Sunday, November 27, 2005

Case of the "Raving Maniac" Resolved; Angry Mob Disperses, Goes Home Happy

James Campbell, the Houston Chronicle’s doughty readers’ representative (our house stylebook at Slampo’s Place dictates that such falutin’ titles be lower-cased, along with realtor and editorial board) had his hands full with readers’ complaints about the seemingly different messages conveyed by photos of U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., that accompanied a recent story.

Well, at least one reader, an unnamed and unidentified soul whose e-mail Campbell quoted at length in his column in the Sunday paper. Reader Anonymous claimed the photo of Graham made him look like a “raving maniac” while the one of Bingaman and another Democratic opponent of a Graham amendment made them appear thoughtful.

The anonymous reader detected liberal bias at work, which is not outside the realm of possibility, although there most certainly were at least 10 other more glaring examples in that day’s paper, especially if that paper contained a story on illegal immigration, gun ownership or the death penalty (the only kinds of stories where we really find this “liberal bias” to be bothersome).

Campbell came down on the unnamed reader’s side, concluding that the paper’s sloppy or inconsiderate choices of photos certainly could have given the appearance of bias, even though there most definitely was none intended. A more “thoughtful” picture of Graham would have been appropriate, and one was provided. You can judge yourself by going here, if you haven’t already.

Our own take on the matter is that some people just have too much time on their hands (the anonymous e-mailer, for instance). But for another opinion we turned to a truly unbiased and thoughtful source, our own reader representative, Sr. Hidalgo “Hard” Hidalgo. “Hard” at first begged off, saying he was “going home” for the holidays and wouldn’t be back until after Christmas. (“Home,” he explained, is a “little nowhere place outside of San Luis Potosi---you never heard of it, man.”) After we plied him with a Double Latte (upper case, ‘ccording to our stylebook) and a ride to the bus station, he offered the following:
“This Graham dude---that’s his name, right?---obviously is winding up the last chorus of “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” with which he’s entertained friends and associates for years. They say if you close your eyes, you’d swear the older Louis Armstrong was in the room. As for this Bingaman---that's the Bing-man, or Der Binger, isn't it?---well, this guy most definitely is checking out the chick in the low-cut blouse at the next table. Or trying to remember where he put his keys.

Anyway, I see no bias at work here. None at all. But one of a daily newspaper’s prime responsibilities nowadays is not to offend even one reader. I mean, you just can’t afford to lose one reader, what with circulation falling like it is. Also, it’s an accepted practice that a newspaper should publish only flattering pictures of powerful people. So I’d suggest that from now on the Chronicle run just the official congressional portraits of our senators and congressmen, or their officially approved mug shots, or the head shots of them lying in state in the Capitol rotunda, whatever.

Is that enough? Well, I gotta run. See you next year, if I make it back over.”
Thank you, Hidalgo. Again.

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