What is going on at the Argus Leader? When a lengthy negative story about John Thune appears in Roll Call, the very next day the AL has a follow-up story on the very front page of the paper (1A). When a lengthy negative story about Tom Daschle appears in Roll Call, the Argus Leader NEVER publishes so much as a paragraph about it. Compare the following four stories that have appeared in Roll Call, two negative stories about Tom Daschle, and two negative stories about John Thune:
Negative stories about Thune in Roll Call
- February 10, 2004 - "State account helped Thune" - 922 words
- January 26, 2004 - "Thune Will Keep Lobbying; Criticism of Daschles May Wane" - 1184 words
Negative stories about Daschle in Roll Call
- February 26, 2004 (yesterday) - "Daschle's Five-Year, $9.5M Spending Spree" - 1463 words
- August 18, 2003 - "Daschle Hit On Tax Break; Wife Claims 'Homestead' Exemption" - 1101 words
Now look at how quickly the Argus Leader followed up the Roll Call stories reflecting negatively on Thune (namely, the very next day):
- February 11, 2004 - "Thune spending questioned" - 1035 words
- January 27, 2004 "Candidate Thune plans to continue lobbyist job" - 753 words
But the AL has yet to write a follow-up to the Roll Call piece on Daschle taking advantage of the homestead exemption, and of course, there is no follow-up at all in today's edition of the AL about the mildly negative story on Tom Daschle that appeared yesterday in Roll Call.
These facts lead one to ask what, exactly, is the follow-up policy at the AL? Apparently, the policy now is that the AL only follows up negative stories about Thune in Roll Call, and ignores negative stories about Daschle in Roll Call. That is grossly unfair, and is just another example in a long line of examples of the AL violating the rules of objective journalism.
It is because of blatantly biased journalism like this that the internal machinations of the AL's editing, reporting and decisionmaking processes need to be exposed. The editors at the AL constantly like to talk about "full disclosure," and have yet another editorial about it today. If the AL's editors are serious about full disclosure, they should start with themselves. Why should full disclosure stop at the newsroom door?
For a glimpse into the internal machinations of the AL, see this piece written by executive editor Randell Beck to his corporate masters at Gannett. In the piece, Beck talks about the "Real Life, Real News principles" his paper tries to follow. What is "Real Life, Real News?" Romenesko has linked to an internal memo regarding the initiative (scroll down to "Memo re Gannett's REAL LIFE, REAL NEWS initiative"). Intriguingly, this initiative is accessible via the web, but is password protected and hidden from public view, accessible only to Gannett newsrooms. Apparently there's even a "best-practices" section, and it would be interesting to know what the "best practice" is for doing follow-up stories.
Fundamentally, though, since the AL continues to pull stunts like the one I document above, there has to be a full airing of the decisionmaking processes at all levels of the AL hierarchy. Since the AL is so gung-ho about "full disclosure" this shouldn't be a big deal.