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Monday, February 13, 2006

The Snog of Solomon

As tempted as i am to riff more on the gang that can't shoot straight (be it in the Texas bush, the Washington parlor or the Babylonian desert), i'm not yet ready to put John Solomon's poison kiss to the Democrats down yet.

As CHB earlier noted, the AP Washington Bureau's John Solomon has a history of quick-hit jobs painting Democrats in the most unflattering terms -- typically using feeds provided to him by the Republican National Committee. To some extent, all reporters are dependent on their sources. But it's one thing to request information for the sake of contextualizing it and another entirely to issue journalism rehashed from party talking points. In his latest piece Solomon notes nothing illegal or unusual by Minority Leader Reid -- and, shocking to at least one FOCHB, buried his lede by not saying until the 16th paragraph that Reid had taken no Abramoff money and that he had done nothing of note on behalf of Abramoff's clients.

A similar story by Solomon during the '04 election painted Sen. Kerry as on-the-take by collecting speaking fees from shady interests. An election year mud sling as Kerry did nothing but give a speech for his fee -- he didn't push through legislation favorable to the folks underwriting his gas-baggery, nor did he insert something happy-sounding on their behalf in the Congressional Record. Solomon fails to point out that there was no quid for all that speaking fee quo. The hints suggest otherwise, actually.

This would all be curious enough if Solomon were strictly a reporter. He isn't. In apparent violation of standard protocols at AP -- a union organization -- Solomon serves as both a reporter and editor. He is also a bureau official (last i was told he was assistant bureau chief). He has no beat of his own, per se, but is allowed to cherry pick on other reporters' beats as he sees fit.

This presents a compounded conflict of interest for Solomon. As CHB understands it, news organizations are supposed to have internal controls that prevent editorial bias from running amok. A piss-poor report has, in theory, the chance to be fixed or killed before it hits the presses -- so to speak, as AP is a newswire. But if that piss-poor report is authored and pushed through by an editor who also serves as a senior manager, what chance does the regular editorial process have to curb the obvious excesses?


Blogger Gary Karr said...

This shows a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of how reporting works in general, and how the AP is set up. John may be an assistant chief of bureau (ACOB, for short), but his copy is hardly unedited. Serious pieces like this get looked at by the bureau chief, and probably senior executives in New York as well. Whether John is a fair or unfair reporter is maybe a subject for another debate, but he's not just typing and filing on the aaa-wire.

2/15/2006 11:43 AM  
Blogger cornhuskerblogger said...

From what i gather, and i'm not simply postulating, Solomon is treated very much like the bureau star that he is. All news organizations to some degree or another utilize the star system, and the benefits that accrue to the newsroom novae are obvious to all -- and one of these things is a lighter edit that usual. That said, i'm not suggesting Solomon's copy runs unadulterated on the top wire. But you don't have to be a hunting expert to know that some copy is more heavily scrutinized than others. As for terming this a ``serious'' piece, that seems highly subjective. If anything, this is indeed as presented: a quick hit piece that wasn't planned days ahead of time, like most big bureau stories. For those reporters out there, don't you regularly file out budgets and long-range plans for your `big' stories, while the `dailies' slip in and out without as much up-through-the-ranks planning?

2/15/2006 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FOCHB appreciates the shout-out, fo' shizzle!

2/15/2006 4:18 PM  
Blogger Gary Karr said...

Well by "serious" I didn't mean some long think piece. Whatever their faults, AP editors aren't all collectively abjectly stupid. Any time Solomon writes a piece like this, it's going to get some scrutiny. As far as Solomon being an apologist for the RNC, well, I sort of doubt it. Generally, I don't think much of pieces like these anyway. There was one on Boehner's apartment the other day in the Washington Post. Boehner rents it from a lobbyist, so it's a big story. Except way down in the story, it's discovered that he pays market rate for it. The "gotcha" element to these stories give people very little understand of their government, in my opinion.

2/15/2006 11:43 PM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

Speaking of silly "gotcha" stories, the Solomon story on Kerry "taking" fees from lobbying groups seems beyond silly, given that all members of Congress were forbiddent to take honoraria starting sometime in the early 1990s, IIRC.

2/16/2006 5:23 AM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

I should say, they can take the fee but they have to give it to a charity.

2/16/2006 5:25 AM  

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