Last week just before the Annual Commissioner Swindle Mudslinging Contest, Patronage County Innuendo political reporter Dummy Byline stood chatting with Waldo Whitewash, his counterpart at The Compost, the other daily newspaper in Patronage County.
“I see The Compost endorsed Commissioner Swindle too,” Byline remarked as he tried to sneak a look at the other reporter’s notes.
“Some endorsement, Dummy. We said we’d like to see someone from the Token Opposition Party on the county commission, only this isn’t the year.”
“There has to be somebody in the Token Opposition Party as competent as Swindle. Maybe our editorial writers don’t read the rest of the paper. Last year we exposed Swindle 50 times.”
“Not to mention the other 50 Swindle scandals they wouldn’t print, Dummy. At least endorsements come out in time for candidates to buy ads showing that we endorsed them.”
“Which is why newspapers always endorse candidates with the biggest ad budgets or the most money still left in them. If we can’t decide based on that, we go with those who look like winners.”
“There’s nothing more embarrassing than supporting a loser, Dummy. But advertising dollars aren’t the real issue. In any race, its loyalty to the interests of the political elite that really matters. Everything from property appraisals to control of legislation.”
“And don’t forget all those cozy deals with mutual friends, everybody from lawyers, bond underwriters, and contractors to the guys who sell toilet paper, especially those services a county buys without a competitive bid.”
“Now you’re catching on, Dummy. Every dollar that comes into the county comes through the treasurer’s office, but every dollar that goes out is approved by the commissioners.”
“Wait a minute, Whitewash. Let’s get our stories straight. What do you think the key issue of this election is going to be?”
“Voter apathy, Dummy. The same as always.”
“Too bad you’re right, Whitewash. But at least the public has the news media on its side. Without us, they’d really be in the dark.”
This op-ed column first appeared in the Mt. Washington Press in November, 1982.