On Wednesday May 10, Ray McGovern, a 27 year veteran CIA analyst was in Grand Rapids to speak at the Wealthy Theatre. The event was originally planned to be a debate between McGovern and area congressman Peter Hoekstra, chair of the House Intelligence committee, on the current state of the CIA, the misuse of intelligence in the lead up to the Iraq War, and the current secret government wiretapping program. Hoekstra declined to participate in the debate. McGovern delivered a lecture in place of the debate on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning visited Congressmans Hoekstras Holland Michigan office to relate his concerns and disagreements with one of Hoekstras staff. Local Media coverage of these events was less than one would expect, considering the timeliness of these issues and the qualifications of McGovern. The weekend prior to his visit to Grand Rapids, McGovern had been featured on national TV for publicly challenging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the issue of pre-war intelligence.
Of the local TV stations, only WOOD 8 provided any coverage of McGoverns visit. A producer from WOOD 8 interviewed McGovern for an hour on Wednesday, prior to McGoverns lecture. This footage was not used in the evening broadcast that evening. Six minutes of this footage was used on the following Sunday during To the Point, WOOD 8s political affairs show. WZZM 13 and WXMI 17 did not provide any coverage of the event. Rather, the local TV stations aired stories that day on topics such as a tornado in Texas, a junk food free camp for kids, a luncheon promoting good etiquette, and the debut of Playstation 3.
The Grand Rapids Press ran two articles, one on Wednesday, and one on Friday. These were both relatively short stories that were placed on pages 3 and 5 of the Region section. The Press neglected to post the story from Fridays paper on their website, MLive.com. The headlines of the two articles both were problematic as well. The first headline, Hoekstra, Bush critic to speak was inaccurate. In the article it is plainly noted that Hoekstra had declined to participate in the debate. The headline for the Friday article was Hoekstras staff questions ex-CIA analysts motives. While not factually inaccurate, this headline seems crafted to prejudice the reader against McGovern while deflecting criticism of Hoekstra.
By underreporting the visit by Ray McGovern, the local media essentially rewarded representative Hoekstra for not participating in a debate with Ray McGovern. When elected officials know the media will not hold them accountable when they are challenged by critics, these officials will refuse to take part in public dialogues with those they may not agree with. Below is the contact information for the local media. Let them know that when qualified and reputable critics are in Grand Rapids speaking on timely issues of great importance, it is the responsibility of the media to report on these issues and to hold elected officials responsible for responding to these critics.
WOOD TV 8
News Director: Patti McGettigan
Phone #: 771-9366
WXMI FOX 17
News Director: Tim Dye
Phone #: (616) 364-1717
News Director: Tim Geraghty
Phone #: (616) 785-1313
Grand Rapids Press
Editor: Mike Lloyd
Phone #: (616) 222-5455