Syndicate Opts for Substitute Column About 2004 Election Problems

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By: Dave Astor

Tribune Media Services didn’t syndicate today’s Robert Koehler column about alleged voting irregularities in the 2004 election, but allowed him to substitute a piece on the same topic.

“At first I was upset, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t write about this issue,” said Koehler, a TMS editor as well as columnist, when reached today by E&P. “I just wish it [questions about last November’s election] would get into the mainstream media more. That would help us have secure elections in 2006, 2008, and beyond.”

John Twohey, vice president of editorial and operations at TMS, added: “I’m pleased that Bob’s columns on this topic are getting so much attention. It’s an important issue.” In addition to the many e-mails Koehler has received, the situation involving today’s column was publicized on BradBlog.com.

Today’s piece was Koehler’s third about the 2004 election since April 14. Chicago Tribune Public Editor Don Wycliff responded to Koehler’s April 14 column in an April 28 piece, which was referred to in the Koehler column that didn’t get syndicated.

In his April 14 column, Koehler discussed various questions he thought about after attending the National Election Reform Conference in Nashville, Tenn., early last month. He asked why “the lines were so long and the voting machines so few” in many Democratic precincts, why “many otherwise Democratic ballots … recorded no vote for president,” why “virtually every voter complaint about electronic voting machine malfunction indicated an unauthorized vote switch from Kerry to Bush,” and why the exit polls saying Kerry would win “went haywire.” Koehler also asked why America’s media hasn’t investigated this more, and quoted a conference speaker as saying: “When the autopsy of our democracy is performed, it is my belief that media silence will be given as the primary cause of death.”

Wycliff wrote April 28 that one way of describing the Nashville meeting would be “a convocation of conspiracy theorists, unable to come to terms with the fact that their guy lost and that, as in sports, it’s not the pregame prognostication and expert opinions that count, but the numbers on the scoreboard after the contest has actually been played.” Wycliff also cited reports indicating that there weren’t significant voting irregularities in Ohio last fall.

Koehler’s original May 5 column (posted on his Web site at www.commonwonders.com) quoted an e-mail he received from Wycliff that said: “If John Kerry and the Ohio Democratic Party and all the other folks who had the most to gain from the election were making this challenge, I would get interested.” Koehler wrote in his column that Wycliff’s “contention that Kerry has the most at stake in all of this is … dispiriting.”

Why didn’t TMS syndicate this column? Twohey told E&P that the piece wasn’t appropriate for national distribution because it referred to a column (Wycliff’s) readers outside the Chicago area may not have seen.

“I can accept that,” commented Koehler, a TMS editor since 1995 who said he likes working for the syndicate.

His May 5 substitute piece included a sampling of e-mail from readers, some of whom suspect the 2004 election was stolen by the Republicans. Koehler received roughly 200 e-mails (about 20 times more than normal) in response to each of his election columns. Most of the messages were positive.

Koehler’s weekly syndicated feature runs in about a dozen newspapers, but not the Chicago Tribune — for which he occasionally writes guest columns.

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