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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reflection on the glorious Up4 Climate debate

If you stay abreast of your GEICO commercials you know that when a tree falls in the forest it does make a noise but what about a group of senators who speak all night without a reporter present? Are they ever heard? Evidently the Capitol press corp had the good sense to go to bed as they recognized the so called Up4Climate debate was a mere publicity stunt. When the media doesn't do its job the people suffer. Most Americans will never know that Sen. Cory Booker drove to Hawaii in the first car he bought.

Sen. Barbara Boxer was good enough to do some of the job that the media wouldn't do in an excellent post at the Huffington Post that would have earned a B+ in most public high schools but were it not for the vigilant and unsleeping Daniel Lippman generations of children would never know of the epic all night debate on climate change.
Who is Daniel Lippman? Why did he alone stay with the senators while the mainstream media slept? Did he draw the short straw in the press pool? Was it an act of public penance? Only Lippman knows his motivation but Lippman is a 19 year old college freshman who was befriended by Ron Fournier. He came to Fournier's attention by writing replies to about 80% of his articles. In a podcast Fournier elaborates.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So how did Daniel Lippman pop up on your radar?

RON FOURNIER: Well, he popped up not on my radar but in my email [BROOKE LAUGHS], like he does on dozens of other reporters’ and editors’ email. For several years now he’s been sending me notes, when I'd write a story, pointing out three or four things I had wrong with it, [LAUGHS] either typos or matters of grammar, in some cases, matters of fact.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Could you tell who this guy was, how old he was?

RON FOURNIER: I had no idea. I presumed he was a gray-bearded law professor wearing a tweed jacket and elbow patches. And I found out that he lived just a few miles away from where I'm sittin’ right now and attended George Washington University.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] And so, you invited him to take a tour of the AP’s Washington bureau. Politico described it as a visit from royalty, or at least that’s how he was treated by the AP newsroom.

RON FOURNIER: It was. I - it was. [LAUGHS] I don't know if I could have turned as many heads if I had brought the president of the United States in.

[BROOKE LAUGHS] As soon as I walked out and said, hey, does anybody here know Daniel Lippman, a bunch of heads popped up.

[BROOKE LAUGHS] Phones were hung up and people jumped up from their desks and, you know, before I knew it, there was, I don't know, eight, 10 reporters gathered around him, talking him up. And, you know, as a journalist, sometimes you forget who you’re writin’ for. And here, in the flesh and the blood, was a young man who we'd been writin’ for, for several years and has actually been a part of what we do.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: So what’s his writing style? What’s the substance?

RON FOURNIER: Well first, it’s very polite. It always starts, “In the fine article” or “In the wonderful article,” so he starts with a [LAUGHS] flattery. It’s not partisan or, you know, heartily charged or, you know, like some of the emails we get. They're always just very point by point, almost as if you were correcting a school paper in a way that you didn't want to insult the student.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Is his batting average near perfect?

RON FOURNIER: They're almost always spot-on. Then you start looking for his name. For the last year or two whenever I’d see Lippman pop up on my queue, I'd be drawn right towards him.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: You know, there’s a lot of talk about citizen journalism, and I think it brings to mind the image of thousands of citizens knocking on thousands of doors.


BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you think that Daniel’s is a more efficient manifestation of that idea?

RON FOURNIER: I don't know if it’s more efficient, necessarily, it’s just one of the forms. In, in many ways we're becoming a lot more closely connected with our audience. For the last 20 years, supposedly I was writin’ for Daniel Lippman. What’s wrong with me now actually engaging with Daniel Lippman?

BROOKE GLADSTONE: You haven't been writing for Daniel for 20 years ‘cause he’s only 19.

RON FOURNIER: [LAUGHING] Good point, very good.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: This wouldn't have been possible before the Internet.

Further down the interview we learn that Lippman reads scores of online posts per day and I assume replies to many and is building an online persona just by commenting on them. He was interviewed by CNN when he was 15 evidently through his efforts to call attention to himself. He has a 1715 Twitter followers including The Hill, Fred Barnes and Bobby Jindal. Evidently Lippman has wheedled Senate press credentials from someone.
Reflecting upon the great climate debate, it says quite a bit about the level of the discourse when the only person who would listen was a hardcore media junkie.

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