Is there a conservative Republican bias in The Oklahoman newspaper?

Central Oklahoma is served by only one major daily newspaper, The Oklahoman. A few years ago, it was one of the worst newspapers in the country:
      • The American Journalism Review characterized the paper as suffering from uninspired content and political bias.
      • The Columbia Journalism Review called The Oklahoman the "Worst Newspaper in America" - citing the paper's conformance to right-wing political views.
While there has been slight improvement, there is still obvious bias inherent in The Oklahoman.

Recently, several people wrote letters to the editor (Your Views) in which they expressed support for Sarah Palin. I responded by writing my own letter to Your Views. The Editorial Writer challenged my opinion. I then wrote to the Editor of The Oklahoman asking for explanations to the Editorial Writer's challenge. After waiting a week and getting no response from the Editor, I wrote to the Publisher expressing my concerns about the challenges to my opinion letter and to the lack of a response from the Editor.

The Oklahoman has the right to refuse to print any letter to the editor, but I am concerned with this obvious breach of journalistic ethics - to argue with an opinion letter submitted by a subscriber. I do not expect anyone from The Oklahoman to ever apologize or explain their behavior. That would be the honorable and right thing to do.

Complete transcripts of all correspondence

Letter 1: Jim’s letter to Your Views, The Oklahoman opinion page
Date: Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 11:08a
The responses to James Mitchell's comments (Your Views, Jan. 20) overlooked a significant fact about Sarah Palin: She took an oath of office and committed to serve as the Governor of Alaska. However, when she realized that it would be more fun to write a book, travel the country, and go on TV; she quit. She defied her commitment and responsibility in favor of becoming a celebrity. Why would any thinking American want a president or vice-president who might quit when she sees something else that would be more fun? We need someone who has the integrity, maturity, and intelligence to honor commitments.
Jim Watson

Letter 2: Editorial Writer JE McReynolds’ response to Jim’s submission
Date: January 20, 2010, 12:13p
Here are some points you need to address to support your argument:
-Obama, Biden and Clinton tooks [sic] oaths and committed to serving in Senate. They left.
-Janet Napilatano [sic] took an oath to be governor of Arizona. She left. Bill Clinton took an oath to be governor of Arkansas. He left. The list is endless and bipartisan.
-Palin didn't leave Alaska to become a celebrity. She's been a celebrity since August 2008.
-Hillary ran for a higher office, didn't win and left the Senate shortly thereafter when an opportunity came her way. Palin ran for a higher office, didn't win and left the governorship when an opportunity came her way.

Letter 3: Jim’s response to Editorial Writer McReynolds
Date: January 20, 2010, 2:10p
Thank you for your response.
You make some valid points, but I don't understand the opportunity that came Palin's way. The others had opportunities to continue their public service in higher offices so they resigned to move up. Sarah had no higher office or other public service beckoning her. Her motives seem to be more self-centered.
Jim

Letter 4: Jim’s response to Editorial Writer McReynolds
Date: January 20, 2010, 2:55p
I am also a bit confused. I wasn't making an argument, as you state, I was simply expressing an opinion for 'Your Views' on the Editorial page, as many others have done (is it the Editorial policy of The Oklahoman to question all letter writers and state additional points for them to address?)
You responded with examples of others who have resigned - and they are all Democrats. As if you assumed I was making a statement about Republicans (I am not a Democrat and am somewhat disgusted with President Obama). I was making a statement about people who don't follow through on their commitment to serve (or continue to serve) our country in public office. Actually, I was making a statement about people who support those who don't hold to their commitment. To my understanding, adhering to commitments is one of the basic philosophies of the Republican Party.
Jim

Letter 5: Editorial Writer McReynolds’ response to Jim
Date: January 20, 2010, 3:06p
Your Views is an edited forum. All letters that are published are edited, and submitted letters are scrutinized before publication. My response was to point out a problem with your logic in singling out Palin because it's quite routine for elected officials to jump from one office to another. If I didn't question your logic and published it as written, I'm quite sure that another letter would have done so in response. Mitchell's letter and the responses to it concerned Palin's lack of qualifications for higher office so it's not logical that any of those letters would have focused on Palin leaving office before her term was up -- something that many Democrats and Republicans have done over the years. Your concluding remarks in your letter would apply to any of the people I mentioned but especially Hillary because she, too, lost her bid for higher office and almost immediately left the Senate.

Letter 6: Jim’s response to Editorial Writer McReynolds
Date: January 20, 2010, 3:46p
I hope our dialog has not become a burden or tax on your time. I do appreciate your responses.
"Here are some points you need to address to support your argument:"
That request doesn't seem to be editing. Nor scrutinizing. Editing and scrutinizing I can understand. Your demand of what I need to do - that I do not understand in the context of Your Views.
". . . it's quite routine for elected officials to jump from one office to another."
I agree. However, Sarah Palin has not jumped to another office. That's my point exactly.
As to your referencing all the others - I am not concerned with their actions or any comparisons. My original intent was to point out a very significant fact that Palin supporters overlook. It doesn't matter what the others have done.

Letter 7: Jim’s letter to Editor Ed Kelley
Date: January 25, 2010, 9:02a
Mr. Kelley,
As a subscriber and daily reader of The Oklahoman, I submitted a letter to Your Views and received a reply from Mr. J. McReynolds. I have some questions about the way it was handled. Here is my submission followed by his responses:
(Jim Watson’s letter submitted to Your Views, The Oklahoman opinion page)
(Editor J. McReynolds’s responses to Jim’s letter)

My letter to Your Views stated two things:
1. A fact: Palin quit as the Governor of Alaska.
2. An opinion (we should demand a greater sense of commitment from national candidates).
I understand that The Oklahoman has the right to refuse to print any letter to the editor. I am fine if Mr. McReynolds decides not to print my letter (as, apparently he has decided), but I am concerned with an apparent breach of journalistic ethics - to contest an opinion letter submitted by a subscriber.
Some of my concerns with Mr. McReynolds responses:
1. "Here are some points you need to address to support your argument:"
I wasn't making an argument, I was simply expressing an opinion for 'Your Views' on the Editorial page, as many others have done.
2. “All letters that are published are edited, and submitted letters are scrutinized before publication.”
I do not understand the request of what I ‘need to’ do in the context of editing and scrutinizing an opinion in Your Views.
3. "... it's quite routine for elected officials to jump from one office to another."
I agree. However, Sarah Palin has not jumped to another office. That's my point exactly. Mr. McReynolds makes an inappropriate response.
4. As to his referencing the others (all Democrats) who have quit to move to a higher office - I am not concerned with their actions or any comparisons. I was making a statement about people who support those who don't hold to their commitment to serve (or continue to serve) our country in public office. I am not concerned with the actions of others who have resigned. The intent of my letter was to point out a very significant fact that Palin supporters overlook. It doesn't matter what the others have done.
5. “My response was to point out a problem with your logic”.
On Wednesday, January 20, The Oklahoman published 7 letters responding to James Mitchell and in support of Palin. Those letters included these phrases:
“... most of (the heads of state we deal with) are socialists or dictators!”
“... she’s qualified to be president.”
“... Palin was more qualified to be vice president than Barack Obama is to be president...”
“... (the left) can make no legitimate philosophical arguments on principles.”
I doubt Mr. McReynolds challenged the logic of these statements.
6. “If I didn't question your logic and published it as written, I'm quite sure that another letter would have done so in response.”
Good - that would create a healthy dialog among readers of The Oklahoman.

My questions - Does The Oklahoman:
1. Question all statements in all letters submitted to Your Views? If not, how does it select letters of which to make requests?
2. Routinely make demands of what needs to be done to further support a submitted opinion of a reader/subscriber?
I look forward to your response.
Jim Watson

Letter 8: Jim’s letter to Publisher David Thompson
Date: February 1, 2010, 1:11p
Mr. Thompson,
Monday, January 25, I sent an email (below) to Mr. Ed Kelley. I have yet to receive a response. I now have two concerns - the inappropriate treatment of an opinion letter by Mr. McReynolds (explained below) and Mr. Kelley's ignoring of my reasonable request.
Can you please help me and answer the questions at the end of the email and explain such treatment by the two editors to a subscriber and avid reader of The Oklahoman?
Thanks,
Jim Watson
(rest of the letter was a copy of the above letter to Editor Kelley)

Letter 9: Publisher David Thompson’s response to Jim
Date: February 1, 2010, 5:00p
Mr. Watson,
I have reviewed you [sic] concerns regarding your letters to the editor. Ed Kelley or I will get back to you within the next day after we have had time to discuss.
Thanks for your response.
dt


Letter 10: Editor Ed Kelley's response to Jim
Date: February 4, 2010, 12:59p
Mr. Watson,
We'll publish your letter soon.
By the way, I was out of the state, on journalism-related business, when you wrote. Then both J.E. McReynolds and I got waylaid a bit, like other Okies, by the ice storm of last week. J.E. then had a family emergency illness that he had to oversee for awhile. So today is the first day we've had a chance to discuss your issue face to face.
I very much appreciate your interest in, and loyalty to, The Oklahoman.
Thanks,
Ed Kelley

Letter 11: Jim’s response to Editor Ed Kelley
Date: February 4, 2010, 1:34p
Ed,
My letter was submitted on and the letters it refers to were published on Wednesday, January 20 - over two weeks ago. Is it still timely and appropriate to publish such a letter?
I am glad that you have now discussed the issue with Mr. McReynolds and I look forward to your explanations about why Mr. McReynolds challenged my opinion letter and the rationale he gave for doing so.
Jim

Letter 12: Editor Ed Kelley's response to Jim
Date: February 4, 2010, 1:36p
We'll be happy to publish the letter you submitted. We think it's still timely.

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/opubcoletter.html