Darts & Laurels

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Dart to the Eugene, Oregon, Register-Guard, for thumbing its nose at the news. Knocking down still further the ad-edit wall has been a series of ads for gamma knife surgery at Sacred Heart Medical Center. The ad on Sunday, October 29, for example, which appeared on page A3, is dominated by a large photo of a partially closed fist, bandaged index finger poking up by nearly five inches beyond the upper margins of the ad into the news columns above. Thus forced to read around that grossly gratuitous graphic, some readers suspected the paper of giving them the finger.

Laurel to The New York Times, for investigating a trend of biblical proportions. As the Times continues to faithfully chronicle the ever-expanding presence of religion in the traditionally secular arenas of our civic life—and the profound challenges that presence presents to sacred First Amendment principles—the paper now brings to the nation’s attention the more mundane manifestations of the phenomenon. Citing chapter and verse, the four-part series “In God’s Name,” by Diana B. Henriques, documents the enormous economic advantages that, with the blessing of the White House, Congress, and the courts, influential religious groups have come to reap in recent years through breaks on taxes, housing, and employment—dispensations that often are unfair and sometimes absurd. Should religious freedom from government interference, for instance, absolve a church-run day-care center from complying with the regulations imposed by the state on its nonreligious counterparts? Should a diocese that dismisses a novice after a diagnosis of breast cancer, or a congregation that fires a rabbi who happened to develop Parkinson’s disease, be protected from legal recourse against such discrimination? Should a church that wants to build a sprawling, state-of-the-art fitness center, complete with tanning bed and video arcade, be exempt from land-use laws? Sensitive to the arguments on both sides of the church-state dilemma, and to the delicate balance the establishment clause always requires, the series nonetheless makes a persuasive case for the reestablishment of common sense.

Dart to Forbes, for neglecting to register at its neighborhood precinct. In a preelection story on the magazine’s Web site, “the capitalist tool” explored the proposition that, judging by the history of previous political campaigns, superrich candidates who fund their own races are making, in the words of the headline, “The Worst Political Investment.” Along with citing a number of then current campaigns in which, for all the millions of a hopeful’s money, defeat was looming large, the article also drew on comments from several experts who study such stuff—and whose consensus it was that the record of self-funded runs has been, as one of them put it, “pathetic.” A conspicuous absentee from the discussion—if you will, the elephant in the room—was the man whose image is presented on one of those expert’s Web site as a prime example of poor political investment [of some $79 million]: Malcolm “Steve” Forbes, a failed self-funded candidate for president in 1996 and 2000, and the magazine’s favorite son.


to the Niagara Gazette, for getting a little too close to the ethical edge. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” wrote Robert Frost, but it seems that that “something” is not the Gazette, which as part of the city’s redevelopment project recently acquired a handsome structure of stone, concrete, and iron that runs around two sides of its corner parking lot. Designed, built, and paid for by USA Niagara Development and the City of Niagara Falls, the wall, one side of which is situated, with the Gazette’s permission, inside a foot or so of its property line, enhances the approach to the city’s planned entertainment district. It also—as has been noted by the weekly Niagara Falls Reporter Gazette is supposed to be objectively covering.” As for covering the wall itself, nowhere in the Gazette’s supportive treatment of the project has it been mentioned, objectively or otherwise, at all.


to The Brooklyn Paper, a weekly broadsheet distributed in the New York City borough, for having an unusual amount of crust. Folded inside the pages of its November 11 issue were glossy four-color inserts promoting Domino’s “New Brooklyn Style Pizza,” while its front page was delivering a review that sliced the dish to shreds. With so many news outlets catering so shamelessly to advertisers’ interests, some Brooklyn readers expressed gratitude and pride that their own little paper was going against that grain.

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Gloria Cooper is CJR’s deputy executive editor.