Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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Republicans implement Operation Seizey Pounce on Jackson audio

If you ever want to understand why North Carolina conservatives and Republicans view almost every reporter in the state capitol press corps as Democrats with bylines, look no further than this article by Colin Campbell at the News & Observer.

The headline is "Democrat says Chuck Schumer told him to spend campaign in 'windowless basement'." It's a story - first reported by National Review - based on comments made by state Senator Jeff Jackson to a class at UNC-Charlotte:

"Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has taken a heavy-handed, top-down approach to selecting Democrats to challenge vulnerable Senate Republicans this cycle, putting his thumb on the scale for candidates willing to shun grassroots outreach in favor of a smile-and-dial, fundraising-first approach, according to an audio recording obtained exclusively by National Review.

'The Story' is Jackson's story.

'The Story' is about strategy used in the primary and general elections by Democratic candidates seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Thom Tillis.

'The Story' is about what role New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is playing in the NC race.

National Review's writer, Jack Crowe, recognized this and focused on the two Democratic candidates in the race (one of whom appears to be taking Sen. Schumer's advice).

But here is how the News & Observer led it's telling of the story:

North Carolina Republicans seized Monday on a leaked recording of state Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, explaining that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wanted him to spend most of his time “in a windowless basement” making fundraising calls if he ran for Thom Tillis’ Senate seat.

As I've explained before, the "Republicans seized" narrative (along with it's surrogate "GOP pounced") is so obvious and ridiculous that conservatives mock it all over social media. It's a lazy and misleading way to frame a story based on the reaction to the actual newsworthy story. It is part of the axiom: "When a scandal involves a Republican, the story is the scandal. When a scandal involves a Democrat, the story is the Republican reaction to that scandal."

The fact that reporters and editors don't know this is illustrative of how sealed the bubble is in which they live.

To be clear - the topline importance of this story is NOT the NC GOP press release it put out reacting to Sen. Jackson's comments. It's Jackson's comments.

The N.C. Republican Party issued a news release Monday highlighting the National Review story and criticizing Jackson’s endorsement of Cunningham.
“It appears that Jeff Jackson agrees with the liberal DC establishment that a candidate should blow off voters and grassroots supporters, even if he is not willing to run a race utilizing those tactics,” the news release said, calling the endorsement “a stunning act of cowardice.” Jackson did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

A better way to advance this story would have been to lead off with the fact that Jackson is not responding to the story. Something like - "State Senator Jeff Jackson is not responding to requests for comments, after an audio recording surfaced..." etc. etc. But, the N&O decides to take the GOP reaction and lead with that, rather than the unresponsiveness of Jackson.

Framing the story as "GOP pounced" minimizes and distracts from the actual story. This happens so often (and in only one direction) that it has become the most obvious example of how news organizations shade stories - suggesting we should care more about the GOP reaction.

Again, the story is Jackson's comments - not the GOP reaction to it.

The GOP reaction is barely worth mentioning at all. Particularly when there are two other Democratic candidates that could be interviewed about it.

Pete's Prep: Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019

  • The Wall Street Journal: "Two foreign-born donors to a pro- Trump fundraising committee who helped Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Democrat Joe Biden were arrested late Wednesday on criminal charges of violating campaign finance rules and are expected to appear in court on Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter."
  • John Boyle at the Citizen-Times is not impressed with the response to Legionnaires disease: "The public found out Sept. 24 — from a television reporter — that multiple people were sick with the disease, with a connection to the Mountain State Fair. Buncombe County issued a statement after the news report aired." Meanwhile, the lawyers are involved.
  • WRAL reports: "When North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson announced last week that teachers could email him if they wanted iPads for their classrooms, 140 educators took him up on the offer and wrote asking for the devices, according to his office. Now, Johnson has added one more step – teachers wanting iPads must fill out an application explaining why they want the devices and how they would measure the impact on their students. The change comes after State Board of Education members criticized Johnson last week for handing out iPads to schools that asked for them instead of creating an equitable, organized system for the requests."
  • From the Carolina Journal: "Lawmakers spent Tuesday, Oct. 8, advancing four mini-budget plans as the budget veto stalemate drags on into another month. "
  • From NC Civitas: "What’s missing from the NC Justice Center analysis on NC Poverty? A group 5x times as likely to be in poverty compared to its major cohort group, and experiences a poverty rate of 42.7%. Fatherless homes."
  • The LA Times found the County Health Department probably lowballed stats about the homeless population: "about 76% of individuals living outside on the streets reported being, or were observed to be, affected by mental illness, substance abuse, poor health or a physical disability."
  • The Resurgent: Apple caves to China - removing an app that lets people track Hong Kong police.

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