The Times Gets It Right

January 17, 2004

In this morning’s New York Times, Neil A. Lewis offers a welcome respite for readers battle-fatigued from too many campaign stories without context.

Writing about President Bush’s stealth recess-installation of Charles W. Pickering Sr. to a federal appeals court after the Senate had failed for over three years to confirm Pickering’s nomination, Lewis supplies the background that so many stories lack of late. He notes that “the Pickering episode is the latest chapter in a long-running war between Republicans and Democrats over judicial nominations” and informs us that during the 1990’s, Republicans in the Senate rejected by vote or procedure a staggering 114 of President Clinton’s nominees to the bench. Lewis also reminds us that Clinton himself, out of frustration, used his own recess-appointment powers to name Roger Gregory to the appeals court based in Richmond, Va. during his final days in office. And finally, he lets us know there have been more than 300 recess appointments in the nation’s history.

All this is fairly elementary stuff — put the story in context, damn it — of the sort that is taught in every Journalism 101 course across the country. But it’s also the sort of stuff that has been missing from most campaign stories we’ve read this past week.

Of course, technically, Lewis isn’t a campaign reporter. Maybe that’s why he apparently has yet to learn the art of the sloppy hit-and-run.


Steve Lovelady was editor of CJR Daily.