This weekend, Vermont welcomed two prominent women: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and current Senator Elizabeth Warren. Both events were dutifully chronicled by Vermont’s Largest Newspaper, the Burlington Free Press. But I noticed an unusual difference in the Freeploid’s respective coverages.
The Rice article chronicled her speech, including her unhelpful advice to the Obama Administration that the US has to get back in Iraq and fix it. This time for sure, as Bullwinkle T. Moose put it. The ‘Loid also regaled us with her “quipped” response to the protesters: “Democracy is noisy.” The paper even put it in the headline, so much did they think of Rice’s witty comeback.
Somehow the ‘Loid missed the obvious derivation of Rice’s remark: Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous “Democracy is messy” comment on the post-invasion anarchy in Iraq. Was Rice, in her bland dismissal of the hecklers, making a sly reference to Rumsfeld’s bland dismissal of rampant violence and incivility? Probably not; that’d be a remarkably dickish thing to do, even by Bush Administration standards.
Anyway, on to my point about the Freeploid’s coverage. Aside from the reference to unruly protesters, the article made no attempt to include views contrary to Rice’s on the situation in Iraq.
Compare that with the ‘Loid’s coverage of Elizabeth Warren’s speech, in which reporter Nancy Remsen or (more likely) her editor felt compelled to include a Republican rejoinder. Remsen reached out to “Little Snell,” VTGOP Treasurer Mark Snelling, for some boilerplate Republican ranting about taxes and spending.
And I ask, why? Or alternatively I ask, why no Democratic rejoinder to Rice?
Really, the whole notion of boilerplate rejoinders, published for the sake of some false journalistic “balance,” is useless. Not every article needs to include both sides — especially when you’re covering a visit to Vermont by a prominent figure. Balance isn’t a story-by-story thing; it’s a matter of fairness over time. I’d have been happy if neither article included the customary counterpoint.
But if you’re gonna do it, then you’ve gotta be consistent. For the Rice article, get Bernie Sanders on the phone; he’s always good for some quotable boilerplate. Or, if you want to be whimsical about it, get a comment from the Slummin’ Solon, Peter Galbraith. He’s a freakin’ genius when it comes to middle eastern policy, right?
As the Freeploid’s journalistic sins go, this is penny-ante. But it’s still worth noting.