Not Necessarily the News

Media create controversy in otherwise clean campaign

Aly Colón, a member of the ethics faculty of The Poynter Institute, a media think tank in St. Petersburg, Florida, was surprised to hear that a newspaper is challenging candidates to take polygraph tests.

"Can you repeat that, please?" he asks, then adds, "Why don't we pull out a Ouija board?"

Colón says he doesn't really want to comment on the validity of lie detector tests, but he does criticize the Republic for offering up the test as a challenge and then reporting on the candidates' decision-making processes.

"It's an unusual and very creative way to ferret out the truth. My concern in this regard is that there are questions of the newspaper maybe inserting itself more so than normal into the process of the political campaign," he says, making the Republic's role "more interventionist than participatory."

David Leibowitz, who's gotten some mileage out of the Bitter Smith/Liddy flap himself on his KTAR radio show (he's a part-time Republic employee and a close friend of Flatten's), says he would have pursued the original story.

"I probably would have found a way to do it. I think it's an interesting story because it speaks to the hypocrisy of at least one of the candidates in the race and it gives people a good bird's eye view of what politics is like," he says.

"Would I have preferred it if the original story had revealed what was in the actual packet? Yes, absolutely. Because our job is to give people the most information as possible, and if you don't give people all the information, then you have a story that opens up more questions than it does answers."

As for the lie detector tests?

"I understand that we're in Arizona and bizarre stories have to happen in relation to politics. But I'm not so sure it's up to the media to cause those bizarre stories to happen," Leibowitz says.

But, he adds, "It's a great publicity stunt. I wish I'd thought of it. . . . Do I think it was a good idea? No. Do I think that every television station, newspaper and radio station in town was kicking themselves in the head saying, 'Hey, we should have thought of that!' Yeah, probably."

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