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View Diary: NY Times mea culpa (328 comments)

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  •  How stupid could they be? (4.00)
    I spoke at a media conference a few months ago, where scandalized Big Media execs and journalism professors expressed outrage that people would read the blogs. "How --" they asked, "Can readers trust what they read in the blogs?"

    Thousands of volunteers scraping up every tiny bit of evidence, every day, day after day, here and overseas and they thought they could compete on the facts?

    Their day is done.

    •  Not even (none)
      If they tried to compete on the facts, they wouldn't have anything to apologise for. They thought they could compete on the basis of authority and reputation alone. "All the news that's fit to print," and all that jazz.

      Confusion to the enemy!

      by YT on Tue May 25, 2004 at 09:57:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  don't trust anything, be empirical (none)
        The lesson of this whole sorry episode is:

        Don't trust anything

        Within days of the aluminum tube story breaking, I heard about their application as missile tubes.

        The diameter of the tubes was reported as compatible with the Iraqi missile launchers

        Then Colin and Condi came out and said uranium refining was the only use ???

        Like Colin Powell never saw a missile in his life ???

        after that, it was kind of obvious

        That is when the "Echo Chamber" began to hum. The pentagon and VP leaked a tip, the times reporter confirmed the tip with Chalabi, and viola, the perfect source

        and 80% of America bought it

        And, now they have more "Credible Evidence" of a terror threat

        Anybody believe that ???

    •  Hold on, folks. (4.00)
      The blogs have lots of virtues, but most of what we do is googling from our desks.  With some exceptions, we are not out there conducting interviews, dodging bullets in Baghdad or Kabul, shadowing public figures waiting for a scoop, cultivating contacts over many years, etc.

      Say what you will about the "media filter", but journalists are getting overly bashed in this thread by bloggers who sit on their behinds all day and read opinions that validate their own views.  At the end of the day we need the wire reports, staff reports, and dispatches to learn what's going on past our noses.

      By the way, the conservative bloggers seem to bash the same journalists we do, but they do it on different alternate days as us.

      The criticisms we level at the press should be measured and focused.  A general "nyah nyah, I told you so" from Kos on the war is probably called for here, but the free-for-all on print journalists is not.

      (I'm not just responding to your post, fly, but to this whole thread).

      •  No Steve (4.00)
        journalists are getting overly bashed in this thread by bloggers who sit on their behinds all day and read opinions that validate their own views.

        We don't blast the journalists (though they are obviously in the line of fire). We blast the media corporations who make it their business to lie to us for all kinds of reasons, none good as far as the public is concerned. Reporters, a the end of the day, do the job they are told to do. We might be angry at them, but we know where the problem really is.

        Let us rid ourselves of the fiction that low oil prices are somehow good for the United States.

        by M Aurelius on Tue May 25, 2004 at 11:10:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed (4.00)
          The problem lies not so much with the journalists as with the editorial pressure from above, dictating slants and which stories to cover in general.  90% of the time, when there's one of those awful "balance" comments in an article, they were shoehorned in there by an editor worried about getting smacked around by the media owners for being too "liberal".  

          Whatever great journalism is going on is easily nullified by editors.  What's the use of doing a report on how gay marriage is not going to hurt you - if your editor forces you to put in a graf straight-facedly quoting some Family Coalition spokeman saying that gay people have a deviant lifestyle and are going to hell?  All your great reporting goes out the window.  

          I'm just surprised more journalists haven't resigned in protest up until now - most of them are ok people, and somewhere along the line this horrible editorial slant just ruins everything.

          But then again, there are some things that are just beyond a reasonable doubt - 53% of disputed articles "just happening" to be written by Judith Miller is too high a probability just to occur by chance.  That's not a random distribution caused by systematic errors - that's a systematic error within one journalist, which I don't think Steve G can deny.  (Although I completely take your point, Steve.)

          •  Something more (none)
            I have the impression that the newspapers cut back on their copy-editing and fact-checking staff as a way to cut costs.  It is hard to believe that the kind of stuff that has come out of the Times in the past four or five years -- no go all the way back to the Whitewater fiasco -- would have passed the elementary fact-check test.  You pay cheap, you get cheap.
            •  Two different jobs (none)
              Fact checking and copy editing are two different jobs. Copy editors don't review content. In fact, I doubt many daily, or even weekly, newspapers have a specific fact-checking staff. That's more a magazine thing.

              As a rule, Reporters are expected to have good facts, or at least to acknowledge when they couldn't get them (hence the phrase "Mr Smith was unavailable for comment"). Editors are expected to watch for things that are fishy or incomplete. The reporter is expected to follow-up. A paper like the NY Times presumably has several layers of editors that a story needs to go through before publication.
              Most papers it's probably just one person and in some (and in most blogs) it's no one.

              •  Copy editors fact check (none)
                The job requirements vary from publication to publication, but copy editors often fact check. Check out the job postings at and you will see that many of them seek fact-checking skills.

                I believe that typically it would be primarily a news editor's job to worry about "balance," whether a reporter is being snowed by an Iraqi con man, etc. If the Iraqi con man exists and said what he the reporter reported, that is a checked fact; it would be up to the news editors to decide whether the reporter acted appropriately in relying on the guy.

                •  Thanks! (none)
                  First off thanks for the link!! I'm looking for work.

                  As an editor, and often a copy editor, I've always been taught that copy editing is a distinct task, centered around checking for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Worrying about content gets in the way.

                  I suppose there can be a more expansive definition, but from my experience, editing for style and content is a separate task from copy editing.

                  •  I don't see (none)
                    how a copy editor can check for spelling, punctuation, or grammar without taking content into account (and I mean reading for style and comprehension, not fact-checking) because those three things affect the way information is delivered. If any one of them is off, meanings can change.

                    I work in academic publishing and we've run into this as a problem (freelancers making sure the acronyms are spelled out while they ignore the fact that sentences are not comprehensible).

                    These days, tech editors are a complete luxury, unfortunately, so my $12 an hour job encompasses reading for meaning and checking the copyeditors. (!) I often fact-check too, because my name is on the masthead and I don't want us looking like idiots. ;-)

        •  Good point (none)
          I agree that the countless editorial decisions and non-decisions including story assignment, story placement, headlines, photo editing, fact-checking, etc. are likely to come under the influence of the forces of evil as media conglomeration proliferates.  However, I suspect that people's heightened sense of nuance about these decisions is due to the divided political climate.  We on the left AND right tend to read into everything some sinister plot of vast left/right wing media conspiracy.

          The fact is, it's damned hard to be "objective", whatever that means, about news coverage.  I hope the NYT and USA Today, and The New Republic and everyone else in journalism are learning their lessons about the importance of standards and accountability in their profession.  These places all require some reputation capital to stay in business over the long run.  Credibility is like virginity -- very hard to get back once you've lost it.

      •  Don Hewitt... (none)
        of 1st televised Kennedy-Nixon debate and 60 Minutes fame described much of the American foreign press as "operating out of London" and that some stringer or wire reporter/photographer was actually doing the grunt work while the collating and repackaging took place in Old Blighty.

        So due to economic and time constraints (!), we bloggers are just taking a cue from our more "professional" bretheren.

        I wonder if a news service could say they are in "London" but are actually in a domestic "London"

        Perhaps bloggers could scrape together enough ducats to buy into the raw AP or other feed.

        That would cause the old-line media companies to have a conniption fit.

        open up your eyes just to check that your asleep again; president gas is president gas again...

        by rgilly on Wed May 26, 2004 at 04:38:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  From my view (none)
        the problem was never the reporting - these stories were reported, or we wouldn't have kown about them.  The problem was burying the facts on Page Z193 and only putting it out there once.  And, of course, the balance thing.  As Krugman describes it, if one nutjob says the Earth is flat, the NYT headline will be: "Shape of Earth: Opinions Differ."  They've been cowed by a screaming right that insists that facts are somehow biased and that beliefs should share column space equally with facts.  Is there any evidence that gay marriage destroys society?  No?  Then that opinion belongs solely on the editorial page.

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