Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 2004 / 21 Tishrei, 5765
Scribes and those they report on: A response to my readers
She was more than an hour late. She spoke softly and very slowly, as if she
were on medication. And she said one nutty thing after another.
As a journalist, I am hermaphroditic. I write this opinion column, but I
also do straight news stories. Last Sunday, I covered Teresa Heinz Kerry's
speech at a dinner for the Westmoreland County (PA) Democratic party. The
little story I wrote on her remarks was picked up by Matt Drudge and several
other web sites, and generated a ton of email, so much so that the only way
I can respond to them all is in this column.
Because of the constraints of space (I had only a 9 inch hole to fill) and
time (because Teresa started late, I had only 30 minutes to write before
deadline), my story consisted simply of reporting what she said.
Some readers liked this. Susan from Skokie, Ill. said: "I appreciate a
journalist who just reports the news."
But many more agreed with Mark from Houston, who asked: "Are all your
stories just barfing up rhetoric and spin? It's called journalism, not
"Aren't you supposed to show where she is wrong...like every single
statement she makes?" asked Stephen from the University of Pennsylvania.
Some wondered why I reported on Heinz Kerry's speech at all. "None of your
story on Heinz Kerry is believable, so why did you write it?" asked Bernard.
The short answer, Bernard, is that she is the wife of the Democratic
candidate for president, a (sort of) local girl speaking at a local event.
The shorter answer is my editor asked me to cover her speech.
I think reporters too often inject their opinions into news stories. We're
usually better off just reporting what was said or what happened, and
letting readers sort out the implications for themselves, as my hundreds of
But Mark and Stephen have a point. We ought not to let public figures get
away with blatant misrepresentations of fact.
Heinz Kerry blasted President Bush's conduct of the war on terror, saying
among other things that "the Taliban is back running Afghanistan." Ten
million Afghans are registered to vote in national elections that will take
place this weekend. That could not have occurred if the Taliban were still
With regard to Iraq, she said: "No American boy or girl should lose their
lives for oil." Michael Moore, move over. It's getting crowded on the
loony left fringe.
Teresa also praised her husband's proposals for national health insurance,
and to provide four years of college tuition for every student in America
after completion of a mandatory two years of national service.
"Every child in America will receive health care from Day One if John is
elected. Period," Heinz Kerry said.
Having grown up in Mozambique, then a dictatorship, Teresa seems still to be
unaware that in the United States, Congress must approve new legislation.
The chances that Congress would approve Kerry's health care program at all
are slim. The chances that this would be done the day of Kerry's
inauguration are zero.
Kerry's plan also would pay 75 percent of all medical costs above $50,000
for all Americans, and would provide tax subsidies to business owners to
provide health insurance for their employees, his wife said.
I'd have gotten a lot fewer emails if the editors hadn't cut the last
sentence of my story: "Heinz Kerry didn't say how much these programs would
cost, or how her husband plans to pay for them."
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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