The Backpedaling Bee


Yesterday many writers, including our own Matt Welch, mocked a sophomoric voter-bashing post-election editorial in The Sacramento Bee. The mockery must have made a mark: The editors have replaced the article with a rather different commentary. The newspaper claims the first piece was posted in error, and that is was merely "a draft prepared for internal discussion among members of The Bee's editorial board."

Most of the reactions to this newsroom slapstick will probably focus on whether the paper's excuse is credible, so I'll skip past that and dive into the deeper issue: Both articles are unreadable in that special way that only an editorial composed by committee can be. Here's how the new one begins:

Good morning, members of the California Legislature. Good morning, Governor.

Feeling bruised and abused this morning? Well, you can't say you didn't see it coming. The polls have been saying for weeks that voters were going to do just what they did on Tuesday: Conclusively reject your slate on the ballot, Propositions 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E.

Today, on the morning after voters kicked around your best effort at fixing the state budget as if it were a deflated soccer ball, you face a decision.

The annoying affectation that they're directly addressing the political class, the quick collapse into clichés, the similes from hell (who kicks around a deflated soccer ball?) — the whole article is like that. These tics are annoying enough in the hands of a metro columnist, but in the magniloquent tones of the Editorial Board they become unbearable. If newspapers are going to die, could they please do everyone a favor and kill off the unsigned opinion pieces first? They don't really represent the collective opinion of the paper's staff, and even if they did, no one cares what a newspaper as a corporate entity thinks. Skip the "internal discussion" within the "editorial board" and adopt a new rule: If you have a view to express, sign your name to it.