Thursday, December 09, 2004

NY Times editorial staff has questions re: Bernard Kerik, four days after the paper runs a front page puff piece on Kerik

The link to the NPR story on the Ohio voting issue is  Pam Fessler reported on the issue on Morning Edition.  (She's reported it on previously.  See Media Matters' "Beyond 'conspiracy theories,' election irregularities get scant media attention" for further information and the link to Fessler's earlier story.)
I'm listening to Unfiltered now and only caught the end of the NPR segment when it aired this morning (as I was getting out of the shower).
Dustin mentions the story on Rumsfeld on the front page of the Times.  Here's the link for that story 
about how that darn ol' reality-based community inserted itself into Rumsfeld's hoped for p.r. stunt.  Specialist Thomas Wilson asked:  "Why don't we have those resources readily available to us?"  The question drew "cheers and applause."
You'll be hearing about this all day (and it is news).  Randi Rhodes addressed it yesterday at length and I honestly didn't see anything in the Times story that she didn't touch on.  (While she may have read an early version of this story online, it's also true that Rhodes utilized additional information that isn't in this story.  So she was probably pulling from a variety of news sources.)
Four of you asked about Juan Forero's story on A5.  Yes, it's irritating.  I just wasn't in the mood to address it.  Headline "Venezuela Chief Signs Press Law Some See as Aimed at His Critics."  Forero tells us that the new law may be aimed at media critics (private broadcast stations).  And it may not be, he tells us.  The "law is . . . vaguely defined" and Article 29 is the biggest concern.  Teodoro Petkoff calls it "venomous."  and notes it is "suffiiciently vague" and prior to that we also are told by Forero that the law is "vaguely worded."  Get it?  It's vague.  It's vague.  It's vauge.  Three times we're made aware of that.
Forero never tells us anything of substance.  Just that this vague new law may or may not curtail press freedom. 
Does it?  That's a story.  It doesn't even though some are saying it does?  That's a story.  What's printed today had this reader thinking there was either no story yet or, if there was a story here, Forero wasn't able to find it.
Carl and Matt e-mailed regarding "Questions for Mr. Kerik" which is an editorial on issues revolving around Bernard Kerik who is the nominee to replace Tom Ridge as the secretary of Homeland Security.  Carl and Matt both wonder how the Times could have run the puff piece on Sunday (see and now this editorial.  We can talk about the wall between editorial and reporting all we want, that doesn't dismiss the question Carl & Matt are asking.
How can a story move up the channels onto the front page when it's pretty much useless?
The "wall" exists (and before Ashcroft tries to pin it on her, it wasn't created by Jamie Gorlick!) and that's well and good.  So stories can run that don't back up or support the editorial positions.  But that's not what Matt and Carl are talking about.  They're asking why the editorial staff can have concerns (read the editorial, there are concerns) on a topic and yet the paper runs a puff piece on the front page.
Matt and Carl aren't asking how a story can go against an editorial, they're asking why a weak story (on an important topic, since this person could be over Homeland Security) was tossed on the front page instead of some editor saying,  "This needs some work, it's not ready to print."
I have no idea how that happened.  I'm sure it has something to do with the rush to put out a daily paper. 
Here are some points the editorial raises:

But other parts of his record are less reassuring. A homeland security secretary should be above politics and respectful of civil liberties. But when he stumped for President Bush this year, Mr. Kerik engaged in fearmongering. He told The New York Daily News that he was worried about another terrorist attack and that "if you put Senator Kerry in the White House, I think you are going to see that happen." And he was quoted in Newsday as saying this about opponents of the Iraq war: "Political criticism is our enemies' best friend."

There are chapters of Mr. Kerik's career that are worthy of particular scrutiny. In the summer of 2003, he spent several months in Iraq training police officers. But his time there appears to have been cut short, right around the time of some serious terrorist attacks, and the state of the force since his departure has been bleak. Given the relevance of that work to his new duties, it would be instructive to know what, if anything, went wrong.

The public is also entitled to know more about his work for Giuliani-Kerik L.L.C., a consulting business he operates with Mr. Giuliani, who reportedly had a large hand in getting him his new position. Mr. Kerik should offer assurances that former clients and colleagues will not get preferential treatment. He has had difficulty with ethical lines in the past. In 2002, he paid a fine for using a police sergeant and two detectives to research his autobiography.

It's a real shame that Sunday's front page, getting-to-know-him piece on Kerik couldn't have explored any of the above.  

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