The John Kerry Christmas in Cambodia story has become a mature, well established and well researched news item over the past few weeks. This is largely due of the efforts of a few key members of the blogosphere, most prominently the Northern Alliance stalwarts, Power Line and Ed Morrissey over at Captain's Quarters, and our friend and radio mentor Hugh Hewitt.
The mainstream press's lack of coverage of this story has verged on Sergeant Schultz "I see nothing" level comedy. Following the lead of the New York Times and Washington Post, neither of our local newspapers has given much coverage at all to the story. The Star Tribune addressed it yesterday, but only in the context of "campaign salvos" launched by Republicans, not as a news story worthy of coverage on its own merits. This article, by Bob Von Sternberg, characterizes the allegations by Swiftboat Veterans for Truth as a Michael Moore-like attack, inspired by a "long time Kerry nemesis". It also emphasizes John McCain's denouncing of the SVFT ad campaign and dutifully repeats Democratic party's recent attempts to undermine the credibility of Kerry accusers Joe Corsi and George Elliot.
The Star Tribune's strategy of covering the story, indirectly and only by casting a skeptical eye on the accusers, mirrors the newspaper coverage in Denver, as analyzed in this column from the Rocky Mountain News.
The Pioneer Press doesn't even go that far, as evidenced by this key word search of their Web site, they've yet to publish a single reference to the story.
Inquiring minds, like our reader The Kernel from Eagan, aren't willing to let them off the hook easily. The Kernel sent me his recent email string with Pioneer Press editor Vicki Gowler, on why her paper has yet to cover this story:
From: (The Kernel)
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2004 8:40 PM
Subject: christmas in cambodia
This has been all over the blogosphere since last Saturday and was breaking news by Carl Cameron on Fox News Monday. I haven't seen anything in your paper. Last night MSNBC (Scarborough Country, at least) picked up on it. When is Knight Ridder going to pick up on this deception? And when are you going to report on Kerry's "magic hat"? Check out the Washington Post on that.
I just renewed my subscription, but I am having some second thoughts. Let's go. Its a big story. Why aren't you covering it . It goes to the basic credibility of a presidential candidate. Get on it or lose me!!!!
From: Gowler, Vicki
To: (The Kernel)
Sent: Friday, August 13, 2004 10:58 AM
Subject: FW: christmas in cambodia
Thanks for asking me about this issue.
Our Knight Ridder Washington Bureau is working on a story. It's turning out not to be a simple task. Several other news organizations have tried to offer stories about the issue, but the stories are not as thorough as we think they should be.
For example, I know the allegations center around Kerry testified before Congress in 1986, but so far our KRT researcher can't find anything in congressional testimony records to that effect.
We have Joe Galloway, the best war correspondent in the country, working on the story, and we hope to have a story in the next week or two. We think it's important on this issue to get it right, not just report unverified allegations.
I hope this explanation helps. Vicki Gowler
From: (The Kernel)
To: Gowler, Vicki
Sent: Friday, August 13, 2004 8:48 PM
Subject: Re: christmas in cambodia
Thanks for your reply.
It's great to hear that Knight Ridder is careful about it's stories. Just to help your crack reporters out, they don't have to review all 1986 entries to the Congressional Record to find Kerry's comments. I can help your sleuths who cannot find the correct cite. The date was March 27, 1986.
Will this give them the ability to beat the 2 week delay you referenced? For many reasons, Galloway is not the right guy to do this story. You can do this from St. Paul and post it throughout the organization...its not that hard to figure out. The facts are very clear. I, a lowly CPA with some command of the language, can get this done for you by Monday.
Are you game?
Bravo to the Kernel for keeping the pressure on them. But, so far, that's the end of the correspondence, so it looks like the Pioneer Press is not in the least bit game. I have to give some credit to editor Vicki Gowler for at least responding to the original question (I guess that goes to show how powerful a threat to cancel a subscription can be - conservative readers take note).
But the content of her response is pathetic. One of the biggest and best funded newspaper chains in the country needs 2 weeks (and counting) to run down an issue that anyone with a basic level of Googling skill can do in a matter of minutes.
Regarding Kerry's comments on Christmas in Cambodia while in the Senate, the crack Knight Ridder research team "can't find anything in congressional testimony records to that effect." The Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, found it and published it during his spare time in a single evening. It's right here, from back on August 8. And repeated again, here on August 13. The ease of finding this makes me wonder if Gowler and the research staff has even heard of the Internet. Or heard of other modern inventions like the IBM Selectrix and carbon paper.
Also, Gowler's claimed interest in making sure they "get it right" and in avoiding "reporting unverified allegations". Luckily, Woodward and Bernstein didn't have such impossibly rigid standards, or dear old Dick Nixon might still be revered as a great President. And did Knight Ridder take weeks and weeks of intensive investigation and soul searching before printing a single story on the allegations surrounding the ridiculous George Bush AWOL story from earlier this year? I can't definitively prove that either way (the Pioneer Press's one week limit on archive access prevents it). But since I don't have a crack research staff and weeks and weeks (and counting) to prove it, I'll go with my instincts and memory and say "NO". Check out this Neal Boortz editorial for more contrasting of the media's handling of the various Kerry and Bush service record allegations.
I'll take a wild guess here and predict that the Pioneer Press's exhaustive, month long investigation, employing a professional research staff and "the best war correspondent in the country," produces, at most, a dismissive article with skepticism dripping from the lede and criticism of the accusers saturated throughout. Then they can say 'we covered it.' Time to moveon.org.
In the mean time, while they've been on square one of the story for weeks and weeks (and counting), and desperately trying to erase the outlines of even that square, guys like Ed Morrissey and John Hinderaker have uncovered and published substantive new aspects to the story a half a dozen times (and counting).
On this story, the Pioneer Press has exposed itself self as encompassing the worst aspects of modern mainstream journalism. They're hopelessly biased, in full denial, and embarrasingly slow.