TCS Daily


Media Metaphysics, Round 2

By Nick Schulz - October 5, 2004 12:00 AM

Several weeks ago Harper's magazine editor Lewis Lapham was caught committing a major journalistic no-no when he published a story dissecting the speeches delivered at the GOP convention -- before the convention began. After we at TCS wrote about Lapham's blunder, several readers emailed me pointing out other instances of stories being published about news events before those events took place (see "Media Metaphysics" on TCS). Now the major political parties are catching on.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe is no dummy. He knows the importance of working the media over a story. Apparently he does so before a story even happens: Below is pasted a copy of an email from McAuliffe he sent out in advance of Thursday's presidential debate to his party's faithful with instructions to "vote in online polls, write a letter to the editor, and call in to talk radio programs" immediately after the debate.

Channeling Lewis Lapham, McAuliffe primed his recipients with thinking points before the debate took place:

"If you feel John Kerry commanded the debate and had a clear plan for fixing the mess in Iraq, put it in your letter. If you feel George Bush dodged tough questions on Iraq and didn't level with voters, put it in your letter....

"Call them and let them know what you thought of John Kerry's plan to keep America secure and George Bush's continuing refusal to admit the truth about his record."

McAuliffe is a party hack; as such, he's under no pretense of being honest or impartial. But the email makes explicit an inconvenient media fact: online polls are a bad joke and are, it's now apparent, manipulated by party apparatchiks. Worse, this is common knowledge at news organizations, and yet they continue gathering "data" and reporting the results of these polls in their broadcasts (caveats that the polls aren't "scientific" are sometimes tossed in for CYA purposes). After Thursday's showdown in Miami, John Kerry "won" the debate according to most of the online polls.

Here's a suggestion: why doesn't a major cable network cease offering and reporting on their online polls and then make their decision a point of journalistic pride. They could boast on air that, unlike their competitors, they refuse to carry water for political parties by touting the results of their "polls" as "news."

Editor's note: What follows is the text of an email sent by DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe

Tonight, don't let George Bush's henchmen steal another victory. We need your online help immediately after the debate, so save this email, print it out, and have it ready with you as you watch the first Presidential debate tonight.

We all know what happened in 2000. Al Gore won the first debate on the issues, but Republicans stole the post-debate spin. We are not going to let that happen again, and you will play a big role.

Immediately after the debate, we need you to do three things: vote in online polls, write a letter to the editor, and call in to talk radio programs. Your 10 minutes of activism following the debate can make the difference.

Vote

National and local news organizations will be conducting online polls during and after the debate asking for readers' opinions. Look for online polls at these national news websites, and make sure to vote in every one of them:

* ABC News: http://www.abcnews.com/

* CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/

* CNN: http://www.cnn.com/

* Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/

* MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.com/

* USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/

And be sure to check the websites of your local newspapers and TV stations for online polls. It is crucial that you do this in the minutes immediately following the debate.

Write

Immediately after the debate, go online and write a letter to the editor of your local paper. If you feel John Kerry commanded the debate and had a clear plan for fixing the mess in Iraq, put it in your letter. If you feel George Bush dodged tough questions on Iraq and didn't level with voters, put it in your letter.

With just a few clicks, you can write your letter at our online media center:

<http://www.democrats.org/media/>

Call

Do you listen to national or local call-in shows on the radio? How about on TV? Call them and let them know what you thought of John Kerry's plan to keep America secure and George Bush's continuing refusal to admit the truth about his record.

Here are some national shows to get you started. (All times are Eastern.)

* Air America (all day): 646-274-2346

* Alan Colmes (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.): 212-301-5900

* Ed Shultz (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.): 701-232-1525

* Bev Smith (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.): 412-325-4197

* Doug Stephen (5 a.m. 10 a.m.): 1-800-510-8255

Find shows in your area on our media website:

<http://www.democrats.org/media/find.html>

Your actions immediately after the debate tonight can help John Kerry win on November

2. Make your voice heard!

Don't forget to visit our 2004 Debate Center before, during, and after the debate for important information, including questions Bush must answer, a Bush/Kerry contrast on keeping America safe, and Bush Debate Bingo, a game you can play with friends during the debate.

<http://www.democrats.org/debates/>

And after the debate, check your email for a very special message.

Thank you,

Terry McAuliffe

Chairman

PS: Make sure to forward this email to at least 10 other people who will be watching the debate. Also, give printed out copies to your friends, family members, coworkers and neighbors and get them involved.


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