11/17/2005

Daily Kos: Those All Important Editors

Those All Important Editors
by Armando
Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 06:29:52 AM CST

In an altogether bizarre and illogical rant on NPR that atrios found, a person named Amy Alexander, wrote this criticism of blogs:

[O]ne of the biggest lessons I took away from the many years I've spent in newsrooms is this: Without editors, you are dead, specifically without a copy desk. You might as well be standing in your living room, ranting away, facts be damned. That brings me back to my point about blogs. Not all blog readers know the difference between pure unfiltered, unedited opinion and good old-fashioned solidly reported news.

Well, and some blogs do. And some "media critics" don't. Take this example of the "invaluable editing" done by the ABC newsroom, as exposed by Keith Olberman:

[Scooter Libby's attorney Ted] Wells released a beautiful hunk of "chaff" -- the stuff submarine captains expel to try to throw off enemy torpedoes -- in his claim about Woodward's announcement that someone at the White House told him about Valerie Plame in June, 2003. Wells made it seem as if Woodward had just proved that Libby was not the first to leak Plame's name and/or job to a reporter, and that in so doing, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's case had just tumbled to the ground.

But he did it only by altering the truth. Wells issued a statement at midday, the key passage of which concludes that Woodward's "disclosure shows that Mr. Fitzgerald's statement at his press conference of October 28, 2005 that Mr. Libby was the first government official to tell a reporter about Mr. Wilson's wife was totally inaccurate."

But Fitzgerald never said that. The transcript of Fitzgerald's news conference is not disputed -- nobody from his office has called up trying to get it altered after the fact. On October 28, Fitzgerald actually said: "Mr. Libby was the first government official known to have told a reporter" about Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife.

"The first government official known to have told..." is a huge difference from "The first government official to tell..." . . . This is no one-word parsing nonsense. Not only does that meaning of "known" change entirely the meaning of Fitzgerald's statement, but its related root words (know, knowing, knowingly etc) have been the keys to whether or not anybody was indicted for revealing Plame's covert status at the CIA.

The problem, of course, is that such subtlety can shoot right past those who either want to miss it, or are in too much of a hurry to check the transcript. I read Wells' quote and thought `that doesn't sound right.' The producers of ABC's World News Tonight read Wells' quote and evidently didn't hear any such alarm bells. The transcript is not yet out, but at 6:30 ET tonight, Elizabeth Vargas stated -- and I am paraphrasing -- that the Woodward revelations were important because they contradicted Patrick Fitzgerald's statement that Libby was the first to leak.

Besides failing at doing the most basic of fact checking, ABC News also missed a basic point, as Olberman points out -- it matters not one whit to the case against Libby whether he was the first leaker or not. How in blazes is it "important" to Libby's case? One reason, according to ABC - because Libby's lawyer said so.

Now, if Amy Alexander wants to absorb another difference between the Media and some blogs - another one has been demonstrated - bloggers THINK for themselves. All last night and all day, some bloggers had not just been stenographers, they reached their own conclusions based on a review of the facts.

Apparently, having "editors" means never actually using your brain.

Update [2005-11-17 7:37:46 by Armando]: And blackfrancis points out that the AP and its "editors" made the exact same mistake. How bad is the Media? That bad.

Update [2005-11-17 7:44:7 by Armando]: the OTHER rasmussen reports that Tim Russert, Keith Olberman's NBC colleague, just repeated the exact same mistake on the Today Show.

And we blog readers know this happens ALL the time.

Update [2005-11-17 7:53:27 by Armando]: the OTHER rasmussen is on the case, and reports that CNN is also making this mistake.

Here's my question, have news organizations eliminated "editors" since Amy Alexander's heyday?

Update [2005-11-17 8:0:10 by Armando]: Josh Marshall points out that the genesis of this error starts with the original Washington Post story. Oh, to have editors.

Daily Kos: Those All Important Editors

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