After watching the first debate between Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick, I was shocked at how most of the reports in the media simply restated Koschnick’s empty talking points and illegitimate attacks. With all of their “outrage” over the nastiness of the last race, one would think that the media would actually do their job – report the facts. They can complain about nasty campaigning all that they want but if they don’t hold candidates accountable, they themselves are part of the problem.
During the debate Koschnick repeatedly threw around the old meaningless “activist” label. The press seemed to take his name calling and run with it, printing it in most of their stories about the debate. Yet, given his repeated use of the word “activist” none of the reporters saw fit to mention one of the most compelling moments in the entire debate. The Chief Justice started reading off several cases where Judge Koschnick had been reversed by the court of appeals. There seemed to be a common theme from the higher court, repeatedly saying that Koschnick exceeded his authority and ruled in ways that ignored statutes. If there is a definition of an “activist” judge, some of the appeals courts descriptions could have served as such. Somehow this pot/kettle moment was either totally missed or deliberately ignored by the press.
In addition, the media has known for a while that Koschnick was going to wave around the bloody shirt from the infamous Knapp case. He brought it up repeatedly during the debate and the media reported his comments. What neither he nor the media did bring up was the fact that in the very same case, he himself ruled that a pair of bloody shoes should not be allowed as evidence. The only thing that the media had to do was search their own past reporting of the case and they would have learned about Koschnick’s ruling on the shoes. They didn’t do that and settled with simply carrying his one sided and disingenuous commentary.
In the absence of real reporting and basic fact checking, bloggers quickly began to point out the whole picture about the Knapp case. Only then did the state’s largest paper finally run an online item reporting about Koshnick’s ruling on the bloody shoes. But even after finally reporting the fact, they still could not get the information completely correct, making a very fundamental mistake in its reporting which later had to be corrected.
The idea that no one at this newspaper association debate was familiar enough with the basic facts of the Knapp case, when they knew it was going to be used, is irresponsible. Equally troubling is that reporters simply repeated Koschnick’s name calling without making him answer for his own record. Not only did the media completely abdicate their responsibilities in the reporting of this debate, but they showed a disturbing propensity to completely and totally fumble the facts.