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Jeff – The candidate debate, which was held at GVSU’s downtown campus, included Keith Butler, Michael Bouchard and Jerry Zandstra. The only real platform information that readers would have learned about the three GOP candidates running against Senator Stabenow was that two of them, Butler and Bouchard were against the Ballot initiative, known as the Civil Rights Initiative and Zandstra supports it. The only other positions reported on by the Press article was that Zandstra felt the GOP candidate to beat Stabenow should understand economics, Butler tied abortion and economics together and Bouchard, who “stressed his background as a member of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, said ‘I don't want to have our children face down al Qaida 20 years from now, we need to take that fight now and put an end to it."
Linda – These all seem to be pretty important claims that the candidates were making, but the article doesn’t provide readers with any clarification or verification of the claims?
Jeff – Not really. In the case of Zandstra, the article mentions that he has lectured on economics in 25 countries, but the reporter doesn’t tell readers in what capacity he was lecturing. Zandstra was until announcing his candidacy, worked for a local think tank, known as the Acton Institute. The Acton website has numerous articles Zandstra has written on the economy. With the other two comments about terrorism and abortion, it is unfortunate that the Press reporter did not follow up the claims with questions as both issues are sure to be part of the debate between now and the November election.
Linda – We will provide a link to the Election Watch 2006 section of the GRIID site for all local election coverage.
Linda – On Wednesday, Feb 8, WOOD TV 8 ran a story about a union protest in Detroit during the auto show with a west Michigan connection. What was this story about and who was it framed?
Tom – This story was characterized as “stunning news” that because of a union protest during the Detroit auto show was organized by a Coopersville resident, Toyota decided against building a factory here. The reporter says that he got this information from an auto analyst named Dr. David Cole who claims to have overheard several Toyota executives at the autoshow say they were removing West Michigan from their list of possible sites because of the protest. The reporter then notes that the protest was not authorized by the UAW, rather it was the work of a “militant splinter group.” The reporter notes that he talked to the protest organizer, Greg Shotwell and that Shotwell called the story “preposterous at its face, ridiculous and baseless, that I was an irresponsible reporter, that I must be making this stuff up, and called Cole a shill for the auto industry.” This is followed with an interview with a the president of a UAW local in Grand Rapids who calls Shotwell “radical as radical can get.” The reporter asks this Union official if anyone ever tells Shotwell to “shut up” and would he be punished for violating a “technical no-no.”
Linda – Is any other information presented about the protest, Greg Shotwell or his organization?
Tom – No there is not. No information is given as to what the protestors were asking for; all the viewer is told is that they are “radical.” The protest consisted of members of not just the UAW, but also the AFSCME, which represents Detroit City water and sewage workers, a point omitted in the piece. The issues the protesters were addressing were recent layoffs in Michigan as well as reduction in health care benefits and wages and cuts to pension plans by auto parts manufacturer Delphi. In this piece the viewer never hears directly from Greg Shotwell, rather the reporter uses selected short quotes, choosing the most provocative words Shotwell says. This removes Shotwell’s comments from whatever context they were originally within. The reporter then uses fairly lengthy direct quotes from a man who is a UAW local president, but not the president for the chapter that Shotwell belongs too. Nor is any independent verification offered by the reporter to back up the claims made by Dr, Cole about the Toyota executives at the auto show. The framing and presentation of this story should cause viewers to ask if this reflects a particular bias on the part of the reporter.
Linda – On Thursday, February 9 WXMI 17 ran a story about a package of bills that the Michigan legislature is sending to Governor Granholm related to water issues. Jeff Smith, what information was shared with viewers? Jeff – The story was less than 30 seconds long, so I’ll just read to you what the channel 17 newsreader said “It creates new standards for using and diverting water to avoid negative impacts on the environment that includes streams as well as lakes. Eventually you will be able to go on line and click on a map to figure out the impact of water use in an area. It also creates a new permit for bottling water, to make sure it won’t deplete natural resources. The Governor is expected to sign the bill.”
Linda – So the story doesn’t even tell viewers what the bill numbers were, nor any details of the legislation, what legislators supported it and what citizen organization were involved?
Jeff – No real details are provided in terms of the legislative language and what impact this might have on Michigan’s citizens or the environment. There is also no reporting on why this legislation has been introduced. Channel 17 does use some video footage of a Nestle bottling plant in Michigan, but does not present any information to show that water privatization and water diversion from companies like Nestle is what prompted this legislation to begin with.
Linda - On February 8 the Grand Rapids press ran an article entitled “Hoekstra revisits WMD’s”. What was this article about Tom Schwallie?
Tom – This piece is about how local US representative Peter Hoekstra claims that new evidence has come to light suggesting that Saddam Hussein hid WMD’s in 2002 either in Iraq or Syria. Hoekstra is the chair of the House Intelligence committee and the article notes that he heard from several “Iraqi insiders” during closed door congressional briefings. Hoekstra is noted in the article saying that a taped conversation of Saddam recently came to light in which he appears to be discussing hiding WMD’s. Also it is noted that Hoekstra met with a former Iraqi Air Force General named Georges Sada, who claims that Saddam used civilian airplanes to fly chemical weapons to Syria prior to the U.S. invasion. Hoekstra also asked that about 35,000 boxes of Iraqi documents that have yet to be translated be declassified so as to provide possible data on the missing WMD’s.
Linda – Were any other perspectives provided in this piece?
Tom – The article fails to provide and other voices other than Hoekstra’s. Nor does the reporter challenge of ask for verification of any of Hoekstra’s claims or comments. The article is written by a reporter from the Grand Rapids press who sources most of the information to a Fox news story and an article that ran in the Ney York Sun. No verification is given as to how reliable the former Iraqi general mentioned in the piece is. Nor is any mention made that much pre- invasion WMD intelligence was provided by Iraqi informants who later turned out to be giving incorrect or fabricated information. In light of this, it would seem appropriate for a reporter to challenge Rep Hoekstra on the credibility of his source.