Stillwater: New Local Political Commentators at the Gazette
In keeping with its new "post-Prendergast" policy of providing a more positive tone on its Viewpoints page, the Gazette welcomes State Senator Brian LeClair back to its pages. Not that Senator LeClair and other St. Croix Valley legislators were ever excluded; their absence from the Gazette's editorial page in recent months was most probably motivated by fear of ridicule or exposure.
But this dark era is over, and the Gazette is currently selecting new personnel to provide commentary, critique and analysis of the policies and practices of our four local legislators.
State Senator Brian LeClair, as noted, will be covering the "State Senator Brian Le Clair" beat for the Gazette editorial page. LeClair's guest column seems to be entitled "Legislative View" and his first piece is called "Education Reform Takes Priority In Legislature's Pocketbook." In this piece Le Clair provides a penetrating analysis of LeClair's work in the legislature, and--after weighing the issues--seems to give LeClair an "A", especially when it comes to making tough decisions about whether or not to raise taxes. We expect to hear more from LeClair on LeClair in the future.
It seems likely that Senator Michele Bachmann will soon be welcomed back to the the Gazette's opinion Page to provide news analysis re: "Senator Michele Bachmann." Representative Mike Charron will be the Gazette's editorial "go-to-guy" for news commentary about "Representative Mike Charron". Representative Matt Dean will cover the less glamorous "Representative Matt Dean" beat.
Questions about conflict of interest may be raised by some overly punctilious readers: is it fair, or even wise, to allow elected officials regular access to a paper's editorial page without also providing regular counterpoint to their views? Isn't there a conflict of interest involved when a politician is permitted to be the principal newspaper commentator on his or her own career?
The answer is that there cannot be any conflict of interest here at all, because in this case the person being covered and the person providing the coverage are in fact one in the same. There is only one amendment I would make: it is the policy of the Gazette to place a photo of a columnist at the head of an opinion column so that the reader may easily identify the author. Where the Gazette permits St. Croix Valley politicians to provide coverage and analysis of their own doings, I suggest that the editor run two identical photos of the author at the head of each of his columns. The readers will then understand that paper has engaged these columnists to provide news commentary about themselves. Discerning readers will then be able to give appropriate weight to their opinions.