According to Hoiles: Liberties Must Come First

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Through the decades, The Orange County Register has kept faith with patriarch R.C. Hoiles’ faith. Its editorials consistently echo Thomas Jefferson’s sentiment that “government governs best which governs least.”

Not infrequently, that’s put the Register at odds even with the Orange County and national conservatives who generally agree with Jefferson. During World War II, for instance, the paper famously opposed the internment of Japanese Americans. During the Cold War, it opposed saber- rattling with the Soviets. More recently, it vehemently argued against the march to war in Iraq.

It’s been particularly harsh on George W. Bush, who in the 2004 election crushed John Kerry 59.7% to 39% in Orange County even as California went to the Democrat by a 54.4% to 44.4% margin. Last summer, on his Orange Punch blog, Register editorial writer John Seiler summed up the Bush administration this way: “This whole rotten Bush regime is goose-stepping America toward fascism.”

In keeping with R.C. Hoiles’ directive, the Register does not endorse political candidates. Just as consistently, at least in the past two or three decades, the Register insists that its libertarianism has remained confined to its opinion pages.

This strong libertarian bent is actually a plus in maintaining its newsroom’s credibility, says Register Editor/Senior Vice President Kenneth F. Brusic, because “I think there’s a deep suspicion in the community that we’re trying to push some agenda.” That keeps the newsroom honest, he adds. A “Credibility Checklist” is posted throughout the newsroom, and the paper every day follows stories with a “Reader’s Scorecard” that asks a group of readers to judge the accuracy and fairness of the particular article. One of the questions: “Did you detect a hidden agenda?”

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