Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pimp My Candidate

e have a warmer regard for the editorial side of our Newspaper of Record than for the paper's news-reporting side. For example, Saturday's lead editorial called for clean political campaigns, urging local candidates to refrain from "misleading advertising about opponents."

We endorse this view. But its implications must be resented by the leaders of the paper's news side, News Editor Karen Magnuson and Publisher Michael Kane. For Karen and Mike have worked hard to do for a local candidate with a problem what Xzibit, raffish host of MTV's Pimp My Ride, does for the old wrecks brought into his body shop.

Not that the candidacy of one Democratic candidate for county legislature isn't in need of some heavy-duty pimping.

When Ted Nixon ran for the same seat in 2005, the Fair Election Practices Committee (FEPC) found him guilty of two ethical violations:   falsifying a quotation he attributed to his opponent; and attributing to his opponent words that were not the opponent's in a way intended to create a false impression.
Those aren't our words; they're the words of the FEPC's decision. You can read it here.

For these stunts he got caught, and called out by the Fair Election Practices Committee.

It means that, so far this year, of all candidates for County legislature of both parties, Nixon's the only one who has been found guilty of campaign ethics violations, breaking the Fair Campaign Pledge and misleading voters.

A public image disfigured by such behavior badly needs what Xzibit would call some "pimping." That's where Karen Magnuson and Mike Kean went to work.

Boisterously uninhibited by such antiquated constraints as professionalism and journalistic ethics, Magnuson and Kane ran a gratuitous front page puff piece on Nixon about a month ago. On the urgent subject of . . . traffic on residential through streets. Above the fold. Complete with photo of candidate and wife on page 1.

With no mention that this is a candidate for office of any kind. Just a concerned citizen worried about that scary traffic. And how we ordinary, non-political citizens -- just like Ted! -- have to do something.

You have to admire the Democrat and Chronicle for its forthright brazenness. An open promotion of a candidate in a contested race. An absurdly transparent fig leaf of news value as a pretext. Forget that old nonsense about "Dog bites man isn't news." It is news at the Democrat and Chronicle -- as long as it's in the right cause. Cars have been traveling on residential through streets for as long as there have been cars. And people who live there have disliked it for just as long.

And of all the through streets in western New York, the D&C just happened to pick the one where there lives a Democratic candidate who needs help with his image.

And of all the people who live on that particular street (we consulted a map -- it's a long street), the D&C just happens -- in an amazing, totally random coincidence -- to anchor the story on that very candidate.

And of all the moments to pick to focus on the ground-breaking and highly topical issue of traffic -- which we're sure no one has ever reported on before -- the D&C decides to do it at the very opening of campaign season, right around Labor Day!

And the issue of traffic on that one street is so urgent and so compelling that the paper's local section -- even its cover page -- just won't do! It's got to be in Section 1! And on the front page! And above the fold! With picture! And not a picture of those pesky cars, but of that candidate who was picked totally, accidentally at random! With picture and name repeated on the carryover page, just in case you forgot who he was or what he looked like in the time it took to turn the page!

And in another completely coincidental turn, the D&C just plain forgot to mention that its randomly selected poster boy for traffic worrying is currently a candidate for public office! A piece of information that the Democrat and Chronicle itself had known for months, and had published months before.

So, while the D&C's editorial page editors call for ethics in political campaigns, the D&C's news staff abandons even the pretense of ethics or professionalism in journalism. Nothing they may say can explain their way around this one.

All that's left to wonder is this: what kind of influence does this candidate have over the Democrat and Chronicle to pull this off? Is there yet a deeper level of Nixonian skullduggery we haven't learned about?

Metaphorically speaking (to use a metaphor of recent memory): how many times did Ted Nixon have to tap on the bathroom floor -- and next to whose stall -- to get the Democrat and Chronicle to turn its front page over to him, and its integrity to the garbage?

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