KENTUCKY HOUSE RACE: This week Ryan Alessi at the Lexington Herald picked the 1st Kentucky House race of incumbent Steven Rudy against challenger Mike Lawrence as one of the top ten races to watch in the state. Lawrence, McCracken Circuit Court Clerk, raised $63,032 and had $56,837. Republican Rudy raised $39,925 with $36,617 on hand. That’s very close to a 2:1 fundraising advantage for Lawrence. The Paducah Sun completely ignored the story.
 
We searched the Paducah Sun website and since September 15th, there has been one mention of either Rudy or Lawrence. The raise for LRC Director Bobby Sherman got a party line response from Rudy, who said that paying Sherman a big bunch of money will avoid a nationwide search. Lawrence’s press release deploring the raise was not mentioned.
 
There is active bias and there is passive bias.
 
Active bias goes after candidates and speaks ill of them, giving half the story, taking their quotes out of context, depicting them in the worst possible light.. Need examples? Check out any of the cable news shows and the slant becomes evident.  Bill O’Reilly and Shawn Hannity have little good to say about Democratic candidates. Keith Oberman and Rachel Maddows have little good to say for Republican candidates. In the defense of these Fox and MSNBC shows, they are commentary, not news. They are also two of many sources of news.  If one objects to the slant, hit the remote.
 
Then there is the tree falling in the forest kind of passive bias. (If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear, is there a sound?) If there is no report, did the event really happen?  
 
The choices the Paducah Sun made this week was to ignore an event that their one and only statewide recognized political reporter actively participated in and to ignore a report on a race in their backyard that is getting coverage in Lexington. Ryan’s appearance and Whitfield’s video never happened as far as the paper was concerned.  Mike Lawrence’s obvious dollar advantage over his opponent is not news when it’s Paducah. It is news when it is Barack Obama outraising John McCain.
 
 The Paducah Sun, our only regional paper, our local Kentucky television news, (Channel 6, also a Paxton holding) are all many in the land past the Lakes read and see. That increases the need for them to “get it right” and not to shut West Kentuckians off from news that affects their everyday lives.
 
In the end, the Paducah Sun’s bias may prove its undoing. As more and more residents of this area have high speed access, they will have less and less use for nonexistent reporting. And a public kept in the dark has no need for a newspaper.
 

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