Monday, October 11, 2004

Howie the Putz, just being Howie

Following a link from Atrios, we find Howie the Putz taking online questions but frantically avoiding how he was jerked around and lied to by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. But that's not even close to the best part.

First, here's how Howie the Putz thinks the media should treat totally unfounded, baseless accusations:

: Let's say that Candidate X makes a campaign speech and states that Candidate Y wants to euthanize babies on food tubes because the costs outweigh the benefits.

Does a reporter have an obligation to write the story as stated above even if he knows that Candidate Y has never taken such a position?

Should the timing of the speech, ability for Candidate Y to rebut, fact checking, etc be taken as considerations or is the reporter’s job just to write what Candidate X said?

Putz: We're not in the business of censoring what candidates say. We are in the business of fact-checking what candidates say. So the baseless charge should be reported in the context that Candidate X has produced no evidence for this, Candidate Y denounced him as a smear artist, etc. Wouldn't that tell voters something about Candidate X and be preferable to suppressing the news of what he said? Besides, if the media simply refused to report exaggerated or irresponsible charges, the size of newspapers and length of broadcasts might shrink dramatically.

Not surprisingly, though, when it comes to allegedly exaggerated or irresponsible charges against the Simian-in-Chief ... oh, look:

Questioner: Thanks for taking our questions. The Washington Post carried a story, over the weekend, about a site devoted to exploring whether President Bush may have been using an ear-piece, allowing him to be coached by, by his advisers. The site implies that some reporters have been aware that a linguistically and fact challenged Bush routinely needs, and makes use of an ear-piece. It compared the journalistic silence over Bush's rumoured ear-piece to the silence over JFK's adulteries. Here are my questions: If this rumour were true, how much coverage do you feel it would deserve? How far should responsible journalists go to determine if there is any truth to the rumours? While it remains just a rumour how much coverage does it deserve?

Putz: It is nothing but a rumor at the moment and deserves very little, if any, coverage. I'm not sure I would have run a story at all without some shred of proof (beyond a photograph that appeared to show a bulge in Bush's suit) or at least someone making an on-the-record charge. If it turned out to be true, that would be a huge story. The idea that journalists have known about this and haven't said anything is both ludicrous and untrue.

So a totally unfounded accusation should definitely be reported, while a well-founded suspicion with clear visual evidence deserves "little, if any, coverage." Now, remember, boys and girls, don't try this kind of cognitive dissonance at home -- Howie's a professional.

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