Sunday, February 10, 2008

Always on Saturday


The Picayune stopped short of calling the mayor a lying sack of sh** yesterday, but Saturday's editorial was a welcome step in the right direction:
To add to the insult, the Nagin administration shut down the program months ago without telling residents it was doing so.

This is outrageous behavior. Unfortunately, the poor communication is typical for this administration.

It is especially galling that Mayor Ray Nagin continued to tout the Good Neighbor effort publicly after it had been quietly shut down.


But that doesn't excuse the fact that New Orleanians were misled. Mayor Nagin ought to apologize, and he ought to make sure that residents get the truth from City Hall.

I found the concluding sentence (quoted above) somewhat timid, but that's not my main point. A pattern has become undeniable. When the editorial writers at the Picayune decide to criticize the mayor, the editorial is invariably printed on Saturday. Since the Sunday paper has the highest readership, we can safely assume that Sunday editorials command the most attention. I have no idea how Saturday readership compares to weekday readership, but I do know that weekday editorials get discussed on weekday talk radio shows; so there is at least one way in which Saturday editorials get less attention than weekday editorials. So once again, I'm left wondering why the editorials that criticize the mayor are always published on Saturday. In the past I've compared it to the mumblings under the breath of the coward who feels the need to say something but is afraid to say it very loudly. I suppose that it could be a different person making the editorial decisions on Saturdays or just a coincidence. Any thoughts?

Update: Editor B's comment prompted me to look through recent Picayune editorials. There have indeed been some editorials that criticized the mayor on weekdays, two or three were even fairly hard-hitting. FWIW, I didn't find any on Sunday. However, those editorials were about specific spending decisions and they centered on wasted money rather than on what led to bad spending decisions. For example, I came across two editorials about the sanitation contracts that failed to mention either secrecy or campaign contributions. The "champion of transparency" had clearly begun negotiating the new contracts by May 2006, but the price of "Disneyland-like" service wasn't revealed until late September 2006, by which time Waste Management had decided to pull out. The editorials that have discussed the mayor's very credibility have all appeared on Saturdays, which effectively means that they won't get discussed on weekday talk radio or, I would guess, in workplace lunchrooms. I'll add to this with quotes from editorials as soon as time permits.

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I ran this by a friend who kinda has an inside perspective. My friend says, yes, the last two editorials criticizing the Nagin administration have run on Saturdays. But a quick search back to mid-October reveals the TP has run at least eight editorials that directly criticize the Nagin administration. Except for the last two, all the others ran on weekdays.

That's my friend's view not mine. For what it's worth!
Your friend is right because this sentence:

"When the editorial writers at the Picayune decide to criticize the mayor, the editorial is invariably printed on Saturday."

was far too broad on my part. They've had a couple of editorials that were pretty hard-hitting on the wastefulness associated with the sanitation that ran on weekdays, but nothing about the secretiveness of our champion of transparency. Waste is bad enough, but when a mayor who answers every criticism with claims of transparency is as secretive as a CIA director it merits more attention than Saturday editorials tend to get.

To my way of thinking, waste might be evidence of corruption, but excessive secrecy is always wrong when public money is involved -- unless there's some extremely compelling reason like national security.

The weekday editorials haven't questioned the mayor's character or personal qualifications. I can understand that the paper doesn't want to call the mayor a liar without good reason. Personally, when somebody contradicts himself and makes statements that trn out to be false, I consider it sufficient reason to call him a liar. However, if the paper wants to shy away from that, I'd be fine with the Picayune calling more attention to the secrecy. Seeing that from the champion of transparency would probably cause most people to think about it the way I do.

To put it more succinctly, the paper will print criticisms, sometimes hard-hitting criticisms, of specific actions or decisions of the mayor's on weekdays. But it tends to bury its criticisms of the overall conduct of the Nagin administration on Saturdays.
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