Tuesday, October 03, 2006


More unsolicited but badly-needed advice for the Journal Sentinel...

To the Editors:

The single news story about the governor’s race that appears in the Journal Sentinel this morning – both in terms of how it leads, what it reports and what it omits – is the perfect example of what is wrong and biased about the paper’s coverage of the race.

Here’s what happened yesterday, notwithstanding what the J-S reporters may have dug up when they weren’t in their office, revising Green press releases:

• Gov. Doyle was endorsed by WSEU, the largest state employee union. The union was notorious in the ‘90s for always endorsing Tommy Thompson over Democratic challengers and, like other state employee groups, had numerous problems with Doyle early in his administration.
• Mark Green, who has refused to follow the orders of the State Elections Board and a Dane County judge to return hundreds of thousands of dollars he illegally transferred out of his federal election accounts, rushed to his bank and donated $1,000 that he received from the slush fund of recently-disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley to charity. However, over a half-million of Foley’s money was contributed to the RNC and other general GOP groups, and Green has not disowned the use of those funds.
• Gov. Doyle appeared in Eau Claire and encouraged all schools in the state to improve their safety plans, in light of the spate of school gun violence, in Wisconsin and across the country. (Heard on WUWM this morning)
• Failed GOP Attorney General candidate and lame-duck Waukesha District Attorney Paul Bucher has launched an investigation into the crime of advocacy committed on behalf of Doyle by an attorney to the State Elections Board. No such investigation is anticipated regarding Republican lawyers going exactly the same thing. As Waukesha County DA, Bucher as no jurisdiction to investigate, but he will apparently do so on behalf of Mark Green, anyway.
• Mark Green issued a press release about his health care plans.

Guess what you lead with this morning. That’s right, as you did when Green issued a meaningless proposal on stem cell research on September 6, the mere issuance of a self-serving press release is enough to get Green some Doing Good Things press. That story was, outrageously, run on the front page, above-the-fold, like it was some kind of breaking news. Today’s story about Green’s rehash of traditional Republican solutions isn’t news either, but at least it ran on B-1.

In the article, various bullet-points of Green’s press release are presented, along with little snippets of independent facts, some of them inconvenient (“but he did not say what it would cost”, “this would cost $30 million”). Although the Doyle campaign ran out an entire press release on Green’s plan the same day, a Doyle spokesperson gets one line in the piece. No critical eye is cast or any follow-up to the lack of funding, etc. The Journal Sentinel continues to not let the facts get in the way of good Green spin.

Interestingly (and not surprisingly), last week, when Doyle actually had something substantive to say about the state losing $10 million in health care funding due to Congress’ failure to act (Green is still in Congress, is he not?), the paper buried it even deeper than usual, on page 3 of the business section.

The Green angle on the hottest story in the country right now – the first of several, I’m guessing – gets short shrift at the bottom of the article. As many Republican candidates in close races across the country have done, Green quickly dumped his Foley cash. Bucher’s antics do better, played up higher in the article. But he is not called to task for why he is spending county resources to investigate a state government issue (or non-issue, as the case may be). Just because the State Elections Board happened to meet in Waukesha County one day doesn’t give him the right to play politics with his responsibilities and power as a DA.

Either one of these articles should have played bigger than Green’s press release on health care. At least they were actually “news”.

But the biggest outrage is that the Journal Sentinel completely ignored the endorsement of Doyle by the state’s largest employee union. Sure, these endorsements can cut both ways. Heck, the J-S could have trotted out some Marquette political science professor to say how these endorsements are predictable, don’t mean much anymore, etc. You could have jammed in a list of some Green endorsements from the Milwaukee cops or the funeral industry or whatever. But the endorsement of the WSEU is news, it has always been news and it was news for every other paper in the state today.

But, in the alternate universe of the Journal Sentinel, good news for Doyle means no coverage. Good news for Green (if he ever gets any), will run on page one, above-the-fold, with a smiling picture of the Journal Sentinel Candidate for Governor.

Instead of glittering generalities, phony “everybody gets mad at us” posturing and inaccurate personal smears (George Stanley has yet to apologize for confusing me with my brother), I would really appreciate it if someone – anyone – at the Journal Sentinel would explain how this single story properly summarizes significant events in the race from yesterday. Pretend you are addressing a beginning J-School class and explain. I really am curious how you justify it.

No comments: