Epithets

Ron Fournier, who kissed Karl Rove’s butt and negotiated for a job with McCain, is now covering the campaign for AP.

Every Homeric hero comes with an epithet: a phrase tacked on to the name identifying or describing the character. (Most come with more than one, to accommodate different placements in the rhythm of a line of verse.) Sometimes it’s just a patronymic, as in “Penelope, daughter of Icarius.” But often the epithet gives a key fact about the person it refers to. So we have “Zeus, who gathers the clouds,” and “wide-ruling Agamemnon” and “Menelaus of the loud war-cry” and “Achilles fleet of foot” and “wily Odysseus.”

So let me introduce you to “Ron Fournier, who negotiated for a job on the McCain campaign before taking over as chief of the AP Washington bureau.” He’s also referred to as “Fournier the sycophant of Rove.” Here, as often in Homer, the epithets are essential to the understanding of the character’s actions.

Update A reader points me to this list of the board of AP, in case anyone wants to complain about having a Republican hack cover the Presidential campaign.

Second update More on Fournier’s journalism, and his ethics (such as they are). Steve Benen summarizes the case for the prosecution.

Third update MyDD reports that FDL is gearing up for action.

For example:

kcarroll@ap.org

Kathleen Carroll

Executive Editor

The Associated Press

Dear Ms. Carroll:

I apologize for further crowding your in-box, but ever since I was old enough to read a newspaper I have thought of the AP as the gold standard for objective, “just-the-facts” journalism. Ron Fournier’s conduct, and AP’s decision to leave him in charge of the Washington Bureau, have forced me to re-think that belief.

It seems to me that, just as a matter of appearances, allowing someone who negotiated for a job with one of the candidates to drive AP’s election coverage is imprudent. The sycophantic emails from Fournier to Karl Rove — at the moment when, as we now know, Rove was engaged in an especially ghoulish act of deception with the press as his instrument — make things worse.

Those suspicions might have slept if Fournier and his colleagues had provided even reasonably even-handed treatment of the candidates. But the actual slant of AP’s Presidential campaign coverage — culminating in this morning’s hit-piece aimed at Joe Biden and at Barack Obama for choosing him — is now too obvious to ignore.

I urge you, for the sake of the institution you lead, to replace Fournier with someone who understands the difference between fact and opinion and who will cover this campaign with something resembling an even hand and insist that others do the same.

Yours,

Fourth update My argument failed to convince Bill Nance. But Ron Fournier’s next article did the trick.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com