Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Connie Schultz at the Akron Press Club. [Revised]

I took in the address by PD Columnist Connie Schultz (who also happens to be married to Sen. Sherrod Brown) at the Akron Press Club today. She has written a forthcoming book And His Lovely Wife: A Memoir By The Woman Beside the Man. She kept her talk short – about 20 minutes – to leave about that much time for questions.

The talk will be replayed (see below) and I highly recommend taking it in. Connie Schultz is not only a fine writer, she’s an engaging, compelling speaker. Here are a few highlights of what you’ll catch in the broadcast.

Inside Baseball

From what I hear the book will be more about her experiences on the trial and less a pitch-by-pitch recap of the campaign from inside the dugout. Nonetheless, she did fill in information about some of the sentinel events of the campaign. First off, she shared that she was the reason that Sherrod entered the race late. It wasn’t that Sherrod was indecisive; nor was she for that matter. She simply did not want him to run. But as time passed and she saw Sherrod talking to other people about running – she named Ted Strickland though Betty Sutton was probably among them as well – she saw how excited he was about the prospects for the election. Eventually she decided it was his time as well.

She also talked about taking leave from the Plain Dealer. It was, she says, her decision. She’s talked about a number of the factors that went into the decision, one of which was the blogs. At that time the PD had started Openers. In blog tradition, Openers writers were posting links to blogs and, at that time, the Ohio lefty sphere was very much pro-Paul Hackett and therefore anti-Sherrod. As the blog discussions got more vitriolic, she saw her colleagues at her paper *linking to blog posts slamming her husband.*

Now don’t go quoting me as saying that Connie ran away because of mean bloggers. It was one factor among many and probably not the most important. It was interesting, though, to hear that what we were doing and saying and reading was having that kind of effect both in the paper and the campaign.

The Non-Traditional Political Couple

Ms. Schultz is a nontraditional political wife in more ways than one. Of course, she is a journalist of high accomplishment. From what I’ve heard, one strong theme of the book is how she maintains her identity as a person of great professional accomplishment while also supporting her husband as a candidate’s wife.

In addition to the obvious, she is a nontraditional candidates wife in a couple other ways. As she notes, she and Sherrod were essentially newlyweds at the time. Also, there’s was the second marriage for each of them. Now I never heard anyone say it, but more than once it struck me that these two people are completely nuts about each other and that political beat reporters would have a difficult time taking their obvious affection at face value. As cynical as reporters are about politics, it’s no stretch to imagine that they are particularly cynical about political marriages.

But Connie and Sherrod’s marriage not only is different because of the kind of people they are, it also was a new, second marriage. They were still in that flush of the first couple of years. Plus, second marriages are different. People have made their mistakes and figured out that they can survive uncoupled and take the second chance only if they know the he/she is The One. All the questionable reasons for getting married fall away and the wedding doesn’t happen if it’s not based on love. Personally, this is my first marriage but I am a second husband. It makes a difference.

I wonder how much of the skepticism about Connie came from cynicism about political couples.

Meeting the Press.

Connie’s book will talk about blogs, and she will have some pointed observations. But based on her talk, her sharpest criticisms will be for the press. She loves being a journalist and loves the profession, but found much of the political reporting maddening. Primarily it bothers her that so many rumors, charges and half-truths were reported without the reporters working the story to get complete information.

In addition, she talks about how political reporters follow The Narrative. The Narrative on Sherrod was that he’s an angry man, and often stories would report facts so that they would fit that narrative.

More on Blogs.

She mentioned blogs two more times. She expressed concern that blogs “get all the attention with none of the responsibility.” The anecdote that followed ended with a newspaper story in which she is quoted as saying she loves her husband. A conservative blogger then opines that if she really loved her husband, she would have changed her name.


I asked her what she felt could be done to improve blogs. She enthusiastically suggested a few basic journalistic rules – call to confirm information, correct mistakes promptly and don’t traffic in rumor. She said people should blog under their names which would be a huge discussion in it’s own right so let’s not go there tonight.

Then she got to the crux of the thing – her belief that reporters will become more likely to use information from more responsible bloggers. That is key. As long as the traffic and links come when a post is first with the rumor or has the best snark, that’s what bloggers will pursue. But if the stories that jump into the mainstream media are the best-reported, the reporting will improve. That will require considerable discipline among journalists, discipline we haven’t yet seen.

Watch It.

The program will be broadcast on Time Warner the following times:

Sat. May 19 7:00 p.m.
Sun. May 20 4:00 p.m.
Thurs. May 24 7:00 p.m.

In Akron, Canton, Mansfield, and Youngstown it will be broadcast on channel 23. In Cleveland it will be on channel 15.

In addition, the program is supposed to be added to the Ohio On Demand slate on Channel 1111. According to the information handed out at the event, it’s supposed to be up sometime after today. But as of tonight, they have not yet added the Ben McConnell program from last month, so we will see what happens with that.

*Due to an editing error the end of a sentence was chopped off. It's been fixed and thanks to the alert reader who let me know.


Jill said...

Scott, thanks for this excellent rundown. I will try to find and watch it.

Unknown said...

Sigh...I wish it was showing up here in Toledo. If someone could tape it that would be awesome.