I raise the question, which has rattled around in my head for a while, after reading two posts, one by ScienceBlogling Tim Lambert, and one by Scott Lemieux. Tim connects the dots of the Gore-Chilean sea bass non-story:
Allow me to connect some dots here. How did the story get from People into an Australian tabloid? And how did it get from there to Jake Tapper?
I did a Factiva search and found that this was the first time that the Daily Telegraph had ever printed an opinion piece from the Humane Society International, so I called Rebecca Keeble and asked her about the genesis of the piece. It seems that the first she heard about the matter was when she was contacted by the Daily Telegraph, told that Gore had served Chilean sea bass, and was invited to write an opinion piece. She didn’t want to tell me who it was who commissioned the piece, but it’s not hard to figure out. You see, the opinion editor of the Daily Telegraph is Gore-hater Tim Blair. He first blogged about the story here. Then he contacted Keeble and put her opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph. Next he put up a post linking to Keeble’s piece. Then it was picked by Glenn Reynolds and Matt Drudge who can be relied upon to run with any anti-Gore story they come across. Once Drudge had linked it, Tapper knew it was OK for him to run with the story. And that’s how it’s done.
This isn’t the first time that Blair has used his position as opinion editor at the Daily Telegraph to advance his own personal agenda. See this post from Irfan Yusuf, on how Blair told Yusuf that the Telegraph would no longer publish him because Blair felt that he had been criticised on Yusuf’s blog.
But perhaps the most remarkable argument in Ambinder’s failed defense of political discourse as dimwitted junior-high-school gossip is this:
There is a difference in the political reality: fairly or unfairly, a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn’t like John Edwards.
Fairly or unfairly? Granting that Ambinder isn’t quite endorsing it, I’m amazed that anyone can see the question of whether or not reporters should use their reporting not to inform readers but to irresponsibly indulge their petty superficial prejudices about the individual candidates as a fairly debatable proposition. This open press corps contempt for Gore defined campaign 2000, and personally I think there are a lot of dead soldiers and Iraqis who think that what a president will actually do in office is more important that his or her suits and haircuts. Apparently, if the Democrats nominate Edwards we can look forward to another year of this kind of abominable conduct by the nation’s political reporters, and hey, it doesn’t matter to most of them if Antonin Scalia becomes the median vote on the Supreme Court.
So how does one stop this hackery? I realize reporters are human, but campaign reporters seem to be particularly unprofessional. The only suggestion I can think of is that newspapers let their reporters cover a particular campaign for only one week, and then rotate someone else in. At the very least, it might cut down on the cynicism.
One other point: this problem has nothing to do with framing or messaging. It’s about ‘working the refs.’ So how do we do that?