(June 6, 2007) -- Can you imagine any serious news outlet letting a political apparatus play a role in deciding what questions are asked in a candidate debate?
Here are the groundrules as stated in two press releases (May 29 & 30) from a web site recently launched by two fellows with links to LB's political establishment (which doesn't care if a candidate is Democrat or Republican as long as he/she serves their interests).
"Questions for the debates will be selected by the leadership of the Long Beach Democratic Club and representatives from Charter Communications [City Hall's cable TV franchisee]" and the two guys' web site.
To us, these slobbering groundrules are the journalistic equivalent of Britney Spears parading without underwear. What she thinks promotes her leaves others shaking their heads.
The morning after the recent Democrat presidential candidate debate, we telephoned two of its sponsoring entities, New Hampshire's WMUR-TV and the Union Leader, the state's biggest newspaper. We asked if they'd agreed to let the Democratic party help select the questions. A WMUR newsroom staffer laughed and replied, "Of course not." A newsroom person at the Union Leader was less amused and said politely but firmly. "Absolutely not. We wouldn't do that and neither would others."
Welcome to LB, where some do.
Deciding what questions are asked means deciding what questions aren't asked. That's exactly what we believe has been wrong with LB news coverage for too long. It's why LBReport.com has grown to the point where it's now cited by the L.A. Times, NPR-affiliate KPCC and other major market outlets.
Let's be clear: news outlets we respect don't let political mechanics determine what they do and don't ask candidates.
We assumed the co-publisher of the LB web site that accepted these kowtowing conditions would preside as ringmaster for the events...but now we learn that someone has induced ABC7 to send one of its news anchors to moderate one of these debased "debates."
Did ABC7 really agree to the groundrules accepted by the two guys' web site? And why is ABC7 hyping a one party event when, unlike primaries where Dems face Dems and Repubs face Repubs, this is a special Congressional election where Dems, Repubs and others appear on the same ballot?
We phoned ABC7 this morning and asked them these questions. We haven't heard back from them yet, but they may be busy covering Britney Spears.
We're not bothering to ask Charter Communications, because they're not a news outlet; they're a cable franchisee. It's up to them to explain to their paying customers why they're shoveling this compost.
In our opinion, this is a self-embarrassing political infomercial and we think intelligent news consumers will probably recognize it and treat as such.
In contrast, LBReport.com has led on Congressional election coverage. We've already covered LB's first Congressional candidates forum. We webposted extended on-demand audio of LB's 1st Congressional debate over a week ago.
The event was arranged by LB's Junior Chamber of Commerce ("Beer & Politics" series), a non-Gerrymandered forum with candidates fielding questions unfiltered by political mechanics. We plan to cover other legitimate candidate forums in the coming days.
Our coverage (including extended audio) of a major candidate's kickoff rally, at which a U.S. Congresswoman made newsworthy statements (that others missed) was picked up this week by a respected statewide political web site.
In our opinion, a "debate" that presents one party's candidates and lets that party's apparatchiks influence what's asked is bogus, the kind of thing we'd expect in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.
We're glad this event has shed light on those who accept what we consider analogous news values...in the context of an American election, no less.