Saturday, November 27, 2004

Buried on page A12, Ohio gets the Times attention ... for a paragraph

The New York Times was delivered extra early this morning. (At least an hour and forty-five minutes.) I'll go ahead and address it before going to sleep. (The "Red" States Part II, for all it's typos and "I should have said"s, took over six hours to write. Hold me accountable for anything you feel is wrong but go easy on the typos please.)

What's worthy of note in today's Times? Well on page A12, they're finally talking about Ohio again. For, as was the case on Thursday, a whole paragraph. Is this the kind of attention their public editor Daniel Okrent was expecting?

Here's the paragraph:

OHIO: LAWSUITS OVER PROVISIONAL BALLOTS A watchdog group sued to try to stop Cuyahoga County's election board from rejecting thousands of provisional ballots until they were hand-checked against voter registration cards. The group, People for the American Way, contended that the board wrongly relied only on computerized registration records. Two-thirds of the 24, 472 provisional ballots cast in the county, which includes Cleveland, were found to be valid, but another 8,099 were thrown out, mostly because the people who cast them were not found on the county's computerized records. The group filed the suit in the Eighth District Court of Appeals against Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. The deadline for counties to complete their official counts is Wednesday.

Again, Ohio's voting issues remain of interest only in the National Briefing section. Sandwiched this time between news of Texas's Colorado River rising and forcing people to evacuate and a paragraph on Vandals in Lousisiana gluing the locks on stores "in and near the Mall of Acadiana."
It should also be noted that this item is an Associated Press item. Unlike Thursday, when Albert Salvato filed the story/paragraph, this isn't even an item that the Times felt worthy of assigning to a reporter on staff.

I want to note two other things. The first regards a front page story on this morning's Times (it's also a story they choose to illustrate with the largest photo on the front page) "In Annual Rite, Shoppers Mob Holiday Sales." This is a front page news story on the main section? Perhaps on the business section, but the front page of the paper? Is this "news" in the sense that it was either unexpected or something out of the ordinary? ("In Annual Rite, People Read Stories About Day-After-Thanksgiving-Shopping on the Day After the Day After Thanksgiving" wouldn't be a front page story either but perhaps that's where we're headed?)

Regarding TV news, Bonnie M. Anderson writes in News Flash:

At the same time, though, most newscast producers believe that some stories must be repeated every year. There is no evil intent in this foolishness; it is simply ingrained behavior for many news people, from news directors to producers to reporters. This explains why, every year, every station will air stories about the shopping rush the day after Thanksgiving, stories about the first day of summer (and fall, and winter), the White House Easter egg hunt and the pardon of the Thanksgiving turkey, and the pope's blessing in many languages at the end of the year. These stories are covered because they are there -- and because, quite often, producers believe there is nothing else going on that merits coverage. In the news biz, that's called "filler." And all too often, it's just stupid (pp. 105-106).

Anderson's point can be applied to print journalism as well.

The second point I want to make is that the group mentioned in the Ohio paragraph in the Times, People for the American Way, are holding an online celebrity auction begining Sunday, November 27th. Scroll down to the blog entry "PFAW Online Auction: Pearl Jam, Jane Fonda, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Noam Chomsky, Diana Ross, Gore Vidal, Madonna, REM, Prince, Drew Bledsoe, etc." Sorry to list the title in full but there were complaints as to whom made the blog title and whom didn't. To avoid complaints saying, "How could you stop the title before you got to Diana Ross" or Gore Vidal or whomever, I've listed the entire thing. And as for making the title, to those who wondered but didn't e-mail, I pulled at random hoping to represent a cross section. The names listed in the entry itself is not a complete listing either. So you should go to the web site to see if there's someone you like that I failed to mention .

For instance, if you're a Josh Grobin or Korn fan, there are items in the auction. I'd attempted to copy the page itself so that I could paste it into the entry but it wouldn't copy. This led to me pulling names as I flipped back and forth between screens and the names listed were often the ones I could most easily remember.

But if you're an Aimee Mann fan (and I am) don't e-mail me after the auction saying that you would have gone there if you'd only known that an Aimee Mann item was available. There are many people on the list (including Aimee Mann) and PFAW is saying that more items will be added. So please, if you have the time, check out the items listed.