Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Tale of Two Papers: Coverage of Voter Fraud Begins

Louisville Courier Journal reporter Elisabeth Beardsley clearly got the Senator Johnny Ray Turner voter fraud story early yesterday. The Herald Leader was beaten so badly that their best quote was from a retired teacher at the end of the story who was clearly called because no else could be reached. In contrast, Beardsley's quote from Senate President David Williams, who expressed simpathy for Sen. Turner and his family added significantly to her article.

Beardsley's report took a turn for the worse, though, when she sought a response from Common Cause Chairman Richard Beliles who called the indictment a "great loss to the public" and said "They need to really have a high regard for the process and also for the legislators."

Now what the heck does that mean? It wasn't clear, but I took it to mean that Beliles was saying that prosecutors were doing something wrong. If the indictment is the "great loss," then it seems to follow that "They" in the next sentence referred to prosecutors. Was he alleging some kind of prosecutorial misconduct?

The red flag went up, so I called Mr. Beliles. He explained that he was speaking broadly about any allegations of public abuse and talking about how when any case like this comes up, the public trust in the process is diminished and more people tend to tune everything out. He said he wasn't misquoted but said other things that, when left out, made his comments difficult to decipher.

He told me twice that he has no idea about guilt or innocence in this case.

Incidentally, he told me "When things like this happen, the public develops a cynicism." I could easily make that look like he was talking about when politicians buy votes, if I chose to do so.

See my point?