With Harsanyi gone, Post opinion page more balanced

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)



David Harsanyi left The Denver Post last week, and it’s natural to wonder if the newspaper should replace him with another conservative columnist.

So I took a look at the political leanings of The Post’s staff columnists, and it turns out that with Harsanyi gone, the page is more balanced than it was before.

Hiring a new Harsanyi would tilt the newspaper’s opinion page markedly to the right.  

Here’s what I did: I categorized all The Post’s in-house columnists according to their political bent (as “centrist,” “left,” “left-leaning,” “right,” or “right-leaning”). I included only the columnists who write on political issues, so I excluded folks like historian Tom Noel and Mary Winter. I put columnist Ed Quillen in the “leans-left” category, even though many of his columns are not political. I counted all of Rosen’s columns, even though conservatives might object to this as unfair, pointing out that each of his columns should count as a half, given that he might re-use them a few times.

My final count was 22 columns/month from right or right-leaning columnists and 23 from left or left-leaning columnists. (I counted one column as “centrist”.)

I did not include the in-house editorials, which lean right. Nor did I count the editorial cartoon, which appears to lean left.

In any case, if you add a new Harsanyi, and you focus on in-house columnists only, you have to add a whopping twelve more columns/month to the right side of the ledger, which would make the count 34 righties to 23 lefties. Unfair.

I sent my bean count to Post Editorial Page Editor Dan Haley. I asked if he agreed with me that, with Harsanyi gone, the page looks more balanced, in terms of local columnists.

I also asked him about the pundit gender gap among staff political columnists. (Over a month, the count is about 45 columns by men versus 1 by a woman.) I also pointed out to Haley that, as of the end of last week, Mike Littwin wrote 10 of his last 12 columns on national topics, leaving a bit of an advantage to righties when it comes to opinions on local topics from staff columnists.

Here’s Haley’s response:

I think you’re trying to turn this into a science, and it’s not. It’s a daily balancing act. We try every day to give our readers a balance view of Colorado and the world: Opinions from left to right, written by men and women, locally and nationally, from varying ethnic backgrounds. Is it always a perfect mix? Of course not. But we try to offer up a diversity of views and authors as best we can.

Locally, as of next week, we will have two main op-ed columnists (Carroll/Littwin) who will write 12 columns a month from the right and left. That’s balance.

When you add in our freelancers, I would argue we tilt a little to the left. As for your chart, John Andrews, like Barnes-Gelt, only runs once a month, not twice. That started this month. And I would argue that B-G does more than “lean left,” as you suggest. Also, Mary Winter was brought on board to write a left of center column, and because I thought we needed more female voices. You can categorize her as “centrist” if you’d like, but we’re looking for left of center columns from her. And last year we brought Dottie Lamm back into the fold for monthly columns to bolster our stable of female voices. She also “leans left.” We also run Joanne Ditmer monthly.

The bottom line is we don’t have to be balanced, but we try to because we want to appeal to a broad audience and because we believe it’s fair.

Also, I would argue that the editorials are “centrist” versus “leans right.” We endorsed Michael Bennet for Senate and Hickenlooper for governor. Our political endorsements last fall were unintentionally evenly divided among Rs and Ds. We have argued in favor of civil unions and gay marriage, while leading the discussion on the need for a possible tax hike to help Colorado’s state budget. Yes, we’ve also favored Dougco’s voucher program and have been critical of the teachers union, but that’s balance. We don’t care what’s good for Republicans or what’s good for Democrats, only what’s good for Colorado.

I was relieved to read that Haley apparently agrees that locally in terms of the “main op-ed columnists,” he he thinks the page is balanced. So it appears we won’t see a new Harsanyi on the page to throw the balance out of whack again.

An editorial note on Harsanyi’s final column last week indicated that The Post will continue to run Harsanyi’s syndicated column.

Asked how often he’d run Harsanyi, Haley wrote:

Not sure yet. Guessing it will be once a week for awhile and then whenever he writes about something of interest, or if we need it for balance, etc.

So Harsanyi apparently won’t be treated like he was before, as a staff columnist, which makes obvious sense.

Outside of the staff columnists, which were the focus of my scientific analysis, Haley makes a good point that the balance can change on a daily basis. There are syndicated columnists, guest opinions, Other Voices columnists, and other content that might balance things out on a particular day. And Haley’s efforts to add more voices of women on the editorial page is good. The gender imbalance among newspaper pundits, nationally, is stark, longstanding, and inexplicable.

As to whether The Post’s in-house editorials are centrist, I confess that I don’t have data to back up my impression that they lean right. Someday I’ll categorize Post editorials over a six-month period, so we’ll have some concrete information to discuss, rather than my vague impressions.

Here are the details of my bean count of The Post’s staff columnists:

John Andrews (2 columns per month) RIGHT

Susan Barnes-Gelt (1 column per month) LEANS LEFT

Fred Brown (1 column per month) CENTER

Vincent Carroll (12 columns per month) RIGHT

Dan Haley (4 columns per month) LEANS RIGHT

Mike Littwin (12 columns per month) LEFT

Ed Quillen (6 columns per month) LEANS LEFT

Mike Rosen (4 columns per month) RIGHT

David Sirota (4 columns per month) LEFT

TOTAL

Right — 18

Leans Right — 4

Left — 16

Leans Left — 7

75 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    staff columnist?

    • Jason Salzman says:

      Also wanted to move to nyc

      • BlueCat says:

        I see I missed that right here March 3rd!  I almost never agreed with him on anything but I had no idea he was someone who could be comfortable working for Beck. This kind of changes my attitude toward those syndicated columns of his appearing in our local paper. Jeesh!  

        • While only political junkies read the opinion pages and columnists, many more people read the hard news pages and political stories.

          To focus on the opinion pages and ignore the liberal, anti-Republican biases of the editor, news editors, headline writers and reporters tells only about 20% of the story, imho.

          After watching the Post’s political coverage for a long time, I’m convinced that there is a strong liberal bias in the newsroom, and when big issues come up, like raising taxes, the Post is very liberal.

          It’s editorials are only anti-union because the publisher is anti-union. Almost all of the reporters and editors are pro-union as are most editors and journalists around the country. Note that a study a few years ago found that the news staff on the Wall Street Journal is the most liberal in the business, but they have adult supervision and their biases aren’t so obvious in the paper. If only the Post were more professionally edited.

          The Journal’s editorial page, of course, is very conservative except on the issue of illegal immigration.

          Having said that, I think the Post’s political coverage improved a lot last year. And it kept a couple of incompetents, Maes and McInnis, from becoming governor.

          People get their information from an amazing number of sources besides their local papers and broadcast media. They hear and see things from their view points, not from the viewpoints of editorial writers, columnists or reporters. With the Post serving only a tiny portion of the 5 million people living in Colorado, what it says and advocates really is not that important.

          As for Harsanyi, Carroll and Littwin, they’re read mostly by people who like what they write and agree with them. They’re all very predictable, and they tend to follow their readers rather than provide leadership. None of them really know nor understand business nor economics.

          Al Lewis, whose column appears regularly in the business section, is as liberal and biased as Littwin, by the way. And if you read the movie and theater reviewers, you’ll see a lot more liberal nonsense.

          Finally, the most important biases are in the minds of the readers. They’re much more biased than any reporters, editors or columnists.  

          • shrubHugger says:

            I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you! Facts, Science, Reality…these things have no place in the news with their left-leaning bias.

            Snark aside, I just do not get you people who really truly believe in “liberal-biased-main stream media” IMO, you are no different than Holocaust deniers. You’re presented with facts, science, statistics literally in black and white and because it doesn’t suit your personal narrative you stick your fingers in your ears, squeeze your eyes tight and sing “lalalalalalala” while frantically hitting buttons on the remote.

            Do some news outlets lean certain ways? Sure coughfoxcough. Yet not to the point where the news is no longer news and is just some reporter is making shit up as they go along  coughfoxcough to fit the directive of a certain political party’s agenda coughfoxcough until you can muster up any proof of this supposed out right “Liberal-biased” coughlikeyoucandowithallfoxbroadcastscough go ahead and shove it in the sand with your head.  

          • nancycronk says:

            You’ve got to be kidding, Don. Do you mean like when we have a rally on the left attended by 1800 people and 50 tea partiers show up, and they cover it like it was an equal mix of two opposing groups? That happened literally more times than I can count these past 5 years.

            Thanks for the laugh, Don.

  2. State Line says:

    the different columnists into the various ideological categories? I mean, since you claim you’re being ‘scientific’. Details pleeeze….

    Also, not sure I share your baseline assumption that it’s a newspaper’s obligation to be “balanced” (however defined) on its editorial page. Maybe yes, maybe no. Curious why you think so…

    • Jason Salzman says:

      IFirst, you want a newspaper’s opinion page to offer differing views. Tharlt is what I meant by balance. More fun to read that way and educational. We would all benefit if Pols had more thoughtful righties, yes?

      The categories are subjective. This is a weakness in my airtight science here. But  if u think miscategorized any of the columnists let me know as Haley did. Then we could look at their topics and opinions.  These labels are never going to be satisfying to everyone. They are culturally and historically relative.

      • RedGreenRedGreen says:

        I’d agree with Haley that Barnes-Gelt is actually LEFT, though she usually writes about things that don’t exactly fall on an easy left-right axis. Same with Quillen.

        • BlueCat says:

          progressives should be going; an honest and somewhat grumpy populist; populist in the true sense that Ed really is on the side of the majority who have to work to pay the bills.  At one time, that may not have been exclusive to non-Republicans but it is now.

          Dems may have their fair share of corporate poodles but the entire right is completely devoted to being good corporate poodles and to nothing else these days. No exceptions. Even the Tea Party, supposedly populist (what a joke), has no interest in standing up for the average guy against the big corporate interests.  They love Walker and the Koch brothers.  Consider them great patriots.

          That definitely puts an Ed Quillen on the left side of the ledger, even though no foolishness is safe from Ed. They wouldn’t dream of having him on the right.  

  3. Ralphie says:

    It’s an opinion page, after all.

  4. Mark G. says:

    A balance requires a fulcrum point. A fair balance requires a centered fulcrum point. Jazon Salzman please prove to me, your fulcrum point is indeed centered?

  5. Mark G. says:

    Lets pretend at the far left end of the balance, government controls 100% of the money and at the far right end, government controls NO money.

    Where is center?

  6. abraham says:

    I do not think that the Post needs to be balanced.  It is a liberal newspaper and that liberalism comes through in the editorials and in the reporting.  I’m perfectly comfortable with the Post being liberal – it is too liberal for my personal philosophies, but that is a personal issue.

    I do question whether some of the contributors such as John Andrews and Mike Rosen actually qualify as being considered conservative writers.  Andrews has become a parody unto himself and seldom has anything interesting to contribute.  He will never be George Will and he will never be Charles Krauthamer.  Sorry, he just doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

    I’ve never understood why anyone would be listening to Rosen or reading his column.  He has a market niche that he has created but it is about Rosen and not about conservative political philosophy.

    It’s OK for the Post to be liberal – and the Post is further left than just left of center.  It’s a culture and a value system.  Papering the editorial page over with cosmetic “conservatism” is not balancing.

    Since the Post is the only paper, I would rather they quit trying to give the illusion of balancing and just find contributions – whether left, right or center – that have insightful things to offer that cause people to think about issues.

  7. Mark G. says:

    John Andrews (2 columns per month) RIGHT   Yes, more than 25%.

    Susan Barnes-Gelt (1 column per month) LEANS LEFT Yes, left more than 25%.

    Fred Brown (1 column per month) CENTER No, 25% left.

    Vincent Carroll (12 columns per month) RIGHT Yes, 10% right.

    Dan Haley (4 columns per month)LEANS RIGHT NO, 25% left or more.

    Mike Littwin (12 columns per month) LEFT YES,45% left.

    Ed Quillen (6 columns per month) LEANS LEFT  Yes, 15% left.

    Mike Rosen (4 columns per month) RIGHT NO, Mike has his economics all screwed up and he has had long term love affair with military and intelligence since his stint at the Pentagon. Overall,centered.

    David Sirota (4 columns per month) LEFT  YES, 75% left.

    Haraysani was right of center about 35%. More on some issues but left on a few issued in which he was in error.

    • State Line says:

      if you honestly believe Mike Rosen inhabits the ideological center – and that Vincent Carroll, one of the more extreme rightwing trogolydytes to despoil Colorado’s commentariat over the past 3+ decades, is “10% Right” (whatever THAT means) – you are clearly pretty far to the right yourself.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as they say: just face facts. Then get some counseling for your conservatism. There are programs for people with that particular problem LOL!

      • Mark G. says:

        Far left is when Gov controls all capital. Far right is when government controls zero capital.  Center is when government controls 10-15% of capital because less is anarchy due to lack of funding to provide essential services and more than 10-15% is socialism.

        Since current government controls 40% or more of all capital, America is fundamentally left. Until this figure is lowered, every thought, word or action that advocates or encourages more government is left.

        America and The Denver Post are nowhere close to the true center.

        There is my center, how about yours?

        • RedGreenRedGreen says:

          are certainly idiosyncratic!

          Far left is when they’re raving moonbats. Far right is when they believe a woman’s uterus belongs to the state and the state belongs to the holiest among us. Centrist agrees with me.

          • Mark G. says:

            I think your placement of moral collectivist at the far right is a mistake. Certainly the moral collectivist will sign on anywhere they are accepted. They have made inroads via the right and the left. Go read every court decision and you will learn that left judges have ruled for drug prohibition and abortion prohibition.

            Answer me this. If the State controls no money at the far right how would they then have the resources to enforce their moral collectivist regime?

            For those brave and adventures,

            http://www.rationalrevolution….

            • RedGreenRedGreen says:

              If “the State” controls no money, that’s not “far right,” that’s anarchy. Take a look at the furthest right regimes in recent history — those states control plenty of resources, it’s how the state directs those resources that determines where it falls on the left-right spectrum. This isn’t some Galtian adolescent fantasy, it’s actual governments in the real world.

          • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

            Mark G.’s definitions of left and right are college political science textbook definitions. Political ideology in this country is not as simple as a definition about who controls the money.

            • droll says:

              His definitions aren’t textbook anything. 100% is communism. He called Bartels a communist and is suggesting everyone except the not-quite-extreme right is.

              This reminds me of a comp class I once took. One of the papers we were supposed to find flaw with was written by Stephen King. In it Stephen stated that everyone is more crazy than normal. Were that actually the case, normal would technically be crazy and crazy would be normal. Paradox.

              Since no one in our country’s leadership has proposed communism, in fact we tend to do less than a third (significantly less for the rich, bringing the entire average down), then we can reason that there are no true liberals in the country. Obama is a conservative now by any measure. So is Kucinich.

              Now that everyone is conservative, there are no liberals. Which seems strange since he called Bartels a liberal without any proof of her communist leanings.

              He contradicted himself and used a cheap comparison. What textbook did you guys use in school? Granted I was probably there much later than any of you; my textbooks called that a bad ploy, at best.

            • sxp151 says:

              That’s not a definition in any college textbook I could ever imagine.

              It’s more like the definition a not-particularly-bright libertarian would give his three-year-old kid.

        • State Line says:

          …..wouldn’t dead center (using your typology) be gov’t control of 50% of capital?

          If as you say, gov’t “control” of American capital is a mere 40%……doesn’t mean we are currently a Right-of-Center country and need to move another 10% to the Left?

          It’s a silly argument anyhow, suggesting as it does that ‘control of capital’ (whatever that means) is the only – or even the principal – criterion for left-right typology.

          RedGreen – correctly – suggests that are other (more sociocultural) metrics are part of the equation.

        • BlueCat says:

          and, with their money, control the government then the government controls all the money as an arm of the corporations. The right is corporatist. Corporatism’s goal isn’t anything to do with more or less government, higher or lower debt, none of that.  Its goal is to be the government. They only want less government if that government represents the interests of the little people. As long as it’s all theirs and they can use it to become even more wealthy and powerful, less subject to any limits, it can be big as you please.That’s why Cheney said the deficit doesn’t matter and the Cheney/Bush administration saw nothing wrong with expanding government or debt or deficit.    He was just being honest. They know better than that now.  

          • Mark G. says:

            Corporations, in a free market low tax scenario, only accumulate “money” by providing what the customer wants. Corporations who do not provide what we the consumer wants, go under quickly.

            These overbearing corporations that you reference are a product of government regulations, protections and subsidies.

            Think about it. Sure I am contradicting your college professor and text books but they work for the very corporations you hate!

            • BlueCat says:

              They already have largely managed to privitize profit while socializing risk. CEOs ready get bailed out by their secretaries, who do pay taxes, when they don’t provide the public with what it wants or their  houses of cards collapse.  And  of course where commodities, like oil, are involved it’s not as if consumers can go elsewhere if they don’t like the prices.

              You can’t just go without health insurance if you don’t like the prices available unless you’re willing to lose everything over one serious illness and you don’t even have that choice when registering a car or getting a mortgage.

              But all that is irrelevant to the question of whether we really want a government that is entirely (instead of just mostly) an arm of for profit corporations, meaning they would have sole power to regulate, subsidize and tax themselves and everyone else and have sole control over all health, environmental, work place safety, education and foreign policy issues. I mean more than they do already.  

              • Mark G. says:

                Those are legitimate concerns that must be addressed by either the left, right or both. Total BS.

                This link is to a section titled The Bailout Reader.

                http://mises.org/daily/3128

                • BlueCat says:

                  just don’t apply the way they used to. It’s about those who stand for the survival of the middle class and those who stand for a  neo-gilded age with struggling, cowed, masses for cheap labor to serve the needs a of a tiny wealth and power elite.  

                  The GOP, including the Tea Party wing with its utterly phony, Scott Walker and the Koch brothers worshipping “populism” has definitely chosen the latter.  It remains to be seen whether the middle class can rely on the Democratic Party to be significantly less devoted to helping the corporate elite suck the rest of us dry.

            • shrubHugger says:

              I have to go-go-gadget goole, but I’m pretty sure that only some small dismal precentage of America’s Corp profit actually came from produced goods. The most profitable industries have been the banking industry and their faux finacial maneuverings that have been the talk of the town as of late. How’d that turn out again with all that de-regulation?

              So, wanna try again with your fable about how only those who produce goods accumulate money?

               

      • Mark G. says:

        You asked what 10% right means?

        When a person is left or right, it is of varying degrees or percentages.

        So just labeling somebody right or left is not useful. You have to be more specific. How far left? How far right?

        Post may have more on the right however the few leftys are so far left they swamp the moderates such as Rosen.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      How would you classify a cheerleader for all things Republicans who gets to post her crap in the local news section?

  8. Mark G. says:

    Anti State, Anti war, is about as far right as you can go.

    Anything less is to the left.

  9. Diogenesdemar says:

    That there’s even six people who admit to reading this “newspaper.”  (Y’all must be staffers or staffer’s family, huh?)

  10. Mark G. says:

    Many disagree with the sheeple analogy because it insinuates we are dumb and must have owners, never the less, this video should be a wake up call to all but the most ardent statist.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

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