As everyone knows, this is an election year. Voters will be choosing members of the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Indiana State Legislature and the district seats for the Monroe County Council. That just scratches the surface of all of the votes we will cast in November and in the May primary elections. With all of these choices, we need to be well-informed, and this is where the news media comes in. Locally, that is the Bloomington Herald-Times and the Indiana Daily Student, and to a lesser extent sites like the Bloomington Alternative.
The main source for local news will continue to be the Herald-Times, which does not exactly have a good track record. After all, H-T columnist Mike Leonard admitted to fabricating a Congressional vote that never took place. (Baron Hill, in violation of his “clean campaign” pledge, never denounced this fabrication.) This is just one of many serious lapses of journalistic ethics at 1900 South Walnut, including a libelous personal hit piece on an IU student trustee. The Herald-Times has an ethical obligation to provide factual, truthful and complete information on issues that will affect the results of the May primary and the November general election.
The last couple months have not been good for the Herald-Times, and indicates it still has a way to go. On December 14, the H-T reported that there were two candidates seeking to replace Evan Bayh in the general election, ignoring Marlin Stutzman, Don Bates Jr. and Richard Behney. This despite the fact that Bates had spoken in Bloomington just two months prior and the H-T had mentioned all three candidates just ten days earlier. There was no excuse for the Herald-Times to make this glaring of an error, especially when all they had to do was use their own web site’s search engine to check for the names of all the candidates opposing Evan Bayh in May and November.
The H-T made another glaring error earlier this month with a feature story claiming that there were 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans on the City Council, County Council and County Commissioners on January 1, 2005, and 13 Democrats and 6 Republicans on January 1, 2006. The figures for 1/1/2006 were wrong: they were the same as 1/1/2005. There was no election in 2005, so nothing would have changed. The 7 Republicans in office both years were Jason Banach, David Sabbagh, Joyce Poling, Herb Kilmer, Sue West, Trent Jones and Marty Hawk.
Honestly, how do you make this mistake? It should have raised a red flag that the numbers for January 1, 2005 and January 1, 2006 were different, since there was no election in 2005. January 1 of the off year and January 1 of the mid-term election should always be the same, except in the rare occasion where someone switches parties in the middle of the term. That is not just a factual error. That is a lack of basic civic literacy.
The Herald-Times needs to get its act together for the 2010 election, and cover the news in a factual, truthful and balanced manner so that readers can truly be informed about the issues and candidates going into the primary and general election. Unfortunately, based on past performance, there is very little chance that this will happen.