News and opinion all the same to Robison

Clay Robison
Last week, Chronicle bureau chief Clay Robison penned his usual left-leaning weekend editorial, a strange practice for someone who is supposed to oversee objective news coverage from an entire bureau the rest of the week.

It included a line that explains quite a bit about Robison's worldview, even though I'm ripping it out of context (in this case, his celebration of the Robin Hood school finance "system") and truncating it:

But the Legislature needs to do more....

That's Robison's honest view, not just on school finance, but on any number of issues. And to "do more," government usually needs more money.

I've long contended that the Chronicle's unique arrangement of having a liberal weekend editorialist in charge of the newspaper's coverage of Texas politics in Austin renders suspect all of the newspaper's coverage that carries an Austin news bureau stamp.

Today, the Chronicle website is running two major articles penned by Robison. There's an editorial celebrating the Supreme Court's juvenile death penalty decision earlier this week, the fourth such celebratory article to run in the anti-death-penalty newspaper (and representing the third of a lefty editorial trio that includes Cragg Hines and Rick Casey).

There's also a second editorial by Robison, but instead of appearing on the editorial page, it runs as a "news" article on politics. The title is, Tax plan raises fairness question: The traditional regressive system is likely to worsen.

The editorial slant is just what one would expect from the title, and beyond the substance are a few other examples of how Robison tends to shade his coverage:

Texas has the fifth-most regressive state and local tax system among the 50 states, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington-based, nonpartisan research organization.


The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank promoting limited government and free enterprise, doesn't disagree that the Texas tax structure has regressive features.


"Those who can least afford it pay the most," concluded the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income people.

If one group is going to be identified ideologically, then all three groups should be identified that way. Yet it's rare for a newspaper in this state to call the Center for Public Policy Priorities a liberal group, and I've never seen Robison do it.

In any case, we have long pointed out that Robison's liberal worldview that government "needs to do more" tends to bleed over from his editorializing into his news coverage, and that's clearly the case in this "news" editorial. It's hard to take the Chronicle's Austin coverage very seriously when such an opinionated, left-leaning editorialist continues to head that bureau.

UPDATE (03-07-2005): Today, the Chronicle runs a house editorial that reads much like Robison's "news" editorial on the tax plan. We've been told by a source who should know that Monday Chronicle editorials are frequently written on the preceding Friday. If that happened in this case, the editorial was actually written before Robison's "news" coverage. In any case, Robison's "news" coverage reads too much like an editorial, a circumstance that seems not to bother the newspaper in the least (even though it should).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 03/06/05 05:42 PM | Print |

Bookmark and Share