A Quick Follow On Regarding How The New York Times Inaccurately Framed The Coverage Of Secretary Clinton

I just want to make a quick follow on to Anne Laurie’s post by getting to the real meat of the issue that the New York Times framed the reporting on Secretary Clinton from 23 July 2015 forward by publishing an inaccurate story with a thoroughly misleading headline. Leave all the self defensiveness of different NY Times reporters aside. It is all sound and fury signifying nothing but the all too human self defensiveness when someone is involved with a major screw up.

Since this is going to be long, here’s the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) since 1/2 the post is going to be after the page jump.

Bottom Line Up Front

  • The New York Times wrote an inaccurate story with a completely misleading headline that framed all future reporting on this issue and which also further framed Secretary Clinton as criminal in her behavior as Secretary of State.
  • As a result the New York Times blew the larger story, which is that US governmental IT is so bad and lagging, not to mention insecure, that utilizing a private server was both not prohibited according to the rules in place at the time that Secretary Clinton became Secretary of State, and that it still isn’t much better.
  • That the real political question, if there really was one, was about political calculus and optics. As in should Secretary Clinton have been considering the potential future political optics when deciding to go with the personal server if she was still considering running for President again in the future?*
  • Reporters, both at the New York Times and other newspapers, networks, and/or platforms DID NOT then and DO NOT now understand classification, classification issues, nor the classification review that occurs when a FOIA request is made!
  • Political reporters did not realize then, and still do not realize now, that they were being manipulated to achieve the aims of Judicial Watch in an attempt to achieve Judicial Watch’s political goals in regard to both Secretary Clinton and the 2016 election.

And now on to the actual post.

The real issue here is that the New York Times got the initial reporting wrong, used a terribly misleading headline, and that almost three years later seemingly NO ONE in the news media, especially the US political news media, still has any understanding of how classification works! This whole mess is the result of reporters not bothering to learn, or acting as if they don’t know, how the actual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process works, including classification review. That whenever a FOIA request is made a review is done to determine if classified information can now be declassified and released pursuant to the request. And, equally importantly, that material that was deemed unclassified at the time it was created and/or transmitted should now be retroactively up classified as a result of changed circumstances. Nor did anyone bother to actually investigate that all of this resulted from Judicial Watch weaponizing the FOIA process in an attempt to create just this type of situation, which it could then exploit the political news media in order to achieve Judicial Watch’s own political goals.

On 23 July 2015, the Times then public editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote an article delineating what and how the Times reporting had gotten wrong:

The story certainly seemed like a blockbuster: A criminal investigation of Hillary Rodham Clinton by the Justice Department was being sought by two federal inspectors general over her email practices while secretary of state.

It’s hard to imagine a much more significant political story at this moment, given that she is the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.

The story – a Times exclusive — appeared high on the home page and the mobile app late Thursday and on Friday and then was displayed with a three-column headline on the front page in Friday’s paper. The online headline read “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” very similar to the one in print.

But aspects of it began to unravel soon after it first went online. The first major change was this: It wasn’t really Mrs. Clinton directly who was the focus of the request for an investigation. It was more general: whether government information was handled improperly in connection with her use of a personal email account.

Much later, The Times backed off the startling characterization of a “criminal inquiry,” instead calling it something far tamer sounding: it was a “security” referral.

And the evolving story, which began to include a new development, simply replaced the older version. That development was that several instances of classified information had been found in Mrs. Clinton’s personal email – although, in fairness, it’s doubtful whether the information was marked as classified when she sent or received those emails. Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way – in small notices on Page A2.

But you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle – they ripple through the entire news system.

So it was, to put it mildly, a mess. As a result, I’ve been spending the last couple of days asking how this could happen and how something similar can be prevented in the future. I’ve spoken to the executive editor, Dean Baquet; to a top-ranking editor involved with the story, Matt Purdy; and to the two reporters, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt.

The story developed quickly on Thursday afternoon and evening, after tips from various sources, including on Capitol Hill. The reporters had what Mr. Purdy described as “multiple, reliable, highly placed sources,” including some “in law enforcement.” I think we can safely read that as the Justice Department.

The sources said not only was there indeed a referral but also that it was directed at Mrs. Clinton herself, and that it was a criminal referral. And that’s how The Times wrote it initially.

“We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong,” Mr. Purdy told me. “That’s an explanation, not an excuse. We have an obligation to get facts right and we work very hard to do that.”

By Friday afternoon, the Justice Department issued a terse statement, saying that there had been a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information, stating clearly that it was not a criminal referral. Mr. Purdy says he remains puzzled about why the initial inaccurate information was confirmed so clearly. (Update: Other news outlets also got confirmation of the criminal referral as they followed The Times’s story. They did not report, as an earlier version of this post suggested, that she herself was the target of the referral.)

I want to highlight something that I quoted from Sullivan above because I think it is highly significant:

(Update: Other news outlets also got confirmation of the criminal referral as they followed The Times’s story. They did not report, as an earlier version of this post suggested, that she herself was the target of the referral.)

Sullivan clearly recognized that The Times reporting set up all the subsequent reporting. This is significant. Had The Times gotten it right, then the framing would not have been set that there were two criminal referrals for Secretary Clinton made by two Inspectors General regarding her handling of emails. The Times was the initial point of transmission, as the paper of record, for this inaccurate information.

Here’s the actual truth about classified information transmitted to Secretary Clinton by email and therefore through the Clinton server. It was provided, under oath, by former FBI Director Comey to the House Oversight Committee in his public testimony in July 2016. (emphasis mine)

On Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey stated with respect to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails:  “Only a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information.”

Republicans immediately pounced on this statement to accuse Secretary Clinton of lying when she stated previously that she did not send or receive any information marked classified.

At today’s Oversight Committee hearing, Director Comey provided significant new information about these emails that debunked this Republican conspiracy theory.

First, Director Comey explained that he was talking about only three emails out of the 30,000 his office reviewed, or 1/100 of 1% of the emails.

Second, Director Comey explained that these three specific emails were not properly marked as classified pursuant to federal guidelines and manuals.  They did not have a classification header, and they did not list the original classifier, the agency and office of origin, the reason for classification, or the date for declassification.  Instead they included only a single “(c)” for “confidential” on one paragraph lower down in the text.

Finally, Director Comey explained that it would have been a “reasonable inference” for Secretary Clinton to “immediately” conclude that these emails were not in fact classified.  Here is the exchange between Director Comey and Rep. Matthew Cartwright:

Rep. Cartwright:  Those three documents with the little “c”s on them, were they properly documented?  Were they properly marked according to the manual?

Director Comey:  No.

Rep. Cartwright:  According to the manual, and I ask unanimous consent to enter this into the record, Mr. Chairman.  According to the manual, if you’re going to classify something, there has to be a header on the document, right?

Director Comey:  Correct.

Rep. Cartwright:  Was there a header on the three documents that we’ve discussed today that had the little “c” in the text someplace?

Director Comey:  No, there were three e-mails.  The “c” was in the body in the text, but there was no header on the email or in the text.

Rep. Cartwright:  So if Secretary Clinton really were an expert at what’s classified and what’s not classified and we’re following the manual, the absence of a header would tell her immediately that those three documents were not classified.  Am I correct in that?

Director Comey:  That would be a reasonable inference.

In addition, the State Department spokesperson made clear yesterday that these emails, which discussed call information for the Secretary, included these “c”s by mistake, and the information was not in fact classified:

“Generally speaking, there’s a standard process for developing call sheets for the Secretary of State.  Call sheets are often marked – it’s not untypical at all for them to be marked at the confidential level – prior to a decision by the Secretary that he or she will make that call.  Oftentimes, once it is clear that the Secretary intends to make a call, the department will then consider the call sheet SBU, sensitive but unclassified, or unclassified altogether, and then mark it appropriately and prepare it for the secretary’s use in actually making the call.  The classification of a call sheet therefore is not necessarily fixed in time, and staffers in the Secretary’s office who are involved in preparing and finalizing these call sheets, they understand that. … Those markings were a human error.  They didn’t need to be there.”

If you go back to Margaret Sullivan’s column you can read her explanation for how the New York Times got it wrong – from the initial write up, to the incorrect and misleading headline (which was really the framing device), to the hinky ways they did the corrections. Sullivan’s explanation is factually accurate, but wrong. The New York Times reporters, and every other reporter that followed in their footsteps, got it wrong because they didn’t understand how classification works and the differences between an illegal leak and spillage. From the recent hyperbolically breathless reporting regarding Jim Comey’s memos it is clear that none of these highly compensated, and in some cases now Pulitzer Prize winning, reporters still DO NOT HAVE A FUCKING CLUE ABOUT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!!!!!!!!!

Exhibit A:

Here’s what an actual legal experts on classification has to say:

The real errors and sins of the New York Times is that its reporters either do not have the most basic understanding of what they were reporting on or proceeded as if they didn’t. That they were completely oblivious to being tools in someone else’s political strategy for the 2016 election. And as a result they framed, as the newspaper of record, how Secretary Clinton would be perceived going forward from July 2015 on. The Times reporters and editors errors weren’t their’s alone. Many other reporters and editors and commenters and pundits and anchors followed their lead and used their framing and also were oblivious of being weaponized by a third party with its own agenda. Finally, given recent reporting dealing with classification review, none of these reporters or editors or commenters or pundits or anchors has learned a damned thing in the past three years!

* From a political standpoint this is a somewhat interesting question, but one that is outside the scope of this post.

From a functional standpoint of trying to be able to get work done on a US government unclassified server it is also an interesting question, but for functional, not political reasons. US government computer systems, especially on the unclassified side, have limited bandwidth, and are notoriously kludgey. Over the past decade I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t, at one time or another, had to resort to using personal email addresses because their official work ones went down. I had a six week case in late summer 2014 where my unclassified email address was actually deactivated by accident. It took 48 hours to find out what had happened. Since I was on temporary duty I 1) had to be reachable, so everyone got a blast to use my personal account – even if it was just to tell me to check the “other” email (other meaning classified) and 2) my government issued blackberry was now pointless. When I got back to Carlisle Barracks the tech folks were very helpful – given that it took someone somewhere else in the IT chain six weeks to rebuild everything that had deactivated my and several other people’s work email addresses. This includes the almost two weeks or so it took for the folks at Carlisle Barracks to fix things.

As for the classified side: at one point the classified PIV token (SIPR CAC) they started using in late 2012/early 2013 I was issued died. This was not uncommon – they are incredibly unstable. It took almost two months to get a new one because they couldn’t just be issued on site. And lets not forget the time when I was on temporary assigned control at Ft. Hood as the Cultural Advisor to III Corps and because the Eastern and Western backbones wouldn’t talk to each other I had to spend 5 hours with the good folks at the G6 (Comm’s Shop) and then get a new Common Access Card (CAC) in order to be able to access my unclassified work email. I really don’t understand what they did to make my classified access work, but while it was kludgey and a pain to log in, it worked.

And I’ve got a lot more true stories where these came from…

 

115 replies
  1. 1
    TenguPhule says:

    Reporters, both at the New York Times and other newspapers, networks, and/or platforms DID NOT then and DO NOT now understand classification, classification issues, nor the classification review that occurs when a FOIA request is made!

    Its amazing how ignorant one can remain when they’re paid very well to pass on that ignorance to their audience.

  2. 2
    TenguPhule says:

    From the recent hyperbolically breathless reporting regarding Jim Comey’s memos it is clear that none of these highly compensated, and in some cases now Pulitzer Prize winning, reporters still DO NOT HAVE A FUCKING CLUE ABOUT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!!!!!!!!!

    But don’t hold back and tell us how you really feel about them, Adam.

  3. 3
    a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio) says:

    The Times reporters and editors errors and since weren’t their’s alone.

    Sorry, Adam, I think I know what you mean here but I’m not positive. Care to clarify?

  4. 4
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: I honestly think these folks try hard. And get a lot right. And mistakes are going to happen. For instance, I’m sure someone will be around to point out my typos above. But take ten minutes, even if you’re on deadline, and have someone check on the substance of the issues you’re covering. A five minute phone call with one of the lawyers that specialize in FOIA requests and classification issues would solve this problem.

  5. 5
    a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio) says:

    Also, thanks for the time and effort that went into putting this together and pointing out where the FTFNYT’s wheels went off the track, pulling the long train of American political journalism after it.

  6. 6
    Lapassionara says:

    Thank you, Adam. This should be required reading in every news room in the US.

  7. 7
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio): Fixed it up top. Thanks. I got half way through editing that sentence and didn’t finish it. Should be fine now.

  8. 8

    What do these people do all day? Collect press releases and gossip on the phone with “sources”? How is that reporting?

    Open thread: I blogged about what keeps me from tossing a book aside.

  9. 9
    Elizabelle says:

    Margaret Sullivan, now ombudsman at The Washington Post. She is a treasure.

  10. 10

    I’m a little hazy on this. Did Judicial Watch put in FOIA applications for just all kinds of random shit, shit they didn’t care about, in the hope that in the review, whoever looks through it would retroactively classify shit that hadn’t been classified before, when Clinton sent or got it on her e-mail? That’s how I’m reading this. Am I right here? Is this what happened?

  11. 11
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio):@Lapassionara: You’re quite welcome. I’ve dealt with these issues in a number of comment threads, but decided it needed to be front paged giving all the whinging going on regarding what happened, how, and when.

    Honestly, this has nothing to do with who should or shouldn’t have been the nominee or president. This is really about how the reporters and editors and pundits and anchors didn’t do their homework, which left them easy targets for manipulation, which is what happened, and how that then framed everything else going forward.

  12. 12
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady):

    I blogged about what keeps me from tossing a book aside.

    Weak wrists?

  13. 13
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.): Correct. JW has basically weaponized the FOIA process. They request everything when they think they have a target and then hope that what gets released will either be the smoking gun they expected and/or will create one. They then frame the information and set about weaponizing it and getting it into the news through a variety of right wing outlets so that the mainstream news outlets have to pick it up. While they did pull some of this stuff on the Bush 43 Administration, especially in regard to VP Cheney’s energy task force, they basically use it to go after Democrats.

  14. 14
  15. 15
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    JW has basically weaponized the FOIA process.

    And this is why we can’t have nice things.

  16. 16
    Baud says:

    I don’t know if we’ll make any difference to anything, but I really appreciate having you guys to share my anger with.

  17. 17
    debbie says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The first victim of the speeded-up communication world is fact checking. No time for that anymore!

  18. 18
    Anne Laurie says:

    Should probably mention that the FTFNYT fired Margaret Sullivan, not for errors like this, but because she gave too many readers a space to complain about the inadequacy of the NYTimes’ coverage.

    To our advantage, she’s now got a gig at the Washington Post, where she can do her job without getting sandbagged. But the Nytimes still deserves to be dinged for dumping her!

  19. 19
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    “Honestly, this has nothing to do with who should or shouldn’t have been the nominee or president. This is really about how the reporters and editors and pundits and anchors didn’t do their homework, which left them easy targets for manipulation, which is what happened, and how that then framed everything else going forward.”

    Didn’t “we” go through all this in 2002-3?

    Didn’t the FTFNYT publish a “soft” nonapology on the Front Page and promise to do better?

    Didn’t a bunch of reporters who kept their jobs, make future promises to “burn” their “unnamed sources”, if they discovered that they were being lead around by their noses?

  20. 20
    TenguPhule says:

    @Baud:

    but I really appreciate having you guys to share my anger with.

    That sounds suspiciously socialistic of you.

  21. 21
    TenguPhule says:

    @debbie:

    The first second victim of the speeded-up communication world is fact checking.

    Truth was the first victim.

  22. 22
    a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio) says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I figured you had written in correctly in your head, as I often do.

    Thanks again for getting to the point of the systemic failure here–the basic failure of not understanding how things work.

    Also, your comments on the shortcomings of the IT systems you’ve had to deal with as a contractor make the failings of the Social Security Administration’s IT systems seem trivial. I’m grateful for all the work that has gone into, and continues to go into, keeping us running.

  23. 23
    TenguPhule says:

    @Jay:

    Didn’t a bunch of reporters who kept their jobs, make future promises to “burn” their “unnamed sources”, if they discovered that they were being lead around by their noses?

    No. No they didn’t.

    If anything, their devotion to unnamed sources grew only stronger well into the Obama years.

  24. 24
    Baud says:

    I wonder if the NYT’s excellent sources for the false story on Hillary’s criminal investigation are the same sources who told the NYT that Trump was not under investigation just before the election.

  25. 25
    TenguPhule says:

    @Baud:

    I wonder if the NYT’s excellent sources for the false story on Hillary’s criminal investigation are the same sources who told the NYT that Trump was not under investigation just before the election.

    That’s like wondering what the secret ingredient to Soylent Green is.

  26. 26
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    Upclassification after the fact is just stupid. Period.

  27. 27
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Upclassification after the fact is just stupid. Period.

    So you’re saying we should expect plenty more of it then.

  28. 28
    randy khan says:

    Let me generalize: One of the problems of modern political reporting is that reporters are expected to report on and explain many things that they don’t understand.

    Take, for instance, some of the early reporting on the Clinton Foundation, which was accurate and nevertheless completely wrong. The first big report I saw breathlessly recounted that the foundation gave away almost no money and spent a lot of money on travel. That was true, but mostly demonstrated that the reporters did not know how to read a Form 990 (the non-profit federal tax return). The reason that the foundation wasn’t giving away money was because it was not intended to be a donor organization, like a family foundation, but instead was actively engaged in providing services, like the Carter Foundation (or, heck, the American Red Cross). When you looked at the key part of the form, what you found was that the foundation spent something like 90% of its money on its programs, and less than 10% on fundraising. (I knew where to look because I’ve been the treasurer of a non-profit and have had to sign Form 990s.) Those are fantastic numbers, and so the report should have been that the Clinton Foundation was doing what it was supposed to do with the money it received from its donors. But that’s not what happened.

    As an aside, the great thing about David Farenthold’s reporting on the Trump Foundation was that he dug into the story and really figured out what was going on. Granted, it was a pretty transparent scam from the beginning, but you could argue that he deserved the Pulitzer purely on the basis of the contrast with how Clinton stories were reported.

  29. 29
    Radiumgirl says:

    @Baud: Would that be the NY office of the FBI?

  30. 30

    I think Chozick’s book makes it eloquently clear that the reporters in question don’t want to know how things work, tell the story they feel like telling regardless of the truth, and cry crocodile tears about being wrong even while perpetuating the same errors. It seems vanishingly unlikely that they care if they’re being manipulated either, if it’s the story they want to tell. The story they wanted to tell is that Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy and probably criminal.

    @Adam L Silverman:
    I am sorry, Adam. The failure you describe is basic due diligence, and I cannot square that with a description of people who try hard. They are specifically not putting forth the minimal effort to do their job right.

  31. 31
    Baud says:

    Lack of technical understanding can’t be a legitimate defense to consistently writing slanted stories.

  32. 32
    Baud says:

    @Radiumgirl: Whole office? Same person?

  33. 33
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio): The ones I reference above weren’t as a contractor. They were as a term appointed civil servant under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act. But whether I’ve been on a civil service term appointment or on a contract, I’ve had them. And so has everyone else I know.

  34. 34
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Mr. Purdy says he remains puzzled about why the initial inaccurate information was confirmed so clearly.

    Yeah, that’s a head-scratcher all right. :/

  35. 35

    @Baud: since I’m feeling generous, if only one side is consistently good at manipulating you or feeding you spin, it kinda can.

  36. 36
    KS in MA says:

    Thank you, Alan! I’ve been enraged about that story ever since I first read it. So were a whole lot of commenters in the NYT at the time–their comments are still there for all to see. I hope you’ll send this excellent post to everybody who’s been commenting on the Amy Chozick mess (for starters).

  37. 37
    rikyrah says:

    Greg S from the Plumline blog on the ominous tone of some GOP Candidates

    https://twitter.com/ThePlumLineGS/status/988425304728330240?s=19

  38. 38
  39. 39
    stinger says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    The story they wanted to tell is that Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy and probably criminal.

    This, going back decades — plus the overall tendency of journalism outlets to go with the screechy, splashy, misleading headline, with any dialback or correction coming later on p. 27, long after the damage is done.

  40. 40
    sukabi says:

    @Jay: yes, also in prior years. Whitewater, 2000 election coverage, the run up to the Iraq war… I’m sure there are earlier instances, those are major points in the last 30 years where major media has screwed the pooch…and changed the trajectory of the country.

  41. 41
  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    While they did pull some of this stuff on the Bush 43 Administration, especially in regard to VP Cheney’s energy task force, they basically use it to go after Democrats the Clintons.

    Fix’d that for you. As you probably know, Judicial Watch was formed for the specific purpose of bringing down Bill and Hillary Clinton, and they have never really strayed from that purpose.

  43. 43
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    Why do I have the feeling that if the emails story hadn’t existed the NYT would have just made up crap about Hillary anyway?

    They did for Al Gore in 2000.

    If it hadn’t been emails, it would have been more made up shit about the Clinton Foundation or Uranium One or variations on Pizzagate.

    Or even if necessary, recycle Whitewater.

  44. 44
    zhena gogolia says:

    Are you sending this directly to Dean Baquet? I hope so. They don’t have a public editor any more, strangely enough.

  45. 45

    @Viva BrisVegas:
    Because that is exactly what they did. Emails happens to be the invented story, and Adam here records when they made it up from scratch and how.

  46. 46
    geg6 says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    This. All of it.

  47. 47
    piratedan says:

    and which editor(s) put this frame on it? Who shaped how the story would be presented? I understand that the JW folks get to ask for shit thru the FOIA, but who says we have to adopt what their framing says? Gee, no indictment on how shitty our government infrastructure is, no mention of the same precedent being done by her predecessors, nothing about how she was actually guilty of any fucking thing or even what she was guilty of. Yet… they kept at it… and STILL TO THIS MOTHERFUCKING DAY, no one has indicated what law she has broken or seen any jurisdiction file charges against her.

    its enough to make you flip your fucking desk and want to bash shit with a bat….

    a mealy mouthed… well, perhaps we were wrong and mislead… then how about you learn how to do your goddamn job and actually get a phone, get a yellow pad, ask some questions, read some fucking books and get back to us when you’re more educated than us fucking blog commenters.

  48. 48
    sukabi says:

    @piratedan: yep.

  49. 49
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    But it’s what their bosses want. My husband always says when he hears me fuming, “They and their advertisers want those tax cuts.”

  50. 50
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    Fantastic analysis of this issue, Adam. A long but worthwhile read.
    Which is why most folks will never understand how ridiculous this issue was.

  51. 51
    Ruckus says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    They are specifically not putting forth the minimal effort to do their job right.

    As you see their job. But you aren’t the one paying them for their product. Their bosses are, the owners of the media they work for are. Those are the people that set the guidelines of the product, how much time is spent producing it, and what effort is expended. I’d bet none of this involves you or any of us. We are the eyeballs, the wallets. We are not the senior staff, the publisher, the owners. We don’t set their agenda, hours, work ethics, product design, words used, hours logged, any of it. What their job is what the owners/publisher/editors say it is. The WaPo is better than the FTFNYT because they demand different/better from their staff.

  52. 52

    @zhena gogolia: I was thinking of not just politics but also tech reporting when I wrote that. The savvier manipulators/spin artists almost always get the reporter to repeat their line.

  53. 53
    Quinerly says:

    May have been posted earlier. Trump has eased sanctions on Derispaka: http://nymag.com/daily/intelli.....giant.html

  54. 54
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Quinerly:

    what the hell happened to Lyska bystroushka or whatever her name was? Rybka? I thought she had the goods on them all in her Thai prison cell.

  55. 55
    tobie says:

    James Comey needs some basic math instruction. 3 out of 30,000 is not the same as 1 out of 100.
    Thanks, Adam, for reviewing this painful episode. I realized after watching a few minutes of Stephanopoulos’ interview with Comey that I’m still too raw to relive the months leading up to the election.

  56. 56
    Bill Arnold says:

    Thanks Adam. Your piece looks solid (at least on first quick read).
    And the harshness is thoroughly deserved.

  57. 57
    eemom says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:
    @geg6:

    Thirded. WTF is this apologist crap? Why is journalism the only profession whose practitioners get a pass for being — at best — incompetent at their fucking jobs??

    “So sorry I screwed up your husband’s appendectomy, Mrs. Widow.”

    “Oh, that’s ok Doc. I know you TRIED really hard.”

  58. 58
    eemom says:

    @Ruckus:

    Then they’re whores, not journalists.

  59. 59
    ruemara says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I postulate that they are encouraged to fail at due diligence. Scandal increases clicks. The profit motive to put out half-baked, anger-inducing misinfo is not being fully expounded. There’s too much of an attempt to say that there’s a blind spot or a rush to judgement. You’re literally claiming writers, who are trained to work with words, are incapable of understanding that what they write has meaning and effect.

  60. 60
    Another Scott says:

    Unfortunately, you probably won’t get as much readership by the Times and the political press as you should unless you put this on Twitter with a compelling picture and a clever pun.

    :-/

    Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  61. 61
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

  62. 62
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @KS in MA: I have no way to send this to anyone. I don’t tweet. I just monitor twitter and other social media platforms.

  63. 63
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @zhena gogolia: Feel free to tweet it at him. I don’t tweet. I just monitor twitter and other social media platforms.

  64. 64
    " says:

    My personal experience is that no one in management understands IT. Nor do the IT staff understand that it is their job to help the program staff do their job. I designed a data base (in Filemaker Pro) which IT would neither accept or back up (although they allowed us to keep it), but they were not interested in designing a data base to fit our criteria, so what were we to do? We ended up with our “not accepted FMP” data base for over 15 years (it’s still the norm) because management and IT refused to help.

  65. 65
    Ruckus says:

    @eemom:
    I thought that was obvious.
    Using your description:
    We pay the pimp. And in this case the pimp decides what services are provided and then pays the whores. We don’t get the product we are the product.

  66. 66
    VeniceRiley says:

    I won’t cry if any of these planet earth endangering transcribers of right wing talking points ends up jobless.

  67. 67
    Bill Arnold says:

    @debbie:

    The first victim of the speeded-up communication world is fact checking. No time for that anymore!

    This is not entirely true. Basic quick “fact checking” using search engines is easy, and will often quickly destroy non-facts, and yet is often skipped. I have no clue why; it’s an essential skill in the “speeded-up communication world”.

  68. 68
    Ruckus says:

    @eemom:
    They dress different than the whores I used to see on the streets of LA a bazillion yrs ago. But otherwise………

    All joking aside we don’t get to decide what their job is or if they are doing it properly, that is the media owner. That we don’t like what they are doing and continue to pay for it is our problem. But the media has for decades been political, and less than truthful and honest. We just had a much harder time knowing about that. There also wasn’t the amount of media being thrown at us, they didn’t have to make up 24 hrs a day of words to say. Now even a newspaper has to do that. And no one had access to most everything at the touch of a keyboard to check and respond to.
    Are there that many actual journalists out there to provide what we probably all think they should?

  69. 69
    afanasia says:

    @Baud: Yes, BJ has helped with the terible chest pain I was experiencing. Now I’m just depressed.

  70. 70
    Steve in the SFO says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Emails happens to be the invented story, and Adam here records when they made it up from scratch and how.

    I was reading a spy novel the other day and there was a scandal brewing in it that the author suggested could prove to be “as big as watergate or Benghazi”. One star review on amazon for that one and author added to the “do not read” list with people like Brad Thor.

  71. 71
    Bill Arnold says:

    @tobie:

    James Comey needs some basic math instruction. 3 out of 30,000 is not the same as 1 out of 100.

    The statement was “1/100 of 1% of the emails”, which is correct.

  72. 72
    debbie says:

    @Bill Arnold:

    My point was that avenues of fact checking are no longer employed because the whole point now is to get stuff published as quickly as possible.

  73. 73
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Or malicious.

  74. 74

    @eemom:

    Then they’re whores, not journalists.

    You’re wrong, whores(escort is the preferred term) provide a useful service and usually a happy ending.

  75. 75
    eemom says:

    @Ruckus:

    All of that disregards the fact that, AFAIK, journalism IS a profession whose practitioners are supposed to observe certain standards attendant to the ethical practice of that profession, just like doctors, lawyers, CPAs, and many others.

    For example, I don’t get to fuck over my client by giving them the wrong information, even if I was ordered to do that by my law firm employer. I have an ethical obligation to abide by the standards of the profession no matter who’s paying me. I fail to see how journalism is any different.

  76. 76
    Kay says:

    This is good, Adam, thank you.

    Now that we’ve figured out why the NYTimes did such a bad job before Trump was elected, what’s our theory on why they have done such a bad job since he was elected?

    They could just cover the corruption. They don’t have to find Russian interference or look for complicated money laundering- thank God we have Mueller for that.

    Why don’t they cover the ordinary, daily corruption in the Trump Administration? Put aside the election. They’re not doing it RIGHT NOW.

  77. 77
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Yeah, but it’s not just the president. I have many thoughts about the classification system that I may write up someday.

  78. 78
    Barbara says:

    The NYT got Whitewater and the lead up to Iraqi II spectacularly wrong as well. If there were justice Judith Miller would be barred from international travel, along with her sources. But as to WW: People who have an idea of who is supposed to be in charge definitely thought the Clintons didn’t rank and have been trying to cut them down to size for a long time. People like Comey, but not just him. I have gotten to the limits of my endurance for anybody at NYT writing anything about the Clintons. They come with too much baggage.

  79. 79
    Ruckus says:

    @eemom:

    I fail to see how journalism is any different.

    You have a standards board. You have a license to practice. And unless you do something illegal someone has to complain about you before any administrative action is taken. Pretty much the same for doctors. The details may differ from state to state but I believe that’s the gist of it.
    Where is the journalists board of licensing or review? There isn’t one. It may be a profession in the broadest sense of the word but one doesn’t have to have a degree or a license to write for or speak to the public. That is totally dependent upon the rules of the owner of the media outlet that pays them.

  80. 80

    @eemom:

    journalism IS a profession whose practitioners are supposed to observe certain standards attendant to the ethical practice of that profession, just like doctors, lawyers, CPAs, and many others.

    Doctors, lawyers and CPA’s take an exam and an oath, do journalists?

    ETA: Ruckus, as usual, had a better answer.

  81. 81
    Kathleen says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I agree. Not one of these “reporters” deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt.

  82. 82
    TenguPhule says:

    @eemom:

    I have an ethical obligation to abide by the standards of the profession no matter who’s paying me. I fail to see how journalism is any different.

    Being an unethical Journalist has no professional backlash.

  83. 83
    TenguPhule says:

    @Kay:

    what’s our theory on why they have done such a bad job since he was elected?

    His shit sells eyeballs. They care not for where the blood money flows, only that it does.

  84. 84

    @TenguPhule: The possible exception is plagiarism, if discovered that’ll usually get you bounced from the “profession”.

  85. 85
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I don’t tweet either! Maybe I’ll send him a link via e-mail. He does answer me, or at least someone answers from his address who acts like a snarky 15-year-old.

  86. 86
    TenguPhule says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Sadly, even then they still write and sell books.

  87. 87
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: We await your manifesto on the subject.

  88. 88
    eemom says:

    @Ruckus:
    @TenguPhule: @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    SPJ Code of Ethics

    I love how you people embrace the status quo of zero accountability. IOW, because there’s no “teeth” to standards like these, who the hell can blame the NYT and those who write for it if they just don’t give a shit?

  89. 89
    Bill Arnold says:

    @debbie:

    My point was that avenues of fact checking are no longer employed because the whole point now is to get stuff published as quickly as possible.

    For slow fact checking, e.g. Sally-local-expert-on-X is out to lunch so skip asking her, I agree. My point is that people good at finding things with search engines can often/usually find the basics of what they need in less than 15 seconds, literally.

  90. 90
    TenguPhule says:

    @eemom:

    I love how you people embrace the status quo of zero accountability

    We’re legally hampered in imposing any such accountability by actual court cases.

    The FYFNYT won a libel case which pretty much makes holding them accountable under the established standard really really hard due to the 1st amendment protection.

    Fox News won a case that essentially allows them to be classified as live action entertainment.

    Changing this would require suspending Democracy briefly under my enlightened rulership.

  91. 91
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Fox News won a case that essentially allows them to be classified as live action entertainment.

    For all that Carlson on Hannity action…

  92. 92

    @eemom: Come on, you’re a lawyer, if there’s no sanctions for behavior outside the “Code of Ethics” they don’t really exist. If you co-mingle funds for a client you’ll face sanctions from the bar. The worse thing a journalist will face is maybe being fired(unlikely) and move someplace else. There’s a hell of a big difference between “embracing the status quo of zero accountability” recognizing that there is no accountability.

  93. 93

    @Adam L Silverman:

    For all that Carlson on Hannity action…

    Ewww!

  94. 94
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: The ewe on Hannity action is after the 10 PM timeline. Got to protect the kiddies.

  95. 95
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Baaaaaaah!

  96. 96
    LongHairedWeirdo says:

    This highlights the most infuriating thing about the issue. The Republicans pushed *very* hard to make this seem like a criminal matter; even now, they’re furious that Comey *dared* think it was unlikely that Hillary Clinton would use her own e-mail server to deliberately pass classified information.

    While the press did pounce on “because you’d be in jail”, they blew off all the rest.- the prosecutors blatantly lying about how they knew this deserved a criminal referral, others blatantly lying about how other people had done less and faced criminal charges, etc..

    They keep ignoring the real stories – the corruption of the GOP. Just like in the IRS “scandal” – there was no “there”, there; the IRS was trying to do their job, flubbed it, and happened to flub it when a lot of tea party organizations were applying. So the GOP was attacking a government agency, for trying to do its job, against their people; the message was clear! Investigate the GOP, and if they’re in power, they will hurt you. That’s a big flippin’ story.

  97. 97
    Ruckus says:

    @eemom:
    Neither billinglendale nor myself embraced bad journalism.
    There can be all the volunteer societies that want a profession to be better. I belonged to one for years. Until, and even after those exist, there are still unprofessional people working, in some professions with licenses to do so. But no one is making any journalists belong and adhere to the standards, like they do to only a higher degree than someone in your profession. And there are plenty of licensed lawyers and doctors who have the ethics and skills of a warm pile of dogshit.
    Why are we having this discussion? You know as well as I do that ethics and job standards are not rigid things that can not be ignored or disrespected, that’s done every day. Is it that you want people to be better and actually do the job that you think they should? That’s a nice idea but we are discussing humans, some of whom voted for drumpf, are willing to provide cover for his bullshit and who aren’t legally required to be any better than they actually are.

  98. 98
  99. 99
    Adam L Silverman says:

    As we’ve been discussing:

    Shaffer is a nut who topped out as a lieutenant colonel in Army intelligence for being a kook who came up with a way out there theory for 9-11.

  100. 100
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Shaffer is a nut who topped out as a lieutenant colonel in Army intelligence

    Which does not inspire confidence in the state of our military’s intelligence.

  101. 101

    @TenguPhule:

    Which does not inspire confidence in the state of our military’s intelligence.

    I thought Michael Flynn as the head of DIA would have done that.

  102. 102
    Mnemosyne says:

    @eemom:

    All of that disregards the fact that, AFAIK, journalism IS a profession whose practitioners are supposed to observe certain standards attendant to the ethical practice of that profession, just like doctors, lawyers, CPAs, and many others.

    There is no journalism license like there is a law license. There is no exam that has to be passed in order to call yourself a journalist like there is to call yourself a CPA or an MD.

    Hairdressers are better licensed and regulated than journalists are.

  103. 103
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: He came up with the conspiracy theory as a way to try to get himself out of trouble that he’d gotten into during his tour in Afghanistan. He figured if he ginned up a conspiracy that the DIA prevented him and his team from telling the truth to policy makers it would take the heat off. Instead it got him retired. He then attempted to reinject the garbage via Congressman Curt Weldon.

  104. 104
    Procopius says:

    @TenguPhule: I’m old and enjoy conspiracy theories from the Left (not those from the Right), so I have a tendency to suspect the MSM, especially the New York Fishwrap and the Bezos Shopper of nefarious intent. I think that any reporter who tried to straighten out the misperceptions, misunderstandings, and lies in the original story would have been chewed out by his editor for submitting a tame, boring, bowl of pablum rather than a hugely significant, riveting tale that would attract views. They may even have been pleased, as I believe Comey was, to deliver a blow to a person they disliked. Of course I have no evidence to support this and have never even met a New York Fishwrap reporter.

    ETA: Thanks for a useful and important story. We need a lot more like this, although I’m afraid the American Public is ineducable.

  105. 105
    Procopius says:

    @Elizabelle: I thought the Bezos Shopper did away with that position.

  106. 106
    Gravenstone says:

    @Quinerly: Papa Vlad must’ve whispered sweet something’s in his ear.

  107. 107
    Procopius says:

    @Ruckus:

    As you see their job. But you aren’t the one paying them for their product.

    This can’t be emphasized enough. All these years after Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent and I’m still seeing commenters blathering about how “journalism is about getting the truth.” There may have been a time when the truth value of a publication was one of its selling points, but Hearst and Pulitzer weren’t really the originators of Yellow Journalism.

  108. 108
    James Powell says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    The failure you describe is basic due diligence, and I cannot square that with a description of people who try hard. They are specifically not putting forth the minimal effort to do their job right.

    They almost certainly believed they were doing their jobs. The problem is that we expect them to see their job as telling the truth. They see their jobs as making their bosses happy. For over 20 years the reporting on the Clintons has been constant stream of rumor and innuendo, suggesting scandals and corruption and all manner of dark deeds. And always with the suggestion that even darker deeds are about to be revealed. Indictments are due any day.

    The way the email story was reported from the beginning was no accident. This reporting was what the bosses at the NYT wanted. Everyone working there knew it, so that’s what they supplied.

  109. 109
    Amir Khalid says:

    @eemom:
    That’s what it is supposed to be. But a news media organisation is almost always a business. When what corporate management chooses to see as a matter of business interests clashes with journalism’s ethical obligation — well, management outranks any ink-stained wretch on the editorial floor, and who writes the paycheques around here anyway? In theory “executive editors” are the people who advocate for the profession at that level, but in practice they tend to be a lot more “executive” than “editor”. This is a separate issue from editorial staff inevitably having their own political biases or buying into narratives that obscure the facts, but it does add to the problem.

  110. 110
    eemom says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    That’s the closest to an intelligent response that I’ve seen so far.

    But with due respect, you, along with the rest of them, miss the point, which is simply that journalists, as professionals, have some kind of moral obligation to adhere to the standards of their profession, whether those standards are enforced in the current corrupt business model or not.

    Again, I’m astounded at how eagerly you folks leap to the defense of what is, in effect, “following orders.”

  111. 111
    eemom says:

    @James Powell:

    They almost certainly believed they were doing their jobs. The problem is that we expect them to see their job as telling the truth. They see their jobs as making their bosses happy.

    IOW, following orders.

  112. 112
    Jay Noble says:

    Journalism not a profession because no licensing or testing therefore not professionals. Earning a BA/BS in Journalism and spending 10 to 20 years working your way up through the ranks. Nope not a profession.
    4 Major Sports leagues. Not professionals.
    Chefs. Not Professionals.
    Musicians. Not Professionals.
    Graphic Artists. Not Professionals.
    Photographers. Not Proffessionals.
    Flight Attendents. Not Professionals
    Farmers. Not Professionals.
    And so on.
    As with so much of our discourse, we’re railing at the whole PROFESSION instead of the owners, the grifters and the con men/women who have somehow made it out front. For every Sean Hannity there are at least a 100 young and not so young reporters out there covering the city council and sewer board meetings, the local Little League games and store grand openings. And doing it quite professionally, because they do face consequences.

  113. 113
    Kayla Rudbek says:

    @a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio): and I thought that it was bad at my agency when my IM program went down for 3 days and of course the help desk couldn’t fix it because they use the IM program for remote access to the computer. And then my agency has also delayed the new laptop rollout and the standing desk rollout. A competent Republican administration would at least get us the equipment even if they won’t hire anyone to get the equipment running.

  114. 114
    Ruckus says:

    @eemom:
    No one here is defending them. We have been trying to tell you that but you don’t seem to want to listen.
    WE DON’T LIKE IT EITHER.
    But it is what it is and until you can change human beings or at least their bosses/paymasters, you are always going to get what the boss wants. Don’t buy the product, don’t give clicks to bad websites, don’t support their ads, use an ad blocker, don’t support advertisers who give them money. People need jobs to eat and pay the rent, they are going to do what the boss wants. Get the workers to strike for better conditions, better ethics, more professionalism. It’s like letting all the repubs in your town elect the city council, the mayor, police chief and then complaining that the town sucks. We didn’t get here because we all participated in government, we got here because too many didn’t. You want better journalists/journalism, demand it. People are going to provide the product that their customers demand and pay for. At least in a normal economy, but in this one the rich get to demand what they are willing to pay for and too many people buy (into) that.

  115. 115
    Ruckus says:

    @Jay Noble:
    Either several of us are horrible writers or a coupe of you are horrible readers.

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