cc firstname.lastname@example.org, JVandehei@politico.com
date Sun, Oct 12, 2008 at 1:24 PM
subject ACORN gives GOP new line of attack
Dear Mr. Burns,
Although I was pleased to see your piece in The Politico begin with the rhetorical gambit of debunking, as little more than the oldest game in the political book, overblown notions about ACORN that right-wingers are once again peddling and the so-called liberal media are lapping up this election season, my jaw dropped as your piece unfolded into pure partisan hackery.
You declare "the latest wave of ACORN investigations" and later "the latest wave of registration-fraud allegations" and yet never define what constitutes a "wave." Had you looked to facts, you might have discovered 10 current investigations, which at 20% of states nationwide might seem like a lot. But you might have also attempted to quantify whether the handfuls of fraudulent registrations alleged in each case amount to even a drop in the bucket amidst the hundreds of thousands of new registrations that have been taken place nationwide in perfect compliance with local and federal election law. Let alone whether such investigations have in the past turned up any actual fraud. They haven't, as you eventually report.
Unfortunately these are the least of your oversights. As evidence for your piece, you proceed to cite a recent Nevada raid, cite a McCain campaign memo, and list some unsourced ACORN-obama connections; you then cite three additional GOP sources (Matt Blunt, the McCain campaign website, and Roy Blunt), detail (again unsourced) ACORN's history, and cite an anonymous Republican memo. We hear not a word from any Obama campaign spokespersons. We hear barely a word about the many other kinds of work -- in terms of living wages, better housing and schools, and neighborhood safety -- that ACORN performs on behalf of local communities. (Well, "advocating for issues related to economic and social equity" amounts to 9 vague words.)
We have to get 950 words into a 1290-word piece -- that's over 70% of the way -- to find any exculpatory evidence on ACORN's behalf. We have to get 1120 words into a 1290-word piece -- that's over 85% of the way -- to hear a single word from an ACORN spokesperson.
If your editors decide to keep you on the ACORN beat -- though personally I think they should send you back to journalism school to teach you some basics of objective and unbiased reporting -- I encourage you to begin with Josh Marshall's piece entitled "The Gist of ACORN," which should help you put some of your "facts" in perspective.
cc: J. Harris, Editor-in-Chief
cc: J. VandeHei, Executive Editor