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March 20, 2005


This is a great point. And it raises an interesting process question: How will the New York Times figure this out, and stop writing stories about how the GOP is courting black voters, and finally begin writing stories about how the GOP isn't courting black voters but wants people to believe that it is?

I don't think they can, without our help. There was once a time when this could be the subject of an investigative report, following up on whatever Republican claim triggered this story, but even assuming that the interest in such a story exists in the NYT newsroom, prying into a story like this would undoubtedly be denounced as "liberal media bias."

That's one reason why I think blogs and bloggers can be so important and complimentary to the mainstream media. In order for this story to have been generated, a triggering event had to have occurred. Even if it was as simple as the issuance of a RNC press release baldly stating as fact that there's an outreach program. But that triggering event is probably crucial. Independently positing such a theory would undoubtedly be denounced as "right wing corporate media bias."

So the "event" takes place, and the NYT feels secure in generating the coverage of it. It doesn't shield them from accusations of bias (or something quite like it), of course, but there's security in being able to point to the "event" and say, "Hey, this happened. We cover things that happen. Sue us."

Where bloggers come in is in providing a countervailing event: critique of the coverage. When such critiques reach some critical level of resonance, a story may safely be generated: significant criticism of GOP outreach claims exists online, and we are covering it.

The challenge for bloggers is to close the gap between the magnitude of an "event" generated by an official party organization, and one generated by the pajamahedin.

If true -- and that's far from certain since I just made this up -- it also provides good reason why journalists ought to encourage rather than discourage blogger participation in political coverage. In an age when they've been reduced to taking dictation, bloggers can provide the excitement (and the excuse) they need to start writing relevant political analysis again.

The NYT you link is a really, really weird piece--or perhaps just a really, really bad one. It reads like 2 different stories mashed together, neither of which actually manages to report anything new (which I guess makes it an "analysis" piece in SCLM-speak).

The first 1/4 or so is, as you point out, a tired "GOP reaches out to blacks and Latinos" piece, with virtually no new reporting or information--we're supposed to believe the GOP is reaching out because it says it is.

The middle 1/2 or so of the story is devoted to assessing the GOP's claim--featured in paragraph #2--that SS shortchanges African-Americans. Of course, that'a lie, and has been shown up as such time and time again--which the NYT dutifully rehashes, but without managing so far as I see to say anything new.

The final 1/4 or so goes back to the "GOP outreach" story, offering basically position statements from a couple of Hispanic groups, which suggest that the outreach ain't working.

Why does the NYT fall for the GOP's claim that it's reaching out to African-Americans and Hispanics? There's certainly a man-bites-dog appeal to these stories, but that's no excuse. I think Kagro X is right that pressure from the blogosphere--and I'd think from the Dem party as well--needs to be brought to bear.

Especially striking to me is the fact that the sum total, it would appear, of their supposed outreach on SS consists of a bald-faced lie, which suggests A) they think blacks and hispanics are stupid, and/or B) the GOP is putting so little effort into even appearing to reach out that they can't be bothered to come up with anything better. But either way, it calls for more scrutiny, not less.

BTW, something I didn't mention in the piece: Tara Wall, the RNC spokeswoman mentioned in the article, is an African-American woman who used to be a local "reporter" for one of the Detroit stations--I'm sure no one will be shocked to learn she worked for the local Fox affiliate.

What I'd like to see is some good, true, stories about Democrats listening to black voters and not just taking them for granted. Your point about the political function these stories play in salving any bit of white guilt some Reps may have is valid; where's our real story to give the lie to this nonsense?

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