Seems Tri-City Herald reporter and blogger Chris Mulick last Friday lumped me in the same category as Tim Eyman when I pointed out in a recent blog on Referendum 65 how the news media is in bed with Tim Eyman. Referendum 65 is an attempt to repeal recently passed legislation in Washington state banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Mulick touted back in his blog that I’m the one in bed with Tim Eyman. Now isn’t this getting interesting?
Jim McCabe over at McCranium caught Chris Mulick’s blog, entitled “Eyman, Zemke agree on one thing, maybe” He responded with an excellent rebuttal entitled “Chris Mulick, Ya Gotta be kidding me…” Jim does an excellent job of clarifying what the issue is really about. It’s not that the media is the enemy, its that they help Eyman by giving him coverage many other issues and campaigns never get.
Now I’ve been in a few beds but not Tim’s. See I’m old fashioned and I believe in love before going to bed and Tim and I have no love for each other. I like to at least think that the other person I’m in bed with is sincere and honest and won’t lie before we crawl under the sheets, while we’re under the sheets or afterwards.
Now the news media, that’s a different story. The thing is I’m not calling the news media liars. You’ve probably heard the phrase of “putting the paper to bed”. It’s newspaper vernacular such as used in this interesting aside if you really want to get diverted from this story at this point. See The Morning News “Talking Dirty with the Gray Lady”
Anyway, on my blog post last week entitled, “Evangelical Churches and News Media Aid Eyman on Referendum 65″ my point was that there is a narrow line between reporting news and making up news or believing something is news because a press release is put out. And this is the case with Referendum 65. By writing about Eyman’s reaching out to the churches to save his bacon and keep his initiative business going, trhe media winds up promoting his efforts. They have got another story “to put to bed” hoping that it will grab their readers tomorrow when they open their morning paper.
There have been many other initiatives that have struggled to get signatures but because Eyman is such a mediagenic guy, he becomes a story for some of the media in this state just because he said something. Frequently its an easy story because they quote verbatim from an Eyman press release and don’t even bother to check whether what he is saying is true or not. Opposing vierwpoiunts get short shift. He may get contact information while the other side isn’t even mentioned.
Others reporters have, over time, taken a different position, realizing that writing about any of Eyman’s campaign struggles or stunts before he has gotten his signatures would be helping him get his signatures by giving him increased exposure and credibility.
I can remember in the past numerous comments from reporters in the press and media that an initiative wasn’t a story until you turned in your signatures. They basically had a hands off policy on an initiative only being a major story when the initiative campaign actually secured enough valid signatures. It didn’t matter how many endorsements you released or testimonials and studies you supplied supporting your campaign. If you didn’t have the signatures to show then you hadn’t reached the required threshold level of public support to get media attention. These days it seems some reporters ignore that distinction regarding Eyman’s campaigns and give him coverage no matter what, while at the same time ignoring other initiative campaigns that are worthy and could use media attention.
They do this partly because Eyman can be obnoxious and taunting to the media and he captures their attention. But he doesn’t hate the media as Chris Mulick seems to suggest. In fact he loves the media because they are an integral part of his initiative business. He has worked them enough so they know him. In fact I’m sure some like him because he is irreverent to them. Meanwhile Eyman loves the attention he gets and it works to get him the exposure he needs to keep his for profit initiative mill going.
He knows that by being respectful and matter of fact, he isn’t going to get coverage. But his “in your face” showmanship sound bites fit just what the media wants. It helps them to sell papers. It also makes for 30 second sound bites. One could call it media grabbing theatre.
All I said in my blog, and this is what Jim at McCraniyum.org responded to, is that the media is really doing Eyman’s work for him. How many other campaigns are also struggling to get signatures? Do they get a front page headline in the Seattle PI or a large story in the Yakima Herald? No. They aren’t showman Tim Eyman. Some in the media seem to need Eyman as much as he needs them it seems.
To connect to those who oppose Eyman’s effort to place Referendum 65 on the Washington ballot this November go to Washington Won’t Discriminate.