What do you know, I had no idea that Sen. John McCain was in the neighborhood. I didn't see the security 'copters buzzing around the mountaintop. Actually, my family and some friends are currently hiding out in a valley on the other side of Mt. Mitchell and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Billy Graham's rambling log cabin home is on the other side, east of Asheville, and we are north, northeast of Asheville. Still, this is the kind of event that everyone is talking about today over coffee and grits near the town square.
There really isn't that much to talk about in the mini-mountain of coverage, other than the fact that this is treated as a political endorsement. However, it is interesting to look at the Los Angeles Times coverage and observe the difference in the straight news wire coverage and the blog item by one Robin Abcarian.
Here is some nice color, ending with a straight dollop of cynicism:
McCain planned the stop to pay homage to the man who has counseled every American president for the last half century. To say that the Graham retreat was out of the way is an understatement -- about a 45-minute drive from the airport, up a very windy road that did not look entirely suitable for a motorcade of brawny SUVs. The homestead, high atop a forested hill, was quite modest, at least from the outside (reporters were not invited in). The house is a large brown shingled cabin with a tall rough-hewn stone chimney, a screen door and an old iron wheel at the front door.
The visit came at the behest of the presumptive Republican nominee, who has had a somewhat rocky relationship with Christian evangelicals. We know McCain asked for the meeting because about 15 minutes after it ended, his campaign released a statement from Franklin Graham saying just that: "Sen. McCain's office had requested a meeting ... and we appreciate the effort he made to travel to my father's home," the younger Graham said. "I was impressed by his personal faith and his moral clarity on important social issues facing America today." ...
The meeting generated no news but McCain got a handy souvenir photo of himself sitting between the Grahams, and that certainly won't hurt him with evangelicals, some of whom don't find him suitably conservative and are still offended by what some believe was his calculated attempt to garner moderate votes in 2000.
Meanwhile, the wire story is very dry. Here are some of the nuts and bolts:
McCain, who is courting religious voters and trying to reassure skeptical conservatives, said he had "a very excellent conversation" with the two "great leaders."
Franklin Graham issued a statement after the meeting praising the Arizona senator's "personal faith and his moral clarity." He said he was not endorsing anyone for president, but was urging "men and women of faith everywhere" to vote and to be involved in the political process.
McCain said last week that he did not consider the meeting with Franklin Graham to be political. Franklin Graham was among 30 evangelicals with whom Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama met this month in Chicago.
It feels rather like tiptoeing through a minefield, doesn't it?
Here is my question: Which would you rather read? The chatty, slightly snarkly analysis or the power-dry wire? What was the news in this story? Was there any?
I ask for a simple reason: I am still trying to figure out what role weblogs play in serious news coverage. We all are, aren't we, fellow journalists?
Photo: A view on Mt. Mitchell.