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Makeover Opinion

The new look to the Arizona Daily Star's opinion pages is a mixed bag.

On the upside, Dennis Joyce and company deserve a big pat on the back for agreeing to sign the editorials. For years, the idea that the editorials are "the newspaper's position" has been one of the more publicly misunderstood aspects of press-society relations. Taken in the context of William Randolph Hearst's comment that "you can crush a man with journalism," unsigned editorials gave some credence to the public's frequent perception that the whole might of the newspaper--reporters as well as the editorial board--could be brought to bear on one side of an issue.

The design differences and choice of a different type face is a big help to provide some demarcation to the reader that they've entered The Opinion Zone, a place where bias is OK as long as the writers play straight with the truth. (This last was written with some sadness, because the fact that the Star felt a need to do this speaks volumes about the decline of critical thinking in our society.)

Bloggers. The jury's still out. The scary part about bloggers is the risk that they'll buy in to the "everybody knows that" approach to communication, which pitches an unverified assumption first and waits for other people jump in with the proof. However, bloggers are rather fearless, curious types who don't mind questioning authority. And the Star did earn some style points for running a blogger's comment early about the absurdity of viewing Ann Coulter and Molly Ivins as balancing each other's views.

The new column sigs (the graphic that includes the author's mug, name and the words "My opinion") could do without "My opinion." It used to be that editors warned their reporters against overstating the obvious, against running photo captions that said, "Roy Rogers, left, and his horse Trigger, at right, take a break during a movie shoot." The section's labeled OPINION (making the type darker was a help, too); the letters are labeled as letters; so what's left but the columns? We're thinking it's a safe bet that Jim Kiser is giving us his opinion rather than channeling the views of former Star editor-publisher William R. Matthews from beyond the grave, so give the readers the benefit on that one.


MOVING PEGS

Cox Communications announced a couple of changes to the PEG (public, educational and government) channel lineup. The changes kicked in March 30.

The Access Tucson 1 channel is moving to Channel 97 for Cox subscribers, which will keep it next to the Access Tucson 2 channel, which was already slotted at Channel 98. The TUSD Channel is moving to Channel 20. Pima College 1 is moving to Channel 95, and Pima 2 goes to Channel 96.


CABLE BILLS

House Bill 2563, a measure that would limit a city's ability to require cable television providers to offer public-access channels, has left the state House, and as of Monday, was scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. hearing March 31 in the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill, sponsored by Mesa Republican Chuck Gray, would allow municipalities to require cable TV operators no more than two PEG channels, but would give providers the ability to offer more as in-kind contributions to the city as an offset against fees. And the cable provider would be allowed to determine the value of the contribution.

A similar measure, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee chairman Dean Martin, R-Phoenix, cleared his committee Jan. 25 on a 6-3 vote. That measure was retained before going to the full Senate for a vote.


A VIEW FROM PHOENIX

The current issue of Phoenix Home and Garden is worth at least a browse. The magazine's "Masters of the Southwest" package includes an interesting and very readable feature on Tucson photographer Jack Dykinga, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former Arizona Daily Star photo editor.


MAGAZINES, TAKE TWO

Arizona Highways will celebrate its 80th anniversary with the April issue, on the newsstands now. It's also a change of command issue, as Peter Aleshire becomes the magazine's ninth editor.


A TOUCH OF HERESY

Disclosure. It's something reporters often do on the public's behalf, making periodic treks to various offices as required to look at campaign-contribution paperwork and politicians' personal financial disclosures.

That's because, long before the Eurythmics recorded "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," most journalists already knew what Annie Lennox had in mind with the lyric: "Some of them want to use you. Some of them want to be used by you."

So like pilgrims to Mecca, we mark our calendars for the filing dates, grab our notebooks and some strong coffee, and start pawing through paperwork or downloading spreadsheets to play connect the dots with political and governmental alliances, to see who may be playing out the Eurythmics observation.

There's a funny thing about all this, apropos of last week's column on Jane Amari's dual role as editor and publisher of the Arizona Daily Star and member of the DM-50 advocacy group. You know that the news media as watchdog on democracy would howl for gore if anyone tried to reduce that kind of public disclosure. But for some reason, there's little willingness to disclose the watchdog's pedigree--or, more accurately, to identify the other dogs in the packs that accept our watchdog. Full disclosure and simply saying something "is no secret" are several miles apart in the world of newspapers and information.

Without that disclosure, simply publishing a code of ethics isn't terribly effective Maybe it's time news organizations put their connections on display--what charities they fund, what memberships and employers have ties of one sort or another to the newspaper and its executives.

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