- What began innocently enough with a watershed article
several weeks ago by Tribune Media Service's Robert Koehler on the need
for Election Reform and an investigation into the results of Election 2004,
has now erupted into a full-fledged firestorm resulting Wednesday afternoon
in the unprecedented rejection of Koehler's latest column by the higher-ups
at TMS where Koehler is both a columnist and editor!
- Tribune Media Services is the syndication arm of the
Tribune Company which, in turn, is the parent company to the Chicago Tribune.
- Koehler's original ground-breaking column from April
-- the first by an American Mainstream Media journalist that we know of
to out-and-out charge that the 2004 Election was stolen -- was written
a few days after Koehler attended the National Election Reform Conference
last month in Nashville. The piece was headlined "The Silent Scream
of Numbers: The 2004 election was stolen - will someone please tell the
- He followed it up the next week with another stunner
headlined "Democracy's Abu Ghraib - If they can disable an election,
what's coming next?"
- While both pieces were distributed via TMS to syndicate
member newspapers, only a handful chose to run either of those two columns.
- Most notably, however, despite Chicago Tribune itself
having chosen to run neither column, their "Public Editor", Don
Wycliffe, found it appropriate to write a column in the Trib's pages wherein
he rebutted Koehler's original piece. Wycliff's rebuttal, as reported here
previously, attempted to discredit Koehler's column, Koehler himself, and
those of us who might give a damn about democracy and the responsibility
that the people (and yes, that would include the media) have to remain
vigilant in order to sustain it.
- Wycliff's column, citing the "moral example"
of Richard Nixon (yes, not kidding) as the figure whom American's ought
to follow in regards to potentially stolen elections, has erupted in a
torrent of email directed towards the misguided and/or misinformed Wycliff
and in support of Koehler.
- Koehler once again hits a home-run with this week's column
in response to Wycliff's. Or at least he would have had the Masters of
Tribune Media Services not killed the article for the first time in Koehler's
- Here's the spiked column, received from Koehler via email,
not yet posted on his website,
- Common Wonders
- For release 5/5/05
- CITIZENS IN THE RAIN
- By Robert C. Koehler
- Tribune Media Services
- "Where there is a free press the governors must
live in constant awe of the opinions of the governed." - Lord Macaulay
(one of many stirring quotes on the sacred role of the Fourth Estate adorning
the lobby of the Chicago Tribune)
- My fantasy of the mainstream media actually doing their
job, and living up to the words they carve in marble to describe their
own importance, is an 80-point (Terri Schiavo- or even Pope John Paul II-sized)
headline running across the top of tomorrow's paper: ELECTION RESULTS IN
- That would stop a few hearts. But the nation's major
newspapers, even as they struggle with declining readership, have no intention
of being quite that relevant to their readers - no intention, it appears,
even to begin the process of looking into the hornets' nest of vote fraud
allegations abuzz in meticulously researched reports on electronic voting
(see uscountvotes.org) or the voluminous Conyers Report on what happened
in Ohio on Nov. 2 (see truthout.org/Conyersreport.pdf).
- Isn't our democracy at stake? Doesn't that matter?
- "If John Kerry and the Ohio Democratic Party and
all the other folks who had the most to gain from the election were making
this challenge, I would get interested. But when the people with the most
at stake don't step up, I'm suspicious."
- So Don Wycliff, the Chicago Tribune's public editor,
wrote to me in an e-mail exchange a few days ago, explaining why he, if
not the Tribune itself, had no intention of investigating the issue with
- It followed a strange breach in the Tribune's deathly
silence on the irregularities of the 2000 and 2004 elections, which came
about after readers began bombarding the Tribune with mail suggesting they
run a column I had written, "The Silent Scream of Numbers," addressing
these irregularities and reporting on a national election-reform conference
in Nashville last month.
- My column didn't run, but Wycliff wrote a column, "When
Winning Isn't Everything," dismissing their concerns and telling them
to ponder the moral leadership of Richard Nixon, who patriotically swallowed
his close defeat in 1960 without complaint. In others words, shut up and
get over it.
- Wycliff was speaking only for himself, not "the
media," but because his column was one of the few pieces to appear
in a major publication even acknowledging that a huge number of Americans
are distraught at mounting evidence of large-scale disenfranchisement in
2004 (and no guarantee that 2006 and 2008 will be any different), his words,
by default, have special resonance. They stand in for the prejudices of
the media as a whole.
- Of all my objections to what he wrote, his contention
that Kerry has the most at stake in all this is the most dispiriting, and
most reflects the wrongheaded, "horse race" coverage of elections
the media have shoved down our throats for as long as I can remember.
- In his column, Wycliff even used a sports analogy, pointing
out that "it's not the pregame prognostication and expert opinions
that count, but the numbers on the scoreboard after the contest has actually
been played." The Bush team won; the Kerry team lost. And the voters
must be the equivalent of sports fans then, either jubilant or disappointed
when the game is over, but couch potatoes either way, not participants.
- Anyone else just a little bit offended? As one of the
hundred or so readers who responded to the column (and cc'd me) put it,
"Winning isn't everything, but fair elections are everything."
- Nearly a week after Wycliff's column ran, the Tribune
has printed only one letter in response to it - and this letter was about
Nixon. It didn't have a word to say about the 2004 election. So much for
my naïve optimism that an actual debate would ensue on the pages of
- Once again I quote exit-poll analyst Jonathan Simon:
"When the autopsy of our democracy is performed, it is my belief that
media silence will be given as the primary cause of death."
- The stakes are getting higher and higher. Could it be
we can't have election reform without media reform? The "respectable
press" refuses to confer the least legitimacy on the citizens who
are questioning this election and demanding accountability in the voting
- How do we make them care? How do we make them look for
themselves? How do we make them stand outside with us in the rain, waiting
to cast our ballot for democracy?
- Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist,
is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer.
You can respond to this column at email@example.com or visit his Web
site at commonwonders.com.