CONTROVERSY OVER 911 ADS QUICKENS WHILE PLOT THICKENS: The controversy over President George Bush using 911 images in his campaign ads continues to explode...but there are some new twists. These new revelations — coming from the Internet via bloggers — further underline how election appearances may not be as simple as they seem. It also underlines an utter media "enterprise reporting" failure. In campaign 2004 there are likely be be all kinds of nuances, hidden agendas, not-so-hidden agendas and political operatives nudging dissatisfied people on both sides. You would assume reporters would be aware of it and alert their trusting readers. So here it is:
The controversy continues: Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani came forward, insisting he had volunteered to speak out:""This is part of the President's record," Giuliani told the New York Daily News. "It's part of history. He did such a good job it would almost be false advertising not to include images of 9/11."
But the Daily News also quoted several "Republican sources" saying Bush operatives "messed up" and didn't heed warnings about sensitivities surrounding 911. One even called the controversy "an early warning to Republicans that it's a risk to be using 9/11 images. ... If there's a backlash because of it, it does more to hurt than to help."
The plot thickens: Several weblogs did some digging and discovered that some of the family members being quoted in the news reports about the ads blasting Bush were not exactly...ahem...the epitome of objectivity InstaPundit, aka Glenn Reynolds, points out. Several have long been on the record as blasting Bush, as Citizen Smash details. Right Wing News has more specifics, discovering that one of the family members has been involved with an anti-war group, and a key firefighter quoted in the stories stumped for John Kerry.
WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? The facts coming out deflate this story. What is unfolding is classic MEDIA EVENT STORY where a controversy is created by getting reaction quotes from a group regarding an event. Reporters immediately see a great story here because they know X family members will be upset (and they may or may not know that they already have a political position). So they get get reaction to the ads running in 17 states and talk to people they know who will give them a fiery quote.
Good quotes make for good "play" on a story and how the story is placed (this is similar to Katie Couric's disgraceful upcoming interview with New York Times serial story fabricator and now-author Jayson Blair so her network can get big ratings). They quote them and the firefighter because the quotes are so good (controversy, anger) lively quotes. But they either didn't ask or check to see if there was a political agenda, because the story is SO GOOD.
Two additional strands to remember here. First, this story will have "legs" since the media reports what the media reports, including stories about the controversy about the reports in the media. Second, Bush's actions on 911 are definitely a part of history as was his response. If the GOP can keep it on that and not suggest that Democrats don't want to crack down on or somehow like terrorists the Bush camp can rightfuly argue that this is a simple statement of history. Meanwhile, if the media wants to quote irked family members or firefighters it would be wise to find some who aren't hooked up with candidates or political groups. And if this is the broo-haa-haa now in this campaign, we should all cringe as we anticipate what will happen by the summer.