Conservative columnist resigns after Kentucky paper refuses to run op-ed on publication’s liberal bias

Alex Pappas | Political Reporter

The lone conservative columnist at the largest and most influential newspaper in Kentucky says he quit writing for the paper because editors are refusing to publish his opinion piece calling the publication out for its apparent liberal bias.

Columnist John David Dyche told The Daily Caller Monday that he’s written for the Louisville Courier-Journal for about a decade and his column had never been rejected until last week.

Dyche says he quit after Pam Platt, the paper’s editorial page editor, left him a voicemail on Feb. 11 making it clear they wouldn’t run his piece about the paper’s politics.

“Hi, John David, it’s Pam Platt at the Courier-Journal and I’m just calling to let you know that I’m not going to run your column tomorrow,” Platt said, according to a transcript provided to TheDC. “To me it goes sort of off of what your column is supposed to be.”

Added Platt: “My understanding is a conservative take on issues of the day and that’s not what this is. So, anyway, thanks a lot and I’ll talk to you soon.”

TheDC obtained a copy of the rejected column. In it, Dyche called on the editorial page to be more balanced.

“Journalistic jihads against Kentucky’s Republican U. S. Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and crusades for gun control and higher taxes, are in full force and frequently fill almost the entire editorial and op-ed pages,” he wrote. “Such one-sidedness neither works in the marketplace nor serves the public interest.”

Dyche also called on the paper’s reporters to disclose their political affiliations in the spirit of transparency.

“Like the rest of the press, The Courier-Journal claims to play an exalted role in public affairs,” Dyche wrote. “But while righteously demanding absolute openness and full disclosure from every other entity and person involved in government, the press does not apply the same standard to itself. Change that by disclosing the party registration and voting choices of all editors and reporters.”

Aside from it’s avowedly liberal editorial pages, Republicans often claim the paper is more hostile to conservatives like McConnell and Paul than liberals in the state in its news coverage.

An example of the paper’s anti-McConnell stance is its November editorial calling on their senior senator to resign as Senate minority leader because President Obama won re-election. “If he refuses, his members should oust him and use the next four years to work their way out of the gridlock they created under Mr. McConnell’s tutelage,” the paper argued.

In his column, Dyche wrote that “Newspapers indignantly proclaim that their editorial and news departments do not coordinate…but the hand-in-glove relationship between such ideological soul mates is undeniable” at the Courier-Journal.

“Opening up the process might not prevent such slanted presentation of news in the service of liberal objectives, but it could deter and expose it,” he wrote.

After Platt rejected the column, Dyche sent an email letter to her and publisher Wesley Jackson offering his resignation. He argued his submitted column very much fit under the category of “a conservative take on the issues of the day.”

“One of those issues is liberal media bias,” he wrote in the email, which TheDC obtained.

Continuing, Dyche wrote: “Another such issue is the survival of old line newspapers in a changing media marketplace. Conservatives think there is liberal media bias and that old line newspapers would fare better in the marketplace if they made changes of the sort I propose. Indeed, your refusal to run this column vividly illustrates the very issues about which I write!”

In response to Dyche’s email, Platt responded: “I do want to thank you for the pieces you did on the opinion pages for the past 10 years, and I wish you the very best in your life and your work.”

Platt did not immediately respond to an email from TheDC seeking comment on Monday.

In a phone interview, Dyche, an attorney who was paid to write a column for the paper every other Tuesday, acknowledged he’s concerned that the paper will no longer have his conservative voice in its opinion pages.

“It does” concern him, he told TheDC in a phone interview. “I might have stopped writing for them earlier if it had not been for that.”

But Dyche said he couldn’t write for the publication if they were going to start “putting restrictions on me that didn’t exist” when he first started writing his column.

“That’s not the kind of place I want to write,” he said.

Here is the full opinion story by Dyche:

In an obvious oversight, The Courier-Journal’s new publisher, Wesley Jackson, has not contacted this columnist for suggestions on saving the newspaper from the fate of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (which produces a paper edition only thrice weekly) or worse. Jackson has implemented reforms related to financial viability rather than content, but the latter affects the former. So here, free of charge, are some ideas to promote this publication’s prosperity.

Balanced Opinion Pages. The Courier-Journal opinion pages are stridently liberal. Journalistic jihads against Kentucky’s Republican U. S. Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and crusades for gun control and higher taxes, are in full force and frequently fill almost the entire editorial and op-ed pages. Such one-sidedness neither works in the marketplace nor serves the public interest.

Make the current editorial page (i.e., the page on the left) into a “Left Page” and there continue presenting hopelessly liberal columns, cartoons, and letters. Convert the op-ed page (i.e., the page on the right) to a “Right Page” and present conservative/libertarian columns, cartoons, and letters now largely absent from Louisville media. Give each page equal resources, and let the competing philosophies battle it out in the marketplace of ideas. The community would benefit from real, vigorous debate, and subscribers who deserted the paper due to its liberal bias might return.

Disclose Editors’ and Reporters’ Politics. Like the rest of the press, The Courier-Journal claims to play an exalted role in public affairs. But while righteously demanding absolute openness and full disclosure from every other entity and person involved in government, the press does not apply the same standard to itself. Change that by disclosing the party registration and voting choices of all editors and reporters.

Journalists believe that they, unlike mere mortals, can transcend their personal opinions to be basically fair and objective in presenting the news. Perhaps, but readers should be the ones to judge. To do so, they need information about the personal political views of the editors and reporters who decide what gets reported, and how, when, and where it gets reported. If a Courier-Journal editor or reporter is a registered Democrat who has voted twice for Barack Obama and Steve Beshear, advise the readers of that fact and let them make their own evaluation about whether those political preferences are influencing the coverage.

Open Meetings and Records. The Courier-Journal not only demands, but often litigates to ensure, full and open public disclosure of meetings and records of government bodies. It should apply the same standard to itself given the prominent role the press proclaims for itself in the political process. So live stream the meetings of editors and reporters and post the written communications and directives between them regarding assignments, policies, and stories.

Let the public see how and by whom decisions are made as to what to cover, who should cover it, and what headlines, photographs, and placement it receives. For example, the recent confirmation hearing of secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel received only two sentences of coverage below the fold on A3 in The Courier-Journal. The paper presented no hint of the bumbling, confused, and altogether incompetent performance by the potential head of the Pentagon.

A three-sentence dispatch about a sacrificial skull mound in Mexico dating to 660 A.D. ran below the dispatch about the Hagel hearing! And a few days later a much longer article entitled “Pentagon to extend benefits to partners” appeared above the fold on A2. Peculiar priorities.

Newspapers indignantly proclaim that their editorial and news departments do not coordinate. Perhaps there is no explicit conspiracy, but the hand-in-glove relationship between such ideological soul mates is undeniable. Opening up the process might not prevent such slanted presentation of news in the service of liberal objectives, but it could deter and expose it.

Publish Value of In-Kind Contributions. The Courier-Journal decries the influence of corporate money in politics and demands better disclosure of political contributions. However, The Courier-Journal, Inc. and Gannett Company, Inc. are corporations that try to influence politics. Presumably their efforts have some value. The newspaper should therefore quantify and report how much its in-kind contributions in the form of editorials, endorsements, etc., would be worth if valued at the rate of comparably-sized advertisements.

Finally. Replace Fort Knox and Jump Start with Mark Trail and Mary Worth in the comics. These soap opera strips are much funnier, albeit unintentionally. And if you do nothing else recommended here, enlarge Peanuts so one can more easily read its often profound social commentary. Good grief!

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