Sunday, February 10, 2008

Register Skips a (Presidential) Beat

February 10, 2008, 11:00 a.m.; February 11, 2008, 7:30 a.m. [Register posts new AP story], 1:30 p.m., 3:15 p.m.; February 12, 2008, 8:00 a.m., 11:45 a.m.; February 13, 2008, 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m.; February 14, 2008, 12:30 p.m.

Register Skips a (Presidential) Beat

Yesterday was a really big day for Senator Barack Obama. In one AP story it was called "his best night of the campaign." (All quoted stories are linked, below.)

The New York Times's page-one headline called it "convincing wins" in a story that began, "Senator Barack Obama won decisive victories . . . an impressive sweep . . . just as Mr. Obama is building a strong advantage over Mrs. Clinton in raising money . . .."

The Washington Post's page-one story headlined that "Obama Handily Wins" and began, "Sen. Barack Obama dominated Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in presidential balloting . . . besting her by huge margins . . .."

The Gazette used an AP story that led, "Sen. Barack Obama swept the Louisiana primary and caucuses . . . , slicing into Sen. Hillary Clinton’s slender delegate lead . . .. The Illinois senator also won caucuses in the Virgin Islands, completing his best night of the campaign."

This morning's Register, by contrast, headlines this news "Obama, Clinton Fight in 3 States," puts the story on page 2, and leads with news of Senator McCain -- following which they note that Obama and Clinton "competed for convention delegates across three states" in a race that was "close and likely to get closer."

Spreading the Clinton campaign's usual pre-results spin (if Obama wins this one it was to be expected and doesn't mean anything; of course if we win it is a major upset showing the momentum is now going with us) the story notes "nearly half those casting ballots [in Louisiana] were black. As a group, African-Americans have overwhelmingly favored Obama . . .."

The story reports the merged (pledged and super) delegate count (in which Clinton has a slight edge) rather than the caucus and primary delegate count (in which Obama leads). It mentions that "people were turned away from a University of Maine [event where] Clinton spoke to a capacity crowd of about 1750 people" (with of course no mention of Obama's crowd of 21,000 at a Washington State event earlier in the week).

Morever, immediately under this page 2 placement, in the "Campaign News" sidebar, following the heading for "DEMOCRATS" is, immediately "Hillary Clinton" -- in bold. It goes on to quote her view "that she, not Barack Obama, is best positioned to beat [McCain]." Only later in that paragraph is there a quote from Senator Barak Obama, referred to as simply "Obama" at that point, and in regular font rather than bold, without a paragraph break, and thus something the reader's eye would not quickly catch.

I have no real problem with the Register deciding that its corporate, or ideological, or political, or public spirited interests or inclinations lean it in the direction of an editorial endorsement of Clinton over Obama. That's the right and choice of those who buy printers' ink by the barrel.

But I do think that running this AP story and "Campaign News" blub favoring Senator Clinton -- without more -- raises questions regarding the extent to which that editorial ink is bleeding over into the news pages.

Now the Register may respond that this was all that was available to it when the paper went to press. (The AP story it used ran about 5:00 p.m. CT Saturday.) To which I would respond with the following questions and comments:

1. When do you go to press with the up-to-date "news" for the first, "Section A," portion of your Sunday paper? Is there no way you could do that any later in the afternoon or evening?

2. If not, wouldn't it have been better -- knowing that the page-one news all across America (and the world, for that matter) this morning was going to be results in yesterday's Democratic contests -- to put a notice on page one indicating that you were aware of the importance of the results in the primaries and caucuses, but that your paper had to be printed before any results could be known?

3. Finally, since you have an online version of the paper, to which you often add news and updates before the next hard copy paper version is printed, why did you not post results -- and stories -- there once they were available? (Perhaps you have by now; but I couldn't find them when I looked this morning at the same time I was getting the stories from the Times, Post and Gazette).

[Feb. 11, 7:30 a.m.: The Register has an AP item on its Web site this morning that tells the story of Obama's impressive sweep of five events over the weekend: the Washington, Nebraska and Virgin Islands caucuses, to which he added the Maine caucus on Sunday, plus the primary in Louisiana -- all by substantial 2-to-1 or close to 3-to-1 margins over Clinton. Charles Babington, "Obama Basks in Crowds, Momentum," Associated Press/Des Moines Register, February 11, 2008, 7:47 a.m. ET. (Also noting that Obama's crowds are "several times larger" than those for Clinton, Obama's having won a Grammy as well (over Bill Clinton), and the shake-up in Clinton's top campaign staff.) [The link now [4:00 p.m.] takes you to a 4:46 p.m. ET rewrite of the Babington story.]

The addition of the Maine victory makes this an even bigger national/international story this morning than it was yesterday. I haven't yet seen a hard copy paper version of this morning's [Feb. 11] Des Moines Register, but if it still contains no mention of Obama's string of major victories during the prior 48 hours I think it has some explaining to do.

Feb. 11, 1:30 p.m.: Having now seen my hard copy Register for today I'm sad to report that the paper's choice of AP stories continues to leave it open to charges of (pro-Clinton) news (as distinguished from editorial) bias. Details later this afternoon.

3:15 p.m.: On p. A1 is Beth Fouhy, "Clinton Overhauls Campaign Leadership," Associated Press, with a cheery picture of Hillary Clinton. [A version of this story can be found as Beth Fouhy, "Clinton Replaces Campaign Manager," Associated Press/WTOPNews.com, February 11, 2008, 12:34 a.m. -- a version from which the Register 's version deletes from its lead: "engineering a shake-up in a presidential campaign struggling to overcome rival Sen. Barack Obama's financial and political strengths."]

Page A2 has the carry-over from the p. A1 story, and two additional Associated Press stories: Stephen Ohlemacher and Jim Kuhnhenn, "Clinton Leads With Insiders" [a version of this story can be found as, Stephen Ohlemacher and Jim Kuhnhenn, "Clinton Has Lead With Party Insiders," Associated Press/WTOPNews.com, February 10, 2008, 9:44 p.m.], and Pauline Arrillaga, "Obama's Appeal Among Hispanics Could Prove Critical; Polls Show It's Lagging, Whereas Hillary Clinton Has Solid Support From This Segment of Voters." [A version of the Arrillaga story -- with a much more balanced headline and a story from which the Register stripped all the balanced positives about Obama and Hispanics -- is available as Pauline Arrillaga, "Democratic candidate Barack Obama says 'Yes, We Can!' but Hispanic voters ask: Can he?," Associated Press/Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 10, 2008, 2:04 p.m.]

The only mention of Obama's extraordinary string of victories is a little boxed story on p. A2 with no by-line: "Maine Voters Hand Obama Another Victory." As the headline suggests it is, almost in its entirety, merely a very brief report from Maine. Thus, so far as I know the Register has yet to run a story regarding Obama's having bested Clinton, often by 2 or 3-to-one, in 5 straight contests during 48 hours -- contests in America's Northeast, Northwest, Midwest, South and Virgin Islands.

Feb. 12, 8:00 a.m. -- And the (Register's) beat (up on Obama) goes on: Haven't seen the hard copy yet, but The Gazette features the AP story pointing out how much better Obama does against McCain than does Clinton. The Register's online "national news" uses the AP story repeating the Clinton "expectations" spin, designed to diminish any Obama victories, while downplaying and burying the "Obama Beats McCain" story and presenting only the Clinton camp response to it. Beth Fouhy, "Obama Hopes to Rout Clinton in Primaries," February 12, 2008, 8:22 a.m. EST.

11:45 a.m.What the Register runs in its hard copy paper edition is a different AP story (90% of which deals with Clinton and McCain) on page 2: Kristin Jensen and Indira Lakshmanan, "Democrats Work Crowds Ahead of 3 Primaries Today," Associated Press/Des Moines Register, February 12, 2008, p. A2 -- along with a smiling picture of Senator Clinton trying to look her most charming, and an expressionless picture of Obama. (It's not available from the Register's online site, but is available here: Kristin Jensen and Indira Lakshmanan, "Clinton Woes Small Groups, Obama Rallies Crowds," Associate Press/Bloomberg.com, February 11, 2008.)

As the Bloomberg version reveals, not only did the Register's headline give the story an entirely different spin than Bloomberg, the Register also chose to omit from its version of the story paragraphs such as the following:

Obama held his first rally today at the Comcast Center arena at the University of Maryland's College Park campus. The arena, which seats more than 17,500 people, was packed with cheering Obama supporters. He plans a similar event at a stadium in Baltimore.

. . .

Weekend Contests

Obama bested Clinton in four states over the weekend, winning caucuses in Maine yesterday 60 percent to 40 percent and rolling up similar margins in caucuses in Nebraska and Washington along with the primary in Louisiana.
Meanwhile, The Daily Iowan printed the AP story reported by Alan Fram and Trevor Tompson, under the headline, "Obama Bests McCain in New AP Poll," The Daily Iowan, February 12, 2008, p. A5 (which I cannot find in its online edition). Against McCain Obama wins by 48-42%; Clinton and McCain are in virtual tie at 45-46%. Clinton did no better than Obama with two groups that have previously favored her: whites and women. (While among men, in a McCain-Clinton match-up, they prefer McCain by 9 points, but split evenly with Obama; younger men favor Obama by 9 points over McCain.) Matched against McCain, women choose Obama by 12 points, and Clinton by 11. Among minorities, Obama gets 74% of their votes when running against McCain -- 7 points more than Clinton.

In short, this is a major, major story -- especially given the role of the super delegates and the emphasis they tend to put on who can win (as do Democratic voters generally). And yet the Register chooses to dismiss it with the line in a little sidebar, "MATCHUPS: McCain remains competitive in head-to-head matchups against both Democratic contenders . . .." [p. A2].

Feb. 13, 11:30 a.m. -- Register acknowledges existence of 2008 presidential election contest. David Espo/Associated Press, "Win in Virginia is Sixth Straight for Obama; On the Republican Side, John McCain Narrowly Edges Mike Huckabee," Associated Press/Des Moines Register, February 13, 2008, p. A1. (Although not available from Register online, it can be found as David Espo, "Obama, McCain Win Virginia Primaries," Associated Press/AP Online, February 12, 2008, 9:46 p.m.) Below the fold, at the bottom of the page, it was at least on page one, and a fairly straight story -- although the Register deleted the line, "An Associated Press-Ipsos poll found Obama with a narrow lead over the Arizona senator [Senator John McCain] in a potential match-up, and Clinton running about even," characterizing Obama's lead as simply, "the two camps debated which contender is more likely to defeat McCain in the general election." And of course, presumably because of early deadlines, the Register's headline referred only to "Sixth Straight for Obama" rather than the eight it now is. Nor did the story report anything beyond bland generalities regarding the extent to which Obama is not only winning eight contests in a row, not only winning by margins of 2-or-3-to-one but, most significantly, now increasingly adding to his base demographic (African-Americans, upper income, well educated, and young people) larger and larger shares -- often even besting Clinton -- of those demographics formerly providing her support (women, white men, older voters).

1:00 p.m.: The great irony is that the Register columnist, David Yepsen, has written a balanced column about what's really going on in this primary.That's the good news. The bad news? It's not in the paper! It's a blog entry, available only to those who search for it. David Yepsen, "On Politics: Of Delegates and Demographics," Des Moines Register Online, February 12, 2008. He begins, "Despite all the network talk about how close the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama race has become, Obama is starting to put this away." He then itemizes six categories of reasons why and concludes,

"Bottom line: He’s winning. She’s losing. It’s only a matter of time. While there will be lots of talk about how this will have to be decided by the superdelegates, the fact is those superdelegates are politicians. They can put a wet finger in the wind quicker than any of the rest of us and sense that reality.

They will also want to get with a winner. They will want to unify their party and move on. O-mentum will accelerate."
Has this already appeared in the Register's hard copy paper edition? Is it (or some revision thereof) scheduled for publication later? If not, why not? What is going on at the Register?

Feb. 14, 12:30 p.m. -- It's Valentines Day; Time to Credit the Register Where Credit is Due. Today's page one, bottom of the page, in the "Inside Today's Register" feature, there's a picture of a charming, smiling, energized Senator Clinton, but a headline: "Clinton's Support Slipping Among Women, Whites." So, it may be coming nearly one week late, but the paper is finally acknowledging (on page A6) that its candidate is in real serious trouble (as its columnist, David Yepsen, pointed out yesterday -- though from a blog entry that's yet to appear in the hard copy paper).

The demographics that have been thought to be hers have been moving over to Senator Obama. The story on page 6 (unavailable from the Register online) is Alan Fram and Trevor Tompson, "Women, Whites Leaving Clinton; Her Support Among Other Groups Also Seems to be Slipping, Exit Polls Show," Associated Press/Des Moines Register, February 14, 2008, p. A6.

The story is available online as Alan Fram and Trevor Tompson, "Clinton's Edge Slips With Whites, Women," Associated Press/wtopnews.com, February 14, 2008, 6:32 a.m. ET. (This version contains a good deal more than the Register's edit, but I cannot say that either is more or less favorable to Senator Clinton than the other.)

So thank you, and Happy Valentine's Day, Register!]


What Follows Are Links to, and Quotes From, the Stories Referenced
in the February 10th Portion of This Blog Entry

David Espo, Associated Press, "The Race to the White House: Iowa winners Obama, Huckabee add to totals; McCain still far ahead in GOP delegate count; Clinton, Obama tight," The Gazette, February 10, 2008, p. A1.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Barack Obama swept the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state Saturday night, slicing into Sen. Hillary Clinton’s slender delegate lead in their historic race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Illinois senator also won caucuses in the Virgin Islands, completing his best night of the campaign.

“Today, voters from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the heart of America stood up to say ‘Yes, we can,’” Obama told a cheering audience of Democrats at a party dinner in Richmond, Va.

Michael D. Shear and Anne E. Kornblut, "Obama Handily Wins Nebraska, Louisiana, Washington," Washington Post, February 10, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama dominated Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in presidential balloting in Nebraska, Louisiana and Washington state last night, besting her by huge margins in those contests and further narrowing her slender advantage in delegates needed to claim the Democratic presidential nomination.

Kate Zernike, "Obama Gets Convincing Wins in 3 States," New York Times, February 10, 2008

Senator Barack Obama won decisive victories over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, Louisiana and Nebraska on Saturday, giving him an impressive sweep going into a month when the Democratic nominating contests are expected to favor him. The successes come just as Mr. Obama is building a strong advantage over Mrs. Clinton in raising money, providing important fuel for the nominating contests ahead.

David Espo, Associated Press, "Obama, Clinton Fight in 3 States; Huckabee Wins 1," Des Moines Register, February 10, 2008, p. A2 [not available from Register online].

Although the Register does not make an online version available of the AP story it used, what follows is a version of it as presented by Yahoo! News. The Register did not run all of it; the portions it omitted are [enclosed in brackets] -- for example, the AP story's noting that Obama raised $7 million in two days and Clinton had to loan her campaign $5 million.

David Espo, Associated Press, "Democrats battle; Huckabee wins Kan.," Yahoo! News, February 9, 2008, 6:11 p.m. ET

Sen. John McCain flunked his first ballot test since becoming the Republican nominee-in-waiting, losing the Kansas caucuses on Saturday. Democratic rivals Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton competed for convention delegates across three states in their landmark struggle for the party's presidential nomination.

McCain fell in Kansas to Mike Huckabee, who got nearly 60 percent of the caucus vote a few hours after telling conservatives in Washington, "I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them." The former Arkansas governor won all 36 delegates at stake.

Republicans also voted in a primary in Louisiana and held caucuses in Washington.

McCain began the day with 719 delegates, far ahead of his remaining rivals. Huckabee's Kansas victory left him with 234.

The Democratic race was far different, close and likely to get closer.

A total of 158 delegates was at stake in the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington. Caucuses in the Virgin Islands offered three more.

Preliminary results of a survey of voters leaving their polling places in Louisiana showed that nearly half of those casting ballots were black. As a group, African-Americans have overwhelmingly favored Obama in earlier primaries, helping him to wins in South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia.

One in seven Democratic voters and about one in 10 Republicans said Hurricane Katrina had caused their families severe hardship from which they have not recovered. There was another indication of the impact the storm had on the state. Early results suggested that northern Louisiana accounted for a larger share of the electorate than in the past, presumably the result of the decline of population in the hurricane-battered New Orleans area.

Clinton began the day with a slender delegate lead in The Associated Press count. She had 1,055 delegates to 998 for Obama. A total of 2,025 is required to win the nomination at the party convention in Denver.

[The day's contests opened a new phase in the Democratic race between Clinton, attempting to become the first woman in the White House, and Obama, hoping to become the first black.]

The Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in 22 states, which once looked likely to effectively settle the race, instead produced a near-equal delegate split.

That left Obama and Clinton facing the likelihood of a grind-it-out competition lasting into spring — if not to the convention itself.

[With the night's events, 29 of the 50 states have selected delegates.]

[Two more — Michigan and Florida — held renegade primaries and the Democratic National Committee has vowed not to seat any delegates chosen at either of them.]

Maine, with 24 delegates, holds caucuses on Sunday. [Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia and voting by Americans overseas are next, on Tuesday, with 175 combined.]

[Then follows a brief intermission, followed by a string of election nights, some crowded, some not.]

[The date of March 4 looms large, 370 delegates in primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont.]

[Mississippi is alone in holding a primary one week later, with a relatively small 33 delegates at stake.]

[Puerto Rico anchors the Democratic calendar, with 55 delegates chosen in caucuses on June 7.]

People were turned away from a University of Maine student center Saturday morning as Clinton spoke to a capacity crowd of about 1,750 people. [She urged supporters to participate in Sunday's caucuses.]

"This is your chance to be part of helping Maine pick a president," she said. "So I hope even if you've never, ever caucused before, tomorrow will be your first time ... because there is so much at stake in this election."

Obama, also campaigning in Maine, looked ahead to the general election, criticizing Republican McCain without mentioning his Democratic rival.

McCain initially "stood up to George Bush and opposed his first cuts," Obama said at Nicky's Diner in Bangor. Now the GOP senator is calling for continuing those tax cuts, which grant significant breaks to high-income taxpayers, "in his rush to embrace the worst of the Bush legacy."

[If Super Tuesday failed to settle the campaign, it produced a remarkable surge in fundraising.]

[Obama's aides announced he had raised more than $7 million on line in the two days that followed.]

[Clinton disclosed she had loaned her campaign $5 million late last month in an attempt to counter her rival's Super Tuesday television advertising. She raised more than $6 million in the two days after the busiest night in primary history.]

[The television ad wars continued unabated.]

[Obama has been airing commercials for more than a week in television markets serving every state that has a contest though Feb 19.]

[Clinton began airing ads midweek in Washington state, Maine and Nebraska, and added Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Friday.]

[The exit poll was conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and the television networks.]

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1 comment:

John Barleykorn said...

What's going on at the Register? The same thing that's been going on for a long time there: pushing one agenda or another by selective reporting and framing of the news. It is no different than the Press Citizen DEMANDING a Fire Station in NE Iowa City so it can lower its insurance costs.