The Times Flatters Another Liberal Paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Richard Perez-Pena's story in Monday's Business section worried that one of the most influential liberal Southern newspapers, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, might be trending to the right on its editorial page ("Editorial Voice of an Influential Atlanta Newspaper May Move to the Right").

Perez-Pena did some major deck-stacking in favor of the AJC's liberal editorial page, reaching back to the civil rights era and suggestingtoday's AJC was performing similar heroic duty as an editorial advocate for the left against local conservatives:

In the 1950s and '60s, under Ralph McGill, The Atlanta Constitution infuriated conservative white readers with its liberal views, especially on segregation.

Cynthia Tucker, the editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been heir to that tradition, provoking anger with strongly worded positions to the left of the region's popular opinion, like attacking the case for war against Iraq. She has also criticized figures revered on the left, and in Atlanta in particular, like the heirs of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But last week, the newspaper announced that Ms. Tucker would move to Washington, continuing to write her Pulitzer Prize-winning column, but not working on editorials and not setting the paper's official stance on issues. In fact, most of the editorial board will be replaced in May, a move that could create a different - and perhaps less liberal - voice for one of the country's leading regional papers.

Perez-Pena didn't mention that Tucker, who he carefully positioned as liberal but not too liberal, won the prize for anti-Bush gems like this:

There are plenty of unindicted liars walking the halls of the Bush White House...The Bush team knew they could never have sold American voters on an invasion of Iraq just because Saddam had illicit weapons. So they decided to distort, dissemble and lie.

MRC chairman Brent Bozell said in a column questioning Tucker's prize:

What precisely is noteworthy in that? Hasn't that been said by every radical left-wing blogger with a modem?

Perez-Pena continued in the old binary mode comforting to liberal self-esteem, portraying liberals as counter-cultural risk-takers and conservatives as by definition stodgy and risk-averse.

To some longtime readers inside and outside the paper, the changes add up to a stance that will be more conservative over all, and more averse to controversy.

"I think they're trying not to offend," said Kenneth Edelstein, a blogger and former editor of Creative Loafing, an Atlanta alternative weekly. "It's definitely a move to the right, and it's a real change for a paper that was the most important progressive voice in the South for a long time."