The Dispatch’s desperate attempt to support the Romney-Ryan ticket moved past silly into parody yesterday.
We suspect that history will remember Joe Vardon’s Daily Briefing Post yesterday as the moment when the Dispatch’s political coverage Jumped the Shark. In other words, as TV Tropes describes it, Vardon’s post on Paul Ryan’s staged dishwashing at a kitchen for the homeless is “that moment makes the viewers realize that the show has finally run out of ideas. It has reached its peak, it will never be the same again, and from now on it’s all downhill.”
Quick background. After a rally in Youngstown, Ryan briefly stopped by a soup kitchen. He offered to clean dishes graciously allow the press to photograph him doing so (We wish Ryan would re-read Matthew 6:1-2; trust us, take a moment and read the passage.)
The Washington Post noted that Ryan was “washing pots and pans that did not appear to be dirty.” The director of the kitchen said, “The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.” Other news sources have the same reporting. For example, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a piece with the headline, “In Ohio, Paul Ryan apparently washes clean dishes.”
In steps Joe Vardon and the Dispatch to defend Ryan’s honor. Vardon writes, “This photo, taken by The Dispatch, appears to show at least one pan was dirty (the pan next to the soap). To see the dirt, zoom in on the pan.”
We kept the original link, so you can judge by yourself, if you care.
Two points, one big and one small.
The small point is the actual question of whether the dishes were clean or dirty. The folks who did actual journalism interviewed witnesses and got statements. These statements say the dishes were clean. Vardon wants us to “zoom in” on a small corner of one pan – what he sees as dirt may just be a shadow caused by a camera flash. Whatever. Really, this strikes us as awfully silly.
The big point is that the Dispatch shouldn’t be fact checking other journalists in order to support the Romney-Ryan campaign. By vigorously taking a side in a silly partisan kerfuffle about a staged photo-op, Vardon is showing his preferences (or his editors’ preferences) pretty clearly.
This isn’t, of course, the first time we have noted the Dispatch’s Republican bias. It still makes us so very sad. Instead of zooming in on photos, Vardon could be turning his fact checking energy to the claims made by candidates. We know he can do it, and we have praised him for this before.
The Dispatch should be reporting the facts on big issues in the same clear and concise manner, not merely becoming a Fox News-like mouthpiece in the final weeks before the election. Instead, like a series that has jumped the shark, we fear it is all downhill from here for the Dispatch’s election coverage.
[Update: We now learn that the soup kitchen director has clarified that Ryan did, in fact, wash dirty dishes. This does not change our view of this matter. We said this was a bunch of silliness (except for the Matthew 6:1-2 stuff – everyone should read that), and we stand by that characterization.]