Thursday, September 27, 2012

King campaign's spin gets out of (their) hand

Here's a lesson in how not to spin a news article.

As many of you may already know, my lengthy profile of Angus King -- the Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Olympia Snowe -- was in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram.

Shortly after it appeared, the King campaign posted (without permission) a censored version of the article on their campaign website (since removed). The campaign said they had edited it for length, but managed to purge all references and quotes that could be construed as critical of the candidate, plus a great deal of the background material on his origins in Alexandria, Virginia and some of his business activities. Most rich for many was the deletion of retired Press Herald state hours reporter Paul Carrier's observation that, as governor, King could be "thin-skinned and controlling".

My colleague Mark Shepard reported the incident in the Press Herald, and that story has since been picked up by conservative media including Fox News, the Daily Caller, and blogger Matt Gagnon (d.b.a. Pine Tree Politics). Gagnon's headline, "The paranoid, thin skinned, insecure King campaign" distills the narrative the incident has helped write.

The lead story in yesterday's Press Herald? Steve Mistler's piece exploring if the King campaign is firing on all cylinders.

That's an example of of how to spin something right out of your control.


  1. Great profile. The cleansing wasn't necessary and didn't work. This man clearly needs no mopping up after.

  2. 7 times to prove I'm not a 'bot. I wonder how the bot would do?

  3. While I agree wholeheartedly that the editing was an unnecessary unforced error on the part of the King campaign (for which it took prompt responsibility, by the way), I have to take issue with your assertion that it resulted in some sort of large-scale media firestorm. The "spinning out of control" that you describe involved exactly one news organization: The Portland Press Herald, which seemed gleefully willing to make itself the center of a fabricated -- or at least exaggerated -- controversy. Partisan bloggers were of course quick to pounce.

    Then the PPH followed up with a highly speculative "news" story implying that the King campaign had fundamentally faltered, and that King was suddendly vulnerable. Add in a lazy he-said/she-said article about Maine TV stations refusing to pull ads which have been shown to contain multiple falsehoods (by no less an authority than the PPH in a "Truth Test" piece which ran just days before but was inexplicably not cited in the TV advertising article), and within a week you have a largely manufactured narrative suggesting that King and his campaign are reeling. For those of us who are weary of the tired horse-race "analysis" and false equivalencies which have come to characterize so much of the news media's campaign coverage, this is disappointing.