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Friday, November 6, 2009

11 Least Influential Countdown: No. 11 The AJC

Welcome to CL's annual catalog of impotence: the 11 Least Influential. You'll meet folks who tried to achieve an ambitious goal, but fell short; people who've devoted themselves to a personal mission in near-total obscurity; and ordinary Joes who can't get anyone to pay attention to them. Every day until the full issue hits the streets on Nov. 11, we'll bring you a new story of failure — some noble and heroic, others abject and pathetic.

We begin with one of the latter. Enjoy.

Subject: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Failing: Can't nut up enough to endorse candidates

One of the perks of being the sole daily newspaper for a major metropolitan city is that you can tell folks what to do. Where to eat. What movies to see. What books to read. And who to vote for. That goes double for a paper with a storied history of taking strong editorial stands on the issues of the day, such as Ralph McGill's impassioned columns blasting segregation.

But what if, in giving an opinion — even a modulated, rational, well-argued one — you happen to say something some people don't wish to hear. Horrors! We can't have that. What if readers stopped subscribing to the paper? Oh, yeah, they're already doing that… Perhaps it's best to remove any opinion, insight, conclusions or point of view from the paper altogether.

And so the AJC has worked mightily to scrub its editorial pages of bias, banishing columnists to online blogs and offering no-brainer editorial opinions ("Failure isn’t an option for schools," "Voters must weigh facts," etc.).

The latest step in this grotesque neutering process has been the AJC's move to stop giving endorsements in political races. Is it any surprise that this decision has coincided with a hotly contested Atlanta mayor's race that pits black against white, Democrat vs. Republican, Northside against Southside, and so forth? That's quite a minefield; better to stay home with the blinds drawn. If you don't express an opinion, then no one can get mad at you, right?

But here's a guess: Even if the AJC succeeds in producing a completely opinion-free, lukewarm, milky gruel of a newspaper that's a limp reminder of the publication once commanded by Henry Grady, readers will still be using the online comment box to blast it as a liberal rag.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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