Skip to comments.Editors Grapple With How to Cover Swift Boat Controversy
Posted on 08/24/2004 6:31:01 AM PDT by viewfromafar
NEW YORK As the John Kerry swift boat controversy navigates itself from the shoreline of the 2004 presidential campaign into the mainstream, newspapers face a dilemma of how to report on the attacks against the Democratic nominee without giving them undue credibility or blowing the issue out of proportion.
Alison Mitchell, deputy national editor for The New York Times (Click for QuikCap), points to the changing media landscape and its impact on what newspapers choose to cover. "I'm not sure that in an era of no-cable television we would even have looked into it," she said.
But Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said newspapers can still drive their own agenda. "I don't think we are lessening at all our judgment of the news," he told E&P. "There is much more media, but we still judge for ourselves which facts we report in The Washington Post."
In the past week, Page One stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and other dailies both scrutinizing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and its accusations against Kerry, while also reporting on the effect the group's advertising is having on the Democrat's strategy.
Since Kerry chose to alter his policy and approach the group's criticism head-on, editors contend that made the story ripe for front-page coverage. But some of the coverage has lapsed into the "he said, she said" variety.
"Kerry has made his Vietnam service a centerpiece of the Democratic National Convention and the Swift Boat Veterans came out right after that," said Lee Horwich, politics editor at USA Today, which ran a story about the veterans group, and inconsistencies in its accounts, on Aug. 16. "There has been doubt cast on some of their charges and we have reported it. I think scrutiny of the accuracy of the charges has been the thrust of the coverage."
James O'Shea, managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, agreed. But he said the critical approach may have been a bit late, considering that the Swift Boat Veterans ads came out two weeks ago. "I don't think there has been enough scrutiny until now," he said. "Prior to this, we weren't giving it enough attention."
But O'Shea also pointed out that giving the anti-Kerry veterans too much attention, in an attempt to hold them accountable, creates a situation of ignoring other issues. He said this may be an instance of a growing problem for newspapers in the expanding media world -- being forced to follow a story they might not consider worthwhile because other news outlets (in this case, Fox News and talk radio) have made it an issue.
"There are too many places for people to get information," O'Shea said. "I don't think newspapers can be the gatekeepers anymore -- to say this is wrong and we will ignore it. Now we have to say this is wrong, and here is why."
Downie said he believes the Swift Boat Veterans coverage had been fair and properly scrutinizing. "We have printed the facts and some of those facts have undermined Kerry's opponents," he said. "We are not judging the credibility of Kerry or the (Swift Boat) Veterans, we just print the facts."
He defended a lengthy Post story that ran Sunday which appeared to give equal credibility to both Kerry's version of the events in Vietnam (which is supported by his crewmates and largely backed up by a paper trail) and the Swift Boat Veterans, despite the fact that previous stories in the Post and the New York Times had debunked many of the group's accounts.
On Monday, Michael Tomaskey, writing for The American Prospect's Web site, took issue with Downie's decision: "The Washington Post should not even be running such a story ... in the first place. Len Downie and the paper's other editors would undoubtedly argue that the story represents the Post's tenacity for getting to the truth, without fear or favor. But what the story actually proves is that a bunch of liars who have in the past contradicted their own current statements can, if their lies are outrageous enough and if they have enough money, control the media agenda and get even the most respected media outlets in the country to focus on picayune 'truths' while missing the larger story."
The swift boat controversy and its coverage have also provided fodder for ombudsmen during the past few days. Paul Moore at The Sun in Baltimore cited the need for reporting to include all aspects of the veterans group's activities. "News stories about this group are legitimate, but because the group's televised ads have been paid for by supporters of President Bush, the partisan nature of the material is unmistakable," he wrote.
Dennis Ryerson, editor of The Indianapolis Star, also weighed in with a column about the challenges of the story. "The media are caught in the middle," he opined. "We are often criticized for covering the noise rather than the light, the political infighting as opposed to the substance of major issues. I think we need to cover both."
Finally, Sherrie Mazingo of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis wrote that readers were getting overwhelmed by some of the coverage. "The claims and counter-claims ... have become a significant distraction," she said.
Translation: "How in the hell do we come off as responsible and enterprising, when facts come out that we did not report months ago when Kerry was running in the primaries and should have come under responsible press scrutiny? To report shows we did not do our job because of political slant; to not report means we are missing the big party and a chance to sell more print."
The Marxist mainstream press will do what it always does - lie, cover up and launch ad hominum attacks.
And when it's done it will claim that the stories were fair and balanced.
Then the press will pad its circulation numbers while millions of people cancel their subscriptions.
This says it all, but it was not cable news that kept this story alive but the Internet. Indeed, venues like Free Republic and others made silence on this issue impossible. Quite quickly, then, Talk Radio followed by Cable News picked up the cry and now we are at the acme of the event.
IMHO, if someone can get excerpts of "New Soldier" on the Net and on Talk Radio, they will devastate the Kerry Campaign.
ping.... that's a worthy forecast
Sent to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Now, now, there's no need to drag France into this....
* bump *
I don't know why this is even a story. All the mainstream media has to do is to continue what they have been doing.... printing the dem talking points straight off their fax machines as news stories.
The problem has been over the last two weeks that the dems were caught flat footed and it took them a couple weeks to figure out what their talking points were going to be, which left the alphabet networks and newspapers floundering, not knowing how to handle it.
I would be surprised if they were being paid.
Someone may have suggested ways in which it would be good for them to rejoin the crew.
An individual could be an "unpaid volunteer," hoping for some other type of gain which is important to him.
Not just excerpts of "The New Soldier", here's the entire book :-)
68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub has been posting this on various threads...
The New Soldier by John Kerry and Vietnam Veterans Against the War
FREE Download of The New Soldier by John Kerry
and and Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Print and distibute the book that John Kerry "forgets" to mention!
The MSM's were part of the talking points, Washpost prints an article rebutting a Swifty, then the Dems put out a press release saying the vets have been "thoroughly discredited" or "partisan" or "questionable timing". Then the MSM prints the Dem press release. That's how it is supposed to work. Anybody seen Sandy Berger lately?
Try the truth A holes. I know that's an anathema to the media, but it will set them free.....from the evil DUMS
So, how do be certain M. Malkin reads this thread?
The onus of proof is on the accusers.......UNLESS the accused is a Republican.
Now I get it.
My prediction is that one or more of the band-aid brothers will come clean and admit they were paid off by the Kerry camp.
Don't tell anybody.
He's hiding in my left sock.
You mean there really is a left wing media conspiracy and they have their own magazine?
The headline should read - "Editors grapple with how to SPIN Swift Boat controversy"