Saturday, June 11, 2005

NYT: "Hearing on Patriot Act Ends in an Angry Uproar" (David D. Kirkpatrick)

On Unfiltered (the Air America radio program, now cancelled), Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow would regularly focus on the stories in each day's paper that were buried inside the paper but really belonged on the front page. (Maddow continues to do this on The Rachel Maddow Show.) (Chuck D was also a cohost of Unfiltered but most days wasn't present for this segment.)

David D. Kirkpatrick has a story that belongs on the front page. Instead it's on A9, only six paragraphs and no photographs. Obviously there are photographs and obviously, a public snit fit on the part of Repube F. James Sensenbrenner is a visual.

F. James (think about it, think Nine to Five) got his knickers in a wad in the midst of hearing on the Patriot Act. So what did he do? Shut down the meeting. "Irresponsible," he huffs and puff, that F. James.

F. James, gatekeeper he, has his snit fit because "They will talk about practically everything but what is in the Patriot Act." F. James doesn't want to deal with reality.

Mistaking himself for Bill O'LIElly and not the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he begins screeching and bellowing in the midst of Jerrold D. Nadler's protests. Nadler's mike gets cut, F. James has stomped his feet out of the room. You want to tell me there aren't photos?

There was a time when a lively debate, let alone a snit fit by the chair of a Congressional committee (a public snit fit) would make the front page of the Times. You could count on a photo. These days, it's buried inside the paper (A9), no photo, and reduced to six paragraphs
(David D. Kirkpatrick's "Hearing on Patriot Act Ends in an Angry Uproar").

For what went down, you can't count on the Times so go to BuzzFlash. From "GOP House Judiciary Chair Uses Pinochet Tactics to Abruptly and Unilaterally Shut Down Hearing Into Abuses of the (Un)Patriot Act, Because He Was Afraid the Truth Would Come Out. America: "IT" is Happening Here. Democracy is Being Dismantled by GOP Thugs:"

This morning, House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) unilaterally and arbitrarily shut down committee hearings on the reauthorization of the Patriot Act without comment or issuing a statement. Sensenbrenner gaveled the committee hearings in the middle of witnesses testifying about human and civil rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, racial profiling of individuals of Middle Eastern descent, prolonged detentions of Americans after September 11th and other abuses.
The suppression of free speech and testimony in the congressional committee in charge of protecting our civil liberties shows the Republican’s power grab has no limits and no decency. The irony was not lost on anyone.
The witnesses appearing before the House Judiciary Committee included, Chip Pitts, Chair of the Board of Amnesty International USA; Dr. James J. Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute; Deborah Pearlstein, Director of the U.S. Law and Security Program "Human Rights First"; and Carlina Tapia Ruano of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

I'm going to offer my opinion here, David D. Kirkpatrick wasn't off in the halls munching on a Snickers when the drama went down. He didn't say, "Hmm. That's nice. So what do you say? Deli? Chinese? I could go for Italian."

So the fact that a story's reduced to six paragraphs shouldn't be read as an indication of lack of interest on the part of Kirkpatrick. (That opinion is partly based on the fact that I'm aware of Kirkpatrick speaking to several people about what happened -- from people Kirkpatrick spoke with.) The lack of interest in this story goes a little higher up than Kirkpatrick. Translation, the blame for this being reduced to a six paragraph story travels further up at the paper.

What happened is a story on many levels. And to someone covering Congress it's a story they'd want to tell for the simple reason that this was high drama. It's a shame that Kirkpatrick's instincts (which were right on this story) weren't the instincts of the paper.

When Kirkpatrick's written a strong story, we've noted it here. When he's not done so, we've been willing to offer our comic take. (Remember, don't knock the mock.) This entry isn't a defense of Kirkpatrick as the potential great reporter of our times. We'll mock him again, I'm sure.

But when phone calls started coming in this morning (which is why the first post is going up so late -- sorry), it was clear that Kirkpatrick was more on the ball (confirmed by two who work at the Times) than those making the decision on this morning's story.

Times reporters (who've been criticized or mocked) have made their message clear in e-mails to this site that they don't decide what makes the front page and that their byline doesn't indicate this is the draft they turned in or that what's in print is their sole writing. (There was no e-mail on Kirkpatrick's story -- to be clear for the management at the Times.)

Kirkpatrick did the work required to have a story of length. The decision for what appears in print came elsewhere.

The paper of record embarrassed itself today. Oh I know Daniel Okrent lied to us and told us that the slogan "the paper of record" came from outside the paper. Lie may be too harsh, Okrent, as usual, just didn't know what he was talking about. (And when presented with a time frame for when the paper promoted the slogan, still couldn't find it or wouldn't cop to his error.) But it is the paper of record in many ways (and they did pimp the slogan), even if that's mainly a result of its past and not its present.

Today it's far more deserving of the title New York Timid than the slogan "paper of record." They don't like that slogan at the Timid. They've been vocal in e-mails to this site about that.
I don't think there's a better word to describe a paper that takes a story filled with possibilities and reduces it to what appears in this morning's paper. So we'll just have to disagree with them over this.

And again, I'm not trying to make the case that Kirkpatrick is Clark Kent, Brenda Starr and Bob Woodward (or any other comic creation) rolled into one. But for Times reporters who have e-mailed that they take the blame/ridicule for actions and decisions that they didn't make, I'm more than happy to come to the defense of Kirkpatrick on this story. (Again, for management at the Times, I've had no e-mails from Kirkpatrick on this story. I have, again, spoken to two people at the Times about this story over the phone. I've also spoken to people who do not appear in the printed version of this story.)

There are days, I'm sure, where we mock and it's a similar set of circumstances. (In fact e-mails from some mocked indicate that happens frequently.) Due to those complaints we would look at a story like today's and say "David D. Kirkpatrick or 'David D. Kirkpatrick' . . ." In this instance,
the blame isn't Kirkpatrick's and that's been conveyed in repeated phone calls which is why I'm circling the same point repeatedly.

The Timid deserves blame (and mocking) for this story. Kirkpatrick doesn't.

The Timid could have turned it into a lifestyle story, a humorous story, a straight forward story, there are any ways they could have gone with it. They're decision was to bury it inside the paper, to provide no photos and to make it a brief item.

Before we close out this entry, since I've disclosed that I do know Chip Pitts (who's mentioned in the Times article), I'll note that I didn't speak to Pitts about this story. If I had, I'd probably ask, "Why do they only mention Amnesty?" (Pitts is on the board of directors of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.)

If I had spoken to Pitts this morning, I'm sure he would want something highlighted, so we'll go ahead and note it since it's of interest to the community -- "Join us for Patriot Days of Action!
Participate in a National Week of Action: July 2-8, 2005

What is the week of action?
During the days surrounding July 4, 2005, we call upon everyone who is dedicated to protecting civil liberties to join with other members of their community to reinvigorate the national debate by taking local action. By holding or participating in events in your community, you can voice your concerns to your legislators, the public, and the press. Events can focus on education/entertainment, civic and multicultural activities, and lobbying.
July 2-8, 2005: July Fourth weekend (July 2-4) is a good time to reclaim the spirit of Independence Day and celebrate America's founding principles of liberty and justice in your community. During the weekdays following July 4, while members of Congress are in their districts, we are asking participants to hold in-district meetings with their legislators to reinforce their concerns.
What are the main issues?
Concerns about threats to civil liberties are not limited to the USA PATRIOT Act but encompass a host of laws and policies that have provoked fears and that have harmed innocent people and families since September 11, 2001. Participants can focus on the threats that concern their community and connect them to local civil liberties abuses. Our broader message will be unified by a demand to uphold the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and to restore liberty and justice. See
Talking Points for further discussion of the issues. We will post fliers and other resources soon.

We've added a button to this site that you can click in for more information (it's next to the Creative Commons logo). (We've also added a link to the Bill of Rights Defense Committee -- something I thought -- until phone calls today -- we'd done awhile back -- we meaning I -- obviously I was mistaken. And we also added the link to BuzzFlash's Wings of Justice. I hate going into the template and there wasn't time earlier. Note that you can nominate choices for future picks at BuzzFlash's Wings of Justice.)

There was quite a story, if the Timid had chosen to tell it. Instead, they went with six paragraphs on page A9.

The e-mail address for this site is