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September 05, 2009

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Fact Value Distinction

So Many Colors in the Morning Sun

Reality is socially constructed, usually top-to-bottom.

"no substitute for the scrutiny of a trained professional editor"

All about privilege & power, isn't it.

what bothers them is that the newspaper identified the mountain inside Denali National Park as Mount Denali

I'd love to see what the obituary originally called the mountain, because in the corrected version it is repeatedly called not "Mount Denali," as Kinsley says, but just "Denali." I have good friends who have lived in Alaska for almost 40 years, and I have never heard them (or anyone else) say "Mount Denali." It's just Denali.

So did he make up the "Mount Denali" bit? It would fit his thesis that attention to detail is for chumps. ;)

"Patricio Correa, as "Fabricio Correa,"

I'll call him "Sam" Correa.

Am I "wrong?" No, I am not wrong, unless you get to define "wrong", and I deny you that power.

I may be anti-social, and perhaps no one else will know who I talking about, but I am not "wrong."

"Mumbai" rather than "Bombay", or "Beijing" instead of "Peking" or the reality of "death panels" are not matter of "facts" but of values and a process of (tribal) identity and socialization. That so many insist that their God/science/discipline is the ONETRUEGOD is just the politics of privilege.

IOW, feel free to make it all up. Whatever works. Truth is created in utility.

Bob, it's not about privilege and power, it's about demonstrated expertise.

Editing is a craft unto itself. You don't have to go to school or get a credential to be a good editor (or reporter, for that matter). You don't have to get paid or have a title, but you do need certain specialized skills to do it efficiently and accurately.

Copy editing and fact checking are relatively low status occupations within journalism and publishing.

You could call Correa "Wankle Rotary Engine," but that's far less useful than calling him by his actual name because otherwise nobody will know what you mean.

Moreover, nobody's going to find your story in a Google search because they're searching for "Fabricio Correa" not "Sam Correa." So, less useful.

You meant "Wankel," of course.

Hey, if I can't pick nits on this thread... 8^)

Because of an editing error, a Judith Miller article on Page 1 a few years ago accidentally stated that Iraq had "stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb". The article should have read that Iraq had no active nuclear weapons program. The Times regrets any inconvenience this error may have caused.

Newspaper of record? The NY Times is many things - propaganda arm of the US government, apologist for Israeli war crimes, advocate for the "rich but not quite rich enough" crowd whose laments we so often read there.

Newspaper of record it is not.

First Post after Leaving Here ...Digby.

Does it matter if "habeus" is in the Constitution? Did it matter to Ashcroft? Should it matter to us, IOW, if habeus wasn't in the text and judges "created it from whole cloth" would that really be a "bad thing?"

Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote. ''We find this to be repugnant to the Constitution"

I somehow doubt that a Constitution can be offended and believe the Judge was using a metaphor. But judges and lawyers on both sides of the issue prefer to say the Law (should) rules and the people (should) obey. This is also not a fact, nor a truth but a reification.

Enough trolling. Sorry.

I said it aspires to be the newspaper or record.

In some respects it succeeds. Because it has basically reliable quality control for narrow factual details, the Times is the newspaper of record if I need to know how to spell the name of a head of state or the name of a small town Mongolia. That's a public service.

There's a lot more to journalism than getting those details right, obviously. Just because narrow accuracy isn't sufficient doesn't mean it's not necessary.

If you can't count on a paper to get the basic facts right, you can't efficiently fact check its assertions.

Marcy Wheeler can only do what she does because the NYT and the WaPo and their ilk are pretty meticulous about names, dates, the exact titles of key documents, and so on.

Suppose I don't believe what the Times said about the brother of the president of Ecuador. It's that much harder for me to get in touch with him if the Times botched his name.

"Wankle Rotary Engine,"

But it's pronounced 'Throatwarbler Mangrove'.

This is just another one of Kinsley's irritable mental gestures in the direction of contrarianism for contrariansm's sake. It's as much a part of Slate culture as the de haut en bas style of the Shawn-era New Yorker, and as reflexive.

Screeds attacking puppies, butterflies and Mother's Day are doubtless on the Slate editor's spike, ready to be run.

Okay, one last,since Beyerstein has focused in details.

That habeus was Law did not keep Ashcroft from ruining people's lives.

That "death panels" weren't in the bill did not protect a service of great importance to many people.

Facts aren't important in politics, and don't work. They are at most signifiers. A misplaced affection for an imaginary consensus built on science has disabled the Left. What works is emotion and polemic.

"Max Baucus is a paid servant of the insurance industry."

I don't care if it is a fact. I care about what the statement might do.

Because it has basically reliable quality control for narrow factual details, the Times is the newspaper of record if I need to know how to spell the name of a head of state or the name of a small town Mongolia. That's a public service.

So you get reliable quality control on the spelling of the names of small towns in Mongolia, and a million people die unnecessarily in wars of choice brought about by the assistance of a propaganda arm of the US government.

That's a fair trade off for you?

And no, it doesn't aspire to be the paper of record. It publishes lies straight from the mouths of government operatives. It is the newspaper of record in the same way that Pravda was for the USSR back in the day.

"Habeus" is a joke, right?

Sometimes I just can't tell.

Sometimes, also, ships pass each other in the night.

The fad for elaborate and abject corrections, and factual accuracy in general

Kids these days. What next?

Because of an editing error, a Judith Miller article on Page 1 a few years ago accidentally stated that Iraq had "stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb".

There were about 1,000 errors and failures of all kinds involved in the work Judith Miller presented on Iraq in the NYT, but I think "editing" errors were not among them.

yevgeny, who said anything about a reasonable trade off?

If the Times adopted a "fuck names, all dates approximate" policy, it wouldn't magically start speaking truth to power.

Bob, the impact of a statement is itself a factual question.

Sometimes, also, ships pass each other in the night.

Seems better than the alternative. :-)

Well, thats pretty amusing, actually. Kinsley obviously belongs to the Walter Lippman school : the role of the press in a "democratic" society is to act as a "transmission belt for official views and opinions."
An associated ....malfeasance? corruption? of the Big Press is the mutation of the notion that "everyone has an opinion" to "every opinion is equally valid".
If thats the world you hustle in, Kinsley has the correct line.....

Bernard -- that's funny, I never thought of it before, but for real ships passing in the real night (factual ships, let's say...), yes, it seems better than the alternative, but in the metaphorical sense, maybe not. Sometimes it might be nice if the ships could actually get within hailing distance of each other.

But hey, it's never good to push a metaphor too far.

:)

If the Times adopted a "fuck names, all dates approximate" policy, it wouldn't magically start speaking truth to power.

In other words, you are not one of us. You are one of them. It is very kind of you to make that so obvious so soon.

You know, it's been so long since ObWi had a genuine honest-to-god leftist troll. I mean, god knows there's a steady trickle of righty/glibertarians. But it's been a while since we had a totally self-righteous left-wing prick calling out Lindsey for lacking liberal cred by not screaming about how the Times are in fact not journalists but demons in human form... really, it's quite refreshing.

There's a lot more to journalism than getting those details right, obviously. Just because narrow accuracy isn't sufficient doesn't mean it's not necessary.

What I find frustrating about this conversation is the presumption that the really narrow fact checking and copy editing that the NYT/WAPO obsess over is significant. Don't get me wrong, very narrow factual accuracy is great, but the NYT/WAPO seem far more interested in this little diversion than they are with truthfully informing their readers. It is almost like the conventions of journalism are high church rituals that must be slavishly obeyed while concerns about basic truthfulness go out the window.

If big journalism organizations cared about truthfully informing their customers, there are lots of easy changes they could make that would dramatically improve quality over all, even if it meant misspelling names occasionally.

Marcy Wheeler can only do what she does because the NYT and the WaPo and their ilk are pretty meticulous about names, dates, the exact titles of key documents, and so on.

What? Are you saying that if the NYT/WAPO cut fact checker staff hours by 20%, Marcy Wheeler would drop dead? Or she wouldn't be able to function?

Human beings are actually capable of tolerating a great deal of errors while processing information. I don't see any reason why a significantly higher error rate in spellings and copy editing would impede Wheeler and friends.

Suppose I don't believe what the Times said about the brother of the president of Ecuador. It's that much harder for me to get in touch with him if the Times botched his name.

But here's the thing: there are lots of newspapers besides the NYT. Some of them are even in Ecuador. The probability that they all botch the same name in the same way every time they use it is...close to zero. This property does not change even if the NYT's name spelling error rate increases significantly.

Apples and rutabagas...

Copy policy (getting the minutae right) is nice as far as it goes. It means the paper can be used as a research resource, the way the public library, or now Google, is.

It has little or nothing to do with editorial policy (the Judith Miller, or on the other side, the Fox News or WSJ editorial page) question.

The WSJ, to its credit, has not (usually) allowed the editorial page to have an effect on the news pages. The Times, WaPo and Fox News, absolutely not so much.

The shocker for those of us old enough to remember the Watergate/Vietnam generations of the Times and WaPo is how much each of them has become a propaganda organ for the GOP end of the government. I expect Kate Graham is spinning...

The dismantling of a regard for facts, pursued for the past N years in order to neuter inconvenient facts, has grown to such an extent that the whole factual edifice by which the world is known, has gone all wobbly. What use is a Jello scaffolding? Not much, if you're trying to build.

I often argue with a good friend about the nature of proof and plausibility. He's a very smart man, but flatly refuses to acknowledge that anything can be proved or disproved -- and yet clings to some very implausible beliefs (secret world hegemony, trutherism and some odd herbal remedies among them.) He is proud of not being taken in by mere evidence. It just boggles my mind.

Noni

I'm with Turb on this and I'm surprised that there is no discussion of the twists and turns of the ombudsman position here. It really seems that the NYTimes is happy to be accurate, but truthful, not so much.

I was just looking at the current page for the ombudsman, Clark Hoyt, and I am struck by the fact that the NYTimes segregates the searches for each individual ombudsman, and not permitting an aggregate search. And going to the archive of Okrent's columns, there were two at the top that I didn't recognize, and going to them, I find they are by Jack Rosenthal, one when he was subbing for the second public editor, Byron Calame, and another that seemed to be totally unrelated. I understand how web archive pages might pull up things that shouldn't be in the archive, but it shows how The Corrections is the ex cathedra voice of the Times, writing Mene, Mene, Tekel Pharsin on the wall, but the ombudsman is just a guy writing his opinion about the paper, not an ongoing committment to establish what honest reporting should be.

@ Noni -

I'm not sure how much the disregard for facts has actually grown vs how much more we know because of the pervasiveness of 24/7 cable, blogs and the web in general.

Back in the day of 3 broadcast networks and essentially two national newspapers, a lot of this simply passed under the radar.

In the mid-60's, for my (progressive) college radio station, I was assigned to record a four-day "Rally for God, Family and Country". The speakers were mostly Birchers, Christian absolutists and the like. They were alternately freaky, silly and scary (this was the "Eisenhower is a commie" crowd). The scary meme of the day was "Once we pass medicare, Kruschev will be in the White House and the Politburo will take over the Capitol." They didn't call LBJ a Nazi, not ever, but they freely named him, members of the administration and Congress as Commies and fellow travelers.

Now I can't speak about your friend, who also sounds scary, like Frank my Scary Brother-in-Law (a real person) who keeps sending us web pages about the Scary Black Helicopters. But one or two wackos don't a polity make. Its just that they have waaayyyy more food sources for their paranoia, and that is undeniable.

I agree with Turbulance: What I find frustrating about this conversation is the presumption that the really narrow fact checking and copy editing that the NYT/WAPO obsess over is significant. Don't get me wrong, very narrow factual accuracy is great, but the NYT/WAPO seem far more interested in this little diversion than they are with truthfully informing their readers.

I've lost track of the number of letters to the editor that I've written about things that are not exactly a misspelled name or incorrect birthdate, but are equally misleading. For example, an entire article that conflates an "entry visa" with a "security check" for immigrants. They are not at all the same thing, and it is substantively misleading to imply that they are. What's more frustrating is that it's not even an issue that a reporter would worry about being called partisan about. And yet no acknowledgment or correction.

If big journalism organizations cared about truthfully informing their customers, there are lots of easy changes they could make that would dramatically improve quality overall even if it meant misspelling names occasionally.

Fixed. I am not at all convinced that they have to fire or cut back on current copyediting staff at all. They just have to model the corrections they want to see more of, by printing some of the complaints they already get free from the reading public.

He is proud of not being taken in by mere evidence.

I believe we can afford universal healthcare.

I believe we can handle less war and defense spending.

I am impervious to argument and evidence to the contrary. I won't even listen. I don't even require argument and evidence to support my position. I just pound the table in rage and indignation, curse my enemies, and plead for help with the pounding.

That makes me crazy and not part of the reality-based community.

There were about 1,000 errors and failures of all kinds involved in the work Judith Miller presented on Iraq in the NYT

And it didn't matter. And the errors and lies were pointed out by bloggers and that didn't matter either. And it still really doesn't matter. The war goes on.

Bob, the impact of a statement is itself a factual question.

(Runs away from arguments about epistemology or philo-language with Beyerstein. Gotta do some reading.)

And it didn't matter.

Ain't that the truth.

Bill Keller, thanks for nothing. Dan Okrent, you can kiss my rear end.

"In other words, you are not one of us. You are one of them. It is very kind of you to make that so obvious so soon."

yevgeny: I'll join Lindsay in calling The Times the paper of record (although, granted, that term doesn't carry as much weight as it once did).

So while I am not entirely sure what "one of us" is, I don't think I am part of that click.

I still see that traditional journalism plays an important role in our society, and I am glad to see Lindsay here to perhaps take up that argument more eloquently than I have done in that past.

This site, like so many blogs, curses newspapers like Times regularly, which is fine -- complaining and criticizing is one of things Americans do best. But I dare say The Times is quoted fairly liberally in posts and comments here, probably as much as any news outlet.

But who's counting?

This site, like so many blogs, curses newspapers like Times regularly, which is fine -- complaining and criticizing is one of things Americans do best. But I dare say The Times is quoted fairly liberally in posts and comments here probably as much as any news outlet.


How is that working out for you, personally? If things are going great in your life then keep up what you've been doing. If things aren't going great in your life then - wait you're an American? Keep up what you've been doing.

It's called Stockholm Syndrome.

If anything, the trolls here should be criticizing Kinsley, not Lindsay, for mocking the NYT's (supposedly trivial) pursuit of accuracy, when he should be mocking the NYT's perceived lack of truthfulness.
Read to the end of the article and see that she even makes a point to this end: "Narrow factual accuracy isn't sufficient for high quality journalism, but it's still necessary." This isn't something we can all agree on?

I still see that traditional journalism plays an important role in our society

There are different types of traditional journalism. There is the NY Times type and there is the I. F. Stone type, among others.

The NY Times type is most prevalent now. You defend it, and then whine about how the economy is, never imagining there might be a connection there.

Good luck with your job, I hope things get better for you. Hope isn't a plan but what else do people like you have?

Nothing.

Thanks, yevgeny, I guess.

People like me are still lucky to have a job.

So you get up every day, work, pay taxes and eventually die.

Sometimes I think that "hope" bullshit you mentioned is overrated.

"Narrow factual accuracy isn't sufficient for high quality journalism, but it's still necessary." This isn't something we can all agree on?

Unfortunately, what us trolls are pointing out is the underlying cause of the symptom Kinsley identifies, and that The Corrections is less a committment to factual accuracy and more a fetish to imply that a concern for truthfulness flows from that. I'm not sure why complaining that Kinsley didn't say it is better than talking about the actual problem.

Lindsey seems to think that this column is Kinsley hitting rock bottom, but he was on CNN's Crossfire, so to me this seems more like a little bagatelle rather than some gut wrenching mistake. As Davis X points out, Kinsley is just engaging in contrarianism. I've never taken him to be an especially insightful commentator. I also have to wonder, given his struggle with Parkinson's, if that is also related. This 2008 interview with Charlie Rose really surprised with me on how much his physical symptoms have advanced.

This is a very civilized thread, but Yevgeny, I've just got to say it, you are a real dick.

It's "habeas" corpus, no? If we're going for accuracy and all ...

Some years ago, a Boston Globe article about (I kid you not) an S&M club referred to the former "tool and dye factory" in which the club was meeting. The place was raided and a couple of club members were arrested. They were charged, said the article, under a statute which prohibits "exhibiting or lending articles for self-abuse".

Now, I would like to think the Solons of our great Commonwealth really did have dirty enough minds to write the "exhibiting or lending" bit into our statutes. But could I trust the Globe to have this arcane tidbit correct when, in the same article, the Globe seemed to report that some factory in Stoughton or wherever it was used to make tools and dyes?

No wonder the factory failed at making tools and "dyes". Had it stuck to one line of business, it might not have become a venue for S&M fetishists to get arrested at.

--TP

I like the notion that the fetish with the corrections column serves a quasi-ecclesiastical function. Sort of like confession and absolution. Bless you NYT -- now go and say 12 Hail Marys and you've got a clean slate again.

SqueakyRat: I don't think your comment needs an NYT-style correction.

To put it biblically: It has become notorious to strain out gnats but to swallow camels*.
The paper I read that is still the best in town (but not as good as it was once) had for a time a terrible problem with spellchecking and word division** without it having an influence on the general quality.
What is more annoying and says much more about (lack of) quality in German papers is the tendency to mis-translate technical terms from English like confusing gunships with gunboats, translating RPG with in essence 'grenade driven by a propeller (=airscrew)' or creating the new word Kanonenwatte (cannon wool) since obviously noone had ever heard of Schießbaumwolle (gun cotton).
Someone call Lady Mondegreen!

*btw camels: the camel going through the eye of a needle might have been a transcription error. In classical Greek 'kamilos' is a thick rope used on ships (hawser; sounds a bit horse-like doesn't it? ;-) ), and the eta in kamelos (camel) is pronounced like the iota in kamilos. But more people are likely to know the name of the animal than the technical term for the nautical rope.

**that was when they first introduced spellchecker software.

Hmm, I guess I have to side with Kinsley on this one. Well, OK, he's making two different points. First, he's criticizing magazine fact-checking; I don't have a strong opinion about that, because I don't quite know how it works and at any rate it seems to me like a dumb system for reasons different from his. (If you're going to verify every "fact," why not put up notes on the web for each article, with appropriate links, so that people can verify questionable facts for themselves? I'm not sure why I'm supposed to trust magazine fact-checkers above and beyond the degree to which I trust the reporters, other than the simple security of another set of eyes checking things over.)

Anyway, as for newspaper corrections: I completely agree with Kinsley: more often than not they seem absurd, obsessed with minutiae and rarely correcting anything of substance. The day I see a newspaper run a prominent correction saying, "While no fact in [Article X] was false, it failed to present relevant considerations Y and Z," I will consider the corrections spot useful. As long as it's mostly typos, misidentifications, and the occasional minor bit of substance, I will continue to agree that there are usually better uses of the column inches.

I'm on Kinsley's side on this, because of the points made by Turb, liberal japonicus, bob mcmanus and yevgeny. (Yevgeny, as you may notice if you stick around, you can make the same points without arousing the same irritation if you phrase things a little more politely. I agree with your points, though).

Helping old ladies cross the street is a nice thing to do. That doesn't change if a serial killer does it. But it doesn't make the serial killer a good person, either. Fair enough?

What this fact-checking discussion reminds me of is the board of the agency I work for. The board meetings are public, with the local press in attendance.

The board members are political appointees who use the agency as a cash cow for pet projects, a patronage mill and a general means of influence peddling. As a result lots of monumentally stupid and absurd things are conceived and authorized by this board. These things pass uneventfully.

What they also authorize are the mundane things staff need to accomplish to keep the agency running properly. These are the things that the board questions and scrutinizes, often with great rancor. The board members will ask silly questions that seem reasonable to outsiders, delving randomly into details that make it impossible for staff to be fully prepared for their questions - phony "gotchas" for public consumption to make the board look astute and responsible in protecting the public interest.

It's like having a financial advisor who, when people are watching, grills you for putting out money to replace the 50-year-old roof on your house, but who says nothing about (or privately encourages) your spending $10,000 per month on booze, cocaine and lottery tickets.

So the fact (or minutiae) checking comes off as a pretense for responsibility in the face of otherwise bad (on the big stuff) journalism. But, then again, it doesn't make fact checking a bad thing in itself.

"the facts it corrects are generally so bizarre or trivial and its tone so schoolmarmish that the effect is to make the whole pursuit of factual accuracy seem ridiculous"

Best to go to the current corrections page:

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/pageoneplus/corrections.html

A lot of the corrections are of the typo variety. But, as the author of the OW piece notes, if we don't know such "trivial" details, we will trouble researching the big picture.

At least one correction is not trivial:

"The Fair Game column last Sunday, about access to financial information in the municipal bond market, overstated the amount of West Penn Allegheny Health System bonds bought by individual investors in the first quarter of 2009. It was $1.3 million, not $1.3 billion"

I also guess that corrections pages can avoid being "schoolmarmish," but given their function, a certain pit of exactitude and officialness (whatever) is required.

MK has something of a point if the idea is that we can miss the forest, worry about not too important details while the bigger story is wrong. This is often the case in historical fiction where the uniforms are perfect, but the history is wrong.

LB has a point too in that bloggers get their details by going through MSM reports. If the reports are inaccurate, including on "trivial" details, trouble forms.

BTW, MK says:

"I don't think Cronkite did any reporting at all during the period of his fame."

This ignores his "fame" as a top reporter during WWII where he did plenty of actual reporting, not just reading the news. And, being news anchor, particularly in the many years he was one, is more than reading off a teleprompter. And, a "reporter" is not just someone who goes into the field. Such a ironic (if to be expected from him, snide) way to end such a piece.

It's interesting that Kinsley spends so much time bashing the post-facto "corrections" column (“the facts it corrects are generally so bizarre or trivial and its tone so schoolmarmish that the effect is to make the whole pursuit of factual accuracy seem ridiculous”) en route to arguing that factual accuracy as a whole is a fad. After all, the “it” he’s talking about in that sentence is not “set of employees, called fact checkers” who he was making fun of at the beginning of the op-ed; he’s talking about the “corrections” column specifically. But even if it is just a daily set of mea culpas printed in response to people who catch a newspaper saying wrong things, he is carefully or obtusely ignoring an important difference between having a system in place to make sure that mistakes don’t get made in the first place and a practice of apologizing for (and correcting) mistakes once they’ve already been made.

This is why the interesting thing isn't so much about what the NYT actually *does* as the fact that this guy is actually, explicitly, arguing that professional journalists don't have to worry about the truth. The difference between the normal village way of doing business is to lie but to try not to be caught; this guy is actually, shamelessly, saying that it's okay to lie. That does seem striking to me.

I am not sure if he has ever been a fact-checker per se, but knowing he has been a copy editor, I wonder what Gary Farber thinks about all of this.

I haven't checked back to see when his byline last appeared, but I hope he is OK.

Also, watching Charlie Rose the other night, it was good to hear the perspective of author Gay Talese, who also worked for the NYT in addition to his magazine work (his Esquire piece, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," is one of the best magazine stories ever).

Talese feels that -- with the advent of the 24-hour news cylcle, which I believe has been condensed much smaller than that now -- the kind of reporting he did could no longer be done at most magazines, and most certainly not in newspapers, reporting where he'd take weeks to get to know a subject, and often doing so simply through his superb observational powers.

Like many businesses, today's newspapers and magazines have foregone this style of work because it is too costly and time-consuming. As Talese noted, original reporting is very expensive to produce.

Talese also observed that the White House press corps are more concerned about becoming powerful than doing good reporting on the powerful.

And what zz said.

The purpose of "corrections" is to bolster the belief that the rest of the bollocks they print is true.

Yevgeny: "It is the newspaper of record in the same way that Pravda was for the USSR back in the day."

Yeah, right—what planet are you from, Upyranus?

This line of yours is especially nonsensical: “It publishes lies straight from the mouths of government operatives.”

Journalists are supposed to report what they’re told. Duh. What do you want them to do, distort the comments, or not report them at all? Or does the meaning of the word ‘censorship’ escape you.

And by the way, what part of Russia were you from originally, Levittown, Long Island?

And of course the N.Y. Times dominated the Pulitzer Prize awards this year, winning in five catagories, including investigative reporting, breaking news, and international reporting…
Equally interesting, the Wall Street Journal didn’t win any – and hasn’t won a Pulitzer since Murdoch purchased it in 2007.

Journalists are supposed to report what they’re told.

Stenographers are supposed to report what they're told. Journalists are supposed to proceed with the postulate that governments lie.

What do you want them to do, distort the comments, or not report them at all?

Those aren't the only choices.

Or does the meaning of the word ‘censorship’ escape you.

Censorship means the government telling a newspaper what it can and can't print. Censorship is not a newspaper deciding what it will or won't print.

I'm not sure what you find inappropriate about the Pravda comparison. Pravda circa 1970 is the prototype of the "journalism" you profess to admire. I'd tell you to move to the Soviet Union but to the extent that it exists anymore, you already live there.

hairshirthedonist:

First, great nym. Papillon on the beach?

Second, while, given your description, I understand you might be reluctant to identify that agency by name, can you tell me what state it's in, and what its jurisdiction is? Because, brother, do we have some stories to swap.

JanieM is right on the "Mount Denali" thing. It's just Denali. It's more often than not called "Denali" inside Alaska. Denali is such a better name.

And the Alaska legislature voted to change it back in the 70's but it got caught up in the board of geographic names because Stevens and one of the senators from Ohio kept submitting competing bills. I remember reading something the Ohio senator said to the effect that it is just wrong changing a long standing name to a landmark. Tell that to the Athabascans.

The day I see a newspaper run a prominent correction saying, "While no fact in [Article X] was false, it failed to present relevant considerations Y and Z," I will consider the corrections spot useful.

amen. The Times' policy doesn't often extend to substance.

"And of course the N.Y. Times dominated the Pulitzer Prize awards this year, winning in five catagories, including investigative reporting, breaking news, and international reporting…
Equally interesting, the Wall Street Journal didn’t win any – and hasn’t won a Pulitzer since Murdoch purchased it in 2007."

Ah. Jay, are you under the impression that when someone compares the NYT to Pravda, they are necessarily making a rightwing criticism? I know righties often make that comparison, because from their POV the NYT and Pravda are commie rags, but it's also a pretty standard one from the left--Chomsky uses it and so does Billmon. For that pov, see various comments upthread by Turbulence, yevgeny, bob mcmanus and liberal japonicus.

Donald Johnson: “Ah. Jay, are you under the impression that when someone compares the NYT to Pravda, they are necessarily making a rightwing criticism?”

No, I’m under the impression that anyone who claims the NY Times now is equivalent to Pravda “back in the day” (meaning between 1921 and 1991 when it was an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party) is as goofy as Rosie O’Donnell on her fifth martini, and needs to get back on their meds.

"No, I’m under the impression that anyone who claims the NY Times now is equivalent to Pravda “back in the day” ....

Well, that wouldn't explain your WSJ comparison.

Anyway, the Pravda comparison isn't important, so long as people understand that the press shouldn't act as a stenographer to power and yet it often does, and that they shouldn't report governmental lies with so much breathless gullibility and yet they often do.

Hi Lindsay. Some writers go from being liberal in their youth to being conservative. Kinsley has gone from liberal to...weird.

I brought up Okrent, and voila! Joe Klein cites and Brad Delong debunks.

Maybe the Pravda comparison is important.

People like yevgeny who think our media is nothing more than a propoganda arm of the White House need only to look at the Russian media.

During my three visits there in 2003 and 2004, reading their newspapers was very much like reading press releases. It is said to have only gotten worse.

And I'd bet the Russian media isn't the only one in the world who could not spell i-n-d-e-p-e-n-c-e if you gave them everything but the "in."

By 2004 Pravda had been shut down for 13 years. The situation became so anarchic in the late 90s that papers like the exile published out of Moscow because libel law in the country at the time was virtually non-existent. Things have gotten worse there lately as the country becomes more and more of a plutocratic robber baron state like the US, but even in 2004 the exile could still take time out from pranking Gorbachev into applying for the job of "perestroika coordinator" for the NY Jets to publish a cover story with a depiction of Putin as a Hitler Youth midget under the headline "101 Reasons Why Putin Is A Fascist".

If the only media a foreign visitor paid attention to in the US during the Iraq war hysteria were the NY Times and Fox News they would have an incomplete view of US media as well.

Second, while, given your description, I understand you might be reluctant to identify that agency by name, can you tell me what state it's in, and what its jurisdiction is? Because, brother, do we have some stories to swap.

(The Original) Francis,

I can tell you that it straddles two states in the fuzzy overlap of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.


"camel pass through the eye of a needle"
The literal meaning is almost certainly correct, in spite of the creative misspelling interpretation. There's a saying in the Talmud that dreams "do not show a man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle." So Jesus apparently was using a variant of a reasonably common saying.

'The camel and the eye of the needle', Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25

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