Jan 21 2007

Our Viewpoint

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The political blogosphere is a whole new thing, writing as it goes its own rules of operation, ethics and procedure. They’re informal as yet, though the day probably will come when political bloggers have their own associations and memberships and codes of ethics. (There are already awards for blogs.)

That means a whole lot of questions already answered and established for other media are yet to be established for this new one. In its opening phases (and it may stay this way in the case of personal blogs), the answer seems to be that anything goes. In the area of politics, this has meant that pre-existing passions and procedures tend to rule. For many political bloggers, that translates to an explicitly partisan perspective – an approach to political writing that, by the way, has a long history in the newspapers of this country, notably in the Revolutionary days on up to about century ago. An alternative approach comes from the newspaper bloggers (broadcasting seems to have generated hardly any political bloggers so far, outside the world of talking heads) often provide useful material in their blogs, but you sometimes sense a discomfort, trying to square the more personal and subjective circle of the blog with the traditional pyramid news story formula.

Ridenbaugh Press is shooting for something a little different from either.

We come out of a newspaper background. Randy Stapilus covered politics as a reporter and columnist, covered a range of other things as well as a reporter, and wrote editorials and edited opinion pages for several years – in all, about 15 years in the daily newspaper business. (There was also a quick stretch in local TV news.) This background has been one influencer on Ridenbaugh Press. We try to adhere to a number of journalistic standards. We do not call politicians by nicknames. We try to represent situations and positions clearly and fairly. We aim for consistency, and we try to apply common standards to everyone.

That doesn’t mean we aim to replicate what the mass media do; we’ve seen those rules gamed too many times to trust in them. We rely on our judgement. Our intent is to state the facts fairly and accurately, use our best thinking in drawing conclusions from them – leaving for you to assess whether our chain of logic holds up.

That isn’t quite all, of course. How do we decide what to address, and what standards do we use in addressing those subjects? (That’s a question everyone on the web has to answer, mainstream media included; the answers are not always obvious.)

Consider what follows as a rough statement, subject to some revision as time goes on, of our operating principles – some of the points we bear in mind as we consider what to post and how to post it.

We don’t regard ourselves as “liberal,” “conservative” or “moderate” – and we do regard all descriptive words as more fuzz-factor than truly illuminative, and these days primarily serving as tools for political operatives. We think a new framework and set of definitions are in order. (As a matter of public record, we’re registered to vote as independents.)

We can put some meat on the bones by citing some of the ideas that often influence our point of view:

bullet Our core subject is change in the Pacific Northwest, as expressed in and through politics and public policy – and we do see both as changing. How the region is changing, both in politics and otherwise, is our overarching topic.

bullet No one has a lock on wisdom, or on foolishness. Few public officials who last for long manage to avoid either entirely.

bullet Transparency is almost always a virtue in public affairs; exceptions need a powerful rationale.

bullet We, you and all of us are – or should be – the boss. Those we select as leaders should not be regarded as particularly better or worse than the rest of us; collectively, they run about the same range. None of them should be trusted *too* much. They are called “public servants” for a reason, and we and they get into trouble whenever we or they forget it.

bullet The office of citizen is serious, and should be taken seriously: An uninformed vote is worse than no vote at all.

bullet We think the Bill of Rights was and still is a good idea and not, as one book title has it, a “suicide pact” – quite the contrary, it is our best defense against suicidal decision-making. It defines what America is – is should be – about, better than any other.

bullet Freedom in society is zero-sum, not prospectively infinite. If you create more in one place, there’s a real possibility you’re diminishing it somewhere else, and the equations should be watched closely. A guiding principle: Freedom generally should be spread widely rather than narrowly. Corollary: Among the most important things to understand about our society are what things are, and are not, zero-sum. Additional corollary: Concentrated power, wherever it may be found, should be viewed with the deepest of suspicion and should ordinarily be met with a pick ax to break it into pieces. Further corollary: Power is inherently relatively diffuse in republics, concentrated in empires.

bullet Evidence weighs more than speculation; the weight of evidence will and has changed opinions here.

bullet If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. (An old saw perhaps, but endlessly applicable when parsing political statements, platforms and promises.) Corollary: If it sounds too simple to explain everything it seems to, it probably is.

bullet Finally, relevant comments are (of course) always welcome.

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One Response to “Our Viewpoint”

  1. John L. Runfton 15 Jan 2012 at 2:34 pm

    In re Barrett Rainey’s “American Democracy is Drowning in a Sea of Money, let me suggest that the solution is not to blame SCOTUS’s decision Citzens United and call for more repressive regulations. The decision is sound and complies with your above “Our Stance” # 7 regarding freedom. As you imply in # 7, the corollary to freedom is responsibility. The rationale of the decision is correct, as the Court explained, on grounds of individual freedom. Now, the next step which appertains to individual responsibility needs to take place to create the balance reflected in # 7. That next step could possibly be accomplished by bringing suit against one of the PACs on the ground that it cannot qualify for immunity, because of its inherent anonymity, as a “public persona” under the N.Y. Times v,. Sullivan doctrine. Subjecting the PACs and their contributors liability for their slanders will solve much of the problem (similar to Great Britain where there is no N.Y. Times v,. Sullivan doctrine – although there are other problems in the reverse in G.B). Regrets for the foregoing ” 30 sec. shorthand.” John L. Runft

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