As someone who reads multiple papers, it’s interesting to note when a particular individual or group is targeted by the news. Usually, it’s someone of great national importance, a figure who leans to the other side of the political spectrum of the paper and promoted a policy which will have substantial impact on the reader base.
As an example, The New York Times frequently covered the NoDAPL movement and portrayed our law enforcement in a mostly negative light. This is a result of their opposition to the construction of a pipeline, which would lead to greater fossil fuel consumption.
On the other hand, sometimes articles that can only be categorized as “bizarre” happen, and it is today that we are going to talk about such an article.
The article entitled “North Dakota official faces recall threat for refugee claims,” ran by The Washington Times, a conservative counter paper to The Washington Post, is an oddity for quite a few reasons. First, as a paper that leans conservative, it’s unusual to see them attacking their own. Typically conservative papers don’t go after Republicans, preferring to throw soft-balls and campy articles to bolster support, just as liberal papers do the same.
Second, the article appears to be targeting a group that on the national scheme of things really doesn’t matter. We all know North Dakota is a red-state with red-state policies, and this particular commissioner serves a constituency of at most 30,000 people. To a North Dakotan this might sound like a sizeable population, but to the Washington Times, a paper which covers a metro area of nine million residents, that number is laughable.
Furthermore, the article makes no attempt to tie the actions of North Dakota to a larger political battle, or use them as an example as the archetypal red-state under President Trump, so we are left wondering why. If you polled the readership of The Washington Times, I am willing to bet less than 10 percent of its reader base has ever been within 4 hours of North Dakota, so without such a tie-in the article seems pointless at best, a hit piece on an obscure politician at worst.
At least when The Washington Post ran an article on Nick Bata, a libertarian who received about 8.6 percent of the vote, they were doing so in regards to a greater cultural conversation and invoked Donald Trump in addition to questioning whether or not Facebook arguments should be considered when discussing a candidate.
Now that I’ve talked about what the article doesn’t do, let’s talk about what it does. The article begins by bashing the official over a potential recall election and his history of making false claims about numbers in an attempt to target his credibility. After finishing its attacks, it goes on to state the fear of recall is legitimate, and then it does a direct pivot.
The article, after establishing that the community against him is large and pervasive, then appears to argue that he faces no threat as the polls show overwhelming support in favor of Dave Piepkorn.
In short, what starts out as an apparent attack piece on Piepkorn, ends essentially by saying we don’t know what’s going to happen, we don’t know what the numbers are, stayed tuned as we follow this case.
I look forward to seeing North Dakota politicians in future articles from national media outlets based on irrelevant issues because apparently someone in D.C. decided it was a great idea to attack a state and politicians that don’t have the resources to fight back. The Times should be ashamed of itself, not only for attacking its own political party, but running an attack piece on a small town (comparatively) politician before the verdict is in. A word to the wise, Washington Times, you would do best covering issues your constituency cares about, not those of a city politician 1,300 miles away who has literally no relevance to your reader base.
Dave Owen is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]