by YES! Weekly staff

Is the NYT disenfranchising voters through alarmist reporting?

Stoking fears that the results of the presidential election are at risk of being manipulated in swing state, The New York Times reported in an Oct. 9 story reprinted by the Raleigh News & Observer that eligible voters in six states, including North Carolina, “have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law.” The story stated that North Carolina seemed “to be improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters.” North Carolina Election Director Gary O. Bartlett responded within the same news cycle that the allegation that North Carolina voters may have been disenfranchised was “simply untrue,” adding that no reporter from either newspaper contacted his office before the story ran. Bartlett said the NC Board of Elections’ use of Social Security data to verify voter information is appropriate, adding that “if a voter registers and their information is incomplete or the number or numbers they provide do not match, there are several safeguards in place to ensure that no qualified voter is disenfranchises. The person’s name is put into our computer database, but flagged that identification or other information is needed. If time permits, counties contact the applicant to obtain the missing information before the election. If the applicant appears to vote in an election before their identification has been verified they may produce any of a variety of types of identification and vote. Alternatively, they can vote a provisional ballot and it will be counted if the missing information is provided by the day before the canvass of the election.” Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan advocacy group Democracy North Carolina called on the Times and the News & Observer to run front-page corrections, arguing that the story was “particularly reprehensible because it can make North Carolinians worry that they won’t be able to cast a ballot in the upcoming election; in other words, it has the same effect as a devious rumor aimed at disenfranchising voters.” Having worked with state and local election officials, Hall said he concluded “that North Carolina is a leader in the integrity of its election administration system. — JG

Jumping ship

As the amount of US journalists laid off this year tops 11,500 as reported by the Paper Cuts blog (www., more and more inkstained wretches are asking themselves, “What else am I qualified to do?” Public relations firms, we’ve heard, are always eager to hire former journalists with media connections. And many of our onetime colleagues have sought refuge in the halls of academia as professors or members of university media relations departments. But one broadcast journalist, Tom Merriman of Cleveland’s Channel 8 News investigative reporting team, has decided to go back to his old job: practicing law. Merriman graduated from Harvard Law School in 1988, cum laude, and managed the Cleveand office for the Ohio attorney general. And when the station disbanded the investigative team earlier this month, promoting one reporter to anchor and another to consumer reporting, Merriman put in his notice. He is known for a story in the weeks after 9-11 about a Cleveland man, Fawaz Damra, with ties to the bombings and watchdogging the Cleveland school system. As of the first of the year, he will be an associate at Landskroner, Greico and Madden. “Now when people call me, I can not only tell their story,” he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “I can put on the gloves and fight for them in court. It’s going to be a blast.” As for me, I figure I can always go back to tending bar. — BC

Hitchens endorses Obama

This week, British author and journalist Christopher Hitchens endorsed Barack Obama for president in an article written for online magazine Slate. Known for his columns in Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and his best-selling books, most recently, God is Not Great, Hitchens said the Republican Party has invited both defeat and discredit this year for its choice of Sen. John McCain for president and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for vice-president. “The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: ‘What does he take me for?’ Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin,” stated Hitchens. Palin’s claims to political courage have been debunked, and her conduct since her selection as McCain’s running mate has been “a national disgrace,” wrote Hitchens. “The only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience,” writes Hitchens. The Republican strategy of touting McCain’s experience as a reason for undecided voters to hop on board the Straight Talk Express has unraveled in recent weeks, Hitchens wrote. “With McCain, the ‘experience’ is subject to sharply diminishing returns, as is the rest of him, and with Palin the very word itself is a sick joke,” he stated. Hitchens didn’t exactly gush over Obama, saying there is very little difference between his and McCain’s positions on the issues, but the two presidential debates have made clear that Obama is the best choice for president. “The difference in character and temperament has become plainer by the day, and there is no decent way of avoiding the fact,” wrote Hitchens. — KB