Explore Harvard's Nieman network Nieman Fellowships Nieman Lab Nieman Reports Nieman Storyboard
Perry at a Ronald Reagan dinner in Bettendorf, Iowa, in November. (AP photo)

Strentz & Cranberg on whether to boycott Rick Perry

COMMENTARY | December 10, 2011

Two longtime Iowa journalists, one a professor, the other an editorial page editor, in a brief colloquy on whether Rick Perry should pay a price – no editorial board meeting – because of some outrageous remarks.


By Herb Strentz and Gilbert Cranberg

Strentz to Cranberg:

Hi, Gil: Des Moines Register editorial board goes ahead with Perry interview scheduled for today.

Were you the editor of the opinion pages today, would you have given any thought to calling off an interview with Perry as meaningless, senseless and because of additional shortcomings, given his most recent ad in which he says President Obama is waging "war against religion" and numerous other ravings?

At what point does the press have an obligation to not participate in politics as usual?

Yes, you could meet with Perry and question him about the ad and persist on that point, but calling off the interview would make the point stronger.

Perry would still be covered in the news, so it wouldn't by like the 1940s when the LA Times boycotted — in news and opinion — any coverage of hatemonger Gerald L.K. Smith (who of course still drew thousands to his rallies).

Really bizarre that the press early on trumpeted Perry as such a viable candidate, perhaps the GOP's best choice. Even Perry's good looks can't pull him out of this one, except among the far right in Iowa.

Cranberg’s response:
I wouldn't call off the interview. Not like he's a fringe candidate. When you have him in the office you can confront him on all sorts of issues. I caught a snippet of him with Register Editorial board and wished it had been longer. Don't think papers should be making statements about candidates by snubbing them. In my experience, some of the revealing things about a candidate came during the face-to-face editorial board session. Our experience with Roger Jepsen a case in point. It led directly to my decision to put "best man lost" head on the post-election editorial. He was so palpably stupid!

Add End: Strentz
A key point is that papers shouldn't make statements about candidates by snubbing them, I guess. Perhaps such action would betray lack of confidence in the paper's editorials and commentary.  My question is born out of frustration with the way absurdities are dismissed so readily, as though one person's exercise of free expression means that no one should challenge his statements or hold him accountable.

Some columnist (or maybe a Times editorial) recently observed that the views, policies and practices current GOP candidates are espousing bear no relevance to the conditions they would have to deal with if in the White House.


Posted by taikan
12/13/2011, 09:53 PM

Rather than snub a candidate (other than a "fringe" candidate with less than 2-3% support in the polls), the press should question the candidate vigorously and report the results.

The press also should be "fact checking" each candidate's ads and speeches and reporting the results. That includes conducting analyses (or seeking out experts who can or have done conducted such analyses) of the candidate's economic and other proposals and reporting the results of those analyses.

The American public cannot expect political candidates to be honest or to limit themselves to realistic proposals if the press doesn't expose the candidates' false or misleading statements or the flaws (including false or improbable assumptions) in the candidates' respective proposals.

The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.