Series-Skipper: The Post's Deadly "Deadlock"

Political commentary and more.
Feb. 14 2001 2:22 PM

Series-Skipper: The Post's Deadly "Deadlock"

What are the four most discouraging words you can read in a newspaper? "First of a series," says Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard. He's right! Nothing saps a reader's will faster than the prospect of giving over a large portion of the week to some bloated journalistic project driven by egos and internal institutional needs. But, until now, there was little an individual consumer could do about it. You could set the series aside each day, in a growing pile to be read in some future era. But what if it contained something juicy? What if Part 3 jumped to the "B" section, which you already threw out? You could go to cocktail parties and subtly grill your friends. ("There wasn't much in that endless Times thing ... was there?") But what if they haven't read it either--and have been hoping to grill you? At dark moments like this, if a newspaper series looks worthy enough, it's almost as if you have no alternative but to read it.

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Or so it seemed. Until now!

Just as the microchip has solved many of life's formerly aggravating problems, kausfiles engineers have cracked the problem posed by the interminable newspaper series. Never again will you have to debate whether to "just skim the first few paragraphs" before getting on with your life! No more feeling embarrassed about trying to get the gist from the photo captions! From now on, when a Pulitzer Prize-winning opus lands on your doorstep, you can do what you've always wanted to do. Recycle it! With no fear of missing anything--and no guilt! That's because kausfiles will read it for you, and tell you all you need to know. Thanks to advanced Series-Skipper™ technology, even intriguing, buried statistics, or small backbiting remarks by presidential aides, will be captured and presented, in compressed, readable fashion, for rapid downloading.

Think of all the things you can do with your time, now that you never have to read another newspaper series again! This is better than Celebrex!

Series-Skipper™ begins today, with the mammoth eight-part series on the Florida recount that the Washington Post recently finished publishing--a project so enterprising it was mildly dissed  by the Post's own ombudsman. But he insisted that the series, while a misallocation of resources, was "very good." Don't be so sure!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * *

Oh-what-a-big-deal-this-is hype sentence: "It was an all-out war involving America's canniest political soldiers and some of its best legal minds."

Most important substantive thesis: That the wisdom of hindsight--which says Gore should have pursued a statewide hand recount--is wrong because such a count would have been "legally unfounded." The leader of Gore's legal team, Ron Klain, notes, "You had to go to 67 counties" and file requests. That would have been "a public relations disaster, interpreted by opponents and even neutral observers as an effort to prolong the election unnecessarily," says the Post.

Holes in thesis: Gore had a choice--file in all counties and be accused of doing too much, or file in a few counties and be accused of "cherry-picking." Both carried PR risks. As a much more useful Los Angeles Times story (not a series!) noted over a month ago, Gore's local ballot experts in fact urged the statewide course. If it required filing in 67 different counties--well, Gore had 67 lawyers! Or Gore could have challenged the count in a few counties, and then when Bush accused him of cherry-picking, immediately called Bush's bluff by requesting the statewide count. Indeed, if Gore hadn't prolonged the initial "protest period" before Katherine Harris "certified" the results, he would have had time to pursue a broad recount during the subsequent "contest period." (One experienced Gore lawyer, Dexter Douglass, made exactly this point at the time, the Post itself notes.) In the end, the public proved much more tolerant of a prolonged recount than the Post gives it credit for.

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