Here’s To The Toadies At Forum Communications

Fargo Forum's Ivory Tower

“Berg is an advocate of smaller government, which translates into less government intrusion into private lives and private businesses,” wrote the Fargo Forum editorial board in endorsing Rep. Rick Berg for the US Senate over liberal Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. “Heitkamp’s view is different. She sincerely believes in a more activist role for government in everything from environmental regulation to health care. Her beliefs about how government should interact with states and the governed are increasingly out of step with her state.”

According to that endorsing editorial, the case for Berg was straight forward. He would have been a restraining influence on government, as opposed to Heitkamp’s expansive view of government, and that would have been good for the state.

So how, then, does the Forum reconcile that endorsement with their breathless delight at Heitkamp actually winning the election?

Heitkamp is a “bridge builder,” gushed opinion editor Tom Dennis on behalf of the Grand Forks Herald (which is owned by Forum Communications). “She’s a happy warrior, a person who thrives on the activism, advocacy and argument of politics. She combines Hoeven’s knowledge of North Dakota with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s sense of humor and neighborly, ‘Minnesota/North Dakota Nice” appeal.'”

That doesn’t exactly match up with what will likely be one of Heitkamp’s first acts in the Senate – marginalizing the minority party by voting to gut the filibuster – but whatever.

To be fair, the Herald doesn’t endorse candidates (until after they’re elected, it seems) but rather reprints the endorsements of Forum Communications’ flagship publication the Fargo Forum. And even the Forum was effusive with their praise of Heitkamp writing that “her success will be North Dakota’s success.”

That’s a distant cry from Heitkamp’s vision of bigger government being “out of step” with North Dakota as a whole.

Which just goes to show that if you’re looking for editorial commentary on politics that is intellectually rigorous as well as principled and consistent, the folks at Forum Communications aren’t the place to get it.

I’ve long believed that, in addition to a decidedly leftward cant, most of the state’s newspapers have a bias for establishment. They aren’t so much principled observers of current events as relentless apologists for the status quo. They tend to toady to whoever happens to be in charge at the moment. And we see evidence in that toadying in Forum Communications’ quick 180 degree turnabout on Heitkamp’s election

I’m not asking that these editorial writers endorse conservatism. If they want to endorse Heidi Heitkamp and bigger, more energetic government then that’s great. But they didn’t endorse Heitkamp, originally. They endorsed Berg and a limited-government view. So how, then, do they express satisfaction about someone who they once wrote was “out of step” with North Dakota being elected?

And when they flip-flop like this, why should we take them seriously?

Newspapers are supposed to hold the powers that be accountable while informing the public. But at Forum Communications they seem to see their job as sucking up to whoever happens to be in power at the moment. They thought that was going to be Berg, thus their endorsement. Now that it’s Heitkamp, the turn-about was swift.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • VocalYokel

    They put the ‘sick’ in sycophant.

  • zipity

    Eh…the Fargo Foolem is nothing more than a toy for the dilettante Bill Marcil Jr. (aka the snort-worthy non-de-plume Billy Black) to amuse himself with.

    It stopped being a serious paper some decades ago…

  • Mike Quinn

    This is one of those special days. I agree with Rob Port. The sorrowful newspapers in this state have absolutely no integrity. The ouster of Berg and his agenda for the rich shows the papers are hopelessly out of touch with the population. Now the papers see which way the wind is blowing they want to suck up. The Bismarck Tribune or as it is morel commonly known the Bismarck Fox Tribune has endorsed the saddest losers like McCain, Palin, Magic Underwear Mitt, and Ryan. Does the tribune ever learn? No, the greedy rats support the greedy rats. The news papers could lead this state forward out of the redneck right wing morass we are mired in, but instead they think the bread is buttered by echoing Fox, and Rush. Our newspapers are just sad little people trying to suck add revenue out of the right wing dogs that control the state. Integrity means nothing next to profits. When the population is being driven into the ground by the greed dogs like Berg the papers should take the side of the working man, women, and those oppressed by the Republicans, but instead these self serving extensions of Fox do what they think will bring in add dollars.

  • Azuleau

    Leftward can’t? Has the forum ever endorsed a Democrat that wasn’t clearly going to win in a landslide or was running for some obscure office? I think you’re mistaking gracious optimism from a state’s major newspaper for equivocation here. Even Berg wished Heitkamp well after the election was over.

    • Rob

      The Forum’s endorsements, and the Forum’s editorial tone on issues (not to mention reporting) are two different things.

      • azuleau

        It’s not like they retroactively went back and said they now agreed with Heitkamp’s ideology. In the endorsement, they basically said both candidates were good people. That seems entirely consistent with saying Heitkamp will be a energetic bridge builder.

        • kevindf

          Heitkamp will be a good soldier for the mercenary trial lawyer lobby, nothing more.

        • Rob

          Bridge builder to what?

          See, that’s the problem. There’s no logic or intellectual rigor in the endorsement.

          Why is Heitkamp great? Because she got elected. Totally absent is any consideration of the sort of policies she might actually promote.

          The Forum’s editorial board is intellectually bankrupt.

          • Guest

            No, the Forum stated they were both good people in its endorsement. That perception of her character did not change after the election.

            Bridge builder simply means someone who will work with others to get things done, which is something Washington sorely needs. Just because a person has different vision doesn’t mean mean they are an ideologue who will refuse to compromise.

          • Rob

            Again, compromise to what end? Because the policy that gets implemented does, in fact, matter.

            Compromise in pursuit of bad policy is hardly a virtue.

            And the Forum said Heitkamp’s view is out of step with ND. Now they’re saying her victories will be ND’s.

            They can’t have it both ways.

          • Guest

            So you would prefer Heitkamp not compromise?

    • Rob

      Has the forum ever endorsed a Democrat that wasn’t clearly going to win in a landslide or was running for some obscure office?

      You’re kind of proving my point about toadying here.

      The Forum, for endorsements, doesn’t pick based on any set of principles. They pick who they think is going to win so they can suck up to them.


      • azuleau

        So by pointing out that the Forum almost always endorses Republicans I showed the Forum has a “leftward cant”?

        • Rob

          You showed that their endorsements aren’t based on principles. They’re based on who they think will win.

          The rest of the time the Forum endorses policies that lead to bigger government. A few years ago the Forum wrote of a state budget that increased spending 24% that it was “appropriately conservative.” No joking.

          They do not lean to the right. They just like to suck up to those in power.

          • DelawareBeachHouse

            In a break with usual practice, election endorsements are determined by the publisher, or more likely, the publisher emeritus, i.e., Bill Marcil. And Marcil endorses Republicans.

            Who was it that named him to the Roughrider Hall of Fame?

        • kevindf

          I’m one the few Republicans left in this state who doesn’t collect a government check or subsidy.

  • azuleau

    If the Forum really had an establishment bias, how do you explain it’s endorsement of Berg back in 2010?

    • Rob

      The polls heavily favored him to win, just like this time. Rasmussen did a lot more polling in that race, which consistently showed a wide lead for Berg. That time around they were right, and he won by 10 points. The Forum didn’t think Heitkamp could win, so they didn’t endorse her.

  • Rick Olson

    I think it could also be said that The Forum’s endorsement of Berg was more or less their endorsing of a home town guy. Since Berg’s home is in Fargo, and of course the business he once ran is also based in Fargo, I couldn’t imagine The Forum endorsing anyone else but Berg in this race.

    Had The Forum endorsed Heidi Heitkamp instead, it would have been seen by many folks like The Forum was slapping the local business community right in the face. The Forum, of course, is heavily dependent upon the local business community for advertising revenue in both their printed newspaper as well as their online site.

    Just my two cents worth…

  • kevindf

    FCC is just angling for a taxpayer bailout.

  • Jordan W Green

    Easy, endorsements were dictated by Fourm Communications system-wide, but these editorials afterwards are not. Tom Dennis probably would have endorsed Heidi.

    • DelawareBeachHouse

      That’s right. In the end, Bill Marcil Sr. still wields authority in election endorsements.

  • ladyknownaslou

    Well, the Valley Tea Party Conservative Coalition DID endorse Rick Berg. Guess you don’t read your email, Rob, because you never printed THAT.

  • Mike Quinn

    What broke down at North Dakota’s Bull Shit Moutain? Why hasn’t Rob got out of bed and posted some stuff to lie about? I know Rob got a reality ass kickin, but like Rush, and Fox, you just got to get up and keep lying. That is what a good Republican does. Someone has to fight for the greedy rich that just failed to buy an election. We are counting on you Rob to get out of bed and get those lies and distortions going again.

  • Mike Quinn

    If you want to see a right wing dinger melt in front of you eyes watch this with the dinger,b=facebook John Stewart uses Fox News to drop a bomb on Fox News. This is absolutely the cure for Fox News cancer. If you know someone who believes in Fox News this is the cure.