The radio broadcast also delves into environmental issues such as Benishek’s record on clean water laws and mercury emissions, which have been the subject of regular McDowell attacks and sometimes dizzying he-said/he-said coverage. (From the Petoskey News-Review debate story: “‘The things Gary just said about me aren’t true,’ Benishek said.” And from an earlier Escanaba Daily Press article: “Benishek says that’s not true.”) Stephan’s segment runs through the same back-and-forth, but then offers some clarification:

Benishek did vote to amend clean water laws—to restrict federal regulators from imposing new standards unless the states approve. Likewise he did vote to repeal emissions standards for cement manufacturers. But Benishek says these were not votes cast to allow more pollution, but to end what he calls “job-killing” federal regulations. Thoughtful decisions, he says, that shouldn’t be reduced to sound bites.

Unfortunately, the follow-up broadcast didn’t air until more than a week after the debate. And there’s some room for improvement—such as more forceful writing and, for online visitors, links the Great Lakes report and the bills in question. But there was some solid, reporting-based factchecking here, of a type that’s too often been missing in coverage in the First District.

In the closing days of the campaign, reporters here should strive to offer more of that, and to steer clear of the he-said/he-said trap, on environmental issues and beyond. That kind of coverage mirrors the problematic way Benishek dismissed climate change: a shoulder-shrugging way of asking, “Who knows?”


Anna Clark is CJR's correspondent for Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. A 2011 Fulbright fellow, Clark has written for The Guardian, Grantland, and Salon; blogs at Isak; and can be found on Twitter @annaleighclark. She lives in Detroit.