Search Engineers

This week’s Newsweek and Time both unveiled users’ guides to the 2004 Presidential contest.

To highlight the theme of what an unusually fast-paced, fists-flying campaign this has been to date, each magazine briefly recounts the Kerry’s campaign role in preventing Anthony Raimondo’s nomination as deputy secretary of commerce for manufacturing. (Tipped off on the upcoming announcement, the Kerry campaign pre-empted the Bush administration and sent out a press release alerting the media that Raimondo had laid off workers in the U.S. to move a factory overseas. The next day Raimondo removed his name from consideration.)

The two newsweeklies agree on the basic facts but apparently disagree on just exactly what dirt-finding digital tool the Kerry campaign used to dredge up this fatal flaw in Raimondo’s past. Newsweek named a section of its guide “The Age of Google” and wrote, “[the Kerry campaign] Googled up the fact that his company had cut jobs at home while opening a plant in China.” Time’s version has it that the Kerry research team employed the pay-service Lexis-Nexis: “Kerry’s staff had quickly done a LexisNexis search on the proposed nominee…”

Google, Nexis, whatever … does it matter? Well, no, not in this case. But both Time and Newsweek are known in the news biz as Fact Check Central, two of the last outposts of legions of dutiful fact-checkers toiling away deep into the night and following morning, long after editors and writers have called it a day.

We can’t decide if it’s reassuring or unsettling that they can’t agree on this one.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.