Laurels to the Las Vegas Sun and News & Record

For a strong ad factcheck, and for grappling with campaigns' message control

Jay Jones has already heaped praise this week upon the Las Vegas Sun’s Anjeanette Damon, but we’ll go ahead and give her a laurel for her takedown of a Mitt Romney campaign ad that ripped President Obama’s now-infamous “build that” line out of context. Damon’s short, to-the-point factcheck item didn’t mince any words, calling the ad “a classic example of cherry-picking a speech” and concluding:

Obama wasn’t talking about “somebody else” building the business. Somebody else built the infrastructure. This Line of Attack is laughable.

Reporters around the country may soon have a chance to follow Damon’s example. As Slate’s prescient Dave Weigel predicted, a passage from another Obama speech has now been lifted out of context for a new Romney ad, which portrays Obama as oblivious to continued economic suffering.

The latest ad seems to be Internet-only so far, but if it strikes a chord, as national reporters expect it will, we can look forward to seeing it on local airwaves before long. And if that happens, local reporters will have an opportunity—and an obligation—to do what The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis calls for here: make the story about the ad’s inaccuracy, not its effectiveness.


As a follow-up of sorts to last week’s mild dart to the campaign press for acquiescing to the apparent institutionalization of “quote approval,” we’ll award a laurel this week to Travis Fain of The News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., for a smart, short post about the campaign’s increasing emphasis on message control—and how that affects the work reporters do.

After relaying how he was denied an interview with Ann Romney during her campaign stop in Greensboro even after agreeing to “ridiculous” conditions, Fain offers this example:

Which brings me to the Obama campaign. They brought Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to Greensboro earlier this week to talk about the campaign’s new 9-3-1 program, which guarantees a seat at the president’s convention speech to any volunteer who works at least three three-hour shifts for the campaign. I covered this, but also had questions for Mayor Foxx from a colleague of mine who was writing about a $50 million federal grant Charlotte is using to defray security costs for the coming Democratic National Convention.

I was told Mayor Foxx wouldn’t have time to talk to me about the grant. So, to be clear: He had time to drive to Greensboro and spend 20 minutes discussing a campaign initiative that boiled down to about three sentences, but he did not have time to talk about how Charlotte is divying up $50 million.

Cameron French, the president’s N.C. press secretary, arranged for Foxx’s press secretary to call me, which he did. He referred my colleague to a couple of other people in city government, neither of which was able to answer her questions.

The piece was also picked up in the editorial section of The Charlotte Observer, which is owned by McClatchy, whose Washington bureau issued this statement about the specific issue of “quote approval” late last week.

Of course, Fain is hardly the only reporter to be frustrated by this situation, and as he acknowledges, it’s not clear what an effective response might be. But it begins by being clear with readers about what the situation is, and it’s to the credit of Fain and his publication that they did that here.

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Liz Cox Barrett and Greg Marx are CJR staff writers and co-editors of The Swing States Project. Tags: , , , , ,