Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reviewing the Review

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reviewing the Review

Article excerpt

Examinations of Florida's disputed ballots by news organizations are likely to enlighten the public -- not undermine democracy

Some journalists carry out liberty's work by buttonholing the City Hall denizens who know where corruption lies undiscovered. Others do it by giving voice to those oppressed by the malice or mistakes of government action. Still others advance freedom simply by daring to be real journalists in the two-thirds of the planet that abhor a free press.

Then there are the reporters from The Miami Herald and The Palm Beach Post who labor on the presidential election- ballot review each weekday in Room 106 of the Palm Beach County Government Center in West Palm Beach. They also serve who sit on metal folding chairs in absolute silence and without so much as a lunch break while an election official holds at arm's length one after another of the Florida county's famous disputed butterfly ballots so the journalists can suss out whether the chad of George W. Bush's slot No. 3 or Al Gore's slot No. 5 is dimpled, hanging, pregnant, or in some other condition.

The work is only part of the ballot inspections being conducted by the Herald and, in a separate effort, by a consortium of other organizations, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the St. Petersburg Times, The Palm Beach Post, Tribune Co. newspapers, and The Associated Press. It is painstaking and, especially in Palm Beach County, unimaginably tedious work.

It is also, remarkably, controversial work in some circles around the country. Republicans and conservatives, in particular, are exercised about the process. …

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