September 21, 2005

Pretty bad, even by Dispatch "standards"

I've just read an editorial by the Dispatch that is stunning in it's bias and lack of awareness.

It is a complaint, of sorts, about how they'd received "astroturf" messages supposedly from readers. They note that the Democratic party web site has the ability to allow supporters to electronically "sign" letters and get them automatically sent to the local media.

The editorial employs a snarky sarcastic tone to this, as if they're much too smart to fall for this sort of skullduggery.

But there's only one problem, and it stinks to high heaven.

That is the fact that the Republican party and many, many, right-wing front groups have been the pioneers in this sort of "astroturf" effort to help manufacture the appearance of grass roots support by making it very easy for people to contact local media.

The Dispatch seemed to be pretty proud of the fact that they went to the Democratic site and discovered how this worked. Why didn't they also try the Republican site? Too damned lazy? Did they think the Republicans are above such tactics? HA!

I've been a Republican "Team Leader" for several years now to see how the Republicans were utilizing the web for their organizing efforts, and boy, were they ever! The Republicans were literally light years ahead of the Dems on their online message and organization operations, and I noted it at the time. The Dems were way behind and only recently have almost caught up with the Republicans, though they're nowhere near as slick and lavishly produced.

Here's what you, as a "Team Leader" have offered to you. Your own page which lists automatically based on your zip code every single media outlet even remotely near you. Every AM station, every FM station, newspaper, or TV station imaginable, complete with contact names and info.

They've been inundating me with e-mails on the issues I reported I was interested in, (there's nothing quite as electrifying as seeing an e-mail from Ken Mehlman in your inbox. Ugh.) they tell you what the talking points and marching orders are and, by one click of the mouse, you can go to a page which then allows you to sign a message written by them and with another click, they'll deliver it to the media.

And, unlike the Democrats, the Republicans will PAY you to harass media to spread the message. You get "GOPoints" every time you call into AM radio or send a letter to the editor, or otherwise contact the media or others with Bush's talking points. You can then redeem these "GOPoints" for lame GOP goodies and trinkets sure to be prized by the loners with 50 guns buried in their back yard that is sucked into such efforts by the fact that a group actually allows them to belong.

How in the world could the Editors of the Dispatch feel noting that the Democrats have an ability for supporters to send "astroturf" messages to the media and/or congressmen and women is somehow worth noting, while blatantly ignoring the fact that the right not only does the same thing, but does more of it, has done it longer, and in far more sophisticated ways?

I can't imagine being more irresponsible as journalists, let alone editors, as the following editorial displays:
Editorial: Your opinion in your words
The Dispatch

When readers write, we try our best to get what they have to say in print.

But when they are merely used as conduits for an interest group's or a political party's views ... well ...

Since the Senate hearings on the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice of the United States began, we have been inundated with electronic letters, many of them uncannily similar, some of them identical, and most of thgem "signed" by our readers. Through telephone confirmation (we call readers to ensure that they actually wrote the letters that were sent under their names) we found more than a few weren't even aware that they were sending a letter for publication. Others no doubt agreed with the anti-Roberts sentiment, but didn't submit their own thoughts in their own words. No wonder, the Democratic Party Web site and other Web sites on the issue make it quick and painless to get "your" letter published. Visit the sites, click through a couple of times, make some quick picks such as which newspapers you want to receive it and then choose some carefully crafted phrases (you can write your own, but why?), and voila!

Nevermind that the letter is the party's and not the person's. Who cares? We do.

We don't print such letters, if we can help it. Why? We already know what the leaders of the political parties think. We want to know what you think.

We make every effort to ensure that the letters you see here are written by the people who sign them, no matter what side of the issue they are on.

By all means, please tell us what you think.

In your own words. Otherwise, the effort is meaningless.
What about all the pro-Roberts messages they received? Did they not check that out? They say they care about astroturf. Were none of them automated? To print, "No wonder, the Democratic Party Web site and other Web sites on the issue make it quick and painless to get "your" letter published. Visit the sites, click through a couple of times, make some quick picks such as which newspapers you want to receive it and then choose some carefully crafted phrases (you can write your own, but why?), and voila!", is irreponsible, sloppy, and just plain bad journalism.

"...the Democratic Party Web site and other Web sites on the issue..." ???!!!
WHAT other web sites? Perhaps the other political party's? Why did they feel the need to only identify ONE party to smear? We deserve better than this.


At 9/21/2005 9:52 AM, Blogger diehard said...

The Dispatch will eventually be pushed out of the market.
If the Quad City Times could broden its coverage across the river, maybe have an Illinois section they could easly eliminate the Dispatch/Argus.

At 9/22/2005 12:46 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Dope, this makes me want to spam them even more often.

I think I am going to go out in search of free sites to send opin form letters on to the editorial staff just to keep them working not responding.

At 9/25/2005 12:14 AM, Blogger Merujo said...

The Dispatch was awful back when I was a kid in Moline, and when I come back to visit family now, I'm astounded that it's still in business. It is one of the most craptacular newspapers ever. (I got into a pissing match with the editor back when I was in college over the paper's misuse of foreign words. The result was a "feel bad for us, someone criticized our ignorance, whaaaa whaaaa" editorial. Ugh.)

Do they still have that execrable feature where readers can call in and ramble random crap and it's published back by the classifieds? What was that called? "Shout Out"? "Hear Me Rant (usually with bad grammar)"? Lord, that was awful.

Ah, memories,

-- Merujo, former Moliner

At 9/25/2005 4:59 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Yes Merujo - the craptackular Daily Disgrace does have that call in thing - where anyone can say anything they like anon and get away with it! It's like a little capsule of the National Enquirer. It's called Speak Out.

The QC Times does not do it - although they experimented with it a bit and stopped right away --probably because their Ed staff have brains.

Why even bother to have a credible Ed page where people's letters must be authenicated when you allow morons to contact you via phone and write the transcript of their blatherings in the paper in the same dam edition? Makes no sense - but hey - Jerry Taylor over at the Dispatch gets paid the big bucks to run their show.

I can't believe they get away with it myself.


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