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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« Majority support recall in Times Poll | | Punishing Californians »
July 4, 2003

Exposing the lie

PrestoPundit Greg Ransom pushes his argument that the press should have ignored the desperate move by Davis forces to portray Issa as a Nazi sympathizer. Arguing with Ransom feels like arguing with myself, because I agree with almost everything he says. In fact I spent years as a news reporter making that same case myself, and it’s one reason I so love being a columnist: the ability to ignore contrived news events. Here’s how Ransom puts it:

“Newspapers have choices to make -- if someone puts up a podium in a hotel conference room, what gets said at the podium does not automatically make it into the next days paper. It has to have news value.”

But that’s just the point. When forces working on behalf of the governor of California try to link his opponent to the Nazi party, it has news value. Not because it’s true or might be true, but because it demonstrates the character and the judgment of the man who would allow his campaign team to make such allegations. If the governor said he thought little green men had landed from Mars and launched the recall, it would be ludicrous, but it ought to be reported, because the voters would want to know that the chief executive of their state had taken leave of his senses. The same is true here in a political context. Last year, when Bill Simon accused Davis of breaking the law by taking political donations in a state building, reporters were pretty sure the allegation was false before the papers went to press that night. The photo Simon supplied to back up his allegation was clearly not taken in the office he said it depicted. But we ran the story anyway, because it demonstrated that Simon was prone to making reckless allegations, and it told us (and voters) something about the way he manages a team of people. It is most definitely news when public officials lie or attempt to grossly mislead the voters, especially in a malicious way. Sometimes you have to report the lie in order to expose the lie.



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Daniel Weintraub


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