Here’s To The Toadies At Forum Communications

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“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

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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