Exclusive interview, David Wu (part five): Has the media coverage been fair?

Sometimes, when a politician gets under fire, they retreat and refuse to talk to the press - or some members of the press. It's been widely reported that while Wu has spoken to the AP, gone on KPOJ, and done a number of live television interviews, he's refused to talk to the Oregonian or Willamette Week since their initial stories. In part, that's led to the slow release of one detail after another, as he reveals them in live interviews.

KARI: From a political operative standpoint, one of the things we always talk about is try to get the whole story out, don’t let it trickle out, drip drip drip.

WU: A lot of people have said that. The thing is that at any stage, I thought I was addressing the issue that was out there. And then, there’s kind of like – oh, and then, there’s this! And my first reaction was, “How is that relevant?” But when the public thinks it’s relevant, it doesn’t matter, you have to address it. I’m not withholding stuff, I am surprised at what this publication can try to link up as connected dots, when I’m hard-pressed to link these dots. And it’s not from an intention of – certainly not being behind the story. It’s kind of like, “You’re kidding, right?” And so, I’ve tried very, very hard to address this.

And then, well you have to wonder what’s going on to feed this process?

CARLA: What’s going on?

WU: I don’t know. You tell me.

CARLA: I would think that you guys would know more than I do about what’s feeding this process. Do you have an inkling that someone is coming after you, gunning for your job?

WU: It’s just not constructive to speculate. In answer to Kari’s question, “how can these layers keep on going?” You know, I’m mystified. From my perspective, we’ve tried to address things at any given stage – whether it’s allegations about alcohol, or drugs, or sexual harassment. I didn’t think a parked car was – you know, all these things.

WU: I don’t think it’s effective to come out and say, “Oh and by the way, you know, I don’t think I have an alcohol problem.” I mean, who in public life ever does that? And then these charges surface. Yeah, I was losing weight! What I’ve learned is, never talk about stopping drinking. I’m trying to lose weight right now, and you know what I do? I have half a glass of wine every week or so, so that people think, “He’s a normal guy!” I do!

At the end of the interview, when we asked if he had anything else to add, he weighed in again about the coverage:

WU: One question that should be asked is, “Am I getting a fair shake?” I’m getting a better shake from TV stations right now than from a certain publication. But it never pays to complain. It never pays to complain. I just lay that out there. I’m getting better TV coverage than I’m getting in print press.


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    Interesting statement about his thoughts on media coverage.

    As a former journalist, I have a few thoughts: First, newspapers have more time and space to delve into the details of a story; whereas, TV stations only provide tidbits - unless it's a long-form interview like "Straight Talk".

    Secondly, depending on editorial control, some news organizations may choose to follow and report on specific information, while others find those same details irrelevant. While most stations or newspapers generally have similar coverage, individual reporters may have different sources, or relationships with sources, that allow them to flesh out additional details. It would surprise me if any news organization specifically went after a public official "just because" - which goes beyond the ethics of journalism.

    So while Wu may believe a "certain publication" (which I'm guessing is the Oregonian) isn't giving him a fair shake, I think it points to the editorial decision of how a story is pursued. Obviously, any news organization that decides to cover it more extensively and ask certain questions, may come across as having an agenda - especially if other news outlets aren't covering it the same way.

    I still question the PR behind this situation. I have a hard time believing his staff - or the Congressman - couldn't see this coming. Which makes me wonder if the Congressman was trying to ignore it and told his staff to leave it alone; or there really is a much deeper problem than he's willing to admit. And why haven't all these staffers defended him publically?

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    The Oregonian has had a vendetta against Wu since he voted against Most Favored Trade Status for China while representing a district that includes Nike and Intel.

    In my view, the O is acting more like a blog than the newspaper of record in their coverage of this issue. No one "nailed" the story at the beginning, and the O, Willy Week, and to a lesser extent, this blog, have used any small scrap of "new" information as an excuse to repeat every single scurrilous detail. Frankly, the entire episode smacks of the worst kind of irresponsible, agenda-driven, yellow journalism.

    Nevertheless, as disappointed as I am that Kari and others have chosen to follow the Oregonian's lead in publishing and repeating a pretty thin story line bolstered by a crap-ton of innuendo, I think that Kari and Carla did a very good job in these last 6 pieces, particularly if Wu's willingness to spend an hour with them answering their questions will put this issue to bed for the time being.

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    I can't recall a single interview granted to an Oregonian reporter by the Congressman since 2004. I asked Mapes what could be done to end the standoff and he deferred to the EB. I still think Mapes is the key to a better relationship.

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      Who is the EB?

      It is a very old rule that if you do not work with the press when you can, then they will go after you when you are in trouble. You know the old rule about getting in a fight with a guy with unlimited ink. In my mind this was a real strategic error by David regardless of their editorial position.

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