Olbermann... of the People
So he got his start in sportscasting. Doesn't matter. The same way that I think the best magazine writing out there right now is coming from writers like Gary Smith at Sports Illustrated rather than his equivalents at Time and Newsweek, so can I accept that Keith Olbermann is the first mainstream broadcast reporter to actually start doing the legwork on looking into Ohio and Florida and other states -- to either confirm or debunk the nagging suspicions that something went wrong.
Last night on his Countdown show, Keith started off the program with a 15 minute segment, including an interview with Representative Conyers.His post on his Bloggermann blog mirrors much of his copy from last night. Highlights:
There is a small but blood-curdling set of news stories that right now exists somewhere between the world of investigative journalism, and the world of the Reynolds Wrap Hat. And while the group’s ultimate home remains unclear - so might our election of just a week ago.
Stories like these have filled the web since the tide turned against John Kerry late Tuesday night. But not until Friday did they begin to spill into the more conventional news media. That’s when the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that officials in Warren County, Ohio, had “locked down” its administration building to prevent anybody from observing the vote count there.
Suspicious enough on the face of it, the decision got more dubious still when County Commissioners confirmed that they were acting on the advice of their Emergency Services Director, Frank Young. Mr. Young had explained that he had been advised by the federal government to implement the measures for the sake of Homeland Security.
Gotcha. Tom Ridge thought Osama Bin Laden was planning to hit Caesar Creek State Park in Waynesville. During the vote count in Lebanon. Or maybe it was Kings Island Amusement Park that had gone Code-Orange without telling anybody. Al-Qaeda had selected Turtlecreek Township for its first foray into a Red State...
As I suggested, this is the first time one of the Fix stories has moved fully into the mainstream media. In so saying, I’m not dismissing the blogosphere. Hell, I’m in the blogosphere now, and there have been nights when I’ve gotten far more web hits than television viewers (thank you, Debate Scorecard readers). Even the overt partisanship of blogs don’t bother me - Tom Paine was a pretty partisan guy, and ultimately that served truth a lot better than a ship full of neutral reporters would have. I was just reading last night of the struggles Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer had during their early reporting from Europe in ’38 and ’39, because CBS thought them too anti-Nazi.
The only reason I differentiate between the blogs and the newspapers is that in the latter, a certain bar of ascertainable, reasonably neutral, fact has to be passed, and has to be approved by a consensus of reporters and editors. The process isn’t flawless (ask Dan Rather) but the next time you read a blog where bald-faced lies are accepted as fact, ask yourself whether we here in cyberspace have yet achieved the reliability of even the mainstream media. In short, a lot gets left out of newspapers, radio, and tv - but what’s left in tends to be, in the words of my old CNN Sports colleague NickCharles, a lead-pipe cinch.
Thus the majority of the media has yet to touch the other stories of Ohio (the amazing Bush Times Ten voting machine in Gahanna) or the sagas of Ohio South: huge margins for Bush in Florida counties in which registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2-1, places where the optical scanning of precinct totals seems to have turned results from perfect matches for the pro-Kerry exit poll data, to Bush sweeps. (Bold type added.)
We will be endeavoring to pull those stories, along with the Warren County farce, into the mainstream Monday and/or Tuesday nights on Countdown. That is, if we can wedge them in there among the news media’s main concerns since last Tuesday: Who fixed the Exit Polls? Yes - you could deliberately skew a national series of post-vote questionnaires in favor of Kerry to discourage people from voting out west, where everything but New Mexico had been ceded to Kerry anyway, but you couldn’t alter key precinct votes in Ohio and/or Florida...
Olbermann posted more late last night. Some highlights:
"...There was a solid point raised about some of the incongruous voting noted on the website of Florida’s Secretary of State.
There, 52 counties tallied their votes using paper ballots that were then optically scanned by machines produced by Diebold, Sequoia, or Election Systems and Software. 29 of those Florida counties had large Democratic majorities among registered voters (as high a ratio as Liberty County— Bristol, Florida and environs— where it’s 88 percent Democrats, 8 percent Republicans) but produced landslides for President Bush. On Countdown, we cited the five biggest surprises (Liberty ended Bush: 1,927; Kerry: 1,070), but did not mention the other 24.
Those protesting e-mailers pointed out that four of the five counties we mentioned also went for Bush in 2000, and were in Florida’s panhandle or near the Georgia border. Many of them have long “Dixiecrat” histories and the swing to Bush, while remarkably large, isn’t of itself suggestive of voting fraud.
That the other 24 counties were scattered across the state, and that they had nothing in common except the optical scanning method, I didn’t mention. My bad. I used the most eye-popping numbers, and should have used a better regional mix instead.
Interestingly, none of the complaining emailers took issue with the remarkable results out of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In 29 precincts there, the County’s website shows, we had the most unexpected results in years: more votes than voters.
I’ll repeat that: more votes than voters. 93,000 more votes than voters.
Talk about successful get-out-the-vote campaigns! What a triumph for democracy in Fairview Park, twelve miles west of downtown Cleveland. Only 13,342 registered voters there, but they cast 18,472 votes."
"The main topics [in viewer email] were questions about why ours was apparently the first television or mainstream print coverage of any of the issues in Florida or Ohio. I have a couple of theories.
Firstly, John Kerry conceded. As I pointed out here Sunday, no candidate’s statement is legally binding— what matters is the state election commissions’ reports, and the Electoral College vote next month. But in terms of reportorial momentum, the concession took the wind out of a lot of journalists’ aggressiveness towards the entire issue. Many were prepared for Election Night premature jocularity, and a post-vote stampede to the courts— especially after John Edwards’ late night proclamation from Boston. When Kerry brought that to a halt, a lot of the media saw something of which they had not dared dream: a long weekend off.
Don’t discount this. This has been our longest presidential campaign ever, to say nothing of the one in which the truth was most artfully hidden or manufactured. To consider this mess over was enough to get 54 percent of the respondents to an Associated Press poll released yesterday to say that the “conclusiveness” of last week’s vote had given them renewed confidence in our electoral system (of course, 39 percent said it had given them less confidence). Up for the battle for truth or not, a lot of fulltime political reporters were ready for a rest. Not me— I get to do “Oddball” and “Newsmakers” every night and they always serve to refresh my spirit, and my conviction that man is the silliest of the creator’s creations.
There’s a third element to the reluctance to address all this, I think. It comes from the mainstream’s love-hate relationship with this very thing you’re reading now: The Blog. This medium is so new that print, radio, and television don’t know what to do with it, especially given that a system of internet checks and balances has yet to develop. A good reporter may encounter a tip, or two, or five, in a day’s time. He has to check them all out before publishing or reporting....
Having said all that— for crying out loud, all the data we used tonight on Countdown was on official government websites in Cleveland and Florida. We confirmed all of it— moved it right out of the Reynolds Wrap Hat zone in about ten minutes.
Which offers one way bloggers can help guide the mainstream at times like this: source your stuff like crazy, and the stuffier the source the better.
Enough from the soapbox. We have heard the message on the Voting Angst and will continue to cover it with all prudent speed."