I don't know Hugh Hewitt's work well enough to know whether he is regularly dishonest to his blog's audience or just blinded by partisanship (or maybe posts without thinking it through, as bloggers--myself included--sometimes do). But his rant against the L.A. Times today cries out for a small fisking.
He convicts the Times of liberal bias in its coverage of Friday's hike in state vehicle fees, but all that his evidence shows me is that Hewitt is upset the paper hasn't joined a crusade against Gray Davis. Hewitt, on the other hand, leaves out key facts and distorts others.
He does makes a good point that the Times did not play the story on A1. I poked around and found that papers ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Orange County Register did. I would have at least put a "refer" on the front page, sending readers to the story. But is the story buried in today's LAT? Hardly. It's above the fold in the California section of the main L.A. edition. The Times also had a defensible journalistic reason not to front the story on Saturday -- on Friday a big headline at the top of the California section and a detailed story by Evan Halper reported the fees would be tripled. So on Saturday it was old news to Times readers, not "the biggest story of the day," as Hewitt complains. (For the masses who aren't politics junkies, the train derailment in Commerce was a pretty big story.)
Hewitt also complains that the Times story refers to "vehicle license fees" instead of the "car tax." Well, so do most of the other papers, including his hometown Register -- after all, one is the official name we'll see on our new higher bills, the other is an anti-Davis Republican slogan. Weakest of all, Hewitt asserts that the Times story downplays Davis' role and the fact that Republicans plan to fight it. Here's the LAT lead, you decide:
SACRAMENTO The Davis administration tripled the state vehicle license fee Friday, sending Republican legislators scrambling to mount legal challenges to stop the increase and ballot initiatives to abolish the tax altogether.
The next graf gives the basics -- the hike kicks in Oct. 1 and will cost the average car owner $158 a year -- then there's two grafs on driver anger about the higher fees, and a graf quoting Davis on why he wanted the increase. Not exactly hiding the controversy.
Hewitt calls it "a study in partisan hackery." Hmm...one's tempted to quip that Hugh should know all about such things. Actually, I've found he's usually pretty upfront about being a 24/7 Republican voice. Unfortunately, I'll be more skeptical from now on of media observations signed by Mr. Hewitt, knowing that they're probably something else in disguise.