Of course, reporters on the campaign trail constantly look for anything “new” — and, preferably, accusatory/aggressive — in a candidate’s stump speech, and so both of Kornblau’s messages would have in all likelihood made the news even without his early morning prompting. “Was that new?” is a familiar query as reporters share notes in the filing rooms set up for the traveling press. While the local media in Weirton on Wednesday jotted down nearly everything Edwards said, the traveling press — having heard most of it before ad nauseum — held their pens for anything new and/or confrontational.
When asked whether he feels his “morning message” press prompts are successful, Kornblau told Campaign Desk that reporters “use their own editorial judgment” but that “bring[ing] things to their attention sometimes” is “sometimes” successful.
Does the traveling press feel spun? Tim Funk, who reports on the Edwards campaign for the Charlotte Observer and Knight Ridder, told Campaign Desk: “It’s hard to truth-squad this stuff. You just hope that over the course of a week you can fact-check some of these things.” The difficulty, Funk said, is that “one hour to file often becomes twenty minutes because the candidate is always running late. We try. We don’t want to spread bad information.” Funk described his desire to not just “be part of the herd” in his from-the-trail reporting. He added, “But then again, you don’t want your editor to call you and say, ‘AP reported this, how come it’s not in your story?’”
Said the New York Times’ Randal Archibold: “Their rhetoric is very hard to fact-check.” He noted that the Times recently appointed Washington D.C.-based David Rosenbaum to fact-check campaign claims — an “outgrowth of frustration from reporters and editors.” (We share their frustration.) While Archibold said he keeps his “BS detector on high,” and looks mostly for “enterprise stories,” he noted that “it’s easy to go day to day and be a stenographer” and that “sometimes that’s all [editors] want.”
According to Archibold, candidate Edwards is “very disciplined” and sticks to the script. “I can’t remember the last time he made an out and out gaffe,” he said. “You can catch him off guard with the right question but he recovers well.” Looking toward Tuesday’s vice presidential debate, Archibold mused that it “wouldn’t surprise me if [Edwards] won the debate, whatever that means.” Weren’t Archibold and his peers in the press, Campaign Desk asked, among the key arbiters of who “wins” debates and on what points — style or substance — a “winner” is determined? (After all, commentator Richard Brookhiser has even dubbed the campaign press part of “The Expectorate” — that body of reporters, pundits, and spin masters who first create an arbitrary set of expectations for a candidate, then decide if said candidate meets them or falls short.) Archibold did not answer — it was noisy on the campaign plane — and continued instead to share his thoughts on Edwards’ debate preparations.
If a CNN report Saturday is any indication, Mark Kornblau, too, has his eye on Tuesday’s debate — and his morning messages continue to get the ear of the press. CNN quoted Kornblau brushing off the notion that Edwards’ experience in the courtroom will help him in the debates (“This is a political debate, not a trial”) and pumping up Cheney’s debate credentials (unlike Edwards, Cheney is “an experienced one-on-one debater”). Managing debate expectations — sure to be part of Mark’s morning message through Tuesday.