kaus files dot com logo

Kausfiles Answers the Miami Herald

This time, it's personal!


Posted Thursday, January 25, 2001

        In a letter posted in "The Fray" and on Jim Romenesko's MediaNews, Martin Baron, executive editor of the Miami Herald, takes issue with a recent kausfiles item, "The Miami Herald Blows Its Pulitzer." The item argued that Baron's paper made a big mistake in deciding to recount only the "undervotes" (ballots on which machines detected no vote) in the disputed Florida election, rather than join the larger media consortium that will recount both the undervotes and the "overvotes" (ballots rejected because of apparent double-voting).

        Baron says my article was "wrong or misleading on several matters." Specifically, he says, "The issue of whether to count both overvotes and undervotes was not among the reasons that talks on collaboration between The Herald and a media consortium broke down." He denies that his paper has cast doubt on the merit of counting the overvotes. He also denies the Herald is being "cheap," or that it is not pursuing the "public's right to know."

        On the first two points, Baron is either dissembling or deluded. Of course the overvote issue was "one reason talks between the Herald and the consortium broke down," as kausfiles accurately reported. This is confirmed by Bill Keller, the New York Times managing editor who represented the consortium in negotiations with Baron--though Keller phrases his disagreement with Baron as diplomatically as possible. "In my mind, the overvote question was one of the critical questions in our failure to come to a common purpose," Keller told kausfiles, "but I can understand that Marty, who wasn't privy to our deliberations, might not understand the extent to which overvotes were a dealbreaker for many of the news organizations on our side."

        It's true, as Baron notes, that the negotiators discussed a "two-track" approach, in which those news organizations that wanted to count the undervotes would count the undervotes, and those that wanted to also count the overvotes would pay for that count as well. But the two-track proposal ultimately didn't fly within the consortium, for at least two reasons. First, members of the consortium wanted the same accounting firm that counted the undervotes to also count the overvotes, for consistency's sake. Yet, according to Keller, the Herald's accountants, BDO Seidman, didn't think they could pull off this second task and still honor their "contractual obligations to the Herald" regarding the undervote count. Second, it's pretty clear that at least one of the two organizations pushing hardest for an overvote count--the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press--would have pulled out of the deal if they'd been abandoned by the others and left to foot the cost of the second "track" (the overvote count) by themselves. So the overvotes remained a sticking point. Baron might not have been aware of these intra-consortium discussions, but that doesn't mean they didn't happen.

        On the more important point--whether the Herald has denigrated the idea of counting the overvotes--Baron is more obviously disingenuous. He claims kausfiles "misinterprets" the Herald's position. "We fully understand why others might wish to look at overvotes," he says. If so, Baron has somehow failed to communicate this position to Mark Seibel, the Herald editor in charge of the project. When I called Seibel and asked him why the Herald was counting only undervotes, the first words out of his mouth were: "The big question to me is why bother to count the overvotes!" Then he said, "I'm just joking"--but proceeded to criticize overvote-counting on the various specious grounds I discussed in the item. Baron's position in the negotiations, I'm told, was similarly disdainful of counting overvotes.

        The essential point, which Baron doesn't even address, is that overvotes have to be counted to get anything close to a fair hand recount. The surprising Lake County results, discussed here, show there may be as many valid ballots hidden in the overvotes as the undervotes.

        Baron's other beefs are more with the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray--a leader of the overvote faction--than with kausfiles, although I may not have made Murray's position clear enough. I don't think Murray intended to say, and I wouldn't say, that the Herald's pursuit of a partial count doesn't serve the "public's right to know." Murray's point was that the Herald was also trying to gain a "competitive advantage"--a scoop--while the members of the consortium weren't trying to scoop each other, but indeed were willing to risk financing the scoops of fellow members in order to get out the facts. There's presumably nothing wrong with trying for your own scoop, unless it leads you to pretend that the story you're getting is the whole story when it isn't, as seems to have happened here.

        Finally, Murray didn't say the Herald itself was "cheap." He said the Herald was pursuing the undervote-only recount because "it"--that partial recount--is cheap when compared with a full overvote/undervote tally. This idea of cheapness was first introduced to me not by Murray but by the Herald's Seibel when he said he wasn't "going to pay some accountant $110 an hour to look at the overvotes."

        Whatever Murray's view is, I don't think the Herald is cheap. I think it is foolish. It got itself locked into what turned out to be an inferior recount plan, and refused (for whatever reason) to recognize its mistake.

        New E-mail service: Sign up, using the button below, and you will be notified by e-mail whenever there's a new item on kausfiles.com. [Note: this service is free. You'll be asked a couple of demographic questions; if you find them annoying just leave them unanswered.]

Is Robert Wright a Marxist?

posted 03.20.00

        Recently archived:

        The Miami Herald Blows Its Pulitzer Why count only the "undervotes"?

        The Haiku Are Back! The controversy-plagued "hit poem" contest returns.

        Gore's Secret Electoral Majority He's more legitimate than he lets on.

        Are Pregnant Chad Liberal? Compassion for ballot bump-makers.

        The Florida Moth List Who's the biggest opportunist?

        Gore vs. the Mysterious Forces The trouble with the Democrats' Shrumarama in L.A..

        Cheney: Cheerleader for OPEC Let those Yankees in key Midwest battleground states freeze in the dark!

        Bush and Cheney: The Secret Transcripts

        Crock of Goldstein WaPo welfare reporter falls for Brookings spin, and worse.

        The Real Hillary Scandal Mr. and Mrs. Clinton forgot to get their stories straight.

        The Gift of Nader Gore could use a rival on his left.

        Rehnquist's Scandalous Shmatte Did he deduct that $30,000 robe?

        What's He Hiding? Notes toward a unified Bush theory.

        Special Re-Flogging Edition More on WaPo's hypocritical critic.

        CBS's Defective Defector 60 Minutes adopts Internet news standards.

        Looking for Mr. Good Death Mickey's Assignment Desk #8.

        Another Greenhouse Effect Resurgence of "labor resurgence" stories puzzles experts.

        Crosswired Politics Why the parties are trading places on some issues.

        The Toobin Crisis, Day 141 Ann Godoff vs. Charles Peters.

        The Purnick Platform The new NYT lets it all hang out.

        Run, Peggy, Run! The best anti-Hillary candidate.

        Kuttner's Poor Statistics Have child poverty rates 'scarcely moved'?

        Drew's Cluelessness Please don't let her anywhere near the First Amendment.

        Why Gore Won't Pick Richardson An impolite thought ....

        How Convenient! Now McCain tells us.

        Now She's Done It Maybe that nice centrist Mrs. Clinton really is against welfare reform.

        Pardon Our Reporting Clinton left the door wide open!

        Elian: An Overlooked Angle? Castro did Clinton a big favor last year.

        Boomers Against Death The shift against the death penalty isn't necessarily a shift to the left.

        The Perfect Campaign All e-mail, all the time!

        No Justice, No Paez The LAT and 'judicial activism.'

        Kausfiles Battles for the Vital Center! Why Bush has plenty of time to reposition himself.

        Clean Sheets The case for selling the Lincoln Bedroom.

        Don't Push It, Hillary Plus: kausfiles moves its cheese!

        Faster Politics Why 'momentum' ain't what it used to be.

        Jeffrey Toobin, Chicken! Fifth of a series.

        Hillary's Shocking Truth Plus: the Nissan Cojones Watch.

        Hit Poems A kausfiles contest.

        Gore's Press Problem Plus: How he blew his chance for a New Hampshire knockout.

        Bush Knows What "Regatta" Means Bradley's SATS; the media's moodswing; the neolibs' nightmare.

        Jeffrey Toobin, Hypocrite, Part III! How dare Isikoff write a book, says Toobin in his book.

        Not Gotcha Why Gore's gay flip was a genuine gaffe.

        Pay Up, Shrum! Litmus test flip-flop smoking gun.

        Jeffrey Toobin, Hypocrite 'Tawdry voyeurism,' anyone?

        Cuomo Family Values Did Mario raise his son to be Hillary's Boy?

        DeParle Gets Half the Story The NYT doesn't tell us what we need to know about Milwaukee's poor.

        Bill Clinton Wants You on Welfare! Is this the dole administration after all?

        The Pornographer Who Didn't Bark Why wouldn't Flynt bust Newt?

        Yes, There Are Easy Answers! The NYT and WaPo find a quick fix for affirmative action.

        Who Stole Nissan's Cojones? Jerry Hirshberg'a got a lot of ... chutzpah!

        Doesn't Anyone Want to Be Famous? The political opportunity of a lifetime.

        The Ending of the Black Underclass, Part XVIII African-American welfare receipt falls to new low.

        Just Buzz Me! Synergy City! Harvey Weinstein plans a TV show based on Talk.

        Is Daniel Patrick Moynihan the Devil? A review of the evidence to date.

        Harvey Scores Again! An exciting new Talk contest.

        Is It Over? Clinton's Pathetic Second Term Revealing the one Big Thing he still might accomplish.

        Maybe Bush Didn't Snort Coke -- Maybe He Dropped Acid! One solution to the Bush drug mystery.

        George Bush, Drug Pioneer? Bush's pharmacological time-line seems a little ... out of the mainstream.

        Will Tina Fire Lucinda? Talk and truth.

Copyright 2000 Mickey Kaus.

In Association with Amazon.com