Thursday, October 18, 2012

John Warren’s Plea To Political Reporters: Do Your Job

Consider this a plea to our political reporters – do your job, please. As a class you continue to fail the American public, ignoring the issues and perpetrating the lies of machine candidates. American political reporters have become a tool in the criminal usurpation of American democratic principles.

Let me start with a quick story. In the nineteenth century when Tammany Hall Democrats dominated New York City politics,  their single biggest weapon was their control of the Tammany Hall building.  Time and time again, when faced with opposition from the rank and file the Tammany Society simply locked the doors to the hall, the keys of which they controlled.  “The Society’s key power, which throughout its history it rarely hesitated to invoke,” Tammany historian Oliver Allen noted, was “the power to grant legitimacy to any political force in the city by controlling the place that symbolized authority. Time and time gain it would turn aside threats to its hegemony simply by padlocking the doors.” The result was plain to see – corrupt one-party control. You, dear political reporters, are now holding the keys to the hall.

That’s not hyperbole. Take our most recent presidential “debate” for example.  Two candidates, anointed by a two-party partisan media, spent most of their time arguing about which of their parties was responsible for our economic disaster. It begs the question: are there any candidates who haven’t been the root cause of America’s biggest problems?

The answer is yes. One of those candidates, Jill Stein, a 62-year-old grandmother who is the Green Party’s candidate, tried to simply attend the debate. Naturally, she was refused. Unnaturally, she was arrested, and handcuffed to a chair for eight hours (watch the video). After her release she was gagged by local political reporters who refuse to report the ordeal of the presidential candidate of millions of Americans – many of whom have taken to the streets over the past several years to express their discontent with American leadership.

Imagine the actual debate that might have occurred had Stein been allowed to participate. Rather than two candidates arguing about who supports big oil companies better, Stein would have no doubt offered a different vision. Rather than argue about who came up with the plan to force Americans to buy health insurance first, Jill Stein would have offered a vision of single-payer healthcare. Imagine Jill Stein’s response to Romney’s “binders full of women” remark. Rather than refusing to utter the word “climate” and ignoring America’s pressing environmental issues – for example, the continued inability of children and women of childbearing age to eat fish – imagine, well, you get the idea.

Even if you disagree with Stein’s perspective, surely another perspective on our problems would enliven the debate and provide American voters something to think about – that’s called a free democracy.

Political reporters, you are failing us. Please, stop providing your horse race analysis of two thoroughbreds with the same owner and trainer. Stop, ignoring the fact that our democracy is all but dead, replaced by a new two-party Tammany Hall. Offer complete coverage or our elections. You are not reporting on election issues if you ignore the perspectives of all the candidates – you are simply parroting the candidates of two failed parties.

The Democratic and Republican parties will not present the views of other candidates. That is your job.

Rather than single out some of our local reporters, I’ll simply provide links to searches for “Stein” on their various websites. Readers can decide if they are doing their job for themselves:

Watertown Daily Times – 0 reports about Jill Stein.

Glens Falls Post Star – 0 reports about Jill Stein.

Denton Newspapers – 0 reports about Jill Stein

Press Republican – 0 reports about Jill Stein.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise – 0 reports about Jill Stein.

North Country Public Radio – 1 Associated Press report about Jill Stein.

UPDATE: Brian Mann at North Country Public Radio responded here; I countered here (where the discussion carries on in the comments).

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.

34 Responses

  1. John Warren John Warren says:

    I should have mentioned that the Green and Libertarian candidates will debate online today at 7 pm:

  2. Chris says:

    Access. I think it ll comes down to access. IMHO, if reporters ask too many questions, the wrong kind of questions, highlight the wrong people (like Ms Stein), the major party candidate (or candidates) can just deny them access. Not front door access, but back door access — phone calls, leaks, behind the scene stuff, “scoops,” etc. I’ve been frustrated for years by the cozy relationships between the Press and pols, and I have to put it down to this. It seems to be getting worse, likely due to the shrinking numbers of reporters and shaky financial condition of media companies. Again, just my opinion and 2c.

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      Chris, I think you are right – that is certainly a significant part of the problem.

      Another problem is that our local media are mostly poorly paid and short-staffed.

      However, if political reporters who are refused access started writing about Jill Stein (for example) instead, they mind find the anointed candidates being more forthcoming.

      As it stands now, the Dems and Repubs have a monopoly only political reporters can break.

    • I think everyone who’s paying attention knows the system is rigged. Not only by the presidential debate commission controlled by the two corporate parties. But also by the “mainstream” media.

      The corporate media refuses to report on smaller party and independent candidates unless it decrees them “serious.” Their definition of serious is based solely upon poll numbers.

      Since most smaller party candidates don’t have the same resources as the corporate party candidates (big money doesn’t buy those who have no power), they can’t get their message out to enough people to let them know they are there, to rise in the polls and thus to make themselves into “serious” candidates in the eyes of the media pooh-bahs.

      So since they can’t afford paid media coverage, they don’t get free media coverage. It’s a vicious circle and one that’s carefully and deliberately maintained by opponents of democracy.

      The only way a smaller party or independent candidate can become “serious” is if he (or she) is a zillionaire and can spend oodles of his own money on paid coverage. Only then can he get free coverage. Think Ross Perot or Tom Golisano. But then he gets denounced for trying to “buy” the election.

      In other words, in order to get elected, you either have to be bought by the One Percent or actually be the One Percent. This is democracy?

      Given that something like 40% of registered voters in this country are neither Democrat nor Republican, you’d think smaller party and independent candidates would get more than 0.001% of the media coverage. But then again, the broad failure of newspapers to adapt and cater to its demographic is a major reason they are in free fall.

      Imagine if we lived in a world where the media reported on all the candidates and actually let the voters decide for themselves who was “serious” and who wasn’t. Most journalists and editors are not part of the One Percent. Most of their readers are not part of the oligarchy. This is a good example where doing what’s right and serving your customers happens to coincide.

  3. A piece I did on my blog a few years ago quantified this sort of bias in the 2009 Congressional special election.

  4. TiSentinel65 says:

    Established media enjoy access that others do not. This equates to a “don’t rock the boat too much” policy by the media outlets. They ask questions, but they don’t want to embarass our officials for fear of being “locked out” just like the article surmises. John there does seem to be a checks and ballances in place here. CNN which you could say is lberal leaning vs. FOX which is conservative do bring to light stories that hammer at the bases of our two political parties. Objectivity being lost, it is now up to the reader to decypher what the truth is. It is usually some where between, just don’t blindly accept what these two news channels say as Pravda. No pun intended. Wheigh what they both say against each other without bias. I find myself watching LINK TV more often. They seem to have objectivity in reporting, something we desperately need. Their operating model however faces the same problems that the established have. They need revenue to keep running. I believe they only accept individual contributions vs. corporate donors. I am not sure how their advertising model works as far as it contributing to the revenue stream, but it seems they want to convey the message that objectivity and truth are the pillars of how they work. Money can not buy you a certain slant with them.

    • John Warren John Warren says:


      One adjustment, there are more than two perspectives on every issue. No amount of weighing liberal versus conservative biases will make up for what’s left out entirely.

      Thanks for the LINK TV suggestion – I’ll check them out.

  5. Paul says:

    Classic! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
    Wow! This website is a biased as any other.
    And this article, no mention of Gary Johnson who will
    come in 3rd, no doubt, this election cycle.

    • I suspect that 99.9% of Stein supporters (including myself) would also support the inclusion of Johnson in the debates as well as every other candidate on the ballot in enough states that total at least 270 electoral votes. The bias that hurts Stein equally hurts Johnson and other serious, but not corporate-owned candidates.

  6. Guest says:

    I love Jill Stein and would vote for her if she was on the ballot in all 50 states. Since she’s not, I’ll vote for Gary Johnson.

    Frankly Warren, I thought you were a dyed in the wool Obama supporter! I’m surprised to see you are not!

    I think Stein and Johnson will have a debate on Larry King’s show soon too.

  7. Paul says:

    You know, I started out reading this article shouting “Yes Yes Yes” in my mind, until your bias became beyond evident.
    You could say yes, I’m biased as well, towards Gary Johnson, however, I’m not the one writing the articles.
    So other than your obvious bias, I agree with you 100%!
    This is the conversation America NEEDS to have, so in that regard, I thank you.

    • Paul says:

      Looks like we have two Paul’s commenting today. This one doesn’t have a clue who Gary Johnson is (is he the libertarian guy?). I guess you could spend a lot of time covering many candidates that don’t have a chance.

  8. Jude says:

    FWIW, the Watertown Times ran a small AP story on Stein in its July 15 edition. Page A3. That doesn’t invalidate your point, however.

  9. Gail says:

    FYI, this came to my inbox this morning.

    Green Party to Meet

    ELIZABETHTOWN, NY—The new Green Party of Essex County will have its initial organizing meeting on Wednesday evening, October 24th, at 7 p.m. at the Elizabethtown Social Center, 7626 NYS Route 9 (just north of the intersection where Route 9N turns toward Westport). The main goals of the meeting are to form a county chapter that will affiliate with the state Green Party and organize home-stretch support for Green candidates listed on the November ballot, including Town of Jay Tax Collector candidate Char Newman.
    The meeting is open to registered Green voters and anyone interested in learning more about the Green Party. For more information, please contact Fred Balzac at (518) 946-7861 or [email protected] or visit

  10. TiSentinel65 says:

    Yes John there are. I agree it’s never bad to have a third choice. Our established two partys, Dems and Repubs, do everything in their power to keep it that way. In Germany, prior to the Nazis obtaining power, the political sructure in Germany was very fluid, with quite a few political parties jockeying for positon. Many voices, many choices. The Nazis gained power with Hitler only getting around thirty percent of the popular vote. After that, the Nazis abolished the vote altogether. Many countries require any elected official to at least garner fiffty percent of the popular vote to obtain office. It is sad that our own politicians spend much time trying to keep people off ballots or by keeping them out of debates. There are many third party candidates that offer excellent ideas. The problem is as you say. The press does need to do a better job of vetting the candidates. Only through well thought out questions asked by the press does a voter actually know what he is voting for.

  11. “Journalism is printing what someone else doesn’t want printed. Everything else is public relations.” -George Orwell.

  12. Marlo says:

    The next president of the United States is going to be Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. In January, one of them will be in the Oval Office, with the power to do some of the things they’re talking about. This makes everything about their history, worldview, opinions and policy positions 1,000 times more newsworthy than any third-party candidate for president this year.

    It’s the media’s job to report the news, not to promote the candidacy or views of someone who’s going to be a non-factor in the direction of our country over the next four years. If you want more coverage of third-party candidates, build the party. Wave campaign signs, go door to door, hold public events, sign people up, raise money, do commercials, nominate candidates for other offices. Do the things that would make it a force to be reckoned with in an election. The press doesn’t generally have anything against third parties, either individual reporters or on an editorial or corporate level; when they matter as far as the outcome, like Ross Perot did in 1992, they get as much coverage as the Democrats and Republicans. What do you think would be fair? Should hordes of political reporters spend months following around Jill Stein when she’s probably going to get less than 1 percent of the vote and won’t make a difference in the Electoral College? That would be ridiculous. It would be the opposite of covering the news; it would be creating news, turning something that otherwise wouldn’t matter into something that might.

    The argument that not covering third-party candidates for president amounts to not informing the public might’ve held some water 50 years ago, when people’s only sources of information were the local paper and the nightly news on three stations. But not anymore. Anyone with the slightest level of civic awareness knows what the Green and Libertarian parties are and what they generally stand for. And anyone with a computer can find out enough about Jill Stein and Gary Johnson to make an informed electoral decision with a simple Google search. I’ve seen both parties on the ballot every time I’ve gone to vote since I was 18. If I didn’t pull the lever for them, it’s because I didn’t agree with their views, not a lack of information. This is generally a centrist country; those parties are not.

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      You sound like you’re about one step from official party spokesperson, so it’s no surprise I don’t share your narrow view of politics or what’s news.

      A serious American presidential candidate on the ballot in about 40 states, a Harvard educated doctor and grandmother, was arrested and handcuffed to a chair for eight hours to silence her during a debate rigged by two parties.

      That is news, no matter how you spin it.

      • Marlo says:

        Sure it is, and it was reported on all over the place. What’s your point?

        • John Warren John Warren says:

          Watertown Daily Times – 0 reports about Jill Stein.

          Glens Falls Post Star – 0 reports about Jill Stein.

          Denton Newspapers – 0 reports about Jill Stein

          Press Republican – 0 reports about Jill Stein.

          Adirondack Daily Enterprise – 0 reports about Jill Stein.

          North Country Public Radio – 1 Associated Press report about Jill Stein.

          • Marlo says:

            Jill Stein’s arrest wasn’t in the Watertown Daily Times? Then how did anyone ever find out about it?! It must be a capitalist conspiracy to suppress knowledge of the existence of the Green Party!

            Searching the Enterprise’s website, at least, usually only gets you hits on the local news, letters, blogs; they might’ve run something from the AP on Jill Stein’s arrest for all we know. And Denton? Really? You know damn well they don’t cover national politics. You’re also forgetting that Don Hassig’s candidacy for Congress has gotten extensive press coverage. See, no one’s ignoring third parties.

    • Mario: if you’re not interested in non-corporate party options, that’s your free choice. You can choose to ignore coverage of such candidates. But don’t you dare demand that everyone else be denied that information. Don’t impose your preferences on everyone else.

      The media wastes more than enough airtime/ink on highly trivial aspects of this race (ex: who “won” debates, who has higher poll ratings among left-handed albino dwarves in East Cleveland, interminable “analyses” in lieu of actual journalism). They could easily divert some of the resources away from this crap to do real journalism on the smaller party candidates without sacrificing the small amount of real journalism they do on the big boys.

      • Or maybe that’s exactly what partisans are afraid of.

        • Marlo says:

          No one is being denied information, Brian. The information is out there. Look what I found in about 30 seconds with a search engine:

          You like to mock analysis of polls and who won debates, but that stuff is about who our next president will be, and what direction our country is going to go in for the next far. It’s far more important than the views of someone who is never going to be in a position to do what they want to do.

          It’s not just me that’s not interested in “non-corporate party options,” as you put it, it’s most people. If they were interested, they would vote for third-party candidates a bit more often than they do. If they were interested, more publications would spend more time and effort to write about them, because more readers would demand it. But they don’t.

  13. Pat says:

    Unless you are personally wealthy or you are a Democrat or Republican you can’t even think of running for any high politcal office. Until the money is removed as an impediment nothing will change unfortunatley.

    • Actually Pat, if you’re a zillionaire, then you can buy your way into at least being seen as “serious” by the establishment media. Think Ross Perot or Tom Golisano. So the only way you can get elected is to either represent the One Percent or to actually be the One Percent.

  14. Diana says:

    I think, John, made an excellent point with this article.
    In other words, I would say, important conversations aren’t taking place because of who is in control of the content in most of our local and national media.

  15. By ignoring the majority of the candidates, the media is unquestionably doing the job of the Democrat and Republican parties and their PR machines. They want people to ignore other choices that might highlight the fact that they are, while not identical, more similar to each other than either would like to have you believe. If they looked at, say, the Green and Libertarian platforms, they would see huge, fundamental differences with both the Dems and GOP on a wide variety of issues. The Dems and GOP want races to be focused on minor issues made into huge ones, like Big Bird and you didn’t build this.

  16. Even the ombudsman of the resolutely pro-establishment Washington Post rejects the pathetic argument that smaller party candidates should be ignored.

    Not an “agitator.” Not an ideological firebrand. Not a blogger. But the ombudsman of one of the most respected media outlets in the world. Go tell him why he’s clueless.

  17. Brian Mann Brian Mann says:

    Hi folks –

    I’ve written about John’s argument more substantively on NCPR’s In Box blog. I wanted to make one point here.

    In the new media landscape, there is absolutely no reason that John Warren’s Adirondack Almanack can’t cover political issues, local, regional, or national.

    One would think that on a blog that focuses significantly on environmental issues, Jill Stein and the Greens would, indeed, warrant some coverage.

    Yet a search of the Almanack’s archives appears to find no mentions — zero, not one — of Stein’s candidacy before this essay was posted criticizing other media outlets.

    Search under “Green Party” and you’ll find that every couple of years, Warren mentions that organization as part of a scold aimed at other media.

    But then, in the intervening months and years, he drops them entirely from his own radar. No coverage, no discussion, no interviews…nothing.

    (I may have this wrong. I’m relying on John’s search engine for my data.)

    So here’s my (yes, tongue in cheek) question to John: If you are in the know about all the cool, interesting tings that Jill Stein and the Greens have to say to the world — and the rest of us have this so woefully wrong — why are you covering it up?


    –Brian, NCPR

  18. Brian M: I can’t speak for Warren, but as a reader, I go to Adirondack Almanack to get coverage of ADIRONDACK issues. There are a million other places I can go to get coverage of national politics, but a scant few that offer good coverage of regional issues.

    It’s the same reason I scold The In Box for focusing so much on national issues. I go to NCPR and its website for NORTH COUNTRY issues.

    If there is going to be coverage of national issues on the Almanack or In Box, it should have a local focus.

    If I want boring, masturbatory coverage of how the polls are looking and what people are thinking in “swing states” (ie: not NYS), I don’t go to either place.

  19. Brian Mann Brian Mann says:

    Brian –

    So…let me get this straight. John Warren calls out regional news organizations for not covering Jill Stein’s national Green Party candidacy.

    You agree with him.

    But then when I point out that John hasn’t covered the Greens or Jill Stein either…you say that none of us should be focusing on national issues or candidates.

    It doesn’t make sense.

    I’ll also point out that the national politics posts on the In Box log some of the highest traffic and most active civic discussions that our site sees.

    So you don’t like it — fine. Really. There are a ton of other places to go. But a lot of other people do.

    NCPR has always seen itself as a news organization where people come to talk about everything…not just what happens north of Glens Falls and south of Ottawa.

    –Brian, NCPR

  20. Steve Murphy says:

    Media of all kinds are, first and foremost, businesses. They select and slant the “news” according to who buys their advertising and who their owners and editors rub elbows with. There is no news source I know of that presents balanced, well vetted content.

    That said, it is only because the reading public is unconcerned with facts and seeking truth that we have been blessed with this barrage of completely biased information. The majority of people in America are uninformed and wish to remain that way. They get what exactly they ask for. It is no wonder that politicians and people like Romney view the “45%” with complete disdain.

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