AP Bureau Chief's Objectivity at Issue
Monday, August 25, 2008
Pro-McCain Bias Alleged in Reporter's Body of Work
The Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, already under attack for a perceived tilt toward Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, wrote on Saturday that Sen. Barack Obama's pick of Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate says "something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn't beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack."
It was headlined, "Analysis: Biden pick shows lack of confidence."¬†
"The Biden pick is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative - a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image," it continued.¬†
The left-leaning political group MoveOn.org said Monday of Fournier's piece: "That sounded more like right-wing FOX than an unbiased news organization.
"This isn't an isolated incident for the AP reporter who wrote this story, Ron Fournier -- who was recently appointed as the AP's Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief. Media watchdog group Media Matters wrote a report showing that Fournier's presidential coverage has consistently smeared Democrats and favored John McCain . . . ." as Joe Strupp reported for Editor & Publisher.
"A congressional investigation recently uncovered an email Fournier sent to Karl Rove in 2004, telling him to 'Keep up the fight.' Plus, it was recently revealed that Fournier talked to top McCain campaign operatives in 2007 about being a senior McCain political adviser! Given all this, Fournier has an obligation to the public to show that he's not a partisan McCain supporter."
The latest controversy over Fournier comes after¬†pieces asking whether black journalists could be objective in covering Obama, with little suggestion that white journalists could not write fairly about McCain. It also follows hand-wringing¬†in the news business over reporters crossing the line into opinion. The AP's posture has been that¬†of an organization upholding traditional news values.¬†¬†
The issue also surfaced in July, when Michael Calderone wrote on Politico.com, "In October 2006, the McCain team approached Fournier about joining the fledgling [campaign] operation, according to a source with knowledge of the talks. In the months that followed, said a source, Fournier spoke about the job possibility with members of McCain's inner circle, including political aides Mark Salter, John Weaver and Rick Davis."
AP spokesman Paul Colford issued this statement then:
"It is not uncommon for journalists to be approached by political campaigns, elected officials and government agencies about possible job opportunities. Ron Fournier was approached by the McCain campaign and decided he wasn't interested in working for a political campaign, months before he rejoined AP in March 2007."
Early Tuesday, Colford said of "Analysis: Biden pick shows lack of confidence," "The piece you refer to -- by Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier -- was clearly labeled a news analysis."
Calderone's piece said, "On July 22, Eric Boehlert wrote a lengthy analysis of Fournier's work for Media Matters titled, 'The AP has a Ron Fournier problem.' After digging through Lexis-Nexis, Boehlert concluded that the bureau chief's 'McCain love runs deep and goes back years.'"
As reported¬†in this space in April, McCain then told a gathering of journalists and executives from the Associated Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Newspaper Association of America that the United States is "a country founded on an idea and not on class, ethnic or sectarian identity" even though only white male property owners could vote and blacks were counted as 3/5 of a person.
Neither of the¬†reporters on stage, Fournier and Liz Sidoti, called McCain on the statement, part of the candidate's prepared remarks. The AP reporters joked with him¬† and Fournier gave McCain a box of doughnuts as a gift.
Schieffer Empathizes With Critic of Debate-Host Choices"Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer has expressed his concern about objections to the choice of himself and two other white men 68 years old and older as moderators of this fall's presidential debates -- and the veteran CBS newsman offered to help ease those concerns.
Schieffer said, "I can't help it. I'm a white guy, and I understand your problems," according to Carol Jenkins, president of the Women's Media Center, who said she received the call from Schieffer. He said he'd be happy if she would submit questions to him.
Jenkins, speaking to young women at a "Future Frontrunners Summit" sponsored by the Lifetime Networks at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Monday, said she wished the other moderators would react in kind.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the moderators for the presidential debates would be Jim Lehrer of PBS' "The NewsHour" on Sept. 28, NBC News' Tom Brokaw on Oct. 7 and¬†Schieffer on Oct. 15.
The Women's Media Center said on Aug. 14 it was "urging the public to insist that each moderator have a partner reflecting the diversity of our country -- which is more than half women."
Jenkins, a former NBC anchor, told Journal-isms that Schieffer responded after seeing a column by Marie Coco that mentioned the Women's Media Center complaint.
The convention's¬†opening day was filled with panel discussions and caucuses such as "the Future Frontrunners Summit" and one addressing African American issues, which attracted Susan L. Taylor, the former editor of Essence magazine who now leads the National Cares Mentoring Movement. Taylor had a difficult time getting to the auditorium because she was continually stopped by admirers and asked to pose for pictures. She said she came to be sure the black delegates addressed the "black agenda," which includes such topics as education and incarceration rates.
Julianne Malveaux, now president of Bennett College for Women,¬†was part of that discussion. Now that she is a college president grappling with finances, she said, she no longer advocates for free¬†tuition, as she did as a columnist.
But the day seemed to belong to Michelle Obama, the would-be first lady whose image was suddenly on magazine covers and who was showing up in several venues as an interview subject. She was on radio's syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show"¬†and concluded the day with overwhelming praise from¬†commentators for a speech¬†that brought tears to audience members as she¬†defined her story as an American one, contrary to a caricature of her painted by critics.
- Katia Bachko, Columbia Journalism Review: John McCain: Man of Mystery Two columnists. One question. Who is John McCain?
- David Bauder, Associated Press: Davis, Wolfson attending convention for Fox
- Lisa Caruso, National Journal: Media Digs Are A Tale Of Haves And Have-Nots
- Mary C. Curtis blog, Nieman Watchdog: Setting the Stage
- Eduardo de Oliveira blog, New England Ethnic News: Covering the DNC -- Front Row and Backstage, Too
- Corinne Douglas and Jacquelyn Gray, theRoot.com: The Cost of Silence
- Final Call: Daily Final Call Coverage from the DNC Convention
- Tim Giago, Indian Country Today: Undecided as election approaches
- Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: Poverty still missing from the presidential candidate's vocabulary on Katrina third anniversary
- Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: GOP Banks that Biden will be a liability in the South
- indianz.com: Obama and McCain differ on Native Hawaiians
- Tannette Johnson-Elie blog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A Historic Moment for Black Women
- Howard Kurtz, Washington Post: Not Much News, but Journalists Can't Make Themselves Scarce
- Deborah Mathis, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Sorry, Charlie ‚Äì Despite Her Supporters, There's No Way Hillary Could've Got the V.P. Offer
- Kim McLarin, theRoot.com: Michelle's Neighborhood
- Media Matters for America: Juan Williams says Michelle Obama "sometimes uses" a "kind of militant anger"
- Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post: Media, bloggers are wired for the mission
- Rachel L. Swarns, New York Times: Blacks Debate Civil Rights Risk in Obama‚Äôs Rise¬†¬†
- Brent Staples, New York Times: As Racism Wanes, Colorism Persists
- Viji Sundaram, New America Media: Obama Campaign Stiffs Ethnic Newspaper
- Miki Turner blog: Michelle Obama: In the Spotlight
- Jacob Weisberg, Slate: If Obama Loses: Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him.
- DeWayne Wickham blog: Payne: Black journalists should be watchdogs, not lapdogs
4 Ways Journalists Can Dispel False Beliefs"In this year's mud-filled presidential campaign, journalists have a responsibility to help the public distinguish fact from fiction. Unfortunately, current reporting practices are undermined by the quirky and often misleading ways that our brains process contradictory information. Understanding those quirks suggests four techniques to help journalists dispel false beliefs," Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt wrote Monday on the Nieman Watchdog Web site.
Wang is an associate professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University and Aamodt is a former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience. They are authors of "Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life."
"Journalists should avoid presenting both sides of a story when one is false -- and take into account how readers' brains process the disagreements. The following four rules can guide their efforts." they wrote.
"1. State the facts without reinforcing the falsehood. Repeating a false rumor can inadvertently make it stronger. . . .
2. Tell the truth with images. . . .
3. Provide a compelling storyline or mental framework for the truth. . . .
4. Discredit the source. . . .
McCain-Backed Anti-Affirmative Action Measure Fails"An Arizona initiative intended to dismantle state and local government programs giving preferences to women and minorities was disqualified from the November ballot on Thursday for lack of signatures," Paul Davenport wrote¬†for the Associated Press.
On the same day last month that Sen. Barack Obama reiterated his support for affirmative action at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reversed himself in an interview on ABC News' "This Week" and endorsed the proposed Arizona ballot measure.
"Secretary of State Jan Brewer said she disqualified Proposition 104, the 'Arizona Civil Rights Initiative,' because its 194,961 valid signatures fell short of the 230,047 required for proposed amendments to the Arizona Constitution," Davenport's story continued. "Supporters had turned in just under 334,735 signatures.
"Championed by former California education official Ward Connerly, the Arizona measure is similar [to] measures previously approved in California, Washington and Michigan. Connerly is also proposing versions in Colorado and Nebraska this year."
Caesar Andrews Taking Buyout at Detroit Free PressCaesar Andrews, executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, its No. 2 newsroom job, is taking a buyout and is leaving the paper on Nov. 10, the staff was told Monday, the Free Press reported on Tuesday.
Andrews, 49, is treasurer of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and was on the ladder to become its president in 2011. Last year he chaired its Diversity Committee. In 2002, he was president of Associated Press Managing Editors.
"I am leaving to explore some things that have held my interest for a long time," Andrews said in the story. He said he was unsure of his next career move, but expressed interest in journalism education, the story said. In 1991, Andrews served as editor-in-residence at Grambling State University, his alma mater, and he consistently speaks at the annual conference of student journalists at historically black colleges and universities.
Andrews joined the Free Press in¬†2005 as part of a new management team after Gannett bought the newspaper from the old Knight Ridder Inc. He had been editor of Gannett News Service, based in McLean, Va., in 1997, and previously held¬†posts at USA Today, Florida Today and at Gannett's suburban newspapers in White Plains, N.Y. He started his career as a staff writer at Today in Cocoa, Fla., another Gannett paper.¬†
The Detroit paper said Andrews becomes the 18th person from the Free Press newsroom to take a buyout offer. [Added Aug. 26]
Photographer Sues Oakland Over Police Interference"An Oakland Tribune photographer filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland Friday, saying police illegally barred him from taking pictures at a freeway crash scene and handcuffed him when he persisted," Henry K. Lee reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Ray Chavez, 44, said officers had interfered with his right as a member of the press to cover news, specifically a car crash and the emergency response time. The incident last year caused him to be 'arrested and handcuffed without justification solely due to the exercise of First Amendment rights,' said his suit, filed in U.S. District Court.
"Chavez was named photojournalist of the year earlier this month by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He has been with the Tribune for 14 years."
- "U.S. forces freed a cameraman for the Associated Press in Baghdad on Saturday after holding him for three months without charge, the news agency said," Reuters reported on Saturday. "Ahmed Nouri Raziak, 38, was handed over to representatives of the Associated Press at a U.S. military compound in Baghdad. He had been detained by U.S. and Iraqi forces at his home in the northern city of Tikrit on June 4, the agency said in a report from Baghdad."
- "The grand plan to bring the headquarters for Major League Baseball's new cable television network to East Harlem is unraveling, real estate executives and government officials said on Friday," Charles V. Bagli reported¬†in the New York Times. "The MLB Network, which is scheduled to begin broadcasting to 50 million subscribers in January, was to be the anchor tenant in what was originally to be a new 21-story office building at 125th Street and Park Avenue, a short distance from Yankee Stadium and players who would be among its guests."
- "The internet is still buzzing about NBC's Olympic commentators Bob Costas and Ato Boldon's public slamming and chastising of Usain Bolt for what they called unacceptable 'showboating' at the end of his world-record setting 100-meter dash victory," Jared McCallister wrote on Saturday in the New York Daily News. "Yes, there were some who sided with Costas and Boldon (a former Trinidad and Tobago Olympian), but the overwhelming bulk of the responses were vehemently pro-Bolt."
- "WGN-Ch. 9's Allison Payne is apologizing to viewers but says that they didn't see what some might have thought they did the other night," Phil Rosenthal reported¬†Monday in the Chicago Tribune. Payne swiveled in her chair and slurred words during the Thursday night marquee 9 p.m. newscast she has co-anchored for 15 years.¬†"Payne blames the incident on the lingering effects of a series of mini-strokes that kept her off the air from January to April, compounded by overwork and perhaps a bit of adrenaline-fueled giddiness."
- Discussing Iran, "Reporters Without Borders today voiced active concern about the treatment of journalist and human rights activist Emadoldin Baghi who earlier this month was placed in an isolation cell in Evin prison, Tehran, instead of being transferred to hospital," the press-freedom organization said¬†on Monday.
- Andrew Skerritt, who was let go as a St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times columnist in May, started Monday as an assistant professor of journalism and adviser to the student newspaper, the Famuan, at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, he told Journal-isms. "I also plan to write columns on a freelance basis as well as pursue several multi-media initiatives," he said.
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