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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Anatomy of Media Spin and Deflection

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Classic. As revealing as the story of the Milwaukee DA's who signed anti-walker petitions was, the reaction by the local media was also instructive. Media Trackers critiques the "watchdogs."


On Monday, Media Trackers released a story revealing that 43 Milwaukee County District Attorney employees signed the Walker recall petition. The stature of signers ranged from one Deputy District Attorney, to 19 Assistant District Attorneys, and 23 support staff. A total of 70 names on matched the names of current employees at the Milwaukee County DA’s office, but 43 could be confirmed at the time of publication.

During the rest of Monday and now into Tuesday, it has been nothing short of fascinating to watch the reaction of the media as well as those elements on the Left as they attempt to spin and attack this story.

The spinning began right away with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Bice’s article entitled “DA’s Office: John Doe prosecutors didn’t sign recall.” The short piece brushes off the fact that 43 Milwaukee County employees signed the recall, including one of DA John Chisholm’s deputies and a secretary in the Public Integrity Unit, but chooses to focus on the fact that none of the prosecutors working on the John Doe signed the recall. But of course, Media Trackers never alleged that any of the John Doe prosecutors signed the recall. Nevertheless, the story reads as if Media Trackers made an error, when in fact Dan Bice answered a charge that Media Trackers never made. Bice simply changed the subject.

Next, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel managing editor George Stanley tweeted out Bice’s article and emphasized again a charge that Media Trackers never made. He also attempted to knock the story down by saying “many of the 43 cited by Media Trackers were clerical staff.” The truth is, just over half of the names identified by Media Trackers were clerical staff, and one of those clerical staff members works in the Public Integrity Unit. Something that Dan Bice did not feel the need to report. But 20 of the names identified by Media Trackers were prosecutors and one deputy. And as mentioned earlier, there were more that could not be 100% confirmed at the time of publication.

With Bice’s article and George Stanley’s talking points, out came the myth that Media Trackers erred when it did not. The myth was perpetuated on Twitter where Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane irresponsibly tweeted:

Really Eugene? Exactly what did Media Trackers get wrong? No one has disproven the facts Media Trackers published on Monday.

Despite the attempts of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to deflect, spin, and attack the story and Media Trackers, television news stations TMJ4 and FOX6 reported the story much to the dismay and ire of left-wing commenters. In the TMJ4 report, Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman Graeme Zielinski brazenly called Media Trackers’ story “anti-democratic.”

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