Press Clips: Reporting the Good, the Bad and da Ugly

Aug25

megcarlyCalbuzz is happy to see the “national media” weigh in on California politics, and we’re always pleased to chat with our colleagues from DC and NYC when they’re gathering string and trying to figure out the lay of the land. But when they screw it up – especially after they’ve spoken with us – we find it annoying.

Thus it was with the Wall Street Journal’s  “California GOP Pins Hopes on Ex-CEOs” — which was thrown together mid-week, on-the-fly and then, we’re told, slashed before making print.

By writing that “many in the party are pegging their hopes on two former corporate chief executives: Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina,” reporter Jim Carlton gave the WSJ headline writers free rein to suggest Meg and Carly are the great hopes for the future of the California GOP. This is exactly the story eMeg and Hurricane Carly wanted to spin and — in our humble opinion — puts the cart way before the horse. Maybe that’s the story Carlton’s editors wanted, but we’re not convinced that it reflects what we sometimes refer to as “actual reality.”

What’s the evidence, for example, for the assertion that “The star power of both CEOs is likely to give them some momentum.”? Clearly the WSJ didn’t check the clips for the March Field Poll in which 17% of Republicans had a favorable view of Whitman, 11% unfavorable and 72% no opinion. Fiorina’s standing was 24% favorable, 17% unfavorable and 59% no opinion — also among Republicans. That’s not momentum or star power. To suggest otherwise is to swallow the swill peddled by Whitman and Fiorina spinners.

And here’s a neat writing trick: the piece posed “political observers” who say Meg and Carly’s business credentials could be helpful to them (on one side) versus (on the other side) “Democratic strategists” who say they come from a reviled class of CEOs. That’s a loaded match-up — positing neutral observers against partisans.

Especially since at least one neutral “political observer” the WSJ talked to (we name no names) made the point that being a business leader in this economic and political climate is a tremendous deficit for any candidate, Republican or Democrat. Also, eMeg and Hurricane Carly are from the same party as the governor whose approval rating is about 30% at a time when about 80% of voters say the state is on the wrong track.

And what, exactly, did this add to the conversation that it would qualify as a kicker quote?
“Whoever our candidates are,” says Mike Villines, former Republican leader in the Democrat-dominated state Assembly, “the key for Republicans in the state is definitely focused on winning.”

Why does any of this matter? Because unless reporters get it right, their clips create a body of “information” upon which more stories are built, getting it more and more wrong. There is no big flashing red light that pops up when the next reporter from out of town does a Google search on the California governor’s race. Up pops the WSJ story, with all its misstatements and misjudgments. This in turn can affect fundraising and momentum in the race itself. Thus, the spin works even if it doesn’t reflect “actual reality.” And this pisses off Calbuzz.

Late breaking P.S. (8:53 a.m.) The Journal this morning published this correction of the Carlton piece:  “Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chairman and chief executive who is exploring a run for the U.S. Senate in California, is pro-life on the abortion issue. A Saturday U.S. News article misstated her position as pro-choice.”

Back on the home front: Debra Saunders, our old pal who spins her own view at the Chron, would normally lean toward eMeg and Hurricane Carly, but you gotta give her big credit for taking them to task for being lousy citizens in her piece asking:  ”How do you run for California’s top political offices when you often have failed to vote yourself and have no political experience?”

conrad

He really IS a twit: Sam Stein and Ryan Grin have a first-rate takedown on Kent Conrad, Calbuzz’s least favorite U.S. Senator and the guy whose winning total in his last re-election wouldn’t be enough to get a seat on the L.A. Community College Board.

While Conrad loves to portray himself as some kind of deficit hawk hero on government spending, the Huffbloggers nail him for 1) opposing fiercely Obama’s bid to cut $10 billion in wasteful agriculture subsidies whose beneficiaries include constituents of Conrad’s, who get paid for not growing crops and; 2) enjoying nearly two million other reasons to fight against a public option and on behalf of private insurers to keep the health care status quo:

“Beyond ideology or pragmatism, however, the North Dakota Democrat has a pocketful of other reasons to oppose a public option. Despite being from a state where campaigns cost a relative pittance, Conrad has found himself the recipient of largess from a host of private actors with interests in the health care debate. Over the course of his career he has received more than $828,000 from insurance companies, $610,000 from health professionals, and $255,000 from pharmaceutical and health product companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

This is the guy who is one-sixth of the Senate Finance Committee that’s holding health care reform hostage. Hailing from such politically important places as North Dakota, Montana and Maine, the six-pack deciding the future of America’s medical treatment collectively represent 2.77 percent of the U.S.population. Sheesh.

Prince Gavigavinmicrophonen gets good ink: It was a good media week for wannabe governor Gavin Newsom, who got a whole bushel of huzzahs from a trio of UC Berkeley eggheads, who’ve studied San Francisco’s universal health care program and gave it high marks in a NYT op-ed.

While it’s always nice to have the chrome domes on your side, we expect Newsom and chief henchman Garry South were even more thrilled at the major props thrown his way on health care by our blogging colleagues at the AFL-CIO.

On the other hand, those polls by Jim Moore and David Binder, reported in the Chronicle, where Newsom is losing within San Francisco to Crusty the General Jerry Brown: OY! At least former SF Mayor Dianne Feinstein had a base in her home town when she set out to win the Democratic nomination for governor back in 1990.

Big picture guy: Nice work by New America Foundation scholar and sometime Calbuzzer Mark Paul, who has a first-rate, big picture takeout on the collapse of California in the new issue of The American Interest. Paul covers a lot of familiar ground with clarity and punch, and adds an intriguing new element to the debate about the awful woes of the Golden State:

omarlittle

“California is no longer a state of arrival. Population growth by natural increase now outpaces migration by three to one. Californians, especially the native born and the young, are less likely to migrate than the residents of all but three other states. By the time today’s California youth reach middle age, native-born Californians will make up the state’s majority for the first time in its history…Middle Americans who once thought of ‘California’ as a byword for ‘opportunity’ now see it as a signal of dysfunction.”

As the late great Omar Devone Little would say, “In-deed.”

Hold the parade: While Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been celebrated in the U.S. as journalistic heroes since their release from North Korea, there’s a group of human rights advocates, bloggers and Christian pastors in South Korea who aren’t exactly feeling the same way.

The Times reports that a number of human rights and religious workers trying to help North Korean refugees, the story Ling and Lee were trying to cover when they were arrested, say the pair “needlessly endangered the very people they tried to cover, North Korean refugees and the activists who help them.”

South Korean blogger Joo Sung-ha, a North Korean defector who works in Seoul as a newspaper  reporter,  “berated the American reporters, urging them to ‘shed their martyrdom image.’ In a separate interview, Mr. Joo said he was also ‘disgusted’ by the way ‘some American media are giving them some kind of hero’s welcome home.’”

Since their return,” he added, ‘they haven’t said a peep about the fate of the people they have endangered, though unintentionally.’” So much for happy endings.


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There are 4 comments for this post

  1. avatar tonyseton says:

    This is the kind of reporting that California, and the nation, needs more of. To provide intelligent perspective, illuminating the incompetence of the failed mainstream media and the lies of the paid spinners.

  2. “being a business leader in this economic and political climate is a tremendous deficit for any candidate,” Since when? nothing like just saying something and giving it an empty attribution. All one has to do is look at the way the Dems (like Newsom) spend a gazillion dollars in public money irresponsibly – with no income source for all the money spent.

    Is spending money you don’t have a sound business practice now? I don’t think so. It is clearly a Democrat way to make it look like you have done something good, but it is just irresponsible. The sad part is that if the State shed so much admin they would have the money to fund the stupid socialist programs they want so bad.

    The Democrat dominated State government continues to spend like a drunken sailor. I am – and many others – are ALL FOR a business approach to running our government. The problem is that the current candidates don’t get out the word yet about themselves.

    Republican’s greatest fault is screwing up the message. The thinking is right, they just don’t know how to articulate it in a palatable manner.

  3. avatar SezMe says:

    Actually, PSB, the Republican’s greatest fault is screwing up governance. You guys have absolutely no credibility when it comes to fiscal prudence.

  4. avatar chronboy says:

    While Conrad isn’t exactly a poster boy for good government, whacking him because he supports his states ag industry isn’t fair. After all, Boxer is a regular vote against defense spending unless it involves companies in California. Welcome to politics. And all complaints about the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming and the like have the same clout in the Senate as California needs be referred back 200 plus years to the Founding Fathers. Then, as now, the smaller states didn’t want to get rolled on every issue by the big guys.

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