Friday, October 24, 2008

What is truth? asked Pilate

You’ve probably heard the story of the boy who murdered his parents, then begged for mercy from the court because he was an orphan.
That’s usually portrayed as the perfect illustration and very definition of “ultimate gall.”
Here is another example: The publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tom Griscom, writing his weekly column, published 31 August 2008, said this:

A short set of rules applies in our newsroom:
· Tell the truth.
This should be apparent but read a week’s worth of newspapers and make a list of stories that are the result of someone shading the truth.

News consumers have, especially this election year, come to expect partisanship and downright dishonesty in their “news” coverage. But the Times Free Press set some kind of standard in its “coverage” of the 2006 campaign for the Third District congressional seat.
Incumbent Zach Wamp is one of the …, what, hypocrites? elected in 1994 who supported term limits. Until he got elected.
In truth, advocates of limited government and lower taxes didn’t have a lot to complain of in his first couple terms but, as so often happens, the longer he was subjected to the virus of “inside-the-Beltway-itis,” the sicker he got.
Now Wamp is considered a veritable “Prince of Pork,” following in the steps of West Virginia’s Sen. Robert Byrd.
Opposition to Wamp has been limited. One local attorney, wacky John Wolfe, tried twice to unseat him, and he got something like 20 to 30 percent of the vote.
In 2006, though, with public opinion turning against the Iraq war, Democrats thought they had a chance and a far-leftist named Terry Stulce was anointed to run.
Party leadership (using the term loosely) did not, though, reckon on a maverick named Brent Benedict.
Benedict announced his entry … and was promptly ignored.
Stulce got thousands of dollars of contributions, Benedict hundreds.
He called himself a “conservative Democrat,” which didn’t help with the machine politicians who led the party.
Benedict sent out many news releases, through his volunteer Press Coordinator, yours truly. Nary a one got printed, especially not by the Times Free Press.
In fact, when Benedict phoned or e-mailed or even made a personal visit, he was never answered, despite leaving multiple phone numbers and an e-mail address and a Web site.
Free Press editor Lee Anderson, being pretty much of a gentleman, did interview him, but made no endorsement, or even comment, in the Democrat primary.
Times editorializers pretended, in fact claimed, they never got any message from him, and besides were not able to reach him.
The Times editorially endorsed Stulce, saying he had “only token opposition,” and never even mentioned the name of Brent Benedict.
And the “news” pages continued the blackout, never mentioning Brent Benedict, never even discussing the congressional race.
The letters-to-the-editor section continued the blackout, never allowing mention of Brent Benedict, never printing even one letter endorsing him. We know there were some sent because we know at least some of the people who wrote such letters.
Lies come in several sizes and shapes.
One type of lie, especially for a “news” medium, is the ignoring of a fact it doesn’t want its consumers to know.
Brent Benedict’s name and campaign were never mentioned in the shameful excuse of a “news” paper.
Until the day before the Thursday vote.
Then on the sample ballot, brief mention was made; it was finally admitted that, yes, there was another candidate than Terry Stulce, one Brett (sic) Benedict.
The Friday paper, the one for the morning after the primary vote, hit the presses probably about midnight and the headline, actually a sub-head, announced Stulce had won.
The story said the “official” (sic) returns showed Stulce had defeated … Bruce (sic) Benedict.
Not true.
Since the Third District is strongly Republican, the Democrat turnout was not great, but the margin of victory for Brent Benedict was, relatively, substantial. Benedict won every county except Hamilton, wherein sits Chattanooga and the raggedy Times Free Press.
Admitting to egg on their faces, the Times Free Press published a story next day admitting that the now “unofficial” (funny how that happened) returns showed, yes, Brent Benedict had won.
Brent told me he made sure he was courteous and friendly to the reporter, but the reporter still got most of the story wrong as to what Benedict believed.
The miserable excuse of a “news” paper continued with the same tactics during the general election campaign, and pretty much ignored Benedict’s efforts. (He still got the highest losing percentage of any Wamp opponents.)
In the intervening two years, I have tried to talk with and to as many election news reporters as I could reach.
Because of what they said, I had to promise confidentiality, so no names will be mentioned, not even those of the people who said I could quote them.
Some of them have left the company, at least one saying this was the reason.
Essentially, the story is this: From on top, word came down not to mention Brent Benedict.
I repeat, the word came from the top, possibly but not certainly from Tom Griscom.
It might be a long time before, it might be never that we learn the truth.
But it is just one more example of the obscene dishonesty that permeates the entire “news” industry, and it certainly illustrates the perfidious dishonesty that masquerades as the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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