Archive for December, 2012

EdNews should have reported Benson’s recent opposition to Metro’s reduced tuition rate for undocumented students

Friday, December 21st, 2012

In an article summarizing a hearing Tuesday before the State Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, EdNews Colorado reported CU President Bruce Benson’s latest thinking on state legislation that would create a reduced tuition rate for undocumented students in Colorado.

EDNews: [Benson] said formally supporting such legislation is up to the Board of Regents, and “the regents are kind of split on these things.” Benson added that charging undocumented students high tuition “just doesn’t make any sense” but added “I’m not going to tell you exactly how I feel.”

But Benson, who was the Republican nominee for governor in 1994, did tell the Denver Post in June exactly how he felt about Metropolitan State University’s decision earlier this year to reduce its tuition rate for undocumented students.

Benson told The Denver Post at the time:

“There’s a building down the street from me with a gold dome on top of it,” Benson said, referring to the state Capitol, not far from his downtown office. “And they took a vote that, in effect, decided the state policy….”

“Federally, we have policies where we demand that things are done when kids are in K (kindergarten) through 12, but then we say, ‘the heck with you’ when it comes to higher ed,” Benson said. “If we have a federal policy for K-12, then we need one for higher ed too.

“But having said that, I wouldn’t have done what Metro did. If the legislature didn’t pass anything, then that’s it.”

State legislators on the JBC grilled Metro officials Tuesday, as they’d done in the Spring, about its reduced tuition rate for undocumented students.

EdNews reported:

“The actions you took broke federal law and broke state law” [Rep. Cheri Gerou] said, adding that Metro had violated correct processes in taking its action.

“I actually respectfully disagree with ‘violating process,’” responded Metro President Steve Jordan, adding, “I disagree with Rep. Gerou’s interpretation of federal law…”

Gerou replied, “Thank you gentlemen. I don’t agree with you, but that doesn’t really matter.” Referring to the issue’s prospects in the 2013 legislative session, she said, “I think we’re going to do something about that. … We need to make sure these students are successful. I don’t want to set them up for failure.”

EdNews should have pointed out that Gerou, a Republican, struck a more conciliatory tone this week than she did in June, when she said Metro’s decision could affect the University’s future funding from the legislature. And she said in June that the tuition issue was more of a federal problem than a state one.

A group of 10 Republicans, including House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, subsequently sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper informing him that “several state legislators have already begun drafting legislation to overturn the Metro State action and reaffirm legislative authority over tuition classifications.”

The status of this draft legislation, as well as Gerou’s specific thoughts on ASSET should have been reported by EdNews.

Radio Hosts silent as State Senator contradicts himself during radio interview

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

If you listened Tuesday to KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado (560 AM), you got to hear Republican State Sen. Scott Renfroe say that all potential gun-control legislation is so “crazy” and “un-American” that he won’t compromise on it at all, even though he later said Republicans always want to reach across the aisle.

Un-American? You’d think Renfroe was talking about an effort to wipe out the constitutional right to bear arms.

But no. He was referring to bills affecting “high capacity magazines, a “waiting period of up to 30 days to buy a gun,” “private sales,” and an unspecified “list of things we’ve heard as potential bills.”

Renfroe said he’d kill all gun-control legislation, if he had his way.

Renfroe: You know, the NRA has been at the table making compromises. So, unfortunately, we don’t put the best people forward from the Republican Party to stand for liberty, either. And we need to do a better job at that. And this issue is going to be at the forefront, and I’d rather try to kill everything we have and move forward, as opposed to rely on the next generation of elected officials to fix something that we do now.

Renfroe won’t compromise on gun legislation at all, but that didn’t stop him from saying later on the same radio show that Republicans are always ready to compromise.

Bemoaning potential Democratic opposition to his bill regarding photo radar and photo enforcement, Renfroe said Republicans are the ones who “always try and reach across the aisle.”

You’d think the good folks at Grassroots Radio Colorado, even if they don’t always do their homework before their show, would call out a guest when he completely contradicts himself during the course of one short interview.

Read a transcript of the segment and hear audio here.

Channel 12’s Rowland talks to BigMedia about journalism and his upcoming retirement

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The word “visionary” is over-used, especially for people who are retiring, but it’s truly an accurate description of Wick Rowland, who announced last week that he’s stepping down in March as President of Colorado Public Television (Channel 12, CPT12).

In 1999, Rowland left his job as Dean of CU’s journalism school to run Channel 12, and he quickly turned it into the go-to TV station locally for public affairs programming, creating content that KRMA Channel 6 did not offer. See more on this topic here.

Rowland built a lineup of shows that broke from the ponderousness that defined public affairs TV here at the time. Channel 12’s flagship program, Colorado Inside Out, is consistently the best public-affairs show on Denver TV and Internet, mixing information with provocation and entertainment. Under Rowland’s leadership, Channel 12 has also been a major player in election-year debates and forums, adding depth that spilled into the political discourse, beyond the unfortunately small audience that tunes to public television.

I liked bumping into Rowland over the years because he’d inevitably remind me how narrow the debate about journalism is in America, pointing out, as he does below, that advocating for increased public funding for journalism isn’t wacko, despite the gross suggestion someone had of taking an ax to the neck of Big Bird.

After you talk to Rowland, you kind of shake your head and say to yourself, “Hell no. We don’t have to settle for the market-driven mayhem and fluff that overwhelms you on commercial TV. And we don’t have to rely on nutcase bloggers or partisans.”

A reasonable model to support thoughtful journalism, as Rowland likes to say, is to provide more public funds for it, like they do in most industrialized nations. If only more people were out there like Rowland pushing for this.

Talking to Rowland is like chatting with a kind professor, which he is, but he also reminds me of an admiral, who’s seen many a battle. He’ll be missed way more than our community knows.

Here are excerpts of a conversation I had with Rowland Monday:

What’s your primary concern about journalism in Colorado?

It’s my primary concern about journalism, and you’re talking to an old journalism dean and someone who really believes in the disciplines of journalism education and training and the practice. My fundamental concern, and it’s not novel to me, and it’s the loss of what I call disciplined reporting. I very much believe in a meritocracy of work in the media. I feel that any kind of profession requires standards and a process and a mechanism for holding feet to the fire for those standards…We have had historically an editorial structure, and I just want to have the feeling the someone oversees a particular piece of work, and subjects it to fact checking and the normal protocols of editing, pushing back and keeping a reporter on his or her toes. One of the great threats of the blogosphere, frankly, is the loss of that. And we need to find ways of maintaining that.

Could public funding save journalism?

Public broadcasting could be a pilot project for what the future could look like. It’s very difficult in these United States of America to have this debate. And even on the public broadcasting side of it, we are funded on a very mere pittance by comparison with the way in which public-service media are funded in every other advanced industrial democracy. There is no comparison. That’s because we have a difficulty articulating in the United States a case for tax-based for public culture generally. It’s not an argument about public broadcasting alone. It’s about arts and culture. We just don’t put the tax-based resources into it. It’s based on the misbegotten hyper-democratic notion that the public will support it if it’s important, and, of course, we know that not to be necessarily true.

Your prediction on The Denver Post?

I’m very concerned. I’m seeing it ready to cut back to maybe three or four days a week. That worries me. Like many people I was disappointed that when the Rocky folded, The Denver Post did not grow bigger. It actually began to shrink. I’m in part an ink-stained wretch at a TV station, and I very much enjoy reading newspapers and take three or four.

What are the high points of your time at Channel 12?

Negotiating excess bandwidth opportunities that helped establish an endowment for the station…raising money and guiding the transition from analogue to digital…purchasing the building where the station resides…starting a systematic planning process and building on the success in public affairs and cultural programming. The community better understands what we’re about.

What’s the biggest problem with public television?

The worst thing is we’re being forced out on the commercial market—where were forced to worry too much about sponsorships and branding in ways that are not appropriate for public media.

Why are you retiring?

I’m 68-and-a-half years old. I’m at the stage of life where I’ve got people falling left and right around me, many of them younger. I lost my mother-in-law this year, and two or three other friends. It’s been kind of sobering for me as well. My grandkids are not getting any younger. They’re growing up fast. There’s this cliché about he’s going to spend more time with family and so on. There’s a little piece of that that’s true, probably in a lot of cases and certainly in this case. If you had asked me about the prospects of my stepping away even three of four years ago, I would have been much more reticent about stepping away, with the assault on public broadcasting…but I feel in the wake of the elections, and from a number of other things that I’m participating in nationally, I feel a little more confident than I did even a few months ago that this is a good time to step back… I do a lot of writing. I continue to publish, as if I were still at the University…I’m not finished with my discourse with the public about public media. I’m not done with that yet.

Follow Jason Salzman Twitter @bigmediablog

Reporters should dig into Brophy claim that Dems are using Newtown to “permanently injure” the GOP

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Reporters covering the local fallout of the Newtown tragedy should dig into statements percolating through the media, and exemplified by comments like state Sen. Greg Brophy’s below, that Democrats are using the tragedy simply to bring down Republicans.

“And there’s a lot of–and this is going to sound terrible, but it’s the truth–there’s a lot of politicians and leftist activists who see this as an opportunity to permanently injure the Republican Party and make it more likely that Democrats will win elections,” Brophy told KFTM radio’s John Waters this morning. “And I think there’s a lot of people pushing it, especially their media allies that are pushing this notion from that perspective.”

It’s not the kind of comment that should be thrown in the pile of political-discourse-as-usual. What would Brophy have Democrats do? Be mute? Blame the media, as he does? Talk about mental health issues, as if guns had no role? Why does mentioning the word “guns” equal an attack on the GOP?

Brophy thinks the focus should be on the mentally ill, with no discussion of guns:

“And I’ve got to tell you, if the leftist activists and their allies in the media concentrate only on beating up Republicans over our principled stand on the Second Amendment, then we may not have the discussion that we need to have over all of these other issues [like treatment for mental illnesses],” he told Waters.

Brophy’s unsubstantiated accusation of Democratic politicking contrasts with another strand of thinking by local politicians, like Colorado Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman quoted below, who argue that politicians can do nothing at all.

“The real bottom line here, is there is 300 million people in this country. Someone, somewhere is planning to do harm to somebody at any given day, and all the laws in the world aren’t going to stop it,” Cadman said at a Denver-Press-Club forum, as reported by Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Berkeland. “Criminals will still do criminal acts.”

So, if he really thinks nothing can be done, does Cadman also think the Dems are all about politics too, like Brophy does?

See the entire Brophy interview here.

More on the conservative talk-radio echo chamber and the damage done

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

In a post Thursday, I discussed a conversation between two local talk-radio hosts and Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Page Editor, Wayne Laugesen.

Unfortunately, the good folks at KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado thought I unfairly presented their show as attacking every garden-variety environmentalist under the sun, not just the radical fringe.

So I’ve posted more of the exchange between Laugesen and the KLZ hosts below, including more insight into Laugesen’s thinking on whom he’s referring to when he talks about “radical” environmentalists. Warning: he’s pretty vague, as some suspected on ColoradoPols and elsewhere.

I’d love to meet the soccer-mom environmentalist from Jefferson County who feels good about the Republican Party after hearing this conversation on conservative talk radio.

If the KLZ radio hosts, and Laugesen for that matter, really cared about the toxic effect of talk radio on the Republican Party, here’s a suggestion on how they could begin to do something about it.

Have an actual debate! Bring a mainstream environmentalist on the show, for example, when you talk about radical environmentalists or environmentalism as religion. Refuse to be a guest unless more than shades of conservative gray are present. I’m not saying this never happens, but do it more often, please.

Chances are, when the echo chamber starts echoing on talk radio, it’s turning off most of the electorate. That’s when you need to bring in an opposing view.

In any event, here’s more of the discussion from last week:

Co-host Ken Clark: [chuckling after hearing audio of ] Wayne, what did you think about those whack jobs?

Laugesen: Oh, you know, it was just kind of funny…I couldn’t hear it through the phone, but–

Clark: Well, that was the one who said that I don’t want to be able to light my water faucet on fire.

Laugesen: Right. Yeah, lots of people can light their water on fire. It’s methane gas that you know, that often comes through a faucet. You know, it’s become a big symbol of fracking. You know, lots of people, where there’s no fracking anywhere near the water supply, can light their water. These are the same—. Honestly, I’ve been to a lot of protests in Colorado Springs. Believe it or not, there is a lot of left wing activism in this town. We are a majority Republican, conservative town. But that doesn’t mean that, you know, forty, forty-five percent of the town isn’t on the other side. And it’s a big town. I mean, there’s 600-plus thousand people in the metropolitan Colorado Springs area. So, several hundred thousand of those people are left of center. And of those several hundred thousand who are left of center, you know, a significant number are radical left-wing activists. So, you’ll find that in any large city. These are the same activists you see who will protest any form of human progress you can think of. They will – you know, if somebody finds a way to feed famished children in Africa through a new agricultural practice, they’re going to be there with – you know, they’re going to be on the streets with signs telling us how this is a bad thing….

[See excerpt from previous post.]

Worley: And my question is, “Where did we get this abundance of ignorance?”

Laugesen: You mentioned religion a minute ago. I don’t think — I’m not saying for a minute that we got if from religion. I’m saying that the same – you know, the people who lack religion, who have no religious belief, they need something. They need a cause. They need something outside of themselves that seems like a good thing, to worship, to work toward. And I think that’s what you – you know, we joke, some of us on our side of the equation, jokingly use the term “tree huggers” “Tree worshipers”. But I think there’s a lot to that. I really – I think that—I think these — that activists who – their activism is directed against progress, that it is serving the same – it is doing for them what religion has done for thousands of years for most people.

Clark: Well Wayne , it is also the ultimate feel-good philosophy because think about it, it is the biggest sales job that has ever been perpetuated on the world-wide public as a whole, and I’m talking about climate change, global warming, anti-fracking, anti-coal – the whole nine yards. Because think about it. You create this made-up travesty that is going to kill the planet – global warming. And then you’ve got all these people, “Oh, my God! Look what I can do! I can go out there and save the world!” And these people buy into it. They give them false propaganda, false junk science, on and on and on. And they read this stuff. They think they’re educated. But they’re reading the Sierra Club propaganda. They’re reading this Agenda 21 propaganda. And it is the ultimate in feel-good, left-wing, propaganda. And there – people succumb to it, and man, they think they are really doing something. And in fact –

Laugesen: They feel great! – about a cause like that–

Clark: Oh, yeah! Oh, that’s –

Laugesen: –and the protests themselves are kind of fun. Now, I was counter-protesting yesterday, but it was fun! I really enjoyed it. And I know the people who were there making a lot of noise and holding up signs—they were having fun. It was something to do….

Post’s policy on use of term “illegal immigrant” makes sense

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I posted The Denver Post’s policy regarding the use of the term “illegal immigrant” last week.

As you can see here, The Post favors the use of “illegal immigrant” over “undocumented immigrant” but accepts “undocumented immigrant” as less precise synonym.

That makes sense to me when it comes to describing the group of millions of people who entered this country illegally. I agree with the New York Times‘ reasoning on this.

But when it comes to an individual, I wouldn’t use any label (illegal or undocumented) unless there was actual factual evidence that the individual in question was, in fact, an illegal immigrant.

This approach would be in keeping with what Post City Editor Dana Coffield told me last year, that The Post only refers to someone’s immigration status “when it becomes part of and material to the public record.”

This seems really obvious, but it wasn’t spelled out in The Post’s published policy.

I asked Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett about this, and he more-or-less affirmed the policy Coffield articulated:

Plunkett: If we are talking about an individual, then it would have to be a judgment call based on information that we have. If the person admits she is here illegally, or if police say that is the case, that’s pretty straightforward. Otherwise it gets murkier. My answer has to be that we would deal with the description on a case-by-case basis. Dana Coffield’s answer to you last year follows the same kind of logic that I would follow.

So I’m thinking it should be really rare for The Post to describe a person as an “illegal immigrant” or an “undocumented immigrant” unless that status is confirmed by an official source, on the record, or the person has stated this themselves. You can dream up exceptions, like an off-the-record source used in an unusual situation, but you wouldn’t expect to see this very often.

“Dwelling on the nuances does not win the favor of dittoheads”

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

The Editorial Page Editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, Wayne Laugesen, caught my attention last month when he pointed out that talk radio is “viewed, right or wrong, as part of the GOP, a big part of the GOP.”

This, he said, has hurt Republicans among Hispanics.

I asked Laugesen whether the damage caused by talk radio goes beyond Hispanics, to women or environmentalists, for example.

“I think a lot of good comes out of conservative talk radio,” he told me “But it can be a double-edged sword. That which gets ratings is not always in the best interest of those trying to win elections. Trying to find a niche on the radio is different from trying to put together a coalition of voters to win an election.”

I called Laugesen after listening to him on a talk radio show yesterday, where he had this exchange with radio host Jason Worley on KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado yesterday:

Jason Worley: Environmentalism is a religion today. If you compare it to Judaism, Catholicism, Christianity, Hinduism, it has the same tenents, the same ideas. The problem is, the people who follow it, don’t have to actually ever suffer the effects of it. Go drop them off in Borneo in the middle of the rainforest with no mosquito protection repellent, no sunscreen…see how long they could last. They wouldn’t.

Laugesen: Right. If they ever got their way. If they were ever successful at stopping all this progress they intend to stop, they’d be miserable.

Worley: Wayne, you and I share a lot of beliefs. We’re right there on libertarian-leaning conservative beliefs.

Laugesen: Sure. I love progress. Almost 100% of the time, with some exceptions, when someone creates profit, which is really just the cost of capital, that person has improved the human condition. Because what are we willing to pay for? What makes us part with precious capital? An improvement to our lives. That’s the only thing that makes us part with capital. Human beings are not intuitively into destroying their lives, or the environment that supports their lives.

Lots of people, like swing-voting soccer moms, consider themselves environmentalists.

Could this conversation possibly make them feel good about the GOP?

To be fair, there was a lot more to the KLZ radio segment, including Laugesen’s audio of a group of anti-fracking protesters saying some silly stuff, but still, if you’re the kind of person who feels warmly toward environmentalism, and you listened to this show, you could easily have felt personally attacked.

But that wasn’t Laugesen’s intention.

I interpreted Laugesen’s 100% comment to mean he’s against most all regulations that might hinder profit. But he straightened me out, saying he believes that rules and regulations are necessary.

He also said he thinks “organized religion is far more legitimate than extreme environmental activism.”

In fact, throughout his radio appearance, Laugesen directed his critique at “radical” environmentalists, not all of them.

But, amid the extreme comments by a guy like Worley, do everyday environmentalists hear the distinction. Or do they just feel attacked, like Hispanics?

Laugesen and I agreed that amplification can overpower details on talk radio.

“Dwelling on the nuances does not win the favor of dittoheads,” he said.

Specifics needed in news coverage of immigration debate

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

I blogged a few weeks ago about the need for media types to smoke out the views of state politicians on federal immigration reform.

So it was good to see extensive local coverage of a bipartisan initiative by Sen. Michael Bennet laying out the broadest of principles for immigration reform, like the humanitarian notion that U.S. immigration policy should “prioritize” keeping families together. That is, “where possible.”

The “where possible” caveat symbolizes the document, called the “Colorado Compact.” If the call to “prioritize” wasn’t sufficiently vague, it had to be clouded further with the phrase “where possible.” And there’s no comment on whether immigrant families should be kept together in the U.S. or deported juntos.

Top to bottom, the document is void of details, like how big a fence might be built, if a path to citizenship is essential, and if immigrant kids can get Pell grants, much less the same college-tuition rates offered to American-born kids.

The document calls for a “path forward for immigrants,” but not much in the rubber-hits-the-road category.

That’s fine for a broad community effort, like the Colorado Compact.

But journalists should be focused on specifics.

That’s what pissed me off about most of the news coverage of the Compact. (See a compilation of news coverage on the Colorado Compact’s website here.) It was gushing, mostly without any skeptical edge that you want from reporters.

The coverage barely hinted at stumbling blocks down the line, like Obama’s and other Democrats’ insistence on a path to citizenship and GOP opposition to this (e.g., Coffman, Gardner, Lamborn, Tipton). What about the Dream Act? What about the folks like Tom Tancredo who are saying it’s just wrong, period, to reward a person who’s entered the U.S. illegally with any form of legal status?

What about the folks like Helen Krieble, whose proposal for immigration reform has been floated by some Colorado Republicans like Rep. Ray Scott. Krieble reiterated her immigration proposal on Sunday to approving KNUS talk-radio host Krista Kafer, who’s a former aid to failed GOP Senate candidate Bob Schaffer:

Krieble: So, our recommendation [is to] have these employment agencies outside our borders. So, [illegal immigrants] don’t have to go home to their home countries. But they must go, by appointment, outside the borders, run through the security check, prove they have a job, or take a job, so they’re self-supporting, and return to the United States according to the rule of law. Which, could all be done in 48 hours. Because remember, you don’t have bureaucrats who have no incentives to do a hundred people a day versus two people a day. But a private business has every incentive in the world to do it and do it well and quickly. So, that would be our recommendation.

Krieble’s proposed policy solution is full of unanswered questions regarding its implementation and implications. But Kafer doesn’t venture to open those cans of worms.

We love reporters becasue they deal in the world of specificities, like data, numbers, concrete ideas, etc., and the ramifications of those specific things.

That’s what we want in news coverage of the immigration debate, even if politicians and policy makers don’t want to go there.

KNUS’ Kelley has moved to the right, but he still asks decent questions in interviews

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Sometimes KNUS’ Steve Kelley seems embarrassed by his own morning rants and rages against Obama and the nasty Democrats. The other day he asked, “Do you really want to hear a rant from middle-aged white guy?”

Kelley’s current behavior looks different from what you heard during of his 19 career at KOA, where he at least acted like he didn’t have the answers.

But Kelley’s more level-headed roots return when he conducts interviews, which usually feature straight-forward questions you’d want, but don’t expect, from someone seated behind a microphone.

This morning, for example, during his Kelley and Company show, he asked Rep. Cory Gardner this really good question:

Kelley: Why do you guys [Republicans] seem to be losing the PR battle [on the fiscal cliff]? I mean, it’s so easy to blame a Republican, but it seems to stick to you?

Gardner: Well, you know, it’s tough. We’ve got to do a better job of messaging and explaining to people who are in the middle class, people who are lower income earners, that people who will be affected by this tax increase are people like you, people who are working hard to make ends meet, people who are struggling to pay the mortgage, because their business are going to be hard hit. That’s going to result in lower take home pay because the businesses they work with are suffering and struggling to bear the burden of the tax increases. That’s the bottom line and so the President controls the bully pulpit, regardless of who it is in the White House, whether it is a Democrat or a Republican. They have a tremendous opportunity to shape the outlines of the message.

Listen to audio of Rep. Gardner talking fiscal cliff on Denver radio station KNUS 710 AM on 12-11-12

Kelley was on the right track, but to get to the heart of the GOP’s fiscal-cliff problem, Kelley should have contrasted Gardner’s head-spinning response with Obama’s crisp lines on the topic, which he delivered at a rally Monday:

Obama: “We can solve this problem. All Congress needs to do is pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income,” he said. “When you put it all together, what you need is a package that keeps taxes where they are for middle class families, we make some tough spending cuts on things that we don’t need, and then we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a slightly higher tax rate.”

In another question, which Kelley didn’t acknowledge actually related to his previous question about the GOP’s PR problem, Kelley asked Gardner whether he’d compromise on a tax increase:

Gardner: “We cannot agree to a tax increase. That is not the solution. That is not going to solve our $16 trillion debt. That’s what I am urging our leaders, Speaker Boehner and others, to make sure they are adhering to…I think he knows that the [Republican] conference does not support a tax increase, that there is no will to increase taxes amongst the Republican Party and the House majority.”

That’s obviously part of the Republican PR problem on the fiscal cliff, but Kelley didn’t get into the fundamentals. Maybe he thinks it would be bad PR.

Journalists’ “likes,” “friends,” “retweets,” etc. on social media don’t reflect favoritism or bias

Friday, December 7th, 2012

On his profile on his Facebook page, Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett writes:

Please note. As a journalist using social media, my following or friending or liking — and in some cases even retweeting or reposting — is not always meant as an endorsement.

This is a shorter version of a post Plunkett wrote shortly before the election on Facebook:

Friends. I’ve been asked about this a couple of times in recent days, as we are now fully in the final throes of the Election season. The question is whether as a journalist who covers politics it is correct for me to “like” the Obama page or the Romney page. (And I “like” them both.) The problem is that is how Facebook defines what you have to do to follow a page. That’s not — in most cases — how I would describe my interest. I might genuinely “like” a band, for example. But a politician? It’s not the same thing. I’d like to expand on what I have long indicated on my Facebook profile — which probably not everyone reads. For years now, since my earliest origins with Facebook, I have contained in my profile the disclaimer that as a journalist using social media I “friend” and “follow” and “subscribe” and “like” and “retweet” and etc. all manner of people, groups, media, politicians, movements, companies, nonprofits, etc. But my doing so is NOT meant as an endorsement. Rather, I do so in order to see their posts in order to watch for news and whatnot. Increasingly, politicians use social media in the place of the old-school press release or statement. To not follow risks missing something — not that I don’t miss things even when I follow, given what has become the enormous success of these kinds of sites. I hope this makes sense. Bottom line: I do not endorse any politician or political party and do not advocate for any of them either. I have much better things to do with my time.

To me, that’s common sense, but it’s good Plunkett spells it out for us.

You say, still, what if a guy like Plunkett “likes” or “friends” 100 right-wing groups and 25 lefty ones? What if he re-tweets Scott Gessler (as if Gessler doesn’t tweet his own horn often enough)? Does it mean he favors the right?

It means little or nothing. You don’t know what Plunkett is up to or where he’s getting information, unless you’re a mind reader, and mind readers are the worst kind of media critics–though they are a common kind.

Re-posting, retweeting, even “likes,” by other public figures, like politicians, invites questions, however.

The bottom line is, for journalists, if you think they lean one way or the other, evaluate their actual factual work. Is it fair? Is it accurate?