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August 30, 2006

Are we lazy or biased?

Posted by David Postman at 8:30 AM

Sound Politics has a new writer. He's former journalist Don Ward, known at Sound Politics and as reporterward.

Unfortunately he's gotten off to a rough start with a post at Sound Politics that purports to be a journalism critique but falls short of even the most basic standards of reporting.

Ward writes about Mike McGavick's open letter to voters about his DUI arrest and other embarrassing regrets. In the simplest summation, Ward says it's a choice of either stupidity or cupidity. Either the media is lazy if it didn't already know about the DUI, or, if it did know, it is evil for holding the story in an attempt to influence public opinion.

Ward says reporters should have discovered the DUI through "a little courthouse bloodhounding." Yes, that'd be great if we had already searched courthouses 3,000 miles away.

Yes, it happened very far from here, Don.

Ward wrote,

You'd have thought that at least The Olympian would have caught wind of this or the Associated Press' bureau in the state capitol. The incident did happen in their neck of the woods.

No, it happened close to the other Capitol. In every story I read it made it clear the incident was in Maryland.

Ward wrote, "So far I have not read any story from an editor or writer admitting one way or the other about their knowledge beforehand of this incident."

And that's important because it would help show whether the media was sitting on the story, as Ward wrote:

Because if the "media" was choosing to do this they'd be going from informing the public to trying to mold and influence public opinion; a behavior that is antithetical to any good journalist.

Here's what I wrote within an hour of McGavick's announcement:

I hadn't heard anything about his DUI before, but the rest of McGavick's list are not secrets and he certainly has gotten questions on all of them before.

The AP's Dave Ammons wrote, "Word of the DUI in 1993 was new, as was his overall decision to publicly discuss his shortcomings." The P-I wrote about McGavick: "He said that to his knowledge, no news media or political antagonists had been aware of the DUI charge."

And the McGavick campaign confirmed for me this morning that they had not heard anything about anybody — from the media or the opposition — knowing anything about the DUI.

The problems with Ward's post aren't really the factual errors. Anyone can make a mistake. But he set out to accuse the media of malfeasance or misfeasance and was not dissuaded by a lack of evidence to back up either claim. He said he wanted to write about the McGavick story because he was interested in the motives of the reporters who covered the news, who he suspected of "sniffing news ink." Maybe after seven years as a reporter Ward has yet to get the fumes out of his system.

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