Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 27, 2008

FOURNIER CAN'T HELP HIMSELF.... Over the weekend, Ron Fournier, the AP's Washington bureau chief and the man responsible for directing the wire service's coverage of the presidential campaign, received a fair amount of criticism for the latest in a series of pieces that toed the McCain campaign line.

I was curious to see if Fournier would consider the negative response, reevaluate his rather obvious biases, and take pains to improve his reporting going forward. Apparently not. Here's his piece analyzing Hillary Clinton's speech to the Democratic convention:

"Barack Obama is my candidate," she said. "And he must be our president." But did she mean it? And would it matter?

True, her challenges Tuesday night were impossibly high, perhaps mutually exclusive.

She had to both promote her political future and unify her party. Clinton had to somehow convince people that she honestly thought Obama was ready for the presidency. But something stood in her way: Her words.

From there, Fournier recites the very quotes from the Democratic primaries that the McCain campaign has been pushing desperately all week. So, to hear the AP's Washington bureau chief tell it, the most important takeaway from Clinton's stirring speech at the convention is the criticism she directed at Obama as far back as nine months ago. And this, coincidentally, just happens to be what Republicans want to see emphasized this week more than anything else.

Swopa added, "[W]hat Clinton and Obama actually believe isn't important to Fournier, any more than he gave a flying fig about Clinton's actual speech last night. His intention is to distract readers from what she said, to disrupt what Clinton and Obama are seeking to achieve by imposing his previously-formed opinions on the event."

Fournier isn't exactly a neutral observer. I get it. But given Fournier's recent history -- he actually considered joining the McCain campaign's payroll last year -- one would like to think he'd take steps to bolster his journalistic credibility and objectivity. As the criticism has grown louder, even from mainstream news outlets, it stands to reason that Fournier would go out of his way to clean up his act.

He is, regrettably, doing the exact opposite.

Steve Benen 10:19 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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I'm shocked by the number of journalists who immediately took the McCain campaign official response wholesale and made it the subject of their articles the next day. John Dickerson at Slate, Fournier for AP...it's truly sickening and I hope more people start calling them out on this.

Posted by: Quinn on August 27, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

when obama is elected, and we win a filibuster-proof senate, this is one of the first things that our government should undertake - break up the monopolies that are running the national "media" to return to the days of relative impartiality

Posted by: just bill on August 27, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

We need to find a financial lever to shove under his ass. The AP needs to be convinced that having partisans like Fornier running the news is going to cost them MONEY. Corporations have no other values, so "journalistic integrity" has very little to do with their decisions. We need to find a financial lever, and we all need to pile onto it.

It's like we went after Coultergeist. Find the advertisers who ultimately support the thug, and barrage them with letters. Most of the time they have no idea what they're supporting. There's no better way to get the creeps to back off than to go after their paychecks. No, it's not a magic bullet, but what's the alternative?

Posted by: Racer X on August 27, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

It's truly shocking -- and I say this even as a longtime Daily Howler reader -- how blatantly in the tank the so-called "liberal media" is for the Republicans. Even so, it's astonishing that the AP is letting Fournier ruin its brand this way.

Think about it -- the AP is apparently so in the tank for the Republicans that they'll let Fournier piss away its brand, which has stood for decades. That's even worse than the damage George W. Bush did to the Republicans' reputation -- the GOP wasn't that respected and had only been building its phony nation-security credentials since the Cold War.

Posted by: Gregory on August 27, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Fournier isn't exactly a neutral observer. I get it. But given Fournier's recent history -- he actually considered joining the McCain campaign's payroll last year -- one would like to think he'd take steps to bolster his journalistic credibility and objectivity. "

Fournier is doing just what the rest of the corporate-owned mass media has been doing and will continue doing until the election: engaging in an onslaught of character assassination against Obama and glorifying McCain. Fournier is just a little more blatant about regurgitating the McCain campaign's scripted, focus-group tested talking points.

The fact is that the corporate-owned mass media, the Republican Party, the McCain campaign and John McCain himself are all on the same "payroll" -- the payroll of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc.

"Journalistic credibility and objectivity" has no place in the corporate-owned mass media. Democrats and liberals need to get over their delusion that the corporate-owned mass media is performing some sort of public service of dispassionately informing the American people about facts and realities, and their silly puzzlement over the media's apparent "failure" to "get it right" and "see through McCain's spin."

The corporate-owned mass media is the propaganda arm of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. and it exists to advance their ruthless class war against everyone else. And it will be pulling out all the stops in the next two months' pitched battle in that war, working hand-in-hand with the Republican Party and the openly partisan right-wing media to get John McCain close enough to steal the third election in a row with voter disenfranchisement and fraud.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 27, 2008 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Heck, Maureen Dowd didn't even wait for the convention to begin before writing not just one but several columns about how the Clintons were going to hijack it, Hillary was going to undercut Obama, etc. etc. I wonder if she'll ever even notice that it isn't happening that way? I doubt it; after all, she wrote a column a few weeks back arguing in apparent seriousness that sometimes the best way to get at the truth is by writing fiction, and she has certainly put that philosophy into practice throughout her career, with columns in which she claims to know what other people are thinking, and putting dialog into their mouths. But out here in the reality-based community, which does not include the New York Times op ed, a few of us are noticing the cognitive dissonance.

Posted by: T-Rex on August 27, 2008 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with just bill, the once again excursion/opinion "reporting" needs to be called out each time and reconciled with the public for what it is. Up to now, the only media outlet that is performing this function is the blog-o-square. I call it square because that's what I said it was and obviously you must believe me because I said so.

Posted by: William the trollop on August 27, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I noticed the AP added the following line at the bottom of Fournier's hit-job:

"EDITOR'S NOTE: Ron Fournier has covered politics for The Associated Press for nearly 20 years."

Have they always included that "Editor's Note" at the end of his pieces, or is it new? It sounds a bit defensive to me.

Posted by: J on August 27, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Send an email to AP:

info@ap.com

Tell them that you are calling your local paper to cancel AP. These jerks have gone over the line.

I have grown so tired of the Conservative Neo-Con Media. It's so biased and unfair that it makes me spit.

I called my local NPR station, and complained about the NPR coverage of the Democratic Convention. The station manager called me back, and indicated that I was not the only one complaining. The NPR coverage is basically "Can the Democrats survive the Obama-Hillary split?"

Call the AP. Tell them to stop the bias.

Call your NPR station. Tell them to stop the bias.

Posted by: POed Lib on August 27, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK
Fournier isn't exactly a neutral observer. I get it. But given Fournier's recent history -- he actually considered joining the McCain campaign's payroll last year -- one would like to think he'd take steps to bolster his journalistic credibility and objectivity.

Why, exactly, would one think that when he could instead push his political agenda and get paid for it?

Posted by: cmdicely on August 27, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

NYTimes linked to Fournier's latest piece of nonsense from it's front page on line. I don't know if it was in the print edition. But why the hell are they paying good money for this crap?

Posted by: SqueakyRat on August 27, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Oreskes, AP Managing Editor, moreskes@ap.org

Ron Fournier, AP reporter and Washington D.C. Bureau Chief, rfournier@ap.org

Do write these guys.

Posted by: MsJoanne on August 27, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

But given Fournier's recent history -- he actually considered joining the McCain campaign's payroll last year -- one would like to think he'd take steps to bolster his journalistic credibility and objectivity.

How much does the GOP pay for journalistic credibility and integrity again?

Posted by: Tim on August 27, 2008 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Nauseating. Plain nauseating no matter how you look at it. The 2000 coup is slowly, but remarkably moving in the direction of the third worldly trajectory that will seal/steal this election too.

Nauseating and scary...

Posted by: Stevio on August 27, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

I like Mark Kleiman's Action Item post in regards to Fournier:

http://www.samefacts.com/archives/the_wayward_press_/2008/08/action_item.php

It has a simple premise:
Given actionable intelligence we must act.
Mark did. Brilliantly.

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on August 27, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

You've been profiling Mr. Fournier for some time now, and it seems to me he works not for the Associated Press, but rather the Ministry of Truth! We common Americans deserve so much better than what Mr. Fournier can give us. I guess he just can't sustain such high expectations successfully in his important position of bringing us more news than story! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on August 27, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

ROTFLMLiberalAO @10:47 is on to something. However, I think we're complaining to the wrong guys. We're not the AP's customers; our local newspapers are.

How do we, in mass, bring this to the attention of our local papers and get them to act?

Posted by: CJ on August 27, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Most reporters are biased Democrats, and unlike the few conservative reporters, most liberal reporters freely mix news and opinion, so let's not be hypocritical.

"http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19113485

Whether you sample your news feed from ABC or CBS (or, yes, even NBC and MSNBC), whether you prefer Fox News Channel or National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal or The New Yorker, some of the journalists feeding you are also feeding cash to politicians, parties or political action committees.

MSNBC.com identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties."

Posted by: Luther on August 27, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

While Fournier may be pushing Republican talking points, this article is clearly labled "analysis", so the AP is not pushing it as objective.

The entire column does seem more balanced than the VP one from last weekend, so perhaps Mr. Fournier is making an effort to be more even-handed. Although why the AP is letting him tarnish their brand the way he has been is beyond me.

Posted by: Old School on August 27, 2008 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Luther: your assertion does not follow. The media message by and large follows GOP and corporate talking points. There is a heavy hand controlling the messengers. Look at how the AP has handled this criticism. They have been coming after the blogosphere. The AP must be even handed or it has nothing to offer--it is a news feed. I have hated their headlines and spin over the last several years and avoid their work these days.

Posted by: Sparko on August 27, 2008 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Fournier is angling for a position in a potential McCain administration a la the late Tony Snow. I'm not sure which position that might be, but if McCain were to win (something I fervently hope against), I wouldn't be too terribly surprised if Fournier gave up his AP position for some cushy appointed sinecure.

Posted by: Everett on August 27, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

While Fournier may be pushing Republican talking points, this article is clearly labled "analysis", so the AP is not pushing it as objective.

Yes, but why is Fournier doing pro-GOP propaganda "analysis" at the same time he's in charge of and directing the AP's supposedly neutral news coverage? And moreover, I'm sure that many, many readers aren't quite clear on what labeling something as "analysis" (as opposed to an Op-Ed column) really means, and will instead interpret it as an objective reporter's analysis of what really happened, rather than a pro-GOP hack's pushing of party-line talking points.

The AP may not explicitly pushing it as objective, but it is also blurring the distinction and allowing a false impression to stand.

Posted by: Stefan on August 27, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Of course journalists, give to candidates. They're voters too. It's irrelevant.

What's relevant is what gets printed on the page and broadcast over the airwaves...and all I see and hear (with few exceptions) are pro-Republican, pro-corporate propaganda.

Posted by: CJ on August 27, 2008 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Weak-minded ignorant mental slave of right-wing propaganda Luther wrote: "Most reporters are biased Democrats ..."

Most minimum wage hourly employees of WalMart are probably Democrats too. And they have about as much influence on WalMart's corporate policies as "reporters" have on the giant media corporations who employ them.

Brain-dead dittohead denizen of Planet Limbaugh Luther wrote: "... and unlike the few conservative reporters, most liberal reporters freely mix news and opinion, so let's not be hypocritical."

You are really quite the clown. Certainly no need for you to exert yourself to be "hypocritical" when you can just spout inane idiocy like that.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 27, 2008 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Fournier's "task" (as given by his masters at the McCain camp) is to convert the gold standard of journalism---AP---into a cog of the neocon propaganda mechanism.

That's it---plain and simple.

Now, if the powers at AP cannot, or will not---or maybe it's a combination of both---do what needs to be done to resuscitate the credibility of this once-hallowed institution, then the only viable alternative is to declare the patient dead, dig a hole in the dirt, and bury the damned thing.

Given the abilities of the blogosphere, how difficult would it be to start a grass-roots alternative to AP? Nothing fancy, mind you; just a series of individuals and groups who start feeding the print media and local broadcast stations a series of well-thought-out, fact-based commentaries and inquiries as a direct counter to the GOP "Lie-O-Matic...."

Posted by: on August 27, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

The theme of the week seems to be "that's my story and I'm stickin' to it."

Facts and real world observation? We don't need no stinkin facts and observation!

I also agree that NPR has been shockingly bad. They discussed at length the untrue history of Bob Casey being denied a spot merely because he was "pro-life". They've stuck hard to their narrative of party in-fighting. If, as I fear, they paint the Republican convention as happy-world, I'm rescinding my pledge to my local station.

Posted by: short fuse on August 27, 2008 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

short fuse wrote: "I also agree that NPR has been shockingly bad. They discussed at length the untrue history of Bob Casey being denied a spot merely because he was 'pro-life'."

NPR's commenter led into Casey's son's speech by saying that he is a "moderate" Democrat because he "opposes abortion rights."

Opposing abortion rights is not a "moderate" position. It is an extremist position.

And that's just one of the many Republican scripted talking points that NPR's cheerful, chirpy, nattering airheads spouted during their hideous coverage.

National RePublican Radio serves the same corporate masters as the so-called "mainstream" mass media and the overtly partisan right-wing extremist media. Their specific propaganda role seems to be to make affluent suburban "sensible liberals" feel OK about voting for McCain.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 27, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I also agree that NPR has been shockingly bad.

NPR was converted to GOP orthodoxy years ago. Between the need to satisfy their corporate sponsors and their Bush-appointed leadership, they are pretty much just Fox News with opera reviews.

Posted by: jimBOB on August 27, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Luther,

The 'study' you cite...so many ways to destroy it.

For one thing, 143 journalists? Kind of a small sample, don't you think? Certainly couldn't have been any cherry picking going on there, either. How'd they select the journalists? Random...after reading the article, I think not.

Oh, and they've got some heavy hitters in there, though like MTV's Gideon Yago.

So they found 143 local or barely national newspeople, not all journalists or anchors, I might add. Some were producers, etc., and predominently they gave to Democrats.

Where's O'Rielly? Hanity? Fournier? Greggory? King? Anyone we've all actually heard of?

I don't care about the weatherman on channel 4 in Tampa. His donation to Jimmy Carter three decades ago does not a liberal bias make.

No, this 'study' was set up to get a certain result, and they've got it, and now you've got your little bullet point to carry around to justify your stupid assertion that the media is liberal.

Anyone who engages their brain could see through the tissue paper this 'study' was printed on.

Posted by: doubtful on August 27, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

I like Steve Benen's blogging. It's so amazingly optimistic, even when reality keeps smacking him in the face. Steve, Fournier is a partisan hack. Your faith in the good nature of man is refreshing, but he's not going to stop being a partisan hack because the mainstream media call him on it. To put it another way, once a moron, always a moron.

Posted by: Diogenes on August 27, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

This comes at the same time as mid-market papers close bureaus in Washington, or even in their state capital, as the Portland, ME Press Herald has done, and rely on news services instead.

AP is gaining the power to poison a hundred wells wholesale, instead of poisoning them one well at a time.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 27, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

How do we know that Fournier did not accept McCain's job offer, which is why he is back at the A.P. He has a bigger audience there then he would as McCain's flack, and he has cover.

And probably a nice gig later.

Posted by: spasm on August 27, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Fournier spouts McCain propaganda on a "news" show.
Fournier considered job with McCain.
Fournier STILL spouts McCain propaganda.

So, who's to say he didn't take that job with McCain?

Posted by: MarkH on August 27, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Fournier cut his teeth as WH AP correspondant during the Clinton years and got his feet wet in Little Rock. He owes his career to WJC.

Posted by: RememberNovember on August 27, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Fournier is bucking to be the next Scott McClellan. Will the sweet smell of flop-sweat overpower the musk of his mancrush?

Posted by: bluewave on August 27, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

RON FOURNIER is a penile implant operated by a reptilian gland controlled by a lemming.

Posted by: big george on August 29, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK
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