Chickenass

Suck it up:

Although the biggest abortion rights story in 33 years is taking place in its own backyard, South Dakota’s largest newspaper will not editorialize on the controversial statewide abortion ban just recently approved by its legislature.

“Part of it was that we wouldn’t change people’s minds, and part of it, regardless of which side we came down on this, is that people would read into it things that are not true,” Chuck Baldwin, editorial page editor of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., told E&P. “People would think our coverage is tainted, and not just on abortion but on everything.”

When asked if such a view could preclude editorials on virtually any controversial issue, Baldwin disagreed. “Abortion is different from other issues,” he replied. “It is a hot-button issue at the core of everyone’s soul. It will not change no matter what.”

Baldwin’s comments came three days after Gov. Mike Rounds signed legislation that bans abortions throughout the state, except when a woman’s life is in danger. It has drawn national attention to the quiet state and sparked new heated debates over limitations on a woman’s right to choose, and even what the U.S. Supreme Court might do if the ban reaches its chambers.

But Baldwin and the paper’s six-person editorial board contend that editorializing would not be the right decision because abortion is such an emotional issue. “It is not like endorsing a candidate or a bond measure,” he said. “Not even like the death penalty or the war in Iraq….

“Rather than change anyone’s mind, we would create another controversy,” he said, adding that the daily is generally known as a liberal paper. “We take positions on other things and will.”

Yes, how dare you “create another controversy.” I swear, two-thirds of the reason people are leaving newspapers and network TV news and turning to blogs and Jon Stewart is this kind of chickenassed bloodlessness. Newspapers can’t just lie there on your table like a bad date, trying not to talk too loud or move too much. They’re supposed to scream outrage, wake you up, make you throw things, make you want to get off your fat breakfasting rear end and call up your Congresscritter and give him what for. They’re supposed to show you the world, and if the view of the world hurts, well, that’s the world’s fault, and your fault, not the paper’s.

I have this mental Rolodex, of useful things people have told me over the years. I can’t stand the guy who said this to me, I wouldn’t swerve if he walked in front of my car, but he was one of my first teachers and he was right. We were arguing over whether or not to run a mug shot of a football player, a hero of the Rose Bowl, guy who’d just been arrested after insufficiently concealing his recreational drugs during a traffic stop. And I was giving all the usual pansy-ass arguments about upsetting the children and whatnot if we ran the picture, because this guy was a huge hero, and didn’t we have a responsibility to the people not to upset them (I was so stupid back then) and my boss turned on me and shouted, I’ll never forget this, “You have a responsibility to tell the truth and let people make their own decisions.” It was a stupid fucking argument, and maybe you had to be there, but my point is that what I learned in that moment and what served me well over the next decade in journalism was this: you say what you need to say. For the sake of your own miserable and immortal fucking soul, you say what needs to be said. I didn’t always live up to it, and the times I backed down still sting, because I knew: You tell it, you bastards, because if you don’t, then what the fuck are you doing here?

Let the chips fall, then, and if you go down, you go down. But don’t cower from people. Don’t underestimate them so consistently and tragically that they begin to agree with you, and take what they can get. That’s weak. At that point, O Editors of the Argus Leader, you might as well go work in a toll booth. At least that would be of some use to society.

Schmucks.

A.