Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dirty "Journalism"

Every once in a while, The Daily Dartmouth puts forth a decent, well-researched, and fair-minded piece of real journalism. Yesterday's hit piece they released on petition trustee candidate Joe Asch is not one of them. In an accusatory tone, The D suggests that one of Joe Asch's former companies is guilty of French tax fraud, and confronts Asch with a variety of French legal documents, "obtained" [effective use of the passive voice] by The Daily Dartmouth.

Now, when they say "obtained," forgive me for suspecting that means that it was delivered - story line and all - by an opposition researcher hired by either the Alumni Office, John Replogle, the Dartmouth Undying AoA slate, or some combination of the three. I think all close observers can agree that it's highly unlikely any other source would go to the trouble of providing The Daily Dartmouth with arcane, translated French legal documents.

Moreover, one can not help but raise an eyebrow to the timing yesterday's story. This was the last issue of The D before Spring Break, meaning the Asch story will occupy their front page online for a full three weeks - almost the entire duration of the voting period, which starts today. Asch's opponents planted this story as a classic October surprise.

This tells us a few things: first, this is not a piece of journalism. It's a piece of propaganda crafted by Asch's opponents for the express purpose of sliming his name while alumni go to vote, and depriving him of the chance to respond. If The D were an honest paper, not a Parkhurst/Blunt newsletter, it would have told its readers who provided the story, and it would have put its accusations in context by inserting a few quotes from legal experts who actually have a sense of whether or not there was any serious wrongdoing here. My own layman's sense is that Asch's international company made a mistake, paid its taxes in the US instead of in France, and paid up the French government without incident when the mistake was revealed. But, again, we weren't provided any legal context on that front. Presumably The D took its time before it ran the story. They could easily have talked to any one of the many trained lawyers at Dartmouth for a variety of perspectives. But they didn't. Epic fail, as they say.

Second, this story - in conjunction with other campaign tactics employed by the Establishment (see below) - reveals what a low-down, dirty operation the Replogle/Dartmouth Undying faction has got going. For all their complaints about Joe Asch's spending on this race (which is very modest), I would be very interested to know how much they paid to some oppo guy (or girl!) to dig up this "dirt" on Asch. Apparently, they were pretty desperate to get their money's worth.

Of course, it's always possible that Replogle, Dartmouth Undying, et alia had nothing to do with this story. If so, I should hope that they would disavow any responsibility and dismiss the story as the (weak) slime piece that it is.


Emily said...

The D's piece reminded me of a New York Times "news analysis" piece--that is to say, an op-ed that poses as news, and is slapped on the front page of the paper. But there's one difference: the article was so obviously a non-story that calling it a "news analysis" would suggest that there was, well, news in it.

Rick Allen '75 said...

Charlie: your piece is irresponsible. A clear and unequivocal comment from John Replogle was a comment on that D story for 17 hours before you posted, reading: "I’ve just landed in Minneapolis, where tonight Mort and I will join Joe at an event with the Dartmouth Club here. Let me say publicly what I’ll tell him privately tonight concerning the above story: it is the journalistic endeavor of the D, and neither Mort nor I, nor our campaign, was even aware The Dartmouth’s underlying investigation or the story that resulted from it before we read it online today. Susan Mathews, Editor of The Dartmouth, has confirmed to me that the paper did not receive any documents or materials or any kind of contact relating to the subject of this article from us. Mort and I have received – and seek -- widespread support from all sectors of the alumni on the basis of strength of character, personal and professional expertise, and ability to engender consensus among divergent interests. We are running a positive campaign and will continue to do so. We disagree with Joe on a number of substantive matters, but I believe we all call for civility in the election discourse.
John Replogle ’88, candidate for Trustee"

The Dartmouth Review found John's comment, as did others whose views on the underlying D article were similar to yours.

It would be appropriate for you to withdraw your accusation.

And in the midst of all your torrent of words about this imagined conspiracy, is there anything about that D article that you think is untrue?
Rick Allen, '75

Anonymous said...

It's always funny to see a "blog" criticizing a real newspaper on its standards. I think it was Dartlog that published that smear piece on Haldeman a couple years ago, giving voice to a disgruntled ex-employee's rants and speculations, and got away with it because unlike the D it is not expected to have any standards.

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