Every solid reporter and editor knows the key to journalistic success: assume nothing and question everything. For successful business executives, it's a survival mantra. Educators call it critical thinking, the ability to see an advertisement, hear a presentation, read a news story with a questioning eye on what's behind the claims being made, who are the sources, who benefits, who does not, what's the context, what are the implications of the story -- in other words -- the Colbert truthiness of it all.
The venerable NYT runs a front page, above the fold, story about Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's problems in his first two years in office. It's a legitimate evaluative survey for every governor of any state. And every governor has to go through it -- in their state's newspapers.
But this story is in a national paper from New York, not Massachusetts. If critical thinking is applied, there are some reasonable questions to ask. Why this governor? Why now? Why on the front page of this most powerful national newspaper?
The 'why this Governor' is answered in reporter Abby Goodnough's opening. It's because he is "....a surrogate for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, his friend and fellow gifted orator.....He dazzled voters with a message of hope and change." Oh, by the way, he's black.
The story goes on to detail the battles this governor is having with the state's Speaker of the House, who has more power with the legislature than the newbie governor. The article gives the overall negative impression that Deval is losing the battle due to insufficient governing skills.
So, again, why this Governor? Why now? The implied logic and conclusion seems clear - guilt by similarity. Deval is Obama. Obama is all new, change and eloquence with questionable governing skills. Oh, and he's black Really?
Critical question: Why did the editors chose this governor to compare with Obama? Why not compare Obama with Vermont Governor Timothy Kaine? He's a newbie Governor in a state that hasn't elected a Democrat since 1964. He was all about change. He's also an Obama supporter. Why not him?
Has the NYT done a similar story comparing Hillary Clinton to a female governor like Arizona's Janet Napolitano or Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, both of whom are articulate, are change agents, and neither having an easy time with unfriendly legislatures? Oooops, they're both supporting Obama.
If you subtract the elements of fractious legislative relations, change agent, new voice, articulate, what's the only thing left to compare between Obama and Deval? Is it because they're both black? Perhaps the venerable New York Times is not above playing the race card. This is a critical question that needs to be asked.