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Accuracy is seeded No. 1 in the March Madness of campaigns

Saturday, March 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:02 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008
Tom Warhover is the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation.

Some of you follow political campaigns more closely than March Madness. (One or two may not even know that the madness refers to NCAA basketball.)

Hard to believe, perhaps, but they’re out there. As the campaigns turn to the final two weekends, these fans can tell you the campaign excitement has spiked. There are more signs in more yards, more ads and more news coverage of the campaigns and of the campaigners.

It all culminates April 3: the big game, which we all get to play in and watch at the same time.

I hope you’ve had a chance to look at the campaign coverage.

It has been excellent, in my oh-so-biased opinion: Issue-based, measured, with all the pieces an informed voter needs to hire new City Council and school board members. The coverage is also multi-platform, a high-toned way of saying you can read stories and watch slide shows and video about the candidates. And there’s more to come.

Over the years, I’ve heard many people charge the newspaper of showing bias in its coverage. Sometimes, they just don’t want anything “negative” said of their candidate. Sometimes, they’re right.

Elizabeth Holden called on Thursday to complain about her husband’s profile, which ran online a day before the print version was published. She said she had received calls complaining it had negative coverage that couldn’t be found in the profile of opponent Jerry Wade. I thought the issue of Holden’s campaign strategy was fair game. (He asks people at forums to “highlight a difference” between the candidates.)

She also said the people criticizing Mike Holden were campaigning for Wade. That wasn’t in the article. The information was accurate, but incomplete. It didn’t have the context readers needed to weigh the comments for themselves.

Reporter Lindsay Toler had culled the comments from citizens after a forum. She didn’t go looking for Wade people. But after Elizabeth Holden called, Lindsay checked back with the sources. In one case, the story was revised to make clear the Wade connection. In another, the comments were dropped in part because the source wasn’t from the Fourth Ward.

I think the Missourian did the right thing. It had the ability to make a story more accurate, and so the story was changed. That’s not possible in the print edition. But the process opens a lot of questions for me. No story, after all, is perfect. So where do I draw the line on making revisions?

It’s something to think about as I grab a bag of chips and turn on the basketball games. My daughter is rooting for North Carolina. I’m pulling for Anyone But Kansas.


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