As I suspect most of you have done, I have followed the controversy over Luke Esser's release of partial caucus results, and his claim that McCain was most likely the winner, with some bemusement. For one thing, as a number of people, including "pudge", have pointed out, the release meant nothing formally, since we are not at the stage where delegates are chosen.
But the controversy reminded me of another claim by a party chairman, a Democratic party chairman in 2004. After the 2004 Democratic caucuses, Paul Berendt claimed that there had been as many as 200,000 at the caucuses. That claim made the front page of the Seattle Times. I was skeptical when I first read the claim; I was very skeptical after I checked a few numbers. A spokesman for the Democratic party backed down on the extreme claims soon after. But — to my knowledge — the party never released an official figure for attendance, and no mainstream journalist ever followed up on Berendt's wildly false claim.
Let's compare. In 2004 the Democratic chairman put out a false claim on caucus results, a wildly false claim. No one in the "mainstream" media paid much attention. In 2008, a Republican chairman put out a true claim — as far as we now know — and drew enormous coverage, much of it negative.
David Postman is one of those giving Esser that negative attention. He is also the man who wrote the Seattle Times story quoting Berendt on those wild attendance estimates. I'd like to see Postman do two things, follow up his 2004 story, and compare what he said then to what he (and many other "mainstream" journalists) are saying now. (And though I may be boring some, let me repeat a point I have made before: Democratic officials are adults, and sane adults, at that. They can be held responsible for what they say and do. I'll repeat this point from time to time until I see evidence that most of our local journalists understand it.)
Was Postman too credulous then? Too critical now? I think so, and I have enough respect for Postman to think that he might agree with both points — if he takes some time to look at the way our local journalists covered both stories.
(For the record, I think that Esser should have released just the partial results, without his analysis. Also for the record, I think that some Huckabee supporters are making too much of a minor matter.
For the record, I do not believe that Berendt was deliberately lying, though he must have known soon after he gave that estimate that what he had said was false. I think he was carried away by his feelings, and didn't bother to do some simple checks of the kind I did just a few days later.
Finally, a note to commenters: As you can see, I have put this in the local media category. I would appreciate it if you would help me keep it there. In other words, please keep your comments on the media coverage of these two claims, not the recent dispute, itself. There are other posts — and the public blog — where you can discuss that, should you want to.)Posted by Jim Miller at February 13, 2008 03:32 PM | Email This