September 19, 2007

ProJo Will Print Baloney After All

Marc Comtois

Apparently some of the baloney that blogs put out is good enough for the ProJo to pick up.

And unattributed at that.

On Saturday, Andrew broke the story that former Senator Chafee had finally left the GOP. So did RI Report's Tom Shevlin, who has some "original thoughts" on the way it was reported by ProJo (h/t Ian):

Sunday morning, the vast majority of Rhode Islanders awoke with the impression that somehow the Providence Journal had by chance asked Chafee if he had left the GOP. The Journal’s opening paragraph read as follows:

“Lincoln D. Chafee, who lost his Senate seat in the wave of anti-Republican sentiment in last November's election, said that he has left the party.”

It goes on “Chafee said he disaffiliated from the party ‘in June or July,’ making him an unaffiliated voter. He did so quietly, and until Sunday, he said, ‘No one's asked me about it.’ He said he made the move because ‘I want my affiliation to accurately reflect my status.’”

So did the Journal just decide to ask him about it? Why ever would they do that?

What the Journal failed to mention, but which I reported on Saturday along with AnchorRising, is that Chafee’s disaffiliation was discovered by an eagle-eyed RIGOP activist who had specific questions regarding Chafee’s registration status.

In fact, there was no need to speak to Chafee except to gather his personal reaction to what was as clear as black and white. Confirmation of the initial assertion was easily obtained through public access to the voter roll available online through the Secretary of State’s website.

No, there was no press release from Senator Chafee; no press conference or unsolicited phone call to the Journal newsroom. Chafee had kept his disaffiliation quiet for several months before the news broke, and without the diligence of one nosy party activist, the Journal and the rest of us probably still wouldn’t know about it.

Now, I’m under no illusions. I realize that the meager readership of the Rhode Island blogosphere pales in comparison to that of the Providence Journal and makes bloggers for the most part bit players in the news cycle....But if the Journal chose not to cite these bit players in their “original” reporting, then perhaps they shouldn’t have used reaction to Chafee’s disaffiliation for the basis of their follow-up story on Monday. Especially if those reactions were taken from a blog which carried the real story the day before the Journal’s own report ran.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

The Warwick Beacon will credit Anchor rising for getting that scoop in tomorrow's edition.

Posted by: Sparky at September 19, 2007 4:09 PM

What? That's shocking! People still read the Providence Journal????

Posted by: Jake at September 19, 2007 4:34 PM

Credit should have been given where credit is due. PERIOD.

Posted by: Rasputin-Khlyst at September 19, 2007 4:52 PM

Nobody likes a good body slam to the ProJo better than I, but do we know that the ProJo learned this news from the blogs?

Is it possible that the reporter picked it up somehow the same way that the bloggers did? I sorta had the impression that AnchorRising got it from a GOP source, who might also have spoken to the ProJo, or might have told someone who did.

If the reporter DID get it from the blogs then I agree that they had an obligation to report the source. I just wonder how one would know that the blogs were the ProJo's source . . .

Posted by: brassband at September 19, 2007 5:52 PM

The precise mechanism by which the Projo came to learn about Chafee's disaffiliation from the GOP is not the main point. The point is that the Projo completely omitted any mention whatsoever of the means by which they learned about it to begin with.

How did it even occur to them to inquire about Sen. Chafee's voting status? By virtue of that convenient omission in the original newspaper article, and the follow-ups to it, they would have us infer that it was a product their own crack journalist's work or research that they came to "discover" the scoop all by themselves.

I personally found out from "the original source" -- who at present wishes to remain anonymous -- last Thursday. Between then and Saturday morning, it was known by a literal handful of GOP individuals. We were planning on waiting for definitive confirmation (physically checking with the Exeter Board of Canvassers office) before making what we knew public, in case what was listed in the state-wide voter registration list was inaccurate. However, the subject of Chafee's disaffiliation was brought up amongst the attendees at the South County GOP breakfast which was held on Saturday morning. An over-eager attendee of that breakfast, upon returning home, then e-mailed out to a great number of media contacts (I was carbon-copied on that e-mail) what had been stated at that morning regarding Chafee's disaffiliation.

Within a very short time after that e-mail was sent out (since I knew "the cat was out of the bag" and that the "mainstream media" would most likely follow up on it), I called both Andrew and Tom to confirm the accuracy of what was then known about Chafee's defection (Now that I think about it, I may have first called Tom on Friday night just mentioning it, but still looking for confirmation, he held off publishing it). Lo and behond, the following day (Sunday), the story was on page A-1 of the Projo.

The Projo "learned" of this only one of two ways: by means of the e-mail tip that went out to virtually everyone in the Rhode Island press corps, or by reading it on Anchor Rising or RI Report. However, you would never know any of that by reading The Providence Journal, or by checking anywhere on, would you?

Posted by: Will at September 19, 2007 10:58 PM

"The Projo "learned" of this only one of two ways . . ."

I still think that's an assumption on your part. The reporter could have received info from the same "anonymous source" to which you refer, who chooses to remain anonymous and therefore would not be identified by the reporter. The reporter could have gotten the same rumor from someone else to whom it was circulating at the time that you got it.

The point is, though, that once the ProJo contacted Chafee, who spoke to them and confirmed the story, then Chafee really becomes their source for the story.

I understand why you think that it's likely that they learned it from a blog, but I think it's also possible that they learned it from somewhere else. And unless you (or some other news organization) were their source, I don't think they have any obligation to explain what put them onto the story in the first place.

Posted by: brassband at September 20, 2007 5:15 AM

Except for two things: I know the "anonymous only to you source" quite well, and I know for a fact that he did not directly leak it to the Providence Journal. He did not initially plan on leaking it at all. He told some people whom he expected to sit on it for a little bit, but misjudged the propensity of at least one to share the information of at least one of them. If it was leaked to the Projo outside e-mail or a blog, it was done secondhand. In any event, I think the Projo has an obligation to its readers to disclose how they obtain information.

Posted by: Will at September 20, 2007 11:24 AM
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