Daily Archives: May 19, 2009

Right story, wrong question

Note:  This was originally written last week as part of the post that became “Bigmouth Strikes Again.”  It originally praised WGCL’s Wendy Saltzman for her work on the take-home vehicles story, while quibbling with another piece she produced on Congressional travel.  We edited the post after we figured out that WXIA had also produced the take-home vehicles story.  This is the portion we deleted.

Wendy Saltzman, WGCL

Wendy Saltzman, WGCL

Wendy Saltzman’s investigation into travel by members of Congress was less impressive than the take-home vehicles piece.   The premise was worthy enough:  Big business likes to entertain members of Congress, including flying them and their families to “fact-finding” destinations like the Virgin Islands and Scotland.  But WGCL had trouble deciding what, exactly, is wrong with this practice.

“The question is:  when these groups are paying for these members trips, are they also buying their votes?” Saltzman asked in her intro.  But she made no attempt to link any votes to any bills that were of interest to Georgia Power et al, who’d paid for the trips.

The anchor intro referred to the trips as a “perk,” which is probably more accurate.  And it’s a seamy perk, no doubt.  But it’s pervasive.  It’s also legal, and it’s not funded by taxpayers.

This was a legitimate story, but it was too heavy-handed.  A lighter touch would have been more effective, and probably more damning.  (Saltzman might take lighter-touch tips from her competitor at WAGA, Randy Travis.)  The bottom line is that this “perk” is something voters ought to know about.   Saltzman is sniffing around an important issue.

But if you can’t answer the “buying their votes” question, then ask another question.  Truth is, substitute “their votes” for “access,” and we probably don’t have much of a gripe.   Grade:  B-