Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Charles Babington's big hack attack

Charles Babington's big hack attack

I don't know a lot about a reporter for the Associated Press named Charles Babington who also spent a lot of time at the Washington Post -- it seems like he's written things over the years that have annoyed the left and and annoyed the right, which means either he's a "balanced" journalist or maybe a lot of his articles are just bad. I'm suspecting the latter after reading his analysis of Obama's speech tonight, a speech he conceivably may not have even watched as he filed his analysis just about 26 minutes after it ended.

One interesting thing about Babington is he doesn't seem to care about an informed electorate. This is what he said earlier this year on PBS with Gwen Ifill:

Sometimes we like to think, oh, they get a spreadsheet out of all the issues. Most voters don't get that. Most voters probably don't even know why they vote for someone and there's nothing wrong with that.

Tonight, he did his part to keep the electorate uninformed. Check out Babington's punditty and tell me if this sounds like the speech that you saw tonight:

DENVER (AP) -- Barack Obama, whose campaign theme is "change we can believe in," promised Thursday to "spell out exactly what that change would mean."

But instead of dwelling on specifics, he laced the crowning speech of his long campaign with the type of rhetorical flourishes that Republicans mock and the attacks on John McCain that Democrats cheer.

He later added:

Obama's aides have long complained that he gets too little credit for including detailed proposals in his stump speeches, because listeners seem to remember only his stage presence and lofty rhetoric. Obama, who earlier had promised a "workmanlike" speech in Denver, seemed to acknowledge the problem, saying he would fill in the blanks.

Mostly, however, he touched on major issues quickly and lightly. It's an approach that may intrigue and satisfy millions of viewers just starting to tune in to the campaign seriously. The crowd at Invesco Field cheered deliriously, but Republicans almost surely will decry the lack of specifics.

Like I said above, that doesn't sound like anything that happened at Invesco Field. In well under an hour, Obama's mission was to spell out in clear terms for millions of Americans, some paying attention for the first time all year, how he differs from John McCain while giving -- in that short timeframe and that stadium setting -- a broad overview of where he stands on taxes, foreign policy, energy, education, etc. Greater detail on things like his tax plan already exists (here, for example), and they'll be other venues that are better suited to the nitty gritty, especially the coming debates. If you didn't know where Obama stands on the key issues after watching that speech, then you must have been also watching the Phillies' bullpen implode on a split screen.

Babington's story comes as the AP's Washington bureau is trying to be more opinionated and "edgy" under its new leader Ron Fournier, who once told Karl Rove (yes, that Karl Rove) to "keep up the fight." This is a tricky issue for me because I've argued recently that newsrooms across America should give journalists more leeway to be opinionated and edgy -- but I'm talking about saving struggling hometown newsrooms, and creating local personalities and discussions. Those local journalists need to riff on news accounts from more of a just-the-facts initial source, which is supposed to be the Associated Press. Instead, these AP efforts to be edgy and "contrarian" -- and maybe to please their new boss Fournier with his seemingly conservative viewpoint -- don't come off as "contrarian" as much as contrary to reality. It's a shame because more and more newsrooms, thanks to staff cuts, are relying more and more on the AP just as the AP is becoming more unreliable

UPDATE: More from Greg Mitchell.

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