When the Strib elevated political reporter Pat Lopez to politics/government editor in July, it also promised a reconfigured web presence. On Wednesday, a new blog, Hot Dish Politics debuted, replacing The Big Question.
Hot Dish (and boy, aren’t you glad you don’t have to name these things?), opened with Tim Pawlenty refusing Michele Bachmann’s demands for a special ACORN prosecutor. The second item: Al Franken getting “testy over statistics.”
The latter item points up a potential risk of any blog, no matter the name: superficiality.
Franken’s testiness came during a committee hearing on his bill to bar federal contractors from forcing raped employees to submit to arbitration, rather than getting their day in court. The senator’s specific target: Halliburton, the defense contractor once run by Dick Cheney. Franken’s pin cushion: Mark de Bernardo, executive director of the Council for Employment Law Equity, who purported that employees fared better under arbitration than they did in front of judge and jury.
I watched the testimony yesterday, and was struck by how Franken badgered the witness, Strib D.C. reporter Eric Roper’s point of emphasis. To me, Franken made a tactical mistake — de Bernardo clearly couldn’t define what constituted employee “success” in arbitration, and the senator didn’t really need to box him into yes or no answers.
But here’s the thing: the face-off was secondary to the fundamental issue at hand. As of this writing, the Strib has produced zero print or web stories on Franken’s legislation, which passed the Senate 68-30.
As the leftblog Think Progress notes:
In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.
That’s what motivated Franken’s amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations Act.
A political attack? That’s what the GOP charged. But that 30 Republicans opposed a rape victim’s right to go to court is at least as noteworthy as, say, ACORN pimps and hos, which has received no small amount of ink in the Strib and elsewhere.
(The PiPress didn’t cover Franken’s legislation either, but they don’t have a Washington bureau.)
Even though I thought Franken needlessly squandered the high ground in his committee questioning, he later delivered a stirring speech on the Senate floor. That’s at least as worthy of a Hot Dish post as the badgering.
You could argue Jones isn’t a Minnesotan, and the Strib can’t write about everything. (Then again, the next victim might be from here.) I asked managing editor Rene Sanchez if a story might be coming, but he was understandably reluctant to speak about future coverage.
Still, if the Strib can find space in the paper for Minnesota Republican John Kline’s non-Minnesota-specific criticism of the National Endowment for the Arts, they can find room for a quicker-hit video link and analysis of a new Senator’s successful fight to end an outrageous practice.
Here’s hoping future Hot Dishes include meatier fare.