June 28, 2002

Editor resigns for telling the truth…

The resignation of Rosemary Armao as managing editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune is a perfect illustration of the primacy of structural bias in journalism as opposed to ideological bias. Recall that she responded by e-mail to a reader’s complaint about a profile of Katherine Harris–of Florida re-count fame–who is running for Congress as a Republican. It seems the reader thought the paper should be giving equal attention to Democrats. Howard Kurtz outlines the events in this morning’s column.

Armao’s response to the reader was remarkably honest. Among other things, she justified the coverage because Harris is an “international figure” and is likely to win. She added, ideologically, that she would not vote for Harris and derided “our culture for craving as its public figures, women like Katherine who are very pretty, hard-working and without original ideas that I can find.”

A flap ensued. Rather than be fired, Armao resigned. Too bad. She actually struck a blow for media literacy by temporarily opening the workings of the editorial mind to scrutiny. Readers of the Herald-Tribune are better informed today because of her response. They know more about how editors think and will continue to think. They know more about how the structural biases of journalism affect elections.

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