We’re a little late to the game, but this wild pitch by the local newspaper requires us to look at the tape.
The accusation was brutal. The publisher of Fort Wayne’s morning newspaper, The Journal Gazette, wrote an open letter to city councilman Jason Arp scolding him for a postcard that “invited violence” against journalists:
Your large postcard featured you gripping a baseball bat and included, in capital letters, the phrase: “BEAT THE MEDIA.” There were four references to The Journal Gazette, the only media identified by name.
At best, it was disappointing and inappropriate, especially from an elected official. Do you not remember the murders of five staff members and the wounding of two others at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, just over a year ago? The alleged shooter in that case, angry with the newspaper’s coverage, pleaded guilty to the shootings just last Monday.
Why would you tie your campaign message to the bat-wielding photo and language that not so covertly invited violence?
With such a stunning charge, you would think a photo of the offending flyer would be blazoned across the page so the whole city could see the offense.
That did not happen. If you are a subscriber who lives outside of Arp’s Fourth District, you would never have seen the troubling card. Instead, other media in town had to pick up the slack to give Fort Wayne residents a chance to see the picture for themselves.
Below is the postcard of the bat-wielding councilman:
OK, so before I wind up my pitch about this postcard, here are my caveats:
Yes, I am friends with Jason Arp. Yes, I did in a sense just “endorse” him right before the election. On the other hand, I have also worked for Fort Wayne Newspapers, albeit for the mostly departed News-Sentinel. I have a lot of former colleagues from my time at FWN. If it comes down to journalist vs. politician, my sympathies are completely on the side of the media.
But the JG’s accusation is bonkers.
The accusation is so ludicrous that it’s hard to know where to begin. Arp used baseball metaphors — while the World Series was all over the media — to show how he sees the morning paper as an opponent that he needs to defeat to win re-election.
You really might not like a politician naming a media organization as an opponent to be defeated. But beating the media in this case is simply shown to mean winning an election. It’s right there on the card.
To be sure, the “Beat the Media!” tag at the bottom of the card is clumsy because The JG is the only media mentioned and no other media made a point to oppose Arp. The JG by no means equals “the media.”
But Arp’s photo on the postcard is obviously that of a baseball card, which is about as innocent and American of a pose as you could want.
I can imagine that last year’s murders at The Capital Gazette would put working journalists on edge. That is perfectly reasonable and can explain some portion of this reaction.
But The JG’s accusation is clearly overblown. Strong political disagreeents are one thing. Accusations of violent intent are quite another.
Jon Swerens is a longtime Fort Wayne resident and editor of The Prow.