Yesterday I ran excerpts from a puff piece that the biggest paper in Minnesota did about Michele Bachmann. Read the excerpts from the lead in the piece and then read about the reader reaction, today...
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune"Yeah, that's how the Minneapolis Star Tribune ("the Strib") presents Congress's most notorious national demagogue in the run-up to election day. According to the leading paper in Minnesota: she' s a supermom/policy whiz! The reporter's name is Jennifer Brooks. When I called that to your attention here yesterday, people began to write in to her twitter feed--excoriating her for puffing a documented nut, liar, and bigot without providing any context. (CORRECTION, Oct 8, 2012: In this article I may have given readers the impression that a lot of people wrote in to Brooks' twitter feed to complain. That turns out not to be true; only a few seem to have done so. My misunderstanding about the number of readers who wrote in is due to my misunderstanding of emails I read that morning. I regret the error.)
The baby knocked over a glass of water. Without missing a beat, Rep. Michele Bachmann crouched down to mop up the mess.
"I'm used to it," said Bachmann, who is facing an unexpectedly tough re-election campaign for her fourth term in Congress. "Just like I'm cleaning up the mess in Washington. How many times have I cleaned up spilled milk at home? I was fully prepared to do what I do in D.C."
Bachmann dealt with the puddle, then ran a wet wipe across the baby's cake-covered face for good measure, all while answering a constituent's question about the medical device tax in the president's health care bill. It was Thursday afternoon in Forest Lake, and Bachmann was on the third stop of a daylong swing through the Sixth District.
People who read the excerpts from Brooks' puff piece began to give her a hard time at her twitter feed. She was portraying Michele Bachmann as some kind of "supermom/policy expert"--and leaving out any mention of twelve years of conspiracy theories, overt bigotry, sowing hatred, etc.
Here's what you need to know. Even if you see Michele Bachmann wiping a cute little baby's face--even if you see that with your own eyes--you know that that is not what Michele Bachmann is "about" politically. If you're a reporter or editor and you are willing to reduce Bachmann's political significance to that endearing image--you're helping an extremist nut to stay in government.
And you know that.
And you know that doing that--is wrong. It's not in doubt that Bachmann's an extremist nut, liar and bigot. That's a matter of record, out of Bachmann's own mouth--since before 2006. We can only conclude that this paper, this editor, and this reporter are trying to help her to win when they run pieces like this.
Back to the details...
Ms. Brooks got mad about the heat she was drawing for running a crap piece. She passive-aggressive'd me at my Twitter feed...
@BillPrendergast Aw, pumpkin. I am butthurt that you didn't link to my Jim Graves story too. bit.ly/UvAobzVery professional. But I took her suggestion and checked out her Graves story, the one she pointed me to. I expected that Brooks' point would be: "well, if I did puff Bachmann in the piece you criticize--you should note that I also puffed Graves in a different piece I wrote--now that's what I call balance."
So here's an excerpt from her piece on Graves:
Bachmann canceled the interview she had scheduled for this story. But her campaign spokesman, Chase Kroll, railed against Graves' attempts to appeal to Bachmann's conservative base. "The thing about Jim Graves is that he will say different things depending on the audience he's talking to," Kroll said.You know--I don't see any "puffing Graves" or "free political advertising for Graves" in this piece, the one Brooks pointed us to. I don't see it as "balance in puffing." (In any case, I don't see "balance in puffing" as a desirable goal for political journalists. I see "balance in puffing" as a journalistic goal for airheads.)
I ended up by concluding that Brooks was going for the non sequitur as a form of self-defense. That was probably the best way to go: it would be very hard for reporter Brooks to give a serious, sincere explanation of why she was offering the equivalent of free political advertising to Michele Bachmann. (It's not even clear that Bachmann consents to talk to reporter Brooks for the pieces Brooks writes about this race.)
Here's my suggestion: if the candidate won't talk to you, and your "political reporting" is reduced to typing up the candidate's interaction with babies--trying looking stuff up. If Bachmann interacts with a baby and won't talk to you--look up her voting record on protecting children's health care. (There's a "news" angle for ya.) If you're reduced to writing about how Bachmann helped an elderly person across the street, write up her record on protecting Social Security and Medicare. (That contrast between "cartoon compassion" and "heartlessness"--is a news angle.)
But these suggestions assume that Brooks and the Strib are interested in printing news. Right now, they seem to be more interested in re-electing Michele Bachmann.
The City Pages (the leading alternative weekly in Minneapolis/St. Paul) did follow up piece. But it's mostly about what I printed here on the Kos yesterday.
The point is that you guys who wrote in made a difference today, calling attention to the Strib's ridiculous Bachmann puffery and equally ridiculous attempt at a lame ass defense.
ACTION LINK: You can see what Bachmann challenger Grave is up against in the local corporate media. Please help him defeat this nut.
The Strib piece that Brooks cited in her defense:
Star Tribune blasted for "puff" Michele Bachmann coverage
By Aaron Rupar Tue., Oct. 2 2012 at 7:57 AM