The 19th century Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne wrote that newspapers took it upon themselves to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” In the present century the mission seems to have degenerated into covering the ample posteriors of the comfortable.
Last week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel strained so hard covering a comfortable posterior that it made our heads hurt miles away. An incumbent judge in Ozaukee County evidently needs help explaining his signature on the 2011 Walker recall petition and why it shouldn’t be seen as the kind of partisan political act judges are supposed to avoid.
The Journal Sentinel urges upon its readers the fantastic tale that Judge Thomas Wolfgram signed the recall petition only because he wanted more information about the Governor’s Act 10 collective bargaining reforms.
Say what? A 19-year veteran of the Ozaukee County bench wanted to learn more about complex legislation and concluded this worthy goal would be best served by removing the governor from office?
If Wolfgram actually believes what he told the newspaper, he shouldn’t be judging pie-eating contests, much less disputable matters of law and justice. And if the Journal Sentinel believes it, the writers and editors badly need to converse occasionally with almost anybody outside their circle of co-workers.
Aside from its helpful snapshot of the current state of American journalism, the Journal Sentinel account does provide one locally useful bit of information: A highly-qualified opponent is challenging Wolfgram in the April election. Ozaukee County voters may reasonably conclude that whatever else candidate Joseph Voiland might do as a judge, it would be difficult to imagine him or anyone else spinning a yarn more preposterous than what Wolfgram has said trying to keep his job.