Ann Althouse thinks she's found another way to use the delaying-the-nomination idea to attack the Massachusetts senator. Kerry told the Boston Globe that "it used to be that the convention, after nomination, traveled to the home or the state of the nominee to inform them they've been nominated ... Harry Truman was in Independence [Mo]." Althouse, citing David McCullough's biography, says Truman was clearly at the 1948 convention, and delivered a speech. But that doesn't necessarily mean the convention didn't then travel to Independence to nominate him, as Kerry said. We eagerly await comment from historians of the presidential nomination process.
Since Roth is an arbiter of fairness, operating under the name of the Columbia Journalism Review and presumably dedicated to journalism ethics, how about some fairness to me?
First, I'm not looking for ways to attack Kerry. On what basis does he insinuate that attacking Kerry is my motive? I include in the very post he links a reference to an earlier post where I criticized Republican William Safire for getting the history of the conventions wrong. As I've said many times, I'm a moderate who has not chosen between the two candidates yet and don't intend to do so until October. I'm an observer of human nature and I found it funny that Kerry pompously chided the Republicans for not knowing history while making a glaring mistake of his own.
Second, so I didn't specify that the speech was an acceptance speech, but the link to the speech text has the words "I accept the nomination" as the third sentence and the pages in the McCullough biography leave no doubt this was an acceptance speech. Roth doesn't bother to check that as he stretches to find a way that it might somehow be true that Truman went to the convention but then left and had to be informed of the nomination later. Truman was already President when he was nominated as his party's candidate, as anyone writing about politics should know. What are the chances a President who is running for a second term would go to the convention without knowing he would be nominated and making an acceptance speech?
It doesn't take much of a historian to look up these prominent facts. It took about 2 minutes on Google for me to get this information. Instead of bizarrely trying to paint me as someone looking for ways to slam Kerry, why doesn't Roth criticize the Boston Globe for printing Kerry's quote without having enough of a sense of history to wonder whether Kerry might be wrong about Truman or checking the basic facts within the quotes?
Back in March, another CJR Campaign Desk writer, Brian Montopoli, responded favorably to a post I had made pointing out a factual error in a Kerry statement and criticizing the mainstream press reports for not noticing questionable facts within a quote and just repeating quotes without factchecking:
We come to this a little late, but, as University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse pointed out over the weekend, Sen. John Kerry was wrong when he claimed during last Thursday's debate that "we have 111 people who have been now released from death row ... because of DNA evidence that showed they didn't commit the crime of which they were convicted."
According to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, 113 people have been released from death row since 1973. But in only 13 of those cases did DNA evidence play a significant factor in the prisoner's release.
In the other 100 (or so) cases, says the American Civil Liberties Union, "those exonerated were found innocent because someone came forward to confess committing the crime; key witness testimony was found to be illegitimate; or new evidence was found to support innocence."
The New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, New Republic, CBS News, and countless other outlets all ran stories quoting Kerry without checking the facts to figure it out.
It's difficult for a reporter writing on deadline to fact-check every assertion that comes out of a candidate's mouth, of course. But in a primary season, once a misstatement such as this gets into the echo chamber, it's awfully hard to set the record straight.
So I'd like to ask Roth and Montopoli to get together and figure out the journalism ethics issue here. Do we take factual assertions within candidate's quotes seriously or not? Are we going to be critical of newspapers that repeat the candidate's quotes without factchecking the assertions within them or not? And if a blogger takes on the work that the newspapers shun and points out an incorrect fact within a candidate's quote, should a website devoted to the "critique and analysis of 2004 campaign coverage" show no interest in figuring out what the fact actually is and accuse the blogger of looking for ways to attack the candidate (the Roth approach)? Or should it express appreciation for the work of the blogger who has made up for the deficiency of the mainstream press (the Montopoli approach)?
UPDATE: This recent post of Roth's was pointed out to me, and, in fact, it shows that he does think news media shouldn't be "complicit in allowing the candidates to repeat their spin without criticism" and should "point out ... distortions, immediately and unequivocatingly, using their own reportorial (as opposed to editorial) voice." This is very close to my key point.