Sunday, September 09, 2007

Journalism 101: RG Ratcliffe Must Have Taken It In Summer School

Being in the education business in Texas, I know that when you take a course in summer school, it’s because you didn’t do very well when you took it during the regular school year. I’ve never taken a course in Journalism. I do know some things about it though, and in reading RG Ratcliffe’s piece about Rick Noriega and his blogger supporters in the San Antonio Express-News earlier today, I find it difficult to believe that someone pays him to write. So much so that I am guessing that it’s not so much about the writing it’s about the misdirection.

The timing and placement of the piece is precious indeed. Ratcliffe put the piece in the city newspaper in Mikal Watts’ new home town, and not in the Houston Chronicle, and he did it this weekend when he knew that Rick Noriega was on duty with the Texas National Guard and cannot be reached.

So let’s look at a couple of journalistic aspects of RG’s article.

First, RG violated Rule Number One: Get Name Right. The first W in WWWWW and H is Who. I’ve looked and can’t find anywhere a group that calls itself the “Texas Broadcasters’ Association”, a group whose convention RG says Noriega visited last month. I DID find the “Texas Association of Broadcasters”. Maybe that’s the group RG was writing about.

If that sounds like nit-picking, then how about this: RG got it wrong about something I know about. If that’s the case, can he not get it wrong in something I DON’T know about?

Then there’s this thing about objectivity. I was telling a friend earlier today that there definitely is a difference between bloggers and mainstream media. The difference being that bloggers, especially political bloggers, are very much in the fray. We claw and scratch along with everyone else. The mainstream media is, or is supposed to be, very much above the fray. Objectively (or at least trying to) reporting the who, what, when, where, why, and how of an event. But speaking as one who has done both, I find the latter to be boring, and assume RG just needs to spice his life up from time to time by raking up a little muck.

So in that sense, RG Ratcliffe is a blogger in the truest sense of the word. And while I believe that is a badge of honor, I am sure that RG looks down his nose at bloggers and the blogosphere. But he is truly one of us.

And saving the best for last, another thing that I do that is not proper journalism (the big story goes up front), RG with his quotation of Rick’s speech at the Texas Association of Broadcasters, and his later quotation from a Noriega campaign spokesman intimates that Noriega is very much against his blogger supporters. I’ll just bet that he did say something about Rightwing talk shows and Lefty bloggers and I say that because it sounds like something Rick would say. He’s always coming up with thoughts that are out of the box. But I have talked to Rick, saw him last weekend in fact. And one thing I can say for definite sure is that there is no way Rick Noriega is criticizing his blogger supporters as RG suggests in his devious little segue into the fact that no pro-Watts blogger is to be found on the internet. Here are the offending paragraphs:

Noriega spokesman James Aldrete said Noriega was not criticizing all politically active blogs, just those that engage in the "politics of division." Aldrete said Noriega believes talk radio and some bloggers would rather keep the country divided than find solutions to problems.

Even if that is the case, the blogs right now are on Noriega's side. No pro-Watts blogs could be found on the Internet other than his own campaign Web site. And only a few blog commentators have been defending Watts.

Watts spokeswoman Kim Devlin said Watts is not concerned about the imbalance in blog coverage.

See what I mean? Wasn’t that clever? Apparently there is a little bit of rat in Ratcliffe.

This isn’t journalism. It’s political hackery. Clearly Ratcliffe is trying to drive a wedge between Noriega and his netroots supporters. He’s in the fray. And the word I get that the guy who is actually behind RG’s article, the guy who put him up to, it is none other than Watts’ own handler, Jason Stanford. A double edged sword, damage control if you will, to take the heat away from the Chronicle articles on Watts’ memo on being a major campaign contributor to state appeals court justices as well as a way to negate Noriega’s lopsided support among the netroots.

Well, that didn’t work. Bloggers still like Rick and his story.

And now that you can see through this political sleight of hand as well, why not make your disgust known and at the same time support Rick? Go to ActBlue. Drop a few dead presidents off there. My all-time favorite dead president is Ulysses S. Grant. But don’t you think that Benjamin Franklin would have made a great president, too?

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