Welcome to the Political Reporting 101 class, boys and girls. Please break out your notebooks because today we will be covering examples of poor political reporting. And the first such example is this report from CNN. It is about the Senator Arlen Specter campaign which is so worried about their prospects in next year's primary election that they are already running attack ads against someone who isn't even an announced candidate. Your first assignment will be to discover the name of the person that CNN reporter Lauren Kornreich neglected to interview in her story:
WASHINGTON (CNN) - There are no officially-announced GOP challengers to Sen. Arlen Specter just yet — but the fight for the 2010 Republican primary in Pennsylvania is already turning brutal.
Specter's campaign manager, Christopher Nicholas, sent a letter to Club for Growth President Pat Toomey on Monday asking that he release the name of the organization members receiving federal bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
"Senator Specter's campaign will not engage in reciprocal name calling with you. All we want are the facts," Nicholas said in the letter.
Nicholas added, "If you again refuse, the next question is, what do you have to hide?"
Last week, Specter released an ad trying to highlight Toomey's ties to Wall Street and said that while he worked as a trader, he sold the same "risky derivatives" that "have now plunged us into this financial mess."
Toomey, who has been critical of Specter's support for Obama's stimulus plan, has strongly hinted that he will run for Senate in 2010, but hasn't officially made an announcement yet. He narrowly lost a 2004 primary challenge for Specter's seat.
If you had answered, "Pat Toomey," then you would have earned yourself an extra credit point. Amazingly, even though Toomey was the target of the Specter attack ad, Ms Kornreich didn't think to contact him for his reaction. Or was it that lifting a phone to make the call a bit too strenuous for her?
Had Kornreich called Toomey or even performed a quick web search, she would have made an amazing discovery; the original attack ad on the tube had to be recalled by the Specter campaign. Why? Because it was erroneous. Here is how the embarrassing ad recall was described by the Pennylvania Avenue political blog:
Sen. Arlen Specter's campaign has changed the wording in the 30-second spot that began airing Thursday, replacing "credit default swaps" with a more generic phrase.
The change comes after reporters and fact-checkers pointed out the obvious: the financial instruments known as credit default swaps that Specter charges Pat Toomey with trading during his time on Wall Street didn't exist when Toomey was an investment banker.
The ad originally opened this way: "Pat Toomey, as a Wall Street trader, he sold risky derivatives called credit default swaps, the same swaps that have now plunged us into this financial mess."
But the ad has now been changed to this: "Pat Toomey, as a Wall Street trader, Toomey sold risky derivatives and swaps. It is derivatives and swaps that have now plunged us into this financial mess."
Specter campaign manager Christopher Nicholas said the campaign ad was adjusted yesterday because "we didn't want to get bogged down in a debate over terminology."
Oops! And we learned this vital information from a "lowly" blog, not at CNN.
Even though the Specter campaign removed the original commercial, you can still watch that video in all it's erroneous glory because it has been preserved for posterity on YouTube by "campaigntvads." Oh, and the CNN reporter could have discovered still more errors in the commercial by checking out the facts at FactCheck.Org which was highly critical of the attack ad.
This concludes our Political Reporting 101 class for today. Your homework assignment is to carefully study the methods employed by Lauren Kornreich in her CNN story...and then don't do them.
As for Ms Kornreich, your assignment is to read this edition of the Pennsylvania Avenue blog to get the Pat Toomey reaction that you neglected to solicit in your story.