I'm waiting with bated breath for Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in which -- if fair play and good journalism still exist at that mainstream news outlet -- I expect the Politifact feature to bash Scott Walker for re-editing the newspaper in his latest campaign commercial.

Why should editors, who increasingly seem to be unabashed backers of the underwhelming, destructive and highly contentious governor, take him to task for misquoting and rearranging their news content? Because Politifact earlier laid hell on Walker's recall opponent, Tom Barrett, for doing something similar, though arguably less manipulative.


In one of his latest (and omnipresent) TV ads, Walker shows a graphic of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel logo along with a blown-up quote from a recent major news story. The Walker ad quotes the newspaper as saying that Wisconsin had "a gain of 23,321 jobs between December 2010 and December 2011 ... ."

However, the Journal Sentinel didn't report exactly that. Referring to unusually generated job numbers newly released by the Walker administration last week, the newspaper reported that, "State officials said they show a gain of 23,321 jobs (public and private) between December 2010 and December 2011, ... ." [the highlighting here is mine.]

See what Walker's campaign did there? Using the time-honored Republican method of exploiting the so-called media echo chamber, Walker's team basically planted a story, then very quickly created a TV ad that quoted itself, filtering that quote so that viewers might be led into thinking the numbers originated with the Journal Sentinel, or at least someone besides Walker's own, jobs-light administration.

The ad carefully snipped out the newspaper's original reference to "state officials" reporting the information, and also trimmed a reference to gains in both private and public sector jobs --- the latter deletion made presumably because Walker would prefer not to be associated with a rise in public employment under his watch. Which is another way in which this unprecedented jobs report begs real questions. 

Now, as the Journal Sentinel itself today editorialized in a broader context, this Walker ad is perhaps unsurprising, because as the paper's editors aver, politicians are always exploiting job creation statistics for their own gain. But here's why this latest Walker manipulation deserves a Politifact "pants on fire" rating:

You see, the Journal Sentinel applied "pants on fire" to a similar though arguably less manipulative appropriation of the newspaper's coverage in another campaign ad run by Tom Barrett's campaign during the fall 2010 gubernatorial race. Politifact was quick to jump on Barrett for that:

In a new attack ad, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Tom Barrett makes it a reality, using purported replicas of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to slam rival Republican Scott Walker for "mismanagement" of Milwaukee County.

The 30-second TV spot offers a trifecta of complaints: wasted money, exploding debt and shoddy oversight of county operations. The ad aims to undercut a main Walker selling point -- his fiscal management as Milwaukee County executive.

In the ad, the narrator declares "the headlines ... tell the story."

But do they?

Instead of using shots of actual newspapers, Barrett’s ad creates a computer-generated version of the Journal Sentinel’s front page and places various headlines at the top of the page -- regardless of where the stories actually appeared.

So there you have it: When Barrett's campaign runs an ad that rearranges Journal Sentinel headlines and stories but not their content, that's a "pants on fire." Even if the Barrett ad accurately passed along the essential facts. Still, okay, fair enough. Yet when Walker plants a story, then selectively edits the Journal Sentinel's coverage, removing all reference to the source of the data -- essentially, himself -- while dumbing down the data even beyond his administration's original release, that's fine and dandy.

At least, fine and dandy so far. Maybe the Journal Sentinel and Politifact will surprise me and slap the governor around for cutting and pasting from its news columns after feeding editors the arguably concocted story to begin with. But, like I said, I await that development with bated breath. My own standard: What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Submitted by Man MKE on