Walter Mears, the AP’s resident ghoul

Ted Kennedy is dying. Tonight was almost certainly his last major public appearance. To Walter Mears of the the Associated Press, that seemed like a good time to do a hit-piece. Ick.

Ted Kennedy is dying. Tonight was almost certainly his last major public appearance. To Walter Mears of the the Associated Press, that seemed like a good occasion for a hit-piece. The article mentions not a single one of Kennedy’s accomplishments.

Truly a disgusting performance, and one more reason to call for personnel changes in the AP political operation.


Matt Dreyer writes:

Your most recent blog post both indulges in an unfortunate tendency that some blog posts and some bloggers engage in when writing media criticism and damages your message about Ron Fournier and the AP’s serious problem by diluting it. The tendency to which I refer is to two-fold. First, some bloggers (I’m mostly thinking of DeLong here, to be honest, but your most recent post is certainly an example as well) seem to always personalize their critique, rather than going after what was written. Along with this, when a journalist writes one bad piece, it’s treated as if it’s part of a trend of bad writing from that person, even if no post about problems with their work has been written before.

Also, while I agree that this piece is overly negative towards Kennedy, it’s not an analysis of his life as a whole, but of the ways in which he’s interacted with Presidential conventions. In that context, maybe there are good things to say which Mears leaves out, and that’s a valid criticism, but I’m not sure that not writing about e.g. his achievements in the Senate is.

[quoted with permission]

I’m not familiar with the body of Mears’s work, but I stand by my claim that writing such an unrelievedly negative piece in preparation for a dying man’s last performance is ghoulish. If Chappaquiddick deserved mention, so did Kennedy’s mastery of the Senate.

As to making the issue personal: yes and no. I was reacting more to Mears’s manners than to his professional competence; it seems to me that a decent human being simply doesn’t treat a dying man that way. But my critique was of his article, not of his biography.

I suspect that Fournier is the problem, or that Fournier’s selection reflected a decision by the AP board to swing to the right. If so, the piece might have derived more from the workplace situation than from Mears’s personal views. (I strongly suspect that to be true of David Espo.) But they’re big boys; their bylines are over the pieces; and a man who turns in such a ghoulish performance ought to expect to be called a ghoul.

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: