Hood an expert on Edwards?

Wednesday's Daily Tar Heel has a front page story about John Edwards called "Edwards on the Road.” It has a big map of the USA plotting Edward's public travel schedule. The story comes to the conclusion that he is campaigning for President in 2008. Shocked? Not I.

Is John Hood an expert on John Edwards? I wondered this because the story quotes him about the nature of Edward's activities. Hood is President of the John Locke Foundation, a well known conservative think tank here in North Carolina - hardly an unbiased expert on the subject of liberal politicians.

Is this how ethical student reporting works? Ask a subject's opponent what he thinks of how subject spends time and get just the quotations you need to build a negative story? The author of this story (DTH's Investigative Team Editor) should have interviewed more people. I enjoy investigative journalism, but this story belonged in the opinion section not on the front page.

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Terri is correct. The issue with this PARTICULAR article is not that the DTH gave Hood a vehicle to advance his brand of partisanism. Rather, he didn't say anything that most observers of politics haven't already thought a million times, and that's the real issue: the article advances the common wisdom, and what's the point in writing about that?

I'd have taken a more micro approach to this. Instead of looking at Edwards' schedule and determining that he's running for president, I'd have looked at it and determined how important each state will be to Edwards the Candidate in 2008.

Or talked to law-school students or Chancellor Moeser about whether they think Edwards' work is worthwhile.

Or ... anything along those lines, really.

The DTH's investigative team has done good work this year, and its instincts were right on this story -- take a look at Edwards' schedule, which hasn't been scrutinized too much by the local media. What it did with those documents was where it went wrong.

Ginny-
Those are good points. Students at the DTH are learning. I hope this critique of their writing contributes to their education.

As readers we're participants in their work. Their future in writing is now a two way conversation.

I'm not sure whether I would call it a rhetorical question. But, I am glad to see that you perceive it as such.

Actually, it was meant to point out that the intellectual dishonesty you attribute to John Hood is not confined to the right-of-center perspective.

By seeing the question as rhetorical, you apparently see my point.

Here are the statements attributed to John Hood in the article. There's not one outlandish statement among them. What exactly is there to stress about in this article--Guillory and Hood said basically the same thing.

"It's the usual dance. We know the destination, we just don't know what steps he will use to dance his way to that destination," said John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation and a political analyst. "He's been running for president since he's stopped running for president."

"The poverty center at UNC-Chapel Hill is largely a vehicle for running a campaign based on economic concerns," he said. "I think it's obvious by the activities of the center that it is primarily designed to keep John Edwards in the public debate on a signature issue so he will be a viable candidate."

"It is not an uncommon thing for politicians who lost and want to stay in the game to see a platform to address public issues," Hood said.

"It's a legitimate concern for the public in North Carolina to wonder if an arm of their state university is being used to enhance a political campaign," he said.

Allan, is that a rhetorical question? Of course it would apply to left-of-center think tanks ... if they had tons of money.

Which makes the point perfectly.

It's hard for me to understand why the stenographers in the mainstream media feel it's appropriate to depend so heavily on these kinds of opinion-manufacturers. John Hood is PAID to generate opinions on behalf of Art Pope. For a reporter to care what he says about anything is absurd on its face.

Although I've been an advocate of the DTH using additional sources, you do have to look at it from the student journalists' perspective.

They have extremely high turnover because the longest anyone stays is 4-5 years, and many people work for the paper briefly to "try out" journalism. So new reporters look for easy sources -- ones that seek out reporters, ones that have a high-profile or ones who have been quoted in similar previous stories.

More experienced reporters also have to go with who will call them back in time for their story to be published. Ferrel Guillory is always kind enough to talk to Daily Tar Heel reporters, and winds up in basically every single story about state or national politics. He tries to present a non-biased assessment. But many people aren't willing to talk to student reporters (they've been misquoted, the students weren't knowledgeable about the topic, or they think their time is too valuable to spend talking to students) so they have to go with who they get.

If any of you have a particular expertise or know an expert who would be willing to talk to student reporters, why not e-mail the DTH? I'm sure they'd be glad to have an expanded sourcelist.

Andy,
I see no reason for that right-wing think thank to be interviewed about John Edwards at UNC. If the report is trying to say his job is a sham designed to give him a voice while he runs for President, then how about asking the Chancellor? Or, some faculty in the law school? If the article were a list of his positions, then perhaps you could have the opinion of John Hood as an opposition opinion. But, this article seemed to want to focus on his job at UNC.

"But like any other think-tanker, he starts with opinions and then seeks out facts to support those opinions, often cherry-picking the most obscure wacko studies to back up those points-of-view. In my opinion, this is the height of intellectual dishonesty."

Would that assessment also include the left-of-center think tanks that spend tons of money "flooding the main stream media with unvarnished" fantasies of their own?

John Hood, the stagemanager for the Art Pope Puppetshow, is surely honest in his opinions. But like any other think-tanker, he starts with opinions and then seeks out facts to support those opinions, often cherry-picking the most obscure wacko studies to back up those points-of-view. In my opinion, this is the height of intellectual dishonesty.

Pope spends nearly $300,000 a month generating opinions and flooding the main stream media with unvarnished free-market fantasies. The sad-but-predictable result is that reporters (like this kid at DTH) lap up their drivel without question.

Add Thad Beyle to the list of usual suspects that it would be nice not to hear from very often. It's not necessarily that he's biased because he's a Right-moderate Democrat, but because he never contributes anything that an astute 8th grader doesn't already know.

Ruby,

In counting several sources, we in the journalism school would include the polls the story mentioned and documents used (the "calendar items" — I do wish it were more obvious what these were) as well as human sources quoted in the story.

I agree that Locke isn't the best pick as source for this topic, and RNC could be more relevant — or maybe even a rival Democrat, if you can find one willing to talk about 2008.

"You can't trust John Hood for an honest opinion..."

Are you saying that John Hood doesn't actually believe the positions he takes on issues?

If not, how are his opinions dishonest?

Maybe I missed something, but I only counted two sources besides Edwards himself: John Hood and Ferrell Guillory, speaking in his role as a non-partisan political analyst (although registered as Democrat). The Locke Foundation doesn't do national issues and nor do they do electoral politics! They don't qualify as experts for the supposed topic of this story. Ask a GOP or RNC official maybe, but a conservative policy think tank?

I like the conclusion of that Vaden column. He says there's nothing wrong with quoting the Locke Foundation, but...

But the newspaper also should bring the same skepticism to the Locke information machine that it does to other powerful institutions. Reporters should resist the temptation to go to Hood and Co. for the easy conservative quote and look instead for other voices from the right. The Locke Foundation reports and other information should be scrutinized to separate propaganda from fact. And the organization should be regarded not just as a resource -- a word used both by Christensen and Martinez -- but as an opinion manufacturer that is itself a story.

Hood is one of several sources in the story, and it's reasonable to get the view of an Edwards opponent somewhere in a story like this. His comments didn't add much, however, and it would have been more interesting to get the views of someone less predictable. In addition, it would be helpful to identify the Locke Foundation more clearly — what's its purpose and what does it advocate? Telling readers that would help.

Hood and the Locke Foundation are quoted frequently in local media. Some say too much so. Here's what the N&O's public editor, Ted Vaden, said about that in a recent column:

http://www.newsobserver.com/559/story/484438.html

Partisanship aside, readers get tired of hearing from the same sources over and over. For example, I stop reading any story about television that includes a quote from Bob Thompson of Syracuse. No offense to him, but I know what his take will be.

So true Mark. But the students at the DTH and UNC in general may not know.

I thought the article was benign and Hood's quotes were obvious and nothing new. Hood is a corporate political hack , but he he's not quoted as saying anything that we didn't know already. There's enough bizarre bs getting circulated without worrying about this stuff. The only new thing I learned is that Edwards keeps mixed nuts in his office.

I read through this article and it appears to be a right-wing hit job. However, the reporter appears to NOT be a winger. So, I would guess it is naivete on the part of the reporter. You can't trust John Hood for an honest opinion and you certainly can't dedicate an entire article to John Edwards and have John Hood be the person that dissects his accomplishments. I'm not a big believer in "balance" in the media, I think what we need are more "facts". I have no problem with the Investigative Journalist going out and digging and getting information from all sources, then coming to a factual conclusion. But, in this case the Journalist is simply a Reporter, who reports exactly what they are told - hook, line, and sinker.

 

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