Time for a Blogger Ethics Panel

I’ve been watching the high comedy at the NY Times since Mistermix and Tim brought it up, and it really is kind of amusing watching our nation’s elite journalists have a very public Admiral Stockdale moment“Who am I and what am I doing here?” In reality, that is unfair to Stockdale, who was a hero who gave everything for his country. At any rate, I just clicked through the post Mistermix recently linked to, and they seem to have a really odd defense. Jill Abramson has written in to Brisbane, thrown him a couple links to their blogs, and said “see- we correct shit on our blogs.”

The response to this nonsense is “Why do you have a higher standard for integrity on the Times blogs than you do on the front page?”

Judy Miller, also too.

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46 replies
  1. 1
    JGabriel says:

    John Cole:

    The response to this nonsense is “Why do you have a higher standard for integrity on the Times blogs than you do on the front page?”

    World’s Worst Kept Secret: Everyone know blogs have more integrity than establisment media anymore.

    .

  2. 2
    Benjamin Franklin says:

    If you think that should be rebutted in the text of a story, it means you think a reporter can crawl inside the mind of a Supreme Court justice and report back. Or perhaps you think the reporter should just write that the “misunderstanding” excuse is bull and let it go at that. I would respectfully suggest that’s not a good approach.

    I think a beat reporter to SCOTUS should be able to patch a historical pattern to the current reportage and create some contextual texture to the bare ass facts.

    I do not think it is fair to expect journalists to be instant experts on everything, but I do expect the assignment editor to know who knows.

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    The New York Times needs a new motto…the old one is inaccurate.
    All the news that fit to print

  4. 4
    cathyx says:

    It’s so easy for a reporter to fix this. When a falsehood is presented, either follow up with a quote of someone with a different opinion, or cite a reference to a counter position.

  5. 5
    JGabriel says:

    @JPL:

    The New York Times needs a new motto…

    Whatever Your Betters Tell Us To Print

    .

  6. 6
    Downpuppy says:

    @cathyx: No, that’s what they do, and it doesn’t really help to add a “She said”. You need to add a bit of explanation & /or a factual citation, or you’re just adding to the murk.

  7. 7
    Cat Lady says:

    Didn’t that idiot Paul Kane in the WaPo chat a while ago admit that fact checking is for the opinion columnists, because pointing out that a fact supports one side’s argument in a news column means that the reporter is giving their opinion as to the veracity of each sides argument, and lordy, we can’t have that when there’s journalamism to practice. Through the looking glass they’ve gone.

  8. 8
    cathyx says:

    @Downpuppy: No, that’s not what they do. They just repeat what is told to them, without any attempt to show the truth.

  9. 9
    Jay in Oregon says:

    In reality, that is unfair to Stockdale, who was a hero who gave everything for his country.

    And is responsible for the Stockdale Paradox, which I find myself referring to often:

    The Stockdale Paradox is named after admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a United States military officer held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured more than twenty times by his captors, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to see his wife again. And yet, as Stockdale told [James C.] Collins, he never lost faith during his ordeal: “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
    __
    Then comes the paradox: While Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknowable, he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his prisonmates who failed to make it out of there alive. “They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
    __
    What the optimists failed to do was confront the reality of their situation. They preferred the ostrich approach, sticking their heads in the sand and hoping for the difficulties to go away. That self-delusion might have made it easier on them in the short-term, but when they were eventually forced to face reality, it had become too much and they couldn’t handle it.
    __
    Stockdale approached adversity with a very different mindset. He accepted the reality of his situation. He knew he was in hell, but, rather than bury his head in the sand, he stepped up and did everything he could to lift the morale and prolong the lives of his fellow prisoners. He created a tapping code so they could communicate with each other. He developed a milestone system that helped them deal with torture. And he sent intelligence information to his wife, hidden in the seemingly innocent letters he wrote.
    __
    Collins and his team observed a similar mindset in the good-to-great companies. They labeled it the Stockdale Paradox and described it like so:
    __
    You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
    __
    and at the same time…
    __
    You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

    http://www.ndoherty.com/stockdale-paradox/

  10. 10
    cathyx says:

    The NYT needs a new motto..

    We repeat, you decide.

  11. 11
    Violet says:

    It’s sadly fascinating that they don’t seem to understand why people are upset about this issue. The pernicious “both sides” reporting style that has been in vogue for the past decade or two is so deeply intertwined with their perceptions of what their job is that they can’t even understand the problem.

  12. 12
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Not just the paper of Judy Miller, but, as I said in another thread, Walter Duranty. Judy Miller was Mr. Rogers compared to Duranty.

  13. 13
    LT says:

    In his response to this – in the response, where he actually had time to think this over – he wrote:

    That was not the question I was trying to ask. My inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut “facts” that are offered by newsmakers when those “facts” are in question. I consider this a difficult question, not an obvious one.

    Should they question “facts” when those “facts that are in question.” The NYT public editor wrote those words. The NYT public editor thinks “facts that are in question” are in fact “facts.” Maybe a special subset of “facts.” The way “cats” are a special subset of “orangutans,” I guess.

    And one has to understand that this isn’t about just the things being said, he’s saying this in the context of printing the “facts” being said. He finds it hard to know if his newspaper should just go ahead and print those “facts that are in question,” or mention that they’re in question.

    Is there a word for when you want to cry and vomit at the same time?

  14. 14
    srv says:

    The NYT needs a new motto..

    We Can’t Handle The Truth.

  15. 15
    jl says:

    @LT: crommit.

    Anyway, this public editor person doesn’t seem to think or express himself very well.

    As Ed Helms patiently explained in an earlier thread, these people do not last long. And have to go into detox to purge the BS that has clogged their system, and then look for another job.

    Monty Python – Vocational Guidance Counsellor
    http://youtu.be/4h-wVe9a6rQ

  16. 16
    Arclite says:

    They are so wrapped up in their insulated cocoon, that they can’t comprehend how poor they’ve become at being the fourth estate, the bulwark against power abuse, delivering truth to power. It’s just incredible that they’re not comprehending the unanimous anger at what a shitty job they’re doing. They probably sided with the Crossfire guys when Stewart tore them all new ones.

  17. 17
    LT says:

    @jl: Ha. Thank you.

  18. 18

    There comes a point where the best response is to STFU. They walked themselves out on a limb, sawed it off, and are now trying to re-attach the branch mid-fall. I like OpEd pieces, I like news pieces that inform me – I do not like stenography and judging from their circulation figures, there might just be a few others.

  19. 19

    Actually it’s not surprising that the best blogs have higher standards: It’s about personal pride in one’s work. The organization as a whole? Meh, not so much.

    Of course the worst blogs are just insane paranoid rantings, but those folks blog for Redstate, not the NYT.

  20. 20
    JC says:

    Actually, a question – does anyone know what type of churn there is, at a place like the NY Times?

    I mean, are reporters in their late 20’s, early 30’s, mid 40’s?

    Given that the newspaper business as a whole is declining – in fact, isn’t there a current problem with lots of staff getting cuts, while a VP or something is getting millions for leaving? – are reporters more scared, than caring about the truth?

    If the FINANCIAL REALITY is the fact that reports can’t speak the facts, because it creates too much blowback – then that it makes independent truth operations that much more important.

    And yes, all of us RELY on the often GREAT reporting in the Times.

    It’s a paradox, indeed.

  21. 21

    Maybe it’s odd to say, but blogs with comments seem to have a version of ombudsman. I’m not saying such will penetrate the blog mind set or isn’t also full of bullshit – but there is something there that is a lot more immediate than Print has.

  22. 22
    Arclite says:

    IF you haven’t read the comments over there, you really should. So much win, and not from political junkies like us, but just normal folks absolutely crushing Mr. Brisbane with logic and snark.

    It’s really a shame they turned the comments off.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    pete says:

    The first law of cross-examination is: Never ask a question to which you do not know the answer. What did Brisbane think the answer would be? What level of incomprehension was behind posing the question? It is to giggle.

  25. 25
    Egg Berry says:

    @JC:

    I mean, are reporters in their late 20’s, early 30’s, mid 40’s?

    There’s a mix. If you want, there’s a documentary called “The Paper” that is, i believe, available on Netflix Instant, that shows some of the sausage-making.

  26. 26
    jayboat says:

    @srv:
    Perfect.

    And the obvious reason they closed the comments.

  27. 27
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Jay in Oregon:

    You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
    __
    and at the same time…
    __
    You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

    As Eeyore, and the original Cynics, teach us: If you pretend life is a non-stop picnic, it will break you. If you can’t get beyond the unpleasant facts, it will break you. Strength lies in acknowleging that the world often sucks — your friends forget your birthday, your only presents are a empty jar and a broken balloon — so if birthdays are important to you, you make a point of reminding your friends about the date and finding a way to enjoy ‘a useful pot for putting things in’ and a red rag.

  28. 28
    Anne Laurie says:

    @JGabriel: “All the News That Fits [the Narrative], We Print”

    Which, y’know, that much-vaunted Original Motto kinda speaks to the problem: If it’s really news, peons, we’ll let you know about it. Anything we don’t sanction is therefore Not Actually News.

  29. 29
    The Other Chuck says:

    All the “facts” fit to print.

  30. 30
    Valdivia says:

    @cathyx:

    FTW! perfection.

  31. 31
    priscianusjr says:

    @cathyx:

    It’s so easy for a reporter to fix this. When a falsehood is presented, either follow up with a quote of someone with a different opinion, or cite a reference to a counter position.

    Yes, but that actually takes work.

  32. 32
    mothra says:

    The comments are closed now. Too bad, because I really wanted to set them straight on their lame defense of Romney’s gaff about firing people. I CANNOT FIRE MY INSURANCE PROVIDER IF THEY DON’T TREAT ME
    RIGHT.

  33. 33
    anon says:

    In reality, that is unfair to Stockdale, who was a hero who gave everything for his country.

    Depends on how you interpret the phrase “for his country.”

    Second sentence of his Wikipedia page says Stockdale led aerial attacks from the carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident.

  34. 34
    WeeBey says:

    @Egg Berry:

    Ha! The Paper is awesome, but not a documentary.

  35. 35
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Cat Lady:

    Didn’t that idiot Paul Kane in the WaPo chat a while ago admit that fact checking is for the opinion columnists

    But doesn’t that conflict with the “Thou Shalt Not Directly Call Out Thy Co-Columnists’ Bullshit” rule, where Krugman has to make euphemistic references to Bobo Brooks and Airmiles Friedman?

  36. 36
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    Maybe it’s odd to say, but blogs with comments seem to have a version of ombudsman.

    I don’t think they even need comments: they just need links. Blogs, when done well, show their work: when they’re responding, they cite the original piece so readers are one click away from seeing whether the response takes liberties with the source.

    Charlie Pierce talks about beancounters in newsrooms shitting themselves about what’s happening to their business. I’m sure that’s a concern at, say, the Guardian, which is one of the most web-attuned news outlets in the English-speaking world, but they don’t project a fundamental fear of the way journalism changes when it’s online.

    The word that comes to mind when looking at mainstream American journalism is “brittle”. They’ve spent a century contorting themselves into a stylistic posture of disinterested, dispassionate objectivity that stakes a claim for authoritativeness — “voice of GOD reporting” — and it turns out that it’s completely unsuited for the 21st century.

  37. 37
    d0n camillo says:

    The condescension with which Arthur Brisbane and Jill Abramson treat the commenters is nauseating. I’ve often seen this same attitude among professional news people. They think that, because they’ve spent decades in the news business, they know all about how to produce a newspaper. They resent input from people outside the business. They forget that people like the commnenters there and here have spent decades reading newspapers. We’re the ones that have paid for the damn things over the years and we know what we want from a newspaper, we know what we expect from a newspaper, and we damn well know we’re not getting it from the New York Times.

  38. 38
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Jay in Oregon: I had never seen the Stockdale Paradox, but it matches some of the things I read in Terence Des Pres’s book about Holocaust survival many years ago. Beyond just blind luck, survivors dealt with reality. Those who trusted in God and prayed died.

  39. 39
    Zach says:

    Every national paper covering politics should have an A1 story titled “Romney’s Lies,” as should every paper with a primary coming up soon. It’s simply the most relevant thing about his candidacy. He’s lied about his record. He’s said he hasn’t said things that he unquestionably did. He’s lied about healthcare. He’s like about Obama in a number of ways. His economic plan hinges on any number of lies.

    It’s the sort of thing that wasn’t acceptable in the 2000, 2004 or even the 2008 campaign, but is today. The Swift-Boat thing was at least based on the stories of a few angry old men. Bush’s economic proposals in 2000 were unwise, but they weren’t totally irrational — tax revenue was rising to record levels and we had to decide what to do with it. Bush couldn’t have run on any of the GOP candidates’ tax plans in 2000 and gotten away with it. McCain and Obama couldn’t have done it in 2008.

  40. 40
    Barry says:

    @Benjamin Franklin: “I think a beat reporter to SCOTUS should be able to patch a historical pattern to the current reportage and create some contextual texture to the bare ass facts.

    I do not think it is fair to expect journalists to be instant experts on everything, but I do expect the assignment editor to know who knows.”

    A beat reporter to SCOTUS should be a lawyer, versed in federal law. Or have access to a couple.

    This idea of a reporter knowing nothing but reporting is garbage, proved again in newspapers every day.

  41. 41
    Drive-by Nomad says:

    @JPL:

    The New York Times needs a new motto…

    Who gives a fuck if Iraq had no WMDs? We paved the way for Exxon and BP get those 30-Year No-Bid Oil Contracts!

  42. 42
    someofparts says:

    oh god, the comments on the Brisbane piece renew my faith in my neighbors. favorite from yesterday – “Are you trying to put the Onion out of business?” laughing, laughing, laughing

    you know – growing our own food, schooling our own children, setting up our own clinics, learning to provide our own power, water, heat, wifi – all the things we will be learning to do for ourselves going forward – and now we can add journalism to the list. though I guess the blogs have already done that, haven’t you.

  43. 43
    someofparts says:

    #9 Jay in Oregon – What great insights from that interview with Stockton. To me, that goes to the reason I consider it wise to be low-key and careful these days, especially if one lives in a right-wing community. All these folks who have believed pie-in-the-sky for so long are hitting the wall hard and going to pieces with epic fanfare and collateral damage. Best to keep a low profile and a safe distance until the debris settles.

  44. 44
    someofparts says:

    #37 dOn camillo – “The condescension with which Arthur Brisbane and Jill Abramson treat the commenters is nauseating. I’ve often seen this same attitude among professional news people. They think that, because they’ve spent decades in the news business, they know all about how to produce a newspaper.”

    I think they like to believe it is because they know more about journamalism. In reality, I think it’s a Heathers kind of thing, you know, like high school. THEY have access, get invited to the parties, know the newsmakers on a first name basis. It can’t be professional pride because they are hacks. It’s high school clique pride because that’s the highest level of consciousness they can achieve.

  45. 45
    Procopius says:

    @Benjamin Franklin: Right. I think Dahlia Lithwick manages to do a lot of that at Slate, a site which is often pretty dubious.

  46. 46
    Procopius says:

    You know, from time to time I think about the way newspapers used to be. They were often started and supported by political parties. I can’t remember where or what I was studying when I had to read most of the old newspaper stories I’ve seen except for one paper I did on Bleeding Kansas for Freshman English at MSU. My experience/memory is that newspaper stories have always been pretty loose with the truth. They used to be a lot more vicious, too. Look at some of the newspaper stories (the editorials would blow your head off) about Abraham Lincoln back in, say, 1859, or even more in 1862! There was one presidential candidate who was accused of fathering an illegitimate child (I know, I should Google it). What I think I’m getting at is that what we see nowadays is not even particularly bad. And then there was the quotation I recall from my youth, “You only have freedom of the press if you own a printing press.” I mean, really, our expectations now are higher than they’ve ever been. Maybe we ask too much from people who are genuinely baffled by people who expect them to tell the truth instead of advancing the agenda of their owners.

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