Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Blogger error is Walker’s fault

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“Man MKE” at Uppity Wisconsin responds to this criticism by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he got the story of Governor Scott Walker’s pay raise wrong. It was all Walker’s fault:

I doubt that the mainstream media’s lack of coverage on the raise was deliberate. The world moves fast and the two events weren’t obviously linked — only significantly linked. Someone had to make the connection, and if you’ve ever been a reporter trying to file a half dozen deadline stories every day on a busy beat, you know how things can fall through the cracks.

But when Walker’s Office of State Employment Relations last week came up with a new “compensation” plan for state workers — a plan that freezes compensation for two years and also makes many changes to non-compensatory policy — the Walker team walked right into a buzzsaw of its own making. The plan included a table (reproduced in an earlier post here at UppityWisconsin and at other blogs) that showed the pay increase for the governor. Now, as even the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Politifact column acknowledged, the chart was presented in a very clumsy way, making it look like the pay raise was new, and still coming down the line.

The chart’s presence created some consternation and that led to some digging, by bloggers, citizens and professional journalists alike. And the final conclusion was clear: Walker quietly took the increase from Day One, and never offered to give any of it back, much less cut the governor’s salary as he was planning to cut the salaries of most other state workers. {Excessive and annoying bold face in the original.}

Really, if you don’t know by now that most politicians can’t give themselves pay raises in the same term, you should consider writing about something else. I loved this part:

Ironically, I am afraid, if bloggers, me included, had gotten the story out in a totally precise, unambiguous and accurate fashion — linking an event from last fall to an event last week — very few news stories would have been written about Walker’s pay raise and his lack of interest in rejecting it, then or now. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have tried to do better, only that in publishing the first draft of history, we sparked interest from professional journalists that has illuminated the issue if only in the context of pointing out blogger shortcomings, guaranteeing that the broader and far more significant set of facts will be campaign issue, perhaps even in a recall election.

That’s right. Spreading bad information helped the cause. I guess it’s like manure.

(See my take on the Journal Sentinel’s Polifact.)

I’m not going to say I never make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But rationalizing an error by saying that it served a purpose by taking a cheap shot at Governor Scott Walker, and then blaming the error on Walker in the first place, is ridiculous.

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