Politico's "Vetting" Flop

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 31 2012 4:06 PM

Politico's "Vetting" Flop

GQ, Poynter, and every other media organization that employs an English-speaker has ripped apart Politico's lead story today -- a Mike Allen/Jim VandeHei stunner about Republicans' certitude that their guy is getting tougher treatment than Barack Obama. Politico's media scribe Dylan Byers has a good run-down of the controversy. Problem: He closes it out by trying to explain where Politico may have been coming from.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

VandeHei and Allen cite four different stories -- two in the Times, two in the Post -- and in each case their central preoccupation is with which page the story appears on in the print edition. A Times story about Ann Romney's horse-riding days appears "on the front page of its Sunday edition," while a Times story about new revelations of Obama's pot-smoking days appears as "a brief on A15." The pot-smoking story "landed on page A6" of the Washington Post, while Horowitz's story about Romney's bullying was "a front-pager."
Advertisement

1) Who, in the news cycles of 2012, cares what page an article appears on? Campaigns care if the Post or the Times covers a story. They shoot out e-mails informing reporters that the Post or the Times covered said story. These e-mails rarely make reference of what page the stories appeared on because reporters are going to read them online. (A Romney e-mail today sends me, twice, to the excellent Washington Free Beacon, which is online only.)

2) If we're playing the page number game, the idea that the Times (focus on them for now) buried its "vetting" stories about Obama can't stand up to scrutiny. You can'y compare Obama 2012 to Romney 2012, because Obama's already been his party's nominee and won an election. Go back to Obama's first run. In April 2007, nearly a year before he became a campaign issue, the Times published a 2,593 word Jodi Kantor story (with addtional reporting from Kenya!) about Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his relationship to Barack Obama. The story appeared on A1. On May 11, 2008, when Obama had largely locked up the nomination but still had to fend off Hillary Clinton in tough states, the Times published a 5,024 word story titled "Pragmatic Politics, Forged on the South Side," which delved into Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn -- "Hyde Park's fringes," and "unrepentant members of the radical Weather Underground that bombed the United States Capitol and the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War." This also appeared on A1.

3) The David Maraniss story about Obama's pot-smoking days adds to a fact that was already known about the president when he ran in 2007. Horowitz's story was an original scoop, based on interviews with Romney associates who hadn't talked before. Also: One is about the illicit use of a drug, while the other is about bullying a kid with a gender-bending haircut.

Here's the issue: the "Obama wasn't vetted" outrage doesn't have any quantitative, factual proof. If you're angry that Obama won in 2008, it sure feels like the media went too easy on him. It sure feels like the press was so interested in the story of the First Black President that it ignored stories that reflected poorly on him.

Feeling isn't proving. Still, don't get me wrong -- it's really interesting that Haley Barbour, a Republican lobbyist and former governor, thinks the media is being unfair to his party's candidate. One point to Politico!

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Books
Sept. 23 2014 7:14 AM Fighting the Sophomore Slump, Five Novels at a Time Announcing the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.