The Mainstream Media’s Epic Fail: Alvin Greene and the 2010 Primary

“I think the ultimate story that…should come out here is this is a major failure on the part of the media.”  Dan Cook, Editor, Free Times, Columbia SC, in radio interview on U Need 2 Know, WOIC (1230 AM,) June 17, 2010. 

Dan nailed it.  He was talking about the real story behind the Democratic U.S. Senate primary victory of Alvin Greene.  

Very few in the print media covered the contest the way that a U.S. Senate race deserves, until of course, it was too late to inform the electorate about the qualifications of Mr. Greene and his opponent Vic Rawl.  (My focus is on the print media because I hold them to a much higher standard for reporting the news.  Most electronic news is just ripping and reading what the print media has already reported or very shallow coverage dictated by the medium itself.  Bloggers might be the only exception.)

And depending on the results of the GOP Gubernatorial runoff, Dan’s comment might apply there also. 

Candidate Nikki Haley’s entire, long campaign has been about total transparency of a legislator’s voting record and income so that the public will know who they are really representing in the General Assembly. 

She garnered 49% of the Republican primary vote on that platform.

  “I knew her to be a connected person who had access to a lot of folks and information, and in my business, that sort of information is critical to get ahead.” 
– Bob Ferrell, Wilbur Smith

Now only five days before the runoff she has been exposed as playing the same good ol’boy money games she has been sanctimoniously carping about.  Several years ago the Columbia engineering firm Wilbur Smith contracted with Representative Haley for one purpose only—information.  “I knew her to be a connected person who had access to a lot of folks and information, and in my business, that sort of information is critical to get ahead,” said Bob Ferrell of Wilbur Smith. (CNN’s “Political Ticker” Blog, 6/18/10)

Representative Haley wasn’t privy to this valuable information because of her family’s clothing business or her husband’s military service or her volunteer work for her church (whichever) or PTA.  The information she had was due solely to her serving in the South Carolina General Assembly.  Period.

Huffmon, courtesy ETV

John O’Connor, a print reporter with The State, finally broke the initial story on Representative Haley that has been hiding in plain view if anyone would have had the time to look for it earlier when it might have mattered to primary voters.

Scott Huffmon, political science professor at Winthrop University, agrees.  “This could have helped tarnish Nikki’s image three months ago, but not at this point.” 

I’m not criticizing our state’s print reporters.  There simply aren’t enough of them.   

Every daily in this state – heck, across the country – has cut their hard news staff to save money. 

Brent Nelsen, unsuccessful GOP primary candidate for S.C. Superintendant of Education, spotted this problem in his contest.  

“The media need to play a more active role in sorting through candidates,” notes Nelsen. “The state’s financially strapped newspapers have cut back the number of reporters writing articles and opinion columns on politics.”

Most of the hard news reporters remaining hardly have time to look behind a press release to really understand the complexities of an issue.  Being able to do real investigative reporting is probably what most aspire to, but there is no time when your editor keeps handing you more and more story assignments to turn around by press time that day.

“The media need to play a more active role in sorting through candidates.” – Brent Nelsen

Our reporters have simply been beat down, grateful to still have a job and looking for that one break that can help them escape a collapsing industry.

The consequences of all this are more than just Alvin Greene and Nikki Haley; the public is missing important stories on government and business every day.  In fact, I’ll share with you one of those stories in my next blog post here at UnConflicted.
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