Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bill Sammon, super-moral truth teller

The Washington Times reporter is quoted in the Christian Examiner, apparently non-ironically, about bringing "moral clarity" to reporting:

That moral compass will allow you to connect with mainstream America in a way that the mainstream media is not doing right now.

Hey that's super! And what examples can he give of that moral compass guiding his work? Why Al Gore in 1999, in a story that Sammon "broke" about Gore allegedly releasing water from a dam to take a canoe ride:

Another moment for bringing moral clarity to news coverage occurred when Sammon covered Al Gore’s campaign during the 2000 presidential election. On one campaign stop, Gore took a canoe ride down the Connecticut River to promote his support of environmental policies.

Sammon learned that Gore had instructed local officials to release water from a dam upriver and raise the water level by a foot in order to facilitate his canoe ride. Because the area was experiencing a drought, the water level in the river had fallen. Officials refused to raise the water level previously in order to preserve water for other uses.

After confirming his information, Sammon wrote a front-page story for The Washington Times exposing Gore’s promotion of policies to protect the environment while simultaneously wasting water during a drought.

“It caused quite a little scandal for a number of days and even weeks,” he said.

Great story. But I'm left to wonder if shading the truth, misquoting sources and leaving out important contextual information is all part of Sammon's moral compass?

As the incomparable Bob Somerby explained at the time, the dam people released water every single day, and officials there merely moved up the release by a few hours, apparently at the request of the Secret Service, not Gore. And Sammon ignored those facts:

...How hard did Sammon work to avoid saying "daily?" Here's how he quoted one official, smoothly avoiding the word:

SAMMON: Bill Shaheen, husband of the governor [of New Hampshire] and chairman of the Gore 2000 campaign in New Hampshire, downplayed the significance of the water discharge, saying the utility periodically releases water anyway.

"Periodically" replaces "daily" in Sammon's effort to maintain his gimmicked-up tale. In two full days of reporting his story, Sammon never told readers the dam releases water every day. As we've mentioned, he did quote a dam employee saying, of the water release, "It's a first for me, and I've been in this job for 16 years." Local papers explained to readers about the daily release of water. Sammon, a sophist spinning a story, decided to deep-six that fact.

Bill Sammon, man of morals.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:22 PM

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