Archive for the 'Associated Press' Category

Media right to scrutinize Buck positions before/after primary

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Ken Buck is having second thoughts on yet another issue, The Denver Post reports today.

This time, it’s the consumption tax, which Buck called “great” during the GOP primary but now says was “never my alternative,” according to The Post.

The Post reports:

“Buck’s stance Wednesday on the consumption tax is the latest instance in which he has offered a different position from in the primary.”

We all like a person, especially if she is your wife but even if he is a political candidate, who’s willing to change his or her opinion.

But the key phrase in The Post’s sentence above is “different position from in the primary.”

It’s one thing to consider new information and make a change. It’s another to take a position to appeal to one group of people (right-wing GOP primary voters) and change it to appeal to another group of people (average everyday angry voters).

In this case, whether you’re the angry right winger or the average angry voter, you’re wondering whether Buck will say anything to get elected.

That’s why Buck’s recent changes are important, and why media outlets like The Post deserve credit for spotlighting them for us.

In today’s article, The Post reviewed three other issues, on which Buck has flipped since the primary:

Personhood. He supported it during the primary, briefly came out against it, and now says he’s neutral, but is still in favor of personhood “as a concept.”

Pro-choice judges. During the primary, Buck said he wouldn’t confirm “pro-abortion” candidates for any federal job, including judges. Now Buck will confirm pro-choice nominees.

Anti-abortion legislation. During the primary, Buck promised to sponsor anti-abortion legislation. Now he won’t.

Now that Buck is establishing a record of backtracking, The Post and other media outlets should offer readers a wider view of his before/after primary positions. The expansive list includes:

Social Security and Medicare. During the primary, Buck says “the private sector runs programs like [health care and retirement] far better” than the federal government.  Now the Buck campaign says, “Ken is not in favor of privatizing Social Security,” and we have to keep a “promise” to seniors and maintain the program, with tweaks including privatization and a higher retirement age for younger people.

Constitutionality of Social Security. During the primary, Buck said he was “not sure” about the constitutionality of major federal programs passed over the past 70 or 80 years. Now he says he’s “never had doubts” about the constitutionality of Social Security.

Privatization of Medicare. During a primary debate (Mike Rosen 7-19-10), Buck said he supports “privatizing as many of the areas of health care as possible, including the decisions of folks that are on Medicare.” Now he tells the New York Times that he hasn’t “decided whether some form of vouchers would work or not.”

Department of Education. During the primary, to select audiences, Buck advocated shutting it down immediately. Now he consistently says it should be cut back.

Common forms of birth control. Consistent with his position during the primary, the Buck campaign told 9News that he’s against common forms of birth control that prevent implantation, such as IUDs as well as some forms of the Pill. Now he says he is “not in favor of banning any common forms of birth control in Colorado.” (But still opposes killing fertilized eggs, which are killed by common forms of birth control.)

Social Issues. (See above.)

Consumption tax. (See above.)

News outlets like The Post, Associated Press, Grand Junction Sentinel, and others have covered Buck’s before/after primary stances on a case-by-case basis, but I’d like to see more reporting that brings all these issues together, a bit like Buck’s interview with New York Time reporter John Harwood here, and delves more deeply into why Buck staked out the positions he did initially and why he is changing his views post-primary on some issues and not others.

AP responds to post on Dem health-care outreach

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

In a post Saturday, I criticized the Associated Press 1) for mischaracterizing Rep. Betsey Markey’s public outreach after her vote on the health-care bill as “small-bore” and 2) for not contacting Rep. Markey’s office to discuss the topic of the article. AP declined comment last week, prior to publication of my post.

But in response to a crosspost of my piece on ColoradoPols, the AP stated Monday:

Mr Salzman:

Allow me to clarify a point in your posting.

Our reporter, Kristen Wyatt, tried to contact Mr. Marter several times to discuss U.S. Rep. Markey’s plans for explaining the health care bill to constituents.

Specifically, she called Mr. Marter twice in late March. The calls were not returned. Then she e-mailed him on March 25. When she got an out of office response to that e-mail, she contacted Anne Caprara in the congresswoman’s Washington office.

Ms. Cabrara told Kristen that details of any health care town halls would not be released because of security concerns.

Kristen approached the congresswoman at an unrelated March 27 appearance to talk about her vote. Markey’s comments were reflected in the story.

Mr. Marter’s assertion that The Associated Press failed to reach out to him or the congresswoman for comment are wrong.

Jim Clarke
Chief of Bureau
The Associated Press
Denver, Colo.

AP misrepresents Markey health-care outreach as “small-bore”

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

It’s basic journalism to seek the perspective of those you’re scrutinizing–and to check your facts.

But the Associated Press did neither of those things for a story last Friday titled, “Vulnerable Democrats are tiptoeing on health care.”

As a result at least one Democrat, Rep. Betsy Markey of Colorado, was presented in the article as tiptoeing when in reality, she may not have been tiptoeing at all, depending on your interpretation of the facts.

You’ll see what I mean when I provide information (below) that was omitted from the article.

The AP piece reported that Markey, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), and Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) had not “made an in-person appearance before a large crowd on the topic [health care] since it was passed into law.”

The AP wrote of Markey, “During Congress’ two-week Easter break, she reserved any discussion of health care reform for conference calls, an op-ed piece, and an appearance at a small-town Rotary Club–all small bore outreach.”

“After the raucus, angry town halls of last summer, Markey steered clear of massive gatherings,” the AP reported.

But the AP never called Markey’s office to discuss the matter, according to Markey spokesman Ben Marter. If the AP had done so, here’s what it would have found out:

After the health care bill passed the House (March 21) and prior to the publication of AP’s article (April 8), Markey held two “tele-town hall meetings,” with 8,500 participants each, Marter told me, adding that these conference calls were publicized in “newspapers and announced on radio stations all across the district.”  

So a total of 17,000 people participated in Markey’s conference calls, many more than the average of 200-300 participants at Markey’s live town hall meetings over summer, according to Marter. In addition, he says, Markey met during her office hours with groups (up to 50 people each) in a setting that “allowed more people to see Betsey and ask a question.” 

These figures make AP’s characterization that Markey engaged in “small-bore” outreach look way off the mark.

Let’s just call it what it is, editorializing.

It’s up to us to decide whether to believe Markey’s office and size up her outreach and the reasons for using the conference calls and other outreach measures in the wake of last summer’s, as the AP put it, “raucus, angry” town hall meetings. (Some might have called them “unmanageable,” “disruptive,” or possibly “unproductive.”)

But the AP never put the facts on the table for us to evaluate.

I was hoping the AP would talk to me about this, because I’m a huge fan of the news service, and it seemed really strange that it wouldn’t have bothered to call Markey’s office to get her side of the story, especially because other Democrats in the article were apparently interviewed.

But Kristen Wyatt, the AP reporter who wrote the piece, could only apologize for not being allowed to talk to me.