The Democrats meet – Spin cycle two

    A recent encounter with Pa. Democrats about the Democratic convention reminds us what carefully orchestrated public relations events they really are.


    Yesterday the Pennsylvania Democratic party held a conference call for reporters to talk about the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

    We tuned in with the hope that, somewhere amidst all the predictable rhetoric, there would actually be a morsel of useful information – like when Mayor Nutter and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz would be addressing the convention, so anybody interested could tune in.

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    But no. Schwartz explained when asked that she and other speakers had been instructed by convention staff not to reveal their speaking times.

    It was a reminder of how carefully controlled the messaging is at these things and how little of real value they offer.

    My own view, beautifully captured in this piece by a veteran TV news producer, is that the best advice for media when it comes to conventions can be expressed in two words: stay home.

    That said, I was encouraged last week to see that many mainstream reporters are more directly challenging political blather when it’s offered up.

    The morning after Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican convention, there was a lot of pointed fact-checking of the claims in his address. An example is this Michael Cooper piece in the New York Times.

    We’re seeing more of this in political coverage generally, and I think it’s due to a couple of factors.

    One is the presence of independent fact-checking organizations that reporters can quickly and reliably consult on deadline.

    Another is the criticism journalists have gotten for reporting competing campaign claims with a he-said, she-said recitation of the dispute without trying to sort out who’s telling the truth.

    It’s a hopeful development.

    Before leaving the subject, I want to say that those who think the media truth-squadding in Tampa was due to a liberal bias should read Eric Lipton’s piece in the New York Times about the special access the Illinois-based utility Exelon had at the White House.

    This is not a story the Obama administration will like, and it required a serious investment on the part of the paper. One of its top investigative reporters certainly spent weeks getting public records and tracking down sources to get this story.

    And the Times played it on page one.

    Exelon owns PECO. PECO’s President and CEO, Craig Adams, sits on WHYY’s board of directors.

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