An interesting editorial in the Los
Angeles Times
yesterday in which the Times editorial board charged that the
Steve Cooley for Attorney General campaign boasted about an earlier negative
Times editorial on Cooley under the assumption that if the Times says Cooley is
bad, he must be okay.

All the hammering the mainstream media has received over the
last couple of decades, certainly some justified, has set up a scenario for
many readers that if a newspaper says one thing, believe the opposite. 

Yesterday’s Times editorial recognized the inherent
contradiction in trying to analyze the motives of this reverse psychology:

But if criticism from
The Times is good for Cooley, what about praise? What happens if we decide he’s
the best Republican for the job and endorse him in the primary — would that be
good for his campaign, or would he try to hush it up on the theory that
conservatives will do the opposite of what The Times recommends? The mind

Jon Fleischman, in a Flash
Report column
, had an answer to that question.

Fleischman wrote if an editorial page known for its liberal
leanings endorses a Republican for any seat, Republican voters might want to go
for the endorsee’s opponent. The editorial endorsement indicates the more
liberal candidate was chosen according to Fleischman’s theory.

So what does the Times, or any newspaper do in such a
situation? If the editorial board of a well-known liberal paper really likes a
Republican candidate – it’s possible, I suppose — does it come out against that candidate in hoping to help
him or her? The mind, indeed, reels.

The problem is that editorial pages have brought this
skepticism on themselves. While editorials are supposed to take positions on
one side or the other, an editorial was seen more as a judge coming down on a
particular side of an issue because the facts dictated that decision. A sense
of fairness seems to have been lost over time and many editorial opinions often
feel they come from an ideological base rather than a judgment based on facts.

One problem is that newspapers often have a knee jerk reaction
to too many issues because of an ideological prospective. Let me close with one
of my favorite examples of such a knee jerk reaction, which I wrote about in my
book, The
Legend of Proposition 13

In the San Francisco Examiner’s lead editorial on February 11,
1991 titled, "Raise State Taxes," the newspaper argued that taxes must be
raised to close the budget deficit instead of making drastic cuts in programs
for schools and the poor. The editorial listed a whole slew of taxes that could
be raised, and included a recommendation saying, "Closing other loopholes
identified by Sen. Wadie Deddah, D-Chula Vista, would raise another $385

"We recommend this list to the governor and the
legislature…" the editorial concluded.

That recommendation lasted three days.

On February 14, the newspaper sent a Valentine’s Day present
to itself in an editorial titled "On Taxes," which appeared on the bottom of
the editorial page. Following is the editorial in its entirety:

editorial earlier this week urging higher taxes to close the state’s budget
deficit has engendered some misinterpretation, which we’d like to clear up.

did not endorse any specific measures, but we suggested that the governor and
the Legislature "take a close look at" a variety of tax measures, including
closing tax loopholes. In this list, we mentioned a proposal by state Sen.
Wadie Deddah, D-Chula Vista, that would raise $285 million by imposing a sales
tax on candy, snack food, newspapers and other periodicals.           

we have an inherent conflict of interest on the newspaper sales tax idea, we
recuse ourselves and take no position on it.

Yes, the emphasis in the last paragraph on the newspaper tax
is mine.