The very first rule of reporting: tell the reader ‘who, what, when, where, why’. So where’s the ‘why’?

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/James_Abram_Garfield,_photo_portrait_seated.jpg

Okay, it’s true. I did it..

Here’s a bit of  incomplete reporting on a recent “outrage-of-the-day” claimed to  result from that damn Obama government shutdown – this is from National Review; for hyperbolic end-of-the-Republic rhetoric, visit less reliable outlets elsewhere where the sputtering abounds:

“With the government shutdown, many GS [government services] and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work – not even to volunteer,” Schlageter wrote. “During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.”

Why would that be? Surely there’s a reason but perhaps National Review simply ran out of space.

Let us board the way-back-machine and visit, for example, the Gingrich shutdown of 1995. Hundreds of thousands of Federal employees were furloughed. Many of them tried to get around the rules and work anyway; turns out they found themselves in a spot of trouble. Why was that?

It was pretty much for the same reason they would be in trouble now – subject to disciplinary action, criminal charges even, if they violate the rules*.

Allow me to quote an email from a family friend in DC who is a long-time Federal employee; he’s been locked out of his office since Tuesday:

 . . . the General Counsel listed what would happen to us if we did any work during the shutdown, including up to two years of prison. . . I cannot find out what is happening with the grass roots grantees I work with in Latin America – much less process their next disbursement.  I can’t even volunteer my time.

Ah, just like those Catholic priests! And here’s why – our friend goes on:

This is thanks to the Anti-Deficiency Act* which prohibits the government to spend money which hasn’t been appropriated and puts the fear of God into government supervisors.

The Anti-Deficiency Act was initially enacted – wait for it – in 1884. James Garfield was President. Major amendments occurred in 1950 and 1982. Any employee or supervisor who “knowingly and willfully” violates any of the law’s provisions can face punishments of up to $5,000 in fines and two years in prison, according to the GAO.

I don’t see any mention of the Anti-Deficiency Act in The National Review story but I’m confident it’ll be included in all those FOX News stories to follow.

3 responses to “The very first rule of reporting: tell the reader ‘who, what, when, where, why’. So where’s the ‘why’?

  1. Very good post, Moe. Ignoring the Anti-Deficiency Act is a damn good example of how demagoguery increases in direct proportion to political emotion. I am noticing that the political letters to the editor of our small-town rag are increasingly bereft of references, not to mention truth. It is beginning to affect my sleep. 😦

    Like

  2. How does this relate the late President James Garfield (pictured above)?

    Like

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