Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Murphy schools the Crazy Shepherd on journalism

Gotta bug the Crazy Shepherd when their most successful refugee, Bruce Murphy, criticizes them sharply for their coverage of the state supreme court race:

The coverage of incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s race against challenger Randy Koschnick has, if nothing else, been good for occasional laughs.

Consider last week’s cover story by the Shepherd Express. Koschnick claims he has a list of 70 cases in which Abrahamson’s rulings show she is out of the mainstream. Not so, counters reporter Lisa Kaiser. A “closer examination of those rulings” actually proves Abrahamson “is a stickler for details in legal gray areas so that each side receives a fair hearing in court.”

Wow. I’ve never known a reporter to go through 70 legal cases to cover the campaign. That’s impressive.

Er, maybe not. Because Kaiser actually never quotes any details from the cases. That “closer examination” turns out to be pure assertion, backed up by a quote from Abrahamson.

It’s pretend journalism. The story includes a quote from an unnamed lawyer who accuses Koschnick of “deliberately manipulating the facts and blatantly pandering to people’s fears.” Easy for you to say, Mr. Anonymous.

And the fawning cover headline, “Staying Above the Fray – Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s Independent Streak,” could have been written by her campaign, which boasts of her “fierce independence.”