Watching Wilgoren


Geraldine Sealey
April 19, 2004 7:55PM (UTC)

The folks who hounded New York Times' Howard Dean campaign reporter Jodi Wilgoren during the primary season via a watchdog blog might want to resuscitate their efforts to keep tabs on her coverage of John Kerry.

Today's Wilgoren piece on Kerry's Meet the Press appearance contains some snide patches that seem to reflect more of an interest on Ms. Wilgoren's part to get a mention in The Note -- It worked! -- than to objectively cover the presumptive Democratic nominee. Kerry "appeared well prepared" and "avoided verbal stumbles," Wilgoren tells us. And Kerry -- news flash -- correctly pronounced the name of the United Nations' envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, "which he had mangled three times in recent days."

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"Hours later, at the University of Miami, Mr. Kerry goofed again, referring to the envoy as 'Brandini,'" Wilgoren noted. And the day had started so well! How will Kerry recover? Indeed, Kerry's occasional fumbling of Brahimi's name seems a pet issue for Wilgoren, who wrote an online piece devoted to the topic last week. She was clearly on the Brahimi-Brandini case again on Sunday, giving Kerry's pronunciation of the U.N. envoy's name more play in her piece than the candidate's positions on job creation and balancing the budget.

In another random tangent, Wilgoren declares, with no couching or sourcing, just her own opinion backing her up, that "the most awkward moment" on Meet the Press was Kerry's reaction to watching his younger self describing the Vietnam War, using words he now says were harsh. Wilgoren was not impressed with Kerry's initial humorous response to his youthful appearance on tape. Wilgoren chides the candidate: "'Where did all the dark hair go, Tim?' Mr. Kerry tried, wearing an odd grin. 'That's a big question for me.'"

Wilgoren is trying too -- trying way too hard to "get" Kerry with nit-picky little jabs that avoid the substance of the many issues she should be covering.

One cannot accuse the Times' Elisabeth Bumiller of anything similar in the latest edition of her White House Letter, or, rather, White House Love Letter. Contrast Wilgoren's snarky treatment of Kerry with Bumiller's apology for the agonizing primetime performance handed in by President Bush last week. Presidential press conferences are just so hard.

This is the same reporter who defended the docile, deferential demeanors of White House reporters in a presidential press conference before Bush invaded Iraq by saying: "It's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there."

And this is the liberal media?

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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