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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2005

Did Lieberman's comments get too little notice?

Paul Arndt was one of a number of readers irked that The Blade did not carry a major story when U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D., Conn.) returned form a trip to Iraq late last month and proclaimed that he saw "real progress" in the war.

He complained that U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D., Pa.) "returns from a trip to Iraq and tells how terrible things are going and that our troops should be withdrawn immediately."

But Mr. Arndt thinks we gave short shrift to Mr. Lieberman, "the distinguished Democratic senator from Connecticut who was his party's nominee for vice-president in 2000." He thinks this was because "the liberal media seems to abhor publishing anything positive about Iraq, even if it comes from a Democratic senator."

That's not, however, what news editors across the country were thinking. A check with my fellow ombudsmen across the country, at both conservative and liberal papers, found that very few used Senator Lieberman's remarks, though he got much more attention on the broadcast media, especially cable.

Why? Roger Downing, The Blade's news editor, pointed out that news is often something unusual or startling. Senator Lieberman has been a consistent supporter of the war, and his continued support was not surprising.

Plus, "he doesn't have a major leadership role, and he is not a senator from the area we cover, Michigan and Ohio," Mr. Downing said.

Representative Murtha, on the other hand, had spent 37 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and was seen as an expert on military matters by both parties. Until recently, he had been a supporter of the Iraq war, and had been singled out for praise by Vice President Cheney.

His change in position was big news - just as it would have been, say, if U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) suddenly became a supporter of the war.

Two days later, when President Bush made a major speech on Iraq in which he said many of the same things as Senator Lieberman, The Blade made it the lead story in the newspaper and included in it a mention of what Senator Lieberman had to say.

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Another reader, William Brewis, wrote to ask whether The Blade checks articles from the Associated Press for accuracy. On Nov. 26, we used an AP story that said that federal gas taxes had not increased since 1993.

The reader said he didn't think that was true. "Does anyone from The Blade check AP articles for their accuracy?"

Well, yes, the editors do - insofar as we are able to do so. The Associated Press is a cooperative venture with reporters and member newspapers all over the world. "Sadly, there are not enough hours in the day for a daily newspaper to check everything," Mr. Downing said.

When mistakes appear, we do run corrections. But in this case, we did not run one - because the story that ran in The Blade was not wrong. The current federal gasoline tax is 18.4 cents a gallon, what it has been since 1993.

Ohio, however, has raised its gas tax a total of six cents a gallon over three years during Gov. Bob Taft's tenure, which may have been the source of the confusion.

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Anyone with a concern about fairness and accuracy in The Blade is invited to write me, c/o The Blade, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, 43660, or at my Detroit office, 189 Manoogian Hall, Wayne State University, Detroit MI 48202. You may also call me, at 1-888-746-8610 or email me at OMBLADE@aol.com.

I cannot promise to address every question in the newspaper, but I do promise that everyone who contacts me with a serious question will get a personal reply.



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