Energy Ad War Revs Up in Battleground States

Brace yourselves, reporters, and revisit our toolbox and chat

It’s coming, the New York Times reported on Monday, the start of that “major anti-Obama advertising blitz” from the largest of the Republican super PACs, American Crossroads (and its non-donor-disclosing, nonprofit sister group, Crossroads GPS).

It’s here, The Washington Post, among others, confirmed yesterday, pointing to Crossroads GPS’s latest ad (titled, “Too Much”), which “attacks the administration over high gas prices” and is the star of a $1.7 million ad buy across six swing states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia).

This ad, as the Huffington Post noted, “focuses on energy prices and, foreshadowing the tit-for-tat to come, responds to a spot the Obama campaign cut in response to another outside group.”

How can reporters better prepare for the emerging battle? Where can they turn, for facts and context their readers need, when covering this “tit-for-tat to come?”

In late March, CJR’s Curtis Brainard prepared a “reporter’s toolbox on oil and gas prices,” a tour of sorts through some existing resources that journalists might draw on to navigate through the ongoing spin and counter-spin on energy policy and gas prices. (With a look at our toolbox, The Washington Post might have offered readers more, in its brief report above on Crossroads’s ad buy, than a recitation of some of the ad’s cherrypicked facts—more, such as context-lending statistics on oil production, leasing, and permitting.)

We invite reporters particularly in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia—whose readers and viewers will bear the brunt of this “coming tit-for-tat” on energy policy—to draw on our toolbox over the coming weeks and months. And to tip us to any tools we might add.

In addition, we’ve embedded below a chat that Curtis held last week with Poynter and two Associated Press reporters, Seth Borenstein and Jack Gillum, whose work on the energy debate, as Curtis recently wrote, “exemplifies the type of data-driven reporting that CJR hopes to encourage.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.