Getting schooled in street politics

I’m getting first hand experience at a lobbying effort by progressives aimed at one of the Associated Press’ top Washington journalists.
Long-time activist/journalist Al Giordano of “The Field” blog, among other projects, is taking the campaign against Ron Fournier, AP’s Washington Bureau Chief to newsroom senior managers across the country with a campaign targeting the 27 members of the Associated Press Managing Editors association, or APME.

I know this because I was recently elected to the board of APME as an online representative.

Giordano’s “Field” has local chapters of “Field Hands” in several states, including Tennessee, and members have been urged to contact APME board members in their areas.
He is urging them to write personalized emails or letters to APME board members and to make several points about Fournier’s coverage, which they view as pro-John McCain. Fournier has been criticized for biased coverage by a number of blogs and political sites, including Whatever the merit of those claims, it’s fair to say, Fournier’s controversial.

Progressive organizations have been highlighting Fournier for awhile, including with an email campaigns to the wire service’s management.

Focusing on APME — which promotes journalism excellence, training and is a sounding board between newspapers and the wire service (see the full about us) — is a new tactic just launched this week.

I received a handful of polite and impassioned emails today. I tried to give thoughtful responses (basically, Fournier seems to me to be a journalist of the highest professionalism and that the Saturday AP story on an AP-Yahoo poll on race and the election was good journalism, but I appreciate their concerns).

Based on what I have read on Giordano’s site, I assume they will be posted online although they were intended as personal replies to the email writers.
The response I got from Giordano was bit gruffer (and returned in kind), but he’s an old hand at the hurly-burly of street politics, first testifying before a state legislative  committee as a teen and working for several years with radical Abbie Hoffman.

I suspect this effort will continue at some level beyond the election in early November.


  1. why are you calling them “progressives?” Why not call them by their real monikers: rabblerousers, digital brownshirts or community activists? All one and the same.

  2. Hmm, nothing unusual here. It’s Saul Alinsky’s accolyte David Axelrod at work. You’re being Astroturfed by the master of the game.
    Unfortunately for David et al. the last attempt at this blew up in their face big time, when Ethan Winner was unmasked by the JAWA Report, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Shackelford, Ace and others. I just wish the FEC would launch an investigation into it. After all, they are the ones who are supposed to be on the eagle eyed lookout for “donations in kind” etc. However, since it’s a government bureaucracy (and the government bureaucracy is 90+% Democrat, nothing will happen.
    Gee, here’s an original thought. Why don’t some of the tireless AP reporters out there do an investigation into that? Isn’t that what they tell us all the time, about being the sentinels or watchdogs of our democracy?

  3. @TANGer:
    Nearly all of the emails I’ve received have been from people who seem genuinely concerned and who went beyond the posted talking points. If people want to say, did you consider this or that in this light, or do you have this information, that’s fine with me. Dialogue is good!
    However, I’ve always taken a dim view of efforts to organize boycotts of advertisers or subscribers based on a story someone disagreed with in a newspaper. This is similar to that, lobbying AP’s clients because of a perceived bias. Based on the postings at the Field blog, engaging in a dialogue is not what the email writing campaign is about.

  4. I’m one of those who wrote an email yesterday, after having found Mr. Lail’s name on the list posted by Giardano. I like Obama and plan to vote for him, although I’ve always been a left-leaning independent.
    Prior to the Giardano lobbying effort, I had been concerned about some of the news ticker headlines put out by the AP that I felt tended to frame the narrative in an unfair way. I was bothered by such Fournier pieces as “Obama’s pick of Biden shows lack of confidence–an analysis,” especially when I found out later that Fournier had past ties to the McCain campaign. After reading Mr. Lail’s response to my email, I did try to find more pieces written by Fournier to see if I was just getting biased information.
    The only other piece I found was from March of 2008, I believe, and it was an article about Obama’s arrogance. If any of you guys can put up a link to a Fournier piece criticizing McCain or Palin or the GOP campaign, I would seriously like to see it. I do think it is fair to raise a concern when somebody is trying to get a job with one side in a campaign but then takes the stance of “calling it as they see it.”
    I think if people are going to call things as they see it, then they should put their allegiances out there as disclaimers so we can consider the source. I do agree that everyone has a bias and to try to be neutral is a slippery proposition that has rightly been called into question by both sides. I think Obama rightly calls it “working the refs.” I also think there are huge, glaring double standards in politics today, and moreover in the way that the two sides are being covered. For instance, the GOP can impeach a President over perjury in a civil suit over an affair, then in the next administration, a whole long list of egregious behavior by dozens of people in the Bush administration from the President on down are just viewed as hardball politics and fun theater to watch.
    There are a ton of legitimate issues here, not the least of which is that if we’re going to shift to accountability reporting, we’re going to have to consider our sources, and we should know what axe our reporter is grinding. It is good to know, for instance, when a pundit or author like Bob Woodward or David Broder is speaking for huge money to corporate groups. Nobody is neutral. Let’s quit pretending. But let’s reveal our conflicts of interest, and I think there may come times when we have so many conflicts that what we have to say should be taken with a huge grain of salt, and that’s the key issue with Mr. Fournier.
    By the way, I did not feel that it would have been appropriate to forward Mr. Lail’s email to me on to Giordano, because I’m not part of any lobbying campaign. But this is a very worthwhile discussion of a very important issue as we move forward with new information technologies that are used to influence and persuade people, beyond simply informing them.

  5. I’m another person who emailed Jack, and I think that we had a good conversation. Jack encouraged me to see another side to the story — that perhaps Ron Fournier was honestly just trying to point out that “some white Democrats won’t vote for Obama because he’s of mixed race.” I assumed that this was an obvious fact to any American, but I guess it needed to be pointed out for some. The issue that I and many others had was with the nature of the push polling employed in the survey, and with the fact that Fournier was burying his lead. A majority were voting for Obama, but some felt that he wasn’t prepared to lead. Apparently, Friday’s debates have changed some of that.
    Like the previous writer, I did some digging to see if Fournier ever wrote a critical word toward McCain, and I couldn’t find it. I did find, however, some pretty negative commentary toward the Bush administration during Katrina (not that that marks one as a liberal; I’d say more as a normal American).
    Jack also points out, rightly, that many conservatives were not happy with Fournier’s insinuation that to not vote for Obama means that one is racist. And they are right. (Similar as to how to say that voting against Palin doesn’t make one sexist).
    What we’re seeing here is people from the left and right coming together trying to get past the debates of the 1960s and the identity politics of the 1990s that divided this nation. The truth is that an overwhelming majority of whites will vote for Obama if he earns their vote.
    The chief problem with Fournier’s article is that it plays into the politics of distraction that has characterized the McCain campaign, and in fact been its only serious strategy. Because McCain cannot win on the issues, he has manufactured one “crisis” after another. This is his strategy and it will continue to be for the next 6 weeks.
    Anyway, thanks for legitimizing the campaign and spreading the word so that others can get involved!

  6. Jack, I did not write to you, but I did send an email to another APME member after reading Ron Fournier’s article then Al Giordano’s blog. I never considered myself progressive but was always a little left of center on social issues. I am fiscally conservative, so I am a registered Independent. The problem with the AP coverage by Ron and his underlings, is that it seems to many Americans one sided. Where is the analysis of John McCains gaffes, medical problems, judgement regarding the Palin pick. I am voting for Obama, but I was ready to vote for McCain in 2000. McCain of 2000 is gone and not once has Ron Fournier pointed out any flaw in his candidacy. I don’t mind reporting of flaws in our elections, I just want it to be done on both sides. If Ron F cannot be judgemental to both candidates, he has no right to be judge one of them.

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