Star Tribune chooses accuracy over agendas

What’s in a name? Credibility, says the advocacy group Minnesotans Against Terrorism. Clarity, says the Star Tribune. In a much-publicized – and primarily one-sided – debate, assorted legislators, officials and spiritual leaders have jumped on the Minneapolis daily, denouncing the paper for its practice of identifying Palestinian suicide bombers as Ö well, suicide bombers.

The nerve.

Minnesotans Against Terrorism, a group founded by University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg and marketing executive Marc Grossfield, is spearheading the fight to force the Star Tribune to refer to suicide bombers as terrorists. The group bought a full-page advertisement in the paper last week, which states, “Aren’t all suicide bombers terrorists? Not according to the Star Tribune.” The ad was signed by more than 350 Minnesota residents, including Gov. Jesse Ventura, House Speaker Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon), House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty (R-Eagan) and Democratic U.S. Sens. Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton. It also contains a reproduction of the Wall Street Journal online column by James Taranto, published in February.

Taranto stated in his opinions piece, “If you murder only Jews, you are not a terrorist – at least in the eyes of those who edit Minnesota’s largest newspaper.” This illustrates the skewed thinking of those demanding the Star Tribune participate in their one-word-fits-all world. To imply that the paper’s editors hold some sort of grudge against Jews just because the paper opted for accuracy is ludicrous and woefully ignorant. The Star Tribune is identifying people who kill themselves – suicide – by blowing themselves up – bombers – in crowded areas, hoping to kill civilians. For Minnesotans Against Terrorism to assume Minnesotans are too inept to realize suicide bombers fit within any acceptable definition of the word “terrorist” is downright insulting to this state’s citizenry.

Anyone can deduce that suicide bombers are terrorists. By describing them rather than simply labeling them, the Star Tribune gives its readers an honest, non-politicized account of the facts – a practice that is often beyond what Ventura, Sviggum, Pawlenty, Wellstone, Dayton and other legislators are willing to do.

Moreover, how a newspaper chooses to present the news is not something to be determined by state officials. The fact that they are trying to restrict the language of a free press is unconscionable. Their involvement in Minnesotans Against Terrorism’s campaign presents yet another argument against the Star Tribune’s capitulation: If the newspaper were to change its policy based on the complaints of government officials, it would amount, in a practical sense, to state censorship, or at least self-censorship on behalf of the state. This is not what a free press does, and these lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves.

The Star Tribune’s policy on this issue ensures accuracy, fairness and truth. Perhaps it doesn’t fit well with the current political climate, but that’s the whole point – abandonment of agendas in favor of truth. And to the legislators seeking to craft a media lexicon with which they are more comfortable: Back off.