Russell Pearce, Joe Arpiao

Former Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) with Maricopa Cty. Sheriff Joe Arpiao, addressing the media on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011. (Photo: AP/Matt York)

I thought it might be interesting to compare coverage of Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), losing his seat in a recall election. I was fascinated by the differences between sources each media outlet used. Christian Science Monitor, on the one hand, talked to political scientist Bruce Merill. He said: “Most Arizonans are pretty moderate, and I think they just got tired of all of the venom and all of the bitterness … It really became more – to some degree – that Russell Pearce was somewhat of an embarrassment.”

The reporter, in that instance, sought out an expert who would comment on the constituents’ motivations. The Fox News coverage, while mostly comprehensive, characterizes the referendum as a “stunning rebuke to the author of Arizona’s controversial immigration law” and a potential “warning signal to politicians who have advocated hard-line policies on immigration.” It does not say who did the rebuking. The expert source quoted here is political analyst Chris Herstam, a Republican lobbyist and former legislator who says voters were signaling that they wanted the economy, jobs and education to be the first priority, not immigration. Given that the CS Monitor article, among other stories about Pearce’s ousting, focused mainly on the toughness of his policies, Herstam’s assessment seems a bit narrowly focused. The Fox reporter would have done well to interview one more source.

— Marianna Nash

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