SDWC notes a case of Argus Leader bias in favor of Tim Johnson.
The Argus Leader has made a mountain out of molehill so many times that the paper lost credibility with many in the community. I refuse to read at least one of their columnists because I doubt he believes most of what he says. Simply put...people no longer believe the Argus.
The Argus' crusade to obtain the names of those invited to the governor's hunt is a great example of why people tune them out. Believe me, folks on Main Street don't give a hoot in hell who was invited. Yet the Argus Leader devoted plenty of ink to the issue. They even went to court - and lost.
I suspect many of those callers have a healthy distrust of government. They simply distrust the Argus more.
Unfortunatly, this is one of those times the Argus has gotten it right. It's ridiculous that the Highway Patrol cannot come up with the names of those arrested.
Even more ridiculous is Governor Round's support of the Highway Patrol's administrative incompetence. The governor's judgment is likely colored by these ongoing feuds with the Argus. Rounds ought to take a step back and think about what's best for the public.
These names MUST be made public. Keeping them secret would be a crime. Don't shoot the messenger...this time.
The Argus Leader is doing what it does best: leaving out information if it hurts the Democrats. Here's the story:
Sen. Tim Johnson was one of the first two U.S. senators to meet with Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito on Tuesday, and he took the opportunity to question his philosophy on issues relevant to South Dakota.
Johnson said he told Alito he won't come to a conclusion on how he will vote until after the judicial committee hearings. But he also said his reputation as a moderate Democrat and one of 22 who voted for John Roberts to be named Chief Justice might have been the reason Alito met with Johnson right after he had his first meeting with Sen. Mike Dewine, R-Ohio.
Johnson said he is not dismayed Alito is fundamentally conservative.
"The only thing debatable is whether his views are within the broad mainstream of contemporary thinking," the senator said.
The Argus, however, fails to mention that Johnson has contemplated using the filibuster.
And note this from the LA Times: "Johnson, who rarely attracts national attention, seemed to relish being the first Democrat outside the party's leadership with whom Alito met."
After the Argus Leader's smackdown article about John Thune's committee assignments yesterday (emphasizing that Thune didn't get on the Ag committee, while ignoring the fact that Thune was one of only two GOP freshman to get on an elite committee), it's illuminating to observe that article's ripple effect. The AP picked up the AL article and the Aberdeen American News ran with the AL spin. Then the Yankton Press & Dakotan ran the article with the AL spin. Then the Rapid City Journal ran the article with the AL spin.
The AL spun Thune's committee assignments as something less than they were. The AP picked up the spin, and newspapers in every major population center in the state distributed the spin. That's the famous Argus Leader ripple effect.
The National Journal has published an article on the Dakota Blog Alliance headlined "Bloggers Targeted Daschle and the Press." You can read it in full below:
South Dakota Republicans opened a new and potentially powerful front in the war over public opinion during their successful bid to oust Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in the November 2 election. Not only did they orchestrate a highly effective, Internet-based campaign against Daschle, but they also targeted the state's largest newspaper and primary news source, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
GOP activists in the state -- several of whom were paid thousands of dollars by Sen.-elect John Thune's campaign committee for research consulting -- launched an unprecedented assault on the Argus Leader. Through an alliance of South Dakota-based Web logs, or blogs, and a pseudo-news Web site, the activists hammered away continuously at the paper's coverage of Daschle and raised persistent questions about the objectivity of its writers.
The effort, which could test the limits of federal campaign finance
regulation of Internet activities, played a crucial role in shaping the news
coverage of the race. Commenting on the bloggers, Argus Leader Assistant Managing Editor Patrick Lalley said, "I don't think there's any way to say they didn't" affect the paper's coverage of the election.
The use of blogs to help shape media coverage and force issues to the front of a campaign has not gone unnoticed. A blog called DaytonvKennedy recently sprang up in Minnesota in advance of the expected 2006 race between Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton and GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy. Republican strategists said the blog phenomenon could be duplicated in many other states, particularly ones with smaller populations and just one or two dominant media outlets.
Thune's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, called the blog's influence in the South Dakota race a "continuation of the diffusing of information
sources.... My first exposure to these blogs was in this campaign. And I don't think they're going to do anything but get bigger."
South Dakota Republicans have long chafed at the Argus Leader's political coverage, complaining among themselves that the paper has too liberal a slant for an outlet covering politics in a heavily conservative state. Their anger was magnified by the fact that the newspaper is the proverbial
800-pound gorilla in South Dakota's media room; virtually all of the state's other, smaller newspapers and television outlets essentially follow the paper's lead.
Almost every election cycle in South Dakota over the past two and a half decades has spawned its own media-bias complaints, including charges during the 1990 Senate race that led to a spate of stories, including items in the The New York Times and Roll Call, questioning the Argus Leader's objectivity.
With the rise of the "blogosphere" as a cultural phenomenon over the past two years, GOP activists seized on the use of blogs in the Daschle-Thune race as a solution to what they saw as their Argus Leader problem. In December 2002, state activists launched their first such blog, SouthDakotaPolitics. [No "state activists" launched SDP. I launched SDP on my own, without consulting anyone. I was a nobody law student at USD when I began my blog, and basically started it on what can best be described as a whim.-ed] In his inaugural posting, site operator Jason Van Beek fired the first shot in the war against the Argus Leader."One of the themes of this blog will be the lazy journalism practiced by South Dakota's flagship newspaper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader," Van Beek wrote. For the better part of the next year, Van Beek was the state activists' primary blogger, as he maintained a running critique of the paper's political coverage and of its top political reporter, David Kranz. Van Beek even started a "Kranz Watch" on the site and tracked not so much what Kranz wrote about Daschle, but rather the stories that Van Beek and other Republicans thought the paper should have covered but didn't.
Within a year, Van Beek was joined by a handful of other GOP bloggers, most notably University of South Dakota history professor Jon Lauck, who started DaschlevThune in January 2004. Lauck, like Van Beek and the other bloggers, made criticism of the Argus Leader a central aspect of their blogging.
Lauck, who quickly became one of the most public figures in the state's
blogger community, said he and others began writing about the race in hopes of starting a "populist prairie fire" that would challenge not only Daschle but also the newspaper. "There was all this stuff out there that was negative about Daschle ... that the Argus refused to run," Lauck charged, pointing to stories that ran in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other outlets, and that predated stories in the Argus Leader, about Daschle's role in resisting the GOP agenda in the Senate.
Lauck, Van Beek, and other conservative activists in the state also tout a series of stories written by Jeff Gannon, the Washington bureau chief for TalonNews.com, as their ultimate proof of bias at the Argus Leader. The series, penned in summer 2003, alleged that Kranz, who went to college with Daschle, was not just sympathetic to his friend but was an actual part of Daschle's larger campaign machine.
However, TalonNews is not the independent news source it purports to be. It's run by GOPUSA, a conservative political publishing and consulting firm. While the Bush administration has provided Gannon with press credentials, the nonpartisan U.S. Senate Daily Press Gallery has rejected Gannon's repeated requests for congressional press credentials because of TalonNews' financial ties to GOPUSA.
But then, this past spring, Van Beek unearthed a series of memos from the 1970s that, according to Van Beek and Gannon, showed that Kranz had consulted on press strategy with aides to former Rep. James Abourezk, D-S.D. In the memos, aides refer to Kranz as a "good Democrat" whom Abourezk's office should work with.
The publication of the memos, as well as growing attention to the
Daschle-Thune race by national bloggers and conservative media outlets, prompted an angry response from Argus Leader Executive Editor Randell Beck. On a radio call-in show, Beck defended Kranz, called the memos "crap," and accused the bloggers of being part of an organized right-wing effort looking to damage the newspaper.
Kranz, who declined to talk during the race about the blogger attacks,
acknowledged in an interview that he has known Daschle for many years. "I'm not going to sit here and say that some of the connects on me didn't have some truth to them," Kranz said of the blog postings. "But a lot of them didn't." [Surely Kranz isn't attempting to claim the Bombshell Memos didn't have some truth to them, is he? It would be nice to know which ones supposedly didn't.-ed]
Kranz also said he was approached during the campaign by some state
Republican officials who felt he was being attacked unfairly. He says he
rejected an offer from these GOP officials to try to quiet down the
bloggers. Although he refuted many of the accusations against him, Kranz said it would be inappropriate for a reporter to try to silence a critic. [Really? Kranz refuted many of the accusations against him? This is the first I've heard of it. Which one of the Bombshell Memos did he "refute"?-ed.] "That is what our job is all about -- protecting freedom of speech," Kranz said.
Shortly after the spat over the memos, Thune campaign manager Wadhams offered to pay Lauck and Van Beek as research consultants to Thune's campaign. The two men agreed, and, according to Lauck, they assisted in conducting research on Daschle and helped Republicans prepare for a series of candidate debates. According to documents that the Thune campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission, the campaign paid the two men $35,000-- $27,000 to Lauck and $8,000 to Van Beek -- between June and October of this year.
An August 9 Argus Leader story discussed Lauck's financial relationship with the Thune campaign, and Lauck later mentioned the relationship on his site. But neither DaschlevThune nor SouthDakotaPolitics included a disclaimer or other standing mention during the election that Thune's campaign was employing the authors.
Wadhams, Lauck, and Van Beek maintain there was no connection between the bloggers' research duties for Thune and their blog postings. They also say that the FEC has received no complaints alleging wrongdoing. Lauck, though, admits that his blogging benefited from the relationship. "I wouldn't have had access to a lot of the information if I hadn't been with the campaign," he said in an interview.
Reporters at the Argus Leader and other outlets, however, say they
recognized a pattern, beginning in the summer, that showed how the campaign and the blogs put out their message. First, the blogs would pounce on a particular story, and conservative radio talk shows would pick it up. Thune operatives would then weave the issues into their attacks on Daschle. Wadhams even hired the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies to conduct a poll on voters' opinions of the newspaper -- a poll that, according to Lauck, found that 55 percent of respondents saw the paper as biased.
"What it came down to was a disinformation campaign waged by the Republican Party in concert with Dick Wadhams," charged an Argus Leader source, who asked not to be identified. "The strategy seemed to be to use the Internet to disseminate the message and manipulate public perception under the guise of some sort of public groundswell, and then affirm the message in debates and other public pronouncements." [It's understandable why this person did not want to be identified, because then that person would have to explain what "disinformation" he's talking about. My hunch is that the blind quote here was made by AL executive editor Randell Beck, who has been blog-swarmed in the past for falsely claiming that the AL had covered Daschle's fundraiser in the Hamptons "at least twice."-ed]
Argus Leader reporters said the pressure from the blogs increased until a "siege mentality" took over at the paper, according to one source. Complaints flooded the paper's office, and anti-Argus Leader pieces became a regular feature of the letters-to-the-editor section.
As the election entered the homestretch, Thune was clearly making inroads with the help of his campaign's relentless attacks on Daschle's ties to official Washington. The blogs and conservative pundits took Daschle to task over his wife's lobbying activities in the House, and they accused the Argus Leader of ignoring the story -- despite the fact that the newspaper's Washington reporter, Mike Madden, had written a lengthy front-page piece months earlier on Linda Daschle, a lobbyist in Washington with the firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. Still, the Argus Leader published a second story on Linda Daschle -- a story that, sources say, was a result of the bloggers' criticisms. [The chronology here is wrong. The blogs did not accuse the AL of ignoring all of Linda Daschle's lobbying activities after Madden's report in June of 2003. The blogs did consistently criticize the AL for consistently burying a report that Linda Daschle had lobbied on behalf of Schering-Plough, while Kranz falsely implied that John Thune lobbied for pharmaceutical companies in one of his columns. In a telling example of the AL's pro-Daschle bias, the AL published a Los Angeles Times report on relatives of lawmakers being lobbyists as a companion piece with Madden's report on Linda Daschle. The AL's editors actually changed the text of the LAT story to make it less damaging for Daschle. Furthermore, the AL needed no prompting to publish two front page stories about Thune being a lobbyist, and in the waning days of the campaign, Daschle relentlessly attacked Thune for "getting rich" from lobbying, and falsely implying that Thune lobbied for pharmaceutical companies.-ed]
Then, when TalonNews ran stories on Sen. Daschle's decision to claim a special tax credit on his home in Washington, the Argus Leader decided it had to write its own story, too. Because the tax credit applies only to a
primary residence, it fit perfectly with the "out-of-touch" theme that
dominated bloggers' criticism of Daschle. Earlier Argus Leader stories had mentioned the issue [That statement is patently false-ed]. Said an Argus Leader source, "I didn't think where he lived deserved its own headline, but I also don't think we ignored it." [Well, the simple fact is that it was ignored for over a year until Thune issued a press release on the matter-ed] Still, the TalonNews piece "forced our hand. I can't deny that," the source said.
Although no one believes that the Argus Leader flap was the deciding factor in the race, the state's bloggers and media sources both said the campaign against the newspaper played a key role in the GOP's message-control effort to persuade voters to elect Thune over Daschle.
DVT has published an open letter to the Argus Leader written by Harriet Pressler, who was subjected to unrelenting scrutiny by the David Kranz-led Argus Leader during the 1990 Senate race. Here's the letter:
A Double Standard: A Senate Wife Shares Her Story
(An open letter to the Argus Leader for publication immediately)
October 27, 2004
By Harriet Pressler
Some Democrats and the Argus Leader have recently suggested that a Senate wife’s activities should not be covered in a campaign (Argus Leader headline, “Group: Wife of Candidate Not Fair Game,” October 26, 2004.) In fact, Randall Beck, Executive Editor, recently said, “We do not cover candidates’ wives.” How strange! As the wife of a Senate candidate who was subjected to much different treatment, I feel I must respond. Readers deserve to know the whole story.
I am the wife of former Republican Senator Larry Pressler. During the 1980s and the 1990s, I was repeatedly “under investigation” by the Argus Leader and subjected to false accusations from Democratic Party sources.
You may recall some of the lengthy articles analyzing my small real estate practice. The Argus Leader demanded and I produced my client list, how much money I made, who paid me and what trips or gifts I received. I told them everything, even though it didn’t amount to much. They still ran stories suggesting a conflict of interest. (This was in spite of the fact that my husband had voluntarily contacted the Senate Ethics Committee when I first became licensed in 1988 and obtained written confirmation that my job was not a conflict of interest. This was evidently not good enough for the Argus Leader.)
In the 1990 and 1996 campaigns the Argus Leader, through their Washington based Gannett News Service, had a reporter follow me around constantly sticking a microphone and camera in my face, called my business acquaintances and wrote negative articles about me. When we complained that the Argus investigation and reporting on my modest real estate activities were unfair, the Argus Leader responded, “It is our duty to explore and investigate the financial activities of a Senate wife.”
Don’t be fooled. Larry’s Democratic opponents were behind most every story. Democratic consultant Karl Struble even bragged about it following the 1996 Pressler-Johnson race, saying in an interview that they were “systematically feeding information, piece by piece, to reporters in DC and South Dakota. The result was a series of damaging articles…We used the headlines generated as validators for our ads.” Those are his own words. He is advising Senator Daschle today.
So which is it? Is it the Argus’ duty to explore and investigate Senate wives, as was explained to me? Or, are Senate wives “not fair game” as was printed in yesterday’s paper and seems to be the standard applied to Linda Daschle? I have nothing personally against the Daschles. But without even getting into the discussion of whether or not Linda Daschle’s lobbying activities present a conflict of interest, there sure appears to be a double standard here that should be brought to the attention of Argus readers.
What was the result of all the stories the Argus ran about me? They could never find anything wrong. Just innuendo. The Senate Ethics Committee again concluded that we had no conflict of interest. Larry was defeated in his 1996 campaign, and everyone forgot all about it. Incidentally, we lost money on our DC real estate investments.
We have moved on with our lives. However, I could not sit back and let the people of South Dakota be bombarded with erroneous stories in the Argus Leader and at the same time try to tear down the values and morals of another great man, John Thune.
Wife of former Senator Larry Pressler
DVT appeared on Laura Ingraham's radio show today to discuss, among other things, the fact that the Argus Leader and David Kranz, the AL's lead political reporter, are completely in the tank for Daschle. Today's Laura Ingraham show will be broadcast on KELO-AM 1320 tonight at 6.
"Given the way media works today, anything you say in Washington is heard almost instantaneously in South Dakota. So it would be impossible to say one thing in Washington, and say something else in South Dakota. People in our state just would never let anybody get away with that." - Tom Daschle, quoted in the October 20, 2004 edition of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. The Argus Leader, South Dakota's dominant newspaper, has ignored or buried 66 stories that show Tom Daschle says one thing in South Dakota, and does its 180 degree opposite in Washington.
The Argus Leader's story today on Mansiongate headlined "Thune: D.C. tax break shows Daschle out of touch" covers many of the issues involved in the story, but it misses one key issue in light of the following passage from the story:
The Roll Call article in question quotes a Daschle campaign staff member saying Linda Daschle's status made the couple eligible for the tax break but does not say she signed the application.
Additionally, the Daschle campaign supplied records Wednesday, dated Aug. 14, 2003, showing that a box indicating "principal place of residence" was checked "yes," but it was part of an updated application signed by Linda Daschle, not the senator.
Daschle said Wednesday night that he signed "typical closing papers" on the house in April 2003, including the homestead deduction application.
"Only one signature is required for all the closing papers. This was in those papers. They provided Linda with the new form, and she signed it. They've eliminated the form I signed. Now on record is Linda's signature."
"So when Talon News and Roll Call started poking around, the Daschle campaign went into crisis management mode, started saying that Linda "qualified" for the tax exemption, had the DC Mayor's office cover for them, and then quickly had her execute new documents. They never actually admitted, however, that Daschle had been the one to originally sign the form. But when Talon News sent in a Freedom of Information Act request, the DC tax office sent out the original tax exemption form signed by Tom Daschle (but they didn't send out the new Linda forms). They also started changing around his tax status on their website and having decisions reversed by lawyers and generally stonewalling the press. It seems to me that a big part of the story is what is happening/happened in the DC tax office."
Well, fourteen months after the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported on Senator Daschle's DC "Homestead Deduction" controversy, the Argus Leader finally reports the story under the headline "Thune: D.C. tax break shows Daschle out of touch." Better late than never, though. Excerpt:
"Republican candidate John Thune said Wednesday that Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle's participation in a tax break on housing in Washington, D.C., shows that his opponent has lost touch with South Dakota. 'It ties in to the very theme of the campaign all along,' Thune said in a phone interview from Garretson. 'Tom Daschle is a lot more about Washington than he is about South Dakota. He's willing to declare Washington his principal place of residence for a $288 tax break.' Daschle said Thune is drawing a false conclusion from inaccurate information....
Their dispute centers on what is called a 'homestead deduction' for the $1.9 million home Daschle and his wife, Linda, bought in spring 2003. It became an issue within the past week as the two campaigns provided paperwork and conflicting accounts on the Daschles' application for the deduction. The local government of Washington, D.C., offers the deduction to residents who own a home and pay the city income tax. Members of Congress are exempt from the local income tax but are eligible for the deduction if their spouses do pay it. That is the case with Daschles, because Linda pays the local tax on her earnings as a Washington lobbyist. Records supplied by the Thune campaign show that Sen. Daschle signed an application for the homestead deduction on April 30, 2003. An attached list of rules from the district tax office says the property in question must be the 'principal residence' of the applicant.
The Daschles' tax bill, also attached, shows an assessment of $1,445,830, a total tax due for the year at $12,397 and a $288 homestead deduction."
[T]he Argus Leader's systematic campaign to deprive the public of information critical to a fully-informed judgment in the Senate race degrades the democratic process. Now, in one final insult to the public's intelligence, the Argus Leader is sending their reporter and Daschle's "publicity chairman" from the 1960s to moderate the big debate tonight between Daschle and Thune. It's a fine coda to this race, actually. It says it all. In one day, the Argus endorsed Daschle, wrote a puffy "bio" piece about him which left out all the contradictions central to his career, and sent their reporter/Daschle "publicity chairman" to lob softballs at Daschle in the debate tonight.
DVT notes that it's only a few more hours until the Argus Leader endorses Tom Daschle. It will be the culmination of the AL's efforts to studiously ignore over 60 stories in other major publications around the country that reflect negatively on Senator Daschle.
Along with the AL's endorsement of Daschle tomorrow, there will also be a nice companion puff piece profile of Daschle that will no doubt gloss over the incredible inconsistencies and double-talk that is emblematic of Senator Daschle's political career.
DVT notes that the Argus Leader will be making its endorsement in the Senate race this coming Sunday, not on the 24th, which was the basis for my Argus Leader Daschle endorsement countdown on the right side of this blog. I guess it's only 4 days until the Argus Leader endorses Daschle. I'll adjust the countdown ticker accordingly.
Yesterday, I handed Laura Ingraham a list I have prepared of sixty-six stories about Senator Daschle the Argus Leader has either ignored or buried. You can peruse the list yourself by clicking HERE. It's not a pretty sight.
After meeting with Laura Ingraham to discuss the bias at the Argus Leader, she left to speak at a pre-debate rally for John Thune. At the rally, Laura blasted the Argus Leader and challenged David Kranz, the dean of South Dakota political reporters, to appear on her national radio talk show. "Dave Kranz, are you here?" she asked. DVT has the details. Below are some pictures from the rally:
As Quentin noted earlier today, the Argus Leader has ignored the Rapid City Journal story about the reconciliation between Russell Means and John Thune. That story was also picked up by the AP. When Means and Thune had a falling out earlier this year, the Argus Leader pounced on the AP report of the story, because it cast Thune in a negative light. Instead of reporting this positive development about Thune today, what does the Argus Leader report in huge headlines above the fold on page A1? A negative story about Thune headlined "Thune splits roles as lobbyist, candidate." Interestingly, the Argus Leader had a front page, above the fold story on Thune's lobbying on January 27, 2004 headlined "Candidate Thune plans to continue lobbyist job; Work helps state, he says."
This all makes sense if you know that Patrick Lalley, the Argus Leader editor who is the filter for what political stories get published and what ones don't get published, thinks Republicans are "evil" and has vowed to "work from the inside."
It seems that for the remaining three weeks of the campaign, the Argus Leader has decided to break its rule about not quoting campaign managers, and has turned long-time Daschle pal David Kranz loose to cover the Senate race. (Until lately, Jon Walker had been covering the Senate race.) Now that the AL is signaling its intent to take the gloves off in order to get Tom Daschle reelected, it's time to be particularly vigilant. From here on in, we'll be subjecting to even more careful scrutiny the facts or characterizations the Argus Leader chooses to include in each of its political stories, along with its choice of articles and the prominence they're given (to paraphrase Daniel Okrent). The Argus Leader's editors are already national laughingstocks. Over the next three weeks, they can redeem themselves or wallow in their laughingstock status. We bloggers will be here to observe which choice they make.
In another display of lousy journalism the Argus ignored yesterday's AP article titled "Means and Thune Back Together Again."
This story started last February when the Rapid City Journal and the Mitchell Daily Republic ran this article which mentioned that Means had endorsed Thune and would be working to get him elected. The story was apparently not newsworthy to the Argus because they chose not to report on it.
Then in July, another AP article ran which mentioned that Means and Thune had a disagreement over funding. The Argus jumped all over this article and ran it right away. Both DVT and SDP mentioned this in late July. Then yesterday when the "Means and Thune Back Together Again" article ran the Argus didn't cover it. Apparently, the topic of Means helping Thune was not newsworthy when they began to work together, was when they disagreed, and isn't now that they are working together again.
Quentin Riggins notes that the Argus Leader has endorsed Dusty Johnson's opponent in the PUC race. Note that in only 15 more days, the Argus Leader will be endorsing Senator Daschle.
In his column today, [Argus Leader executive editor Randell] Beck presents himself as the champion of "civilized debate," a defender of the Old Order against the evils of the internet. Meanwhile, it's Beck who put information on the internet that is simply made up and also refuses to correct it. As for "civilized debate," it's Beck who calls internet bloggers a "violent" "cabal" of "yahoos" and compares them to Hitler. After I gave a talk to the Rotary Club in Sioux Falls a few months ago, it was Beck who cancelled his speech the following week because he thinks the Argus Leader is above criticism. So much for "civilized debate" in front of the Rotarians. After promising Sibby last week he'd run an editorial by Sibby about the Linda Daschle situation, Beck then reneged. Look, there are some great people at the Argus and some of them have told me they know there are many problems at the newspaper. I feel for them, since much of the problem seems to be at the top.
The Argus Leader has published a profile of Linda Daschle, the corporate lobbyist spouse of Senator Daschle, headlined "As lobbyist, Linda Daschle navigates ethical minefield." The scrutiny of Linda Daschle is far more circumspect and far less hard-hitting than the Argus Leader's scrutiny of Harriet Pressler, the wife of Senator Larry Pressler, in 1990.
Still, it is to be commended that the AL published a wide-ranging profile of Linda Daschle that at least mentions some of the more brow-raising events in the interwoven careers of the senator and his spouse four weeks before the election. As one CNBC reporter noted, South Dakotans "will have to decide if they have a problem" with the fact that "her work as a lobbyist means big companies with business on Capitol Hill can legally put money into Tom Daschle's bank account."
The AL story reports the telling detail that Linda Daschle "drives herself to work in a blue Jaguar" and then proceeds briefly through some of the more controversial episodes in the long careers of Senator Daschle and his wife in Washington, DC. Here's the brief treatment of the story about the "Daschle Squeeze":
After a 1994 plane crash in North Dakota killed four men, the government investigated whether Sen. Daschle had acted improperly on behalf of the plane's owner, a personal friend, to limit safety inspections. Linda Daschle, then second in command at the Federal Aviation Administration, was investigated after officials said documents related to the crash had been destroyed.
Both Daschles were cleared of any wrong. The Senate Ethics Committee exonerated Sen. Daschle. The Transportation Department found that Linda Daschle had not violated her pledge to avoid involvement in aviation matters connected to her husband or South Dakota, The New York Times reported.
Then the AL story offers exactly two sentences about the fact that in 1999, Linda Daschle was hired by the pharmaceutical Schering-Plough to protect their patent for Claritin:
In 1999, Linda Daschle lobbied for pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough in its effort to get Congress to protect the company's exclusive rights to the prescription drug Claritin....
Linda Daschle said when her work for Schering-Plough was questioned: "We have tried to separate as best as we possibly can our activities."
Then there's the issue of Boeing, one of Linda Daschle's clients, leasing 100 air tankers to the Air Force. The AL reports:
In 2003, the [New York] Times mistakenly reported that Linda Daschle had lobbied on a controversial $20 billion plan to lease 100 air tankers from Boeing Corp. The Times ran a correction, saying Daschle lobbies for Boeing but only on commercial, not military, issues. Critics checked the fine print and found that she was listed as a lobbyist for that bill. But further checking shows she did not work on defense issues, only Transportation Department matters pertaining to airlines, such as hiring sky marshals and modifying cockpit doors in the wake of 9-11.
The Washington Monthly has a hard-hitting piece on Mrs. Daschle headlined "Tom Daschle's Hillary problem."
LA Weekly has a hard-hitting piece on Mrs. Daschle headlined "I'm Linda, Fly Me."
Slate has a hard-hitting piece headlined "Why Dems Should Be Glad Daschle Won't Run; He's got a big problem. Her name is Linda."
Well, today's edition of the Argus Leader contains more evidence that the editors at the AL can swing into action at a moment's notice when they want to. (In other words, when it helps the Daschle campaign.) The story at issue is headlined "McCain, Bush cited in Senate patriotism flap" and it's about what Senator John McCain said, or more accurately sort of said, on the Ed Schultz show yesterday. I hasten to add that Jon Walker, the reporter who wrote the story, is not the problem here. He's a principled, conscientiously objective reporter who is simply carrying out an assignment from his editor, Patrick Lalley. Patrick Lalley is the AL editor responsible for what political stories are covered (and more importantly what political stories are NOT covered). Patrick Lalley's guiding principle of political coverage rests on his notion (as Lalley himself has written) that Republicans are "evil."
Here's the relevant excerpt from the AL article:
McCain was a guest Monday on a talk radio show hosted by Ed Schultz of station KFGO of Fargo.
"We have differences of opinions with the Democrats," McCain said. "We are not enemies. The real enemy is out there - al Qaida and others that are trying to destroy us."
"But is debating war policy 'emboldening' the enemy?" Schultz asked.
"I think that debating a war policy is a legitimate exercise in democracy," McCain answered. "We are entitled to and must respect each other's views even if we disagree with them. Wars throughout our history have been disagreed with by certain elements in our society. That's what we fight for."
Apart from the debate over Daschle's Iraq war comments, it's important to explain who Ed Schultz is. Ed Schultz, of course, is the North Dakota radio personality touted as the liberal version of Rush Limbaugh, and this blog has kept an eye on him since he began his nationwide broadcast that nobody listens to. In fact, no South Dakota radio station carries Schultz's nationwide broadcast, which leads one to ask how many degrees of seperation had to occur for the Argus Leader to even know about John McCain being on the Ed Schultz show yesterday. Oh, Patrick Lalley just happened to be listening in on the Ed Schultz show yesterday? Of course not. Undoubtedly, Daschle campaign manager Steve Hildebrand or one of his minions got in touch with Lalley to alert him that John McCain was going to be on the show and was going to be asked about John Thune's "emboldens the enemy" comment. Ed Schultz is friends with Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, (it was Dorgan who was instrumental in getting Schultz's nationwide broadcast off the ground) who in turn is one of Senator Daschle's closest allies. There can be no doubt that this was a carefully orchestrated setup of John McCain by Daschle and his allies in order to get a favorable story in a friendly newspaper back in South Dakota. The Democrat-Argus Leader collaboration can be readily observed, a phenomenon explained by Daschle's media strategist in a 1997 article in Campaigns & Elections magazine. Relevant graf:
The press ate it up. Our campaign systematically doled out the information piece by piece to reporters in D.C. and South Dakota. The result was a series of damaging articles. ... We used the headlines generated as validators for our ads.
"[Tom Daschle has] taken the party so far to the left that I can't even recognize it."
"Talk about 'gathering ye rosebuds while ye may.' It gives a new meaning to 'pillow talk.' I cast no aspersions on the ones who do this, nor do I doubt their honesty. But in a business where 'perception' is just about the same as 'reality,' it looks suspicious as hell. It looks like someone's riding the gravy train. It does not pass the smell test."
The Rapid City Journal is actually inviting the public to attend their daily story conferences, and even encouraging the public to participate in deciding what stories get published and where stories are placed. I'm rendered almost speechless at this offer, but not speechless enough to prevent me from asking why the Argus Leader doesn't make the same offer.
The gaffe-prone Randell Beck, executive editor of the Argus Leader, seems to have committed yet another one. A week and a half ago, Beck wrote a column about going to a "froufrou coffee house" to "chat" with a "South Dakota politician," and while doing so, noticing a group of city council members "lurking in a dark corner."
Today, Vernon Brown, one of the victims of the Beck sighting, responded to Beck's column with some intriguing new facts that Beck conveniently omitted from his column. The "South Dakota politician" Beck was "chatting" with was none other than Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Johnson. As Brown writes:
"In fact, Beck and another editor were meeting the senator for what appeared to be an awfully friendly coffee. I could assume Beck might be the one with an agenda, but I won't."
Fittingly, the Weekly Standard's Joseph Bottum has a piece this week in which he notes that the Argus Leader's profile of Senator Johnson in 2002 was "so puffy and sweet it should be handed out in journalism school as a model of disingenuous advocacy." Perhaps this explains that "awfully friendly coffee."
Below is a jpeg of the lead editorial in today's Wall Street Journal, which briefly discusses the dominance "Tom Daschle's pals at the Argus Leader have long had on [South Dakota's] political dialogue." I wonder if the Argus Leader will have a response to this less-than-flattering portrayal in one of the most influential editorial pages in the country.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has a piece headlined "A Media Watershed; Dan Rather and the end of the liberal monopoly." The Dakota Alliance gets mentioned in the context of Memogate:
Even in South Dakota, bloggers and the Web have challenged the dominance that Tom Daschle's pals at the Argus Leader have long had on that state's political dialogue.
Roll Call, a Washington, DC publication, has a report in today's edition headlined "Senate GOP Leaders Host Event for Thune" about a fundraiser held in Washington, DC yesterday to benefit John Thune's Senate campaign. The Argus Leader has a penchant for immediately reporting stories in Roll Call that reflect negatively on John Thune, and completely ignoring stories in Roll Call that negatively reflect on Senator Daschle. It will be interesting to observe whether the Argus Leader reports or ignores the mildly negative story about Thune in today's edition of Roll Call.
The Argus Leader also failed to report on a story in the New York Times about a Daschle fund-raiser held in the Hamptons, even though the Argus Leader's executive editor misleadingly stated that the AL had covered the story "at least twice." Should the Argus Leader report on yesterday's Thune fundraiser, it will be yet another example of the Argus Leader ignoring stories that reflect negatively on Daschle, and wholeheartedly pursuing stories that negatively reflect on Thune.
Regular SDP readers will note that I have initiated a countdown on the right side of this blog numbering the days until the Argus Leader's editors publish their endorsement of Senator Daschle. The Argus Leader should forego the charade of interviewing the candidates and just issue the endorsement already.
It looks like Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck isn't the only mainstream media type to make things up. Power Line catches the AP in the shocking act of simply making things up, as reported in a post headlined "The Associated Press makes it up." Is this what the mainstream media were doing before blogs?
DVT notes that Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck has yet to respond to the accusation that he made up the fact that his paper had covered Senator Daschle's fundraising trip to the Hamptons "at least twice." Instead, the AL blog's latest post is about polling. Apparently, Beck is studiously ignoring many e-mails asking him to provide the dates of the AL's coverage of the story.
I think this is one of the reasons DVT received 20,000 hits in a single day this week. A friend of mine noted that DVT was perhaps the second or third largest media outlet in South Dakota that day. More and more South Dakotans are turning to the blogs to get their political news.
Irreconcilable Musings has an hilarious post regarding Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck's penchant for misstating facts and his overall bullying attitude. The post contains a listing of the various classes offered at the Beck School of Journalism. Among my favorites:
Evil Bloggers and Their Minions - 111
Proper Use of the Nazi/Fascist Metaphor - 281
Using Fecal References on Your Opponents - 251
Effective Use of Monopoly Power: Crafting the News to Fit Your Agenda - 341
Maintaining the Dual Persona, or Keeping the Folks Back Home in the Dark (Taught by Visiting Teacher Tom Daschle) - 331
After revealing that Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck simply made up the fact that the Argus Leader had covered Senator Daschle's fundraising trip to the Hamptons "at least twice," the silence at the Argus Leader is deafening. It seems no response will be forthcoming, and the AL is content to wallow in its hypocrisy and loss of credibility.
Today, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit published a piece entitled "A Media Meltdown?" that succinctly explains the problem at the Argus Leader. Excerpt:
But the real problem here, to paraphrase a Massachusetts politician who ran for President a few elections back, is not ideology, but competence.
The press's neutrality has been revealed as a fiction. That might not matter if they were still better at what they did than anyone else. After all, what about all the fact-checking, the professionalism, the editors meticulously ensuring fairness and accuracy?
Yeah. What about 'em? It's tempting to point to Jayson Blair, or any of the other media scandals of the past couple of years. (Or, for that matter, to Walter Duranty). But the problem goes even deeper than that. Beyond these major scandals, a combination of laziness, bias, and complacency haunts reporting on all sorts of subjects.
DVT has a post headlined "Argus Editor's Trouble With The 'Facts'" on the latest revelation that Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck made a misleading statement about the AL's coverage of Senator Daschle's fundraising trip to the Hamptons. Excerpt from DVT:
Bloggers wondered why people in NY had more information about where Daschle raised his money than South Dakotans did and some people emailed the Argus Leader and the editor, Randell Beck, said this on the Argus "blog": "Daschle's fundraising visit to the Hamptons has been reported at least twice in this newspaper." I can't find these "reports." Tonight I even went to the library and looked through every Argus since the NY Times story was published. It looks like Beck was completely wrong. If he made a simple made a mistake, fair enough, but this is the editor of 'Hitler would have had a blog fame'--as well as the editor who said blog criticism of the Argus was "crap" driven by a "violent" internet "cabal" of "yahoos" and "jokers," who are full of "hatred" and "vitriol" and lacked "guts" because they hid "behind their computer screens" and wouldn't face him "man to man."
As it turns out, Beck had no idea what he was talking about. HIS facts were wrong, at least that's what my review of the Argus Leader since the publication of the NY Times story reveals. I kindly asked the Argus editors what days these alleged Hamptons stories were published and was basically told to get bent.
Randell Beck, the Argus Leader's executive editor, wrote the following statement on the Argus Leader's "blog" last Friday regarding Senator Daschle's recent fundraising swing through the Hamptons:
Dave from Brookins writes: "What you don't address is the question of why Argus leader (sic) doesn't in fact cover news stories which would appear to be damaging to (Tom) Daschle?'" Dave's "evidence"? "Surely his trip to the hamptons warranted a story, or the fact that he's refused debates repeatedly?" Well, yes, Dave. And if you'd read, you'd realize Daschle's fundraising visit to the Hamptons has been reported at least twice in this newspaper.
It's interesting to note that in the same post Beck asserts the fiction that the AL has reported on Daschle's trip to the Hamptons "at least twice," he decries people who "fail to let the facts get in their way." It's a fact that the Argus Leader has never reported on Daschle's fundraiser in the Hamptons, but it seems when the facts aren't on Randell Beck's side, he conveniently makes them up.
The headline to Beck's post reads "I probably shouldn't but...". No, Mr. Beck, as executive editor of the state's largest newspaper, with a heavy responsibility to report all of the relevant political news to the voters, you probably shouldn't make up the facts.
DVT has initiated a countdown, counting down the days until the Argus Leader endorses Senator Daschle. DVT also urges the AL to forego the charade of interviewing candidates Daschle and Thune before writing its endorsement and just endorse Daschle as soon as possible.
DVT also notes that the great defenders of free speech at the Argus Leader editorial board think that five debates in the biggest Senate race in the country are enough. Leave it to the Argus Leader editorial board to defend the indefensible proposition that there is such a thing as too many debates.
There are two political wars being fought in South Dakota these days. One is between Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and his GOP challenger, John Thune. The other involves an eclectic collection of Internet bloggers who are cranking out copy on the Senate race because they say the "lamestream" media is doing such a poor job of covering it. Over the weekend, bloggers took a leaf from the state's populist farmers of the 19th century and issued their own manifesto aimed at the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, a Gannett paper they say has a print monopoly on statewide coverage of politics. The cheeky document accuses the Argus-Leader of "a pattern of chronic political bias" and of treating outside critics "with hostility." Noting that the paper is highly profitable, it calls for management to hire an ombudsman and more political reporters so the Senate race will be adequately covered from all sides. Don't expect to read much coverage of the petition in the Argus-Leader itself, although the bloggers appear poised to have the last laugh. In a slow but sure demonstration of the power of the market, more and more South Dakotans are turning to the Internet for their political news.
I feel a bit sheepish to have overlooked this, but Redstate.org noted last week's piece in the Argus Leader on South Dakota blogs. Still, it's better late than never to bring Redstate's post headlined "Argus Leader acknowledges reality -- S.D. blogs" to your attention.
DVT has been doing some masterful investigative work of late on the entrenched monopoly that is the Argus Leader. Lack of resources is one of the main excuses the editors of the AL have used through the years for not covering all the news that's fit to print in South Dakota. Now it seems apparent that the excuse is bogus, given the extraordinarily high profit margin that the AL has posted in the past.
Stefan Sharkansky published a post about this very subject last spring, in which he listed the profit margins of some of the largest publicly traded newspaper companies. Suffice it to say that the AL's profit margin is obscene compared even to that of Gannett, its parent organization, which is 18%. (Gannet Co. Inc., by the way, is the most profitable of the large publicly traded newspaper companies.)
Well, I guess I get to eat a little crow. I will do so happily. The Argus Leader has a front page, top of the fold story on South Dakota blogs today headlined "Blogging: A venue to rant, rave and review." Excerpt:
[Jon Lauck's and Jason Van Beek's] blogs accuse the Argus Leader of selectively reporting negative stories about Thune and ignoring news that makes Daschle look less favorable. They contend personal relationships and a liberal slant on the editing desk color the Argus Leader's articles.
The newspaper's leadership has dismissed those charges as unfounded.
Despite all of this, the publication of today's story on blogs in South Dakota redounds to the credit of the Argus Leader. Jennifer Sanderson is a talented reporter, and her efforts reflect positively on the Argus Leader.
The jury is still out on whether the Argus Leader's story on South Dakota blogs has been spiked. As I wrote yesterday in my post on the subject of spiking, "there is still a high degree of uncertainty about whether that's the case."
DVT and Sibby are starting to get the impression that a story written about blogs in South Dakota for the Argus Leader by Jennifer Sanderson may have been spiked or is undergoing a massive overhaul by the AL's editors.
On Friday, July 30, (over a week ago) I sat with fellow bloggers Sibby and Q at the Black Sheep Coffee Shop in Sioux Falls to be interviewed by Jennifer Sanderson. Earlier in the week, Jen had interviewed Professor Jon Lauck of DVT as well as Ryne McClaren. The interview with Sibby, Q, and I lasted around two hours, and much of the discussion centered around criticism of the Argus Leader. Near the conclusion of the interview, we were told that the story would probably be published in the middle of the following week. I learned on Wednesday that the story was being given its final reading. It is now Saturday, and the story has still not been published.
Jennifer Sanderson and I knew each other when we were undergraduates at The University of South Dakota. Jen is a great person, and I think she is doing a great job at the Argus Leader, particularly in her new beat covering political advertisements in this high profile political year in South Dakota. I think she is a thorough reporter, and in observing her work, I believe she is making a determined effort to be objective. Jen is not the problem.
During the interview, I distinctly recall Jen commenting that "the Argus certainly is strong enough and its people have enough faith in their work to show another point of view." If this story on the Dakota Blog Alliance has been spiked (and I emphatically caution readers that there is still a high degree of uncertainty about whether that's the case), I think it would speak volumes about the strength and faith the editors of the AL have in their work.
Sibby notes that the Argus Leader today violated its policy of quoting only political candidates and not their campaign staff. Naturally, the violation of this policy cut in favor of--you guessed it--Tom Daschle.
"What if all media and all the information you received was based on what a few powerful people in the community thought was fit for your consumption?" - Patrick Lalley, now the assistant managing editor for the Argus Leader, in an editorial for Tempest, July 3-16, 1991.
According to the Argus Leader blog, Lalley makes the decisions about what political stories are reported in the AL. In many ways, it's not news in South Dakota until Lalley says it's news. In that vein, note a significant story the Argus Leader skipped yesterday. Lalley must have decided that this wasn't fit for our consumption.
Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck has a column today in which he explicitly mentions the Dakota Blog Alliance under the headline "Er - not enough politics?" In the piece, Beck is particularly skeptical of a quote "purported" to be from Tom Daschle that is emblazoned on the Dakota Alliance T-shirt, to wit: "Only the paranoid survive." It seems Beck can't quite believe someone as wonderful as Tom Daschle would actually say something like that. Relevant graf from Beck's piece:
The front of the bright green shirt, which I plan to wear proudly in the privacy of my own home, is emblazoned with the words "Dakota Blog Alliance."
On the back are several Web addresses (example: www. idespiseeveryonewhodoesntagreewithme.com), and this quote, purporting to be from Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.: "Only the paranoid survive.''
My first instinct was to doubt the veracity of the quote, but I managed to trace it to an October 2001 article in the Argus Leader in which Daschle, speaking about efforts to turn the old Homestake gold mine in Lead into a national laboratory, said: "There is a saying that only the paranoid survive. We will continue to stay paranoid until it is ribbon-cutting time.''
Although Webster's defines paranoia as a "mental disorder marked by delusions,'' one presumes the senator used the word back then to describe the kind of brazen, over-the-top political vigilance that sometimes is called for to see a public issue or project through.
The word crept into Daschle's language again in an August 2003 campaign swing through South Dakota. Referring to the difficulty of persuading Republican voters to cross over to vote for him in 2004, Daschle said: "Only the paranoid survive.''
In retrospect, one is hard-pressed to evaluate whether the senator was joking or meant what he said, but one thing seems clear: The bloggers have picked up the sound bite.
In January, shortly after Thune announced his candidacy, the minority leader told me his motto for campaigns: ''Only the paranoid survive.''
Meanwhile, David Kranz, the dean of South Dakota political reporters, actually quotes the New York Times Magazine's story on the Daschle v. Thune race in today's edition of the Argus Leader. Once again, one can readily observe how quickly the Argus Leader's editors will publish something that negatively reflects on John Thune, but are automatically skeptical of anything that negatively reflects on Tom Daschle. This time, the AL has managed to follow up a story on the exact same day that it is published, rather than the following day. That has to be a record.
Presumably, Beck read the New York Times Magazine's story on the Daschle v. Thune race if he allowed Kranz to quote from it in today's edition of the Argus Leader. I guess he must have skimmed over that "only the paranoid survive" bit.