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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE | CAMPAIGN 2004 / TRAIL
MIX

Unconventional Coverage

August 08, 2004

There was one television news team covering the Democratic National Convention that most people wouldn't recognize.

The "How's Your News?" team, composed of six people with conditions such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, is not your standard-issue anchor material. Stars of their own independent film (also titled "How's Your News?" and now on DVD), these reporters and their assistants stopped celebrities and politicians alike at the FleetCenter for a political program they were filming.

"Our news team stands in such contrast to a traditional news team," said Arthur Bradford, the project's director. "They're not well-groomed and scripted. I think that's kind of what I love about the interviews that these guys do -- they get people off of their script."

The group is connected with Camp Jabberwocky, a Martha's Vineyard retreat for people with disabilities. Their project's name is emblematic of the reporters' unusual approach. For example, reporter Ronnie Simonsen chatted up director Rob Reiner. Simonsen, a fan of '70s television, talked Reiner into singing the "All in the Family" theme song with him. (Reiner played Michael "Meathead" Stivic on the show.)

The group spoke with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), activist and comedian Al Franken and news anchors Peter Jennings and Wolf Blitzer, among others.

Bradford said that although the Democratic National Committee had been hesitant about issuing credentials to the group, it and almost everyone else they encountered had responded warmly to the team.

"To me it really is a true test of someone's character -- how they act when they meet someone with a disability," Bradford said. He said their footage, which he hoped would include Republican National Convention coverage -- would air on the Trio network Nov. 1.

Phishing for Funds

Some Internet scammers have trained their sights on political contributors, disseminating several spam e-mails and fake websites resembling campaign solicitations for Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

Two e-mails exposed last week included the addresses of bogus sites where visitors were asked to input personal financial information.

The sites were registered in New Braunfels, Texas, and in India.

Capitalizing on Democrats' enthusiasm after the Democratic National Convention, the now-inactive sites were not connected with Kerry's presidential campaign. The official campaign website is JohnKerry.com.

"We expect to see a lot more of this electronic election fraud," said Susan Larson, the vice president of global content at SurfControl, an e-mail filtering company. "Phishers and other scam artists are masters of leveraging timely events to exploit the unwary."

The Moore-Limbaugh Divide

Fans of Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh are camped on the far left and far right in roughly equal numbers, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey.

The survey compared the number of viewers of "Fahrenheit 9/11," the Bush-skewering Moore film, with the number of fans of Limbaugh's conservative radio program, and found the groups similar in size. Eight percent of the 5,051 adults surveyed had seen Moore's movie, while 7% had listened to Limbaugh.

The survey's political director, Adam Clymer, characterized the groups as hard-core party loyalists, and said the radio show and film "don't really influence folks in the middle."

More than half of the movie's viewers described themselves as Democrats, and 86% disapproved of President Bush's job in the White House. The Limbaugh listeners were similarly partisan: 69% identified themselves as Republicans and 88% approved of Bush.

Moore and Limbaugh are "preaching to the choir," Clymer said. "But preaching to the choir isn't unimportant politically; it reminds the choir of their obligations and their beliefs."

Clymer was surprised at how little overlap there was between the two groups: Only 12 of the 5,051 respondents had seen Moore's movie and listened to Limbaugh. "Not very many people were trying to find out what the other side believed," Clymer said.

Something in the Air

President Bush found he had something in common with Ohioan Phil Derrow, whom he met on a campaign stop Thursday in Columbus. Derrow, president of Ohio Transmission Corp., was explaining the flexible work schedules his company offered employees.

"We sell air to our customers," Derrow said to Bush of the company, which operates air compressor stations.

"You and I are in the same business," Bush responded. "Is it hot air, by any chance?"

Compiled from staff, Web and wire reports by Times staff researcher Susannah Rosenblatt.

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