Monday, August 27, 2012

Newsrooms growing cojones?

(In consideration of the comment, I've changed the spelling in the title. As I said, where I grew up it was always spelled kahunas, but admittedly, that was probably a corruption.)

For many years, press critics have been decrying the he said, she said, "view from nowhere" tendencies of journalism. There have been multiple calls for journalists to ferret out "the truth" and make some judgment calls about the weight to give various claims.

(Of course, that's also given journalism's critics more ammo to scream "bias.")

So it's interesting to me to see two examples from the past few days where newsrooms seem to have grown some cojones. This is in a Saturday story from the Columbus Dispatch about a sit-down with Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and his Republican challenger, current state treasurer Josh Mandel - a session in which Mandel called Brown "un-American" for supporting the auto industry bailout*:

When Mandel was asked by The Dispatch what he would have done differently at the time the federal loans were offered to the auto companies, as well as what health-care alternative he would offer to “ Obamacare,” Mandel offered a five-minute response about the free-enterprise system, government regulations and Greece before steering to an environmental regulation he has criticized Brown for supporting.

When he was asked again to answer the initial question, Mandel offered general remarks on regulations, energy production and the U.S. tax code. Twelve minutes after Mandel was asked what he would have done differently during the time of the bailout — and it had been suggested to him that he either did not have or was not offering an alternative — Mandel said: “You can write, ‘Josh’s plan would’ve been, and Josh’s plan continues to be, to reform regulations and create a better economic environment for auto manufacturing and manufacturing in general.’  ”

Then there was this on Sunday in The State from Columbia, which has earned the enmity of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who most recently refused to answer a question from a State reporter at a news conference on her ethics plans.

Now, this did appear in The Buzz, a thinly veiled, pseudonymous weekly poke at all things silly at the State House. But still ...

   Here, for those who missed it, is what the Buzz’s governor had to say in defending her response – “Gina, I am not going to answer any of your questions” – to Smith’s question (the numbers match points of “discussion” that follow the – well, you decide what this was):
   “Gina Smith is the same reporter that wrote in The State newspaper that I was being indicted (1). With no facts. It was a completely false (story) (2), front page above the fold (3).
   “Gina Smith is also someone who decided (4) to write a story about my 14-year-old daughter, against the strong wishes (5) of chief SLED ... ah ... chief of SLED (Mark) Keel that it was going to be a security issue (6).
   “If you look at the press conference that took place yesterday (Wednesday), I answered every reporters’ question on every issue in every area that I went to. I answered the other State newspaper reporter’s questions.
   “But respect is a two-way street. And I don’t have to go and deal with reporters that are unprofessional (7) that go on baseless facts (8) and do anything.
   “My daughter was not given a job (9). At 13, I started my job. She filled out an application like everybody else (10). She went through an interview like everybody else.
   “And for security reasons, there is security on my children because we have needed it in the past and we continue to need it.
   “So while I appreciate the media taking up for each other, I also want to remind you, I’m a mom. And as a mom, my job is to take care of my children and to keep them safe. And when the chief of SLED begs (11) a reporter not to do a story because her security is at risk and the reporter does it anyway – on baseless facts again; let’s keep in mind, both stories were false (12) – it gives me the right to say, ‘Respect is a two-way street,’ and I’ll end it on that.”
   Now, governor, when The Buzz errs, The Buzz corrects those errors. ...
   So, in the spirit of being helpful, Buzz will help Buzz’s governor with her correction and stop with a nice round number – oh, say, a dozen – just to save some trees. ... 1.The story did not say the governor was “being indicted.” In fact, the first person in the story to mention any form of that word was Ms. Haley in a quote from her in the story’s last paragraph, which ran inside the paper.
2. Completely false? Can you help Buzz out, governor? It says you’re governor, for instance. Is that false?
3. The story did not run above the fold.
4. Smith did not “decide to write” a story about allegations of nepotism. An editor asked her to do the story.
5. The “strong wishes” of SLED Chief Mark Keel? Really? He sounded embarrassed to be calling Buzz’s editor.
6. A “security issue?” Are you saying SLED can’t secure the State House? (Hold the presses!)
7. “Unprofessional.” Like The State sending your office a list of questions a week and a half before its story was published, and your office – instead of responding – handing some of the answers to another S.C. paper?
8. “Baseless facts.” Giant shrimp.
9. “My (child) was not given a job.” Where did Smith report she was, governor? She didn’t. The article says she is “working” in the gift shop. Read the story.
10. “She filled out an application. And went through the interview process like everybody else.” Gee, guess it could have saved time to answer all those questions your office had – one was: Was this job posted to the public? – for a week-plus? (Not that the story said anything to the contrary.)
11. “The chief of SLED begs.” Oh, please. It was an “I-have-to-do-this” phone call.
12. More giant shrimp “baseless facts,” but Buzz is trying to keep this list to 12, so let’s skip to “both stories were false.” It’s been five months and a month, respectively, since the articles were published, Ms. Haley. Where’s the beef?
 If this keeps up, it could be fun being a journalist again.  Now, please pass another plate of giant shrimp ...

* Thanks to Fred Vultee for the pointer.

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At 8/27/12, 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you mean cojones?

- Bryan M

At 8/27/12, 1:58 PM, Blogger Doug said...

In my neighborhood back in da city, it was kahunas. To each his own :)


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