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White House press staff rewrites attributed quote after the fact

By maynard in Media
Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 09:01:16 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

Jonathan Weisman, economics reporter for the Washington Post, admitted in an informal posting on Poynter that the White House demanded he rewrite a quote taken 'off the record' from an unnamed administration official before they would provide approval for final publication. In his post he clearly admits that he "[...]violated journalistic ethics, by placing into quotation marks a phrase that was never uttered by the source[...]", and then published the story as news.


At the time Weisman was writing a story about the now sacked chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, R. Glenn Hubbard, and his economic theories, many of which underpin the administration's $374 billion proposal to end the 'double taxation' of dividends. Part of a $674 billion tax plan offered by the Bush administration, the dividend tax cut would ostensibly help 'jump start' the economy by reducing taxes on investment income. The White House press office agreed to provide an off the record interview on the condition that any quotes published would be e-mailed to the press office for vetting and final approval, which Weisman states has become "[...]fairly standard practice."

The original quote Weisman obtained reads as, "This is probably the most academic proposal ever to come out of an administration.", which the press office agreed was fine with a 'small change'. The official, not the source of the original quote, instead suggested the quoted text state, "This is probably the purest, most far reaching economic proposal ever to come out of an administration," but Weisman objected since it removed the word "academic," which was the primary point of the original statement. The official amended the quote again to, "This is probably the purest, most academic, most far reaching economic proposal ever to come out of an administration," and was finally printed with the "[...]most far reaching[...]" omitted as such: "This is probably the purest, most academic ... economic proposal ever to come out of an administration."

After publication the White House denounced Weisman for breaking his Journalistic integrity by printing a partial quote that the White House had already request he change after the fact. As made clear in his post, Weisman agrees with their claim that he violated journalistic ethics - but not for the reasons outlined by the administration's press office. In the post he states:

I had, of course, violated journalistic ethics, by placing into quotation marks a phrase that was never uttered by the source, ellipses or no ellipses. I had also played ball with the White House using rules that neither I nor any other reporter should be assenting to. I think it is time for all of us to reconsider the way we cover the White House. If administration officials want to speak off the record, they are off the record. If they are on background as an administration official, I suppose that's the best we can expect. But the notion that reporters are routinely submitting quotations for approval, and allowing those quotes to be manipulated to get that approval, strikes me as a step beyond business as usual. [emphasis mine]
In this he is clear: quotes are quotes. One does not attribute a quote, even to an unnamed source, that a person did not state. This is among the most basic of journalistic ethics taught in first year Journalism 101 courses. And Weisman's Washington Post editor, Jill Dutt, appears to agree. In a follow-up letter Weisman discusses a conversation he had with his editor in which he states states he was told by her that it is, "[...]Post policy not to construct quotes in any way. Quotation marks are sacrosanct; they denote to readers the exact words uttered by a source."

As the Washington Post's policy implies, this is not and should not be standard practice. That the White House Press Office would ask, and receive, the right to completely rewrite a quote after the fact indicates a serious conflict of interest and, potentially, a troubling breach of ethical standards by those in the administration's press office. Without further admonishing Weisman or the integrity of the Washington Post for an isolated incident, an important question to ask is not what went so wrong with this story, but is this common practice in the White House Press Pool among other, lesser known, reporters and publications? In their zest and zeal to gain access to policy makers, have journalistic ethics and integrity among reporters and the press degenerated to the point where they allow the administration to rewrite quotes and confabulate the 'news' on a routine basis? And should this be common practice, does this represent anything resembling a free press?

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Poll
Did Weisman break the boundaries of basic journalistic ethics?
o Yes 68%
o No 11%
o "Rusty ate my pants" (abstain) 19%

Votes: 93
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Poynter
o rewrite a quote
o story
o R. Glenn Hubbard,
o 'double taxation' of dividends
o $674 billion
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o follow-up
o Also by maynard


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White House press staff rewrites attributed quote after the fact | 68 comments (44 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
To answer your question (4.81 / 27) (#6)
by 8ctavIan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 02:47:24 PM EST

Has journalistic ethics and integrity among reporters and the press degenerated to the point where they allow the administration to rewrite quotes and confabulate the 'news' on a routine basis?

Yes.

Next question? [complete silence from the press corps]

Bush: Umm, let me look at my script. Joe Brownoser from PNN?

Brownoser: What color tie are you going to be wearing the day we go get Saddam?

Bush: Umm, let me look at my script. [long pause ] Blue

Brownoser: Thank you Mr. President


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken

Enlightment! (4.00 / 1) (#58)
by Wulfius on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 08:57:52 PM EST

Aaah!

I did wonder why is that Bush, a guy who has
a problem maintaining unscripted conversation
all of the sudden developed memory so impressive
that he seems to know the name and affliation
of each reporter he anwser question to.

The guy is reading from a script!

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

Not journalism, PR (4.77 / 9) (#13)
by pyramid termite on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 04:54:45 PM EST

I had, of course, violated journalistic ethics, by placing into quotation marks a phrase that was never uttered by the source, ellipses or no ellipses.

It wasn't "uttered" by the source - it was repeatedly negotiated and edited, as if the reporter was a PR shill employed by them. It can hardly be called an inaccurate quote, any more than the average puff piece press release would be.

The problem isn't the accuracy or lack of accuracy in the quote - the problem is that this reporter is basically acting as a sock puppet for the government and not identifying him as such. Even worse, the quote in question and the changes to it are so trivial and petty that it makes me wonder - do people really sell themselves this cheaply these days, over such inanities?

I can see that hell will probably freeze over and the devil will go ice skating before one of the "inside" reporters dares to piss off his contacts by reporting something they don't want him to.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
ummm... (5.00 / 4) (#15)
by Danse on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 05:15:07 PM EST

You're saying the exact same thing that the reporter said himself.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
My god, you're right (4.12 / 8) (#14)
by Rogerborg on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 05:06:12 PM EST

If we can't trust advertising-funded reporters to accurately and truthfully...

No, wait, there's no "if" in there.

What did you expect?  They're not being paid to report, they're being paid to provide a product to be marketed.

What exactly is it that provides them a material incentive to be accurate?  Even if they get caught lying, hell, it turns out that just generates more column inches.  It's win-win!

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs

Ellipses and brackets. (4.75 / 4) (#20)
by I am Jack's username on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:25:52 PM EST

I've always thought that when quoting, ellipses were used to indicate pauses between words; and that editorial changes were between brackets, e.g.: "We're going to have the best-educated [...] people in the world." - Senator Dan Quayle, 1988-09-21.
--
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
This is the way I read them: (4.50 / 2) (#39)
by ODiV on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 11:33:12 AM EST

Ellipses are used to indicate parts where some words have been taken out and editorial changes involving the replacement of words (usually for context in my experience) go in square brackets.

"He is a good for nothing waste of space."

Can be changed into:

"[Jack] is a ... waste of space."

--
[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
This is surreal... (4.57 / 7) (#22)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:45:37 PM EST

So, a journalist listens to someone speak "off the record" and quotes them anyway, but first submits the quote to the administration for approval?

That doesn't make sense!


--
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.


No... (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by maynard on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:51:48 PM EST

Weisman was writing an article about R. Glenn Hubbard and his influence on the administration's proposed new tax policy. He had already obtained quotes from Hubbard directly but needed further background to flesh out his story. He went to the White House press office and asked them to provide a source for a quote, which they did on condition of anonymity. He obtained the quote and then the press office requested to 'massage' the quote after the fact. That's basically how it happened in a nutshell. --M


Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
Ah. Thanks. (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:00:14 PM EST

I tried to find the original "letter" but the link above points to a general letters page - I could find lots of people talking about Weisman's post, but I couldn't hunt down the post itself.


--
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.


[ Parent ]
That link originally worked; text in my diary (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by maynard on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:33:10 PM EST

Don't know what happened, but that link originally went specifically to the comment in question. Now it just goes to the top page. Most annoying. Oh well, you can read the entire text in my diary. --M


Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
Sounds strange... (5.00 / 2) (#50)
by hughk on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 03:03:29 AM EST

There are no 'off the record' quotes in journalism. However, if something is officially off the record it usually isn't attributed.

Submitting copy for approval seems very, um interesting. Of course, for a reporter sitting out in the Gulf or Afghanisatn, they may see things they are not supposed to (like the execution of prisoners) so they are subject to censorship.

[ Parent ]

No such thing as Off the record. (none / 0) (#57)
by Wulfius on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 08:54:54 PM EST



---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]
Primary link has changed - here is complete text (5.00 / 8) (#28)
by maynard on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:49:49 PM EST

Since I submitted this post the primary link providing supporting evidence has changed. They didn't remove the post, simply added content which scrolled the post off the top page. You can find it by going to the second page and searching for "It's time to change the rules of WH reporting". For clarity, here is the complete text:

From JONATHAN WEISMAN, Economics Writer, Washington Post: In the wake of Seymour Hersh's open statements about the way the White House treats the press, I feel compelled to relate a personal story that illustrates how both the White House and the press have allowed manipulation of the printed word in Washington to get out of hand. This is a bit of a confession as well as an appeal to the White House and my fellow reporters to rethink the way journalism is practiced these days.

Recently, I was working on a profile of the now-departed chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, R. Glenn Hubbard. I dutifully went through the White House press office to talk to an administration economist about Hubbard's tenure, and a press office aide helpfully got me in touch with just the person I wanted. The catch was this: The interview would be off the record. Any quotes I wanted to put into the newspaper would have to be e-mailed to the press office. If approved, the quotation could be attributed to a White House official. (This has become fairly standard practice.)

Since the profile focused on Hubbard's efforts to translate relatively arcane macroeconomic theory into public policy, the quote I wanted referenced the president's effort to end the double taxation of dividends: "This is probably the most academic proposal ever to come out of an administration." The press office said it was fine, but the official wanted a little change. Instead, the quote was to read, "This is probably the purest, most far reaching economic proposal ever to come out of an administration." I protested that the point of the quote was the word "academic," so the quote was again amended to state, "This is probably the purest, most academic, most far reaching economic proposal ever to come out of an administration."

What appeared in the Washington Post was, "This is probably the purest, most academic ... economic proposal ever to come out of an administration." What followed was an angry denunciation by the White House press official, telling me I had broken my word and violated journalistic ethics.

I had, of course, violated journalistic ethics, by placing into quotation marks a phrase that was never uttered by the source, ellipses or no ellipses. I had also played ball with the White House using rules that neither I nor any other reporter should be assenting to. I think it is time for all of us to reconsider the way we cover the White House. If administration officials want to speak off the record, they are off the record. If they are on background as an administration official, I suppose that's the best we can expect. But the notion that reporters are routinely submitting quotations for approval, and allowing those quotes to be manipulated to get that approval, strikes me as a step beyond business as usual.

And here is the complete text of the second reply:

From JONATHAN WEISMAN, Economics Writer, Washington Post: Subject -- A follow-up. Given the response to my initial letter, I feel compelled to send a follow-up explaining what happened after my run-in with the White House press office over this single quotation. I was (and am) new to the Post. After the flap, I went to my editor, the assistant managing editor for financial news, Jill Dutt, to apprise her of the situation. Understandably, she was not pleased that even two words "the purest" appeared in the paper when they were not actually uttered by the interviewee. It is quite explicitly Post policy not to construct quotes in any way. Quotation marks are sacrosanct; they denote to readers the exact words uttered by a source.

That was the first quotation negotiation that I engaged in with the White House and it was and will be the last. And no, I have received no comment from the White House since my first letter on this subject.

Cheers,
--Maynard


Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
This is a moral outrage (1.08 / 34) (#35)
by A Proud American on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:07:38 PM EST

I'd thought that the White House journalists learned their lesson with all those French and German lawsuits about Nazi memorabilia. Now they're re-writing quotes and selling pornography?

Pornography is indistinguishable from rape. It runs women through a blender, converting their bodies into liquified youth. There is no such thing as consent in pornography, because every person involved is there because of dire economic need. But we tolerate women's public humiliation and public rape, because men universally crave and devour pornography.

How can the writers justify profiting from such exploitation? I understand the White House journalists' stock prices are slipping and they're desperate to pump some new revenue sources, but pornography is unconscienable. Every dollar the White House journalists make is now tainted with the blood and tears of exploited women.

This calls for a boycott. This calls for a public outcry. There is no excuse for sitting by the sidelines and watching the world go by. Everyone who does not actively oppose this move is complicit in human suffering.

The Ten Commandments tell us, "Thou shalt not rape!" The Bible also tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The White House journalists fail.

If we let the White House journalists sell pornography like this, then it's a slippery slope down to having them sell videos of executions. If you thought it was bad that Dale Earnhardt's autopsy photos were almost published, imagine if you'd had to see photos of electricuted criminals in your Sunday newspaper.

The need to exploit others for profit is a pervasive one in our society, but it's not one that we can't arrest as we arrest other criminal passions. The free market cannot thrive unless we police it for criminal activity such as this, just as it cannot thrive unless we police the market square for pickpockets.

Pornography kills women's souls. Pornography burns men's souls. There is no victor here, except for the ugly head of capitalism. The White House journalists must not be allowed to perpetuate this abomination against humanity.

____________________________
The weak are killed and eaten...


PR0N: Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle... (1.14 / 7) (#36)
by noop on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:01:34 AM EST

GIVE ME PR0N!!! Who gives a shit about exploiting women, what is this Wellesley? Naked babes is good.

[ Parent ]
You're a dullard (3.33 / 3) (#40)
by RadiantMatrix on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:06:20 PM EST

Pornography is generally both consensual and highly profitable. People do not become porn models out of "dire economic need", as you say. Rather, they do so because someone has offered them money their attractive nude bodies.

If you'd ever talked to a porn model, you'd realize that they enjoy their work. Based on that alone, your argument falls apart.

The Ten Commandments tell us, "Thou shalt not rape!" The Bible also tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Again, you're an idiot. That isn't a Commandment -- I know this without even being Christian. This leads me to suspect that you were trying to troll or be amusing. In either case, you suck at it.

----------
I don't like spam - Parent ]

He doesn't suck too much... (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by vectro on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 09:08:14 PM EST

... after all, you took the bait.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Jesus (2.42 / 7) (#42)
by DarkZero on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:50:19 PM EST

Don't you people give ANYTHING zeroes any more? It's bad enough that fives count for a Hell of a lot more than zeroes, but why did seven of you give it a one, ensuring that it hovers just above 0.99? Do you realize that when you give something like this a one, you are explicitly saying that you DO NOT want it hidden? You might as well give it a five.

[ Parent ]
It's a fundamental flaw in the ratings system (4.00 / 3) (#47)
by ghjm on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 04:58:09 PM EST

The people who gave it a 1 are probably not trusted users - they were giving it the worst rating available to them. Yes, the right thing to do for non-trusted users is probably to avoid rating the post at all, and hope that some trusted users will come along and give it a few zeros. However, it is not reasonable to expect people to do this.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Wrong (5.00 / 2) (#48)
by qpt on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 05:35:20 PM EST

Regardless of whether those 1s had been given or not, it would take ten additional 0s to hide that comment.

Observe:
(4*(5s) + 10*(1s) + 17*(0s))/31 = .97

(4*(5s) + 17*(0s))/21 = .95

If enough comment ratings are given to a particular comment (more than 198), then yes, the 1s can potentially make a difference between a comment being shown or hidden. In this case, though, they made none.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

'tis not 0 material (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by martingale on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 04:27:15 AM EST

It's incoherent and obvious flamebait, but it's not the kind of quality post that warrants a zero, imho. If we're going to zero because something's incoherent, then we might as well zero half the posts on k5, and we'd probably open ourselves to criticism from e.g. those participants who like to post while drunk. You know who you are ;-)

I've had a quick peek at the zero queue right now, and it's mostly comments containing a sentence or two, directly calling into question some other poster's lineage and reproductive prospects, interspersed with fervent identification of other people's purported religious affiliations, lewd advances on behalf of third parties which either won't, or physically can't, speak for themselves, and other colourful graffiti.

[ Parent ]

What? (1.50 / 6) (#37)
by jman11 on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 02:46:33 AM EST

The USoA is wonderful, after all it has freedom fries.  Most the rest of us have to accept the French version.

I thought they were Belgian Fries? [nt] (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 08:15:14 AM EST


--
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.


[ Parent ]
Belgian actually. (none / 0) (#56)
by Wulfius on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 08:53:38 PM EST

French fries were 'invented' by the Belgians.

So, is French kissing called Freedom kissing now?


---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

Not "french" (1.00 / 1) (#54)
by rmn on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 01:58:28 PM EST

Actually they are "frenched" fries (that's where the name comes from); nothing to do with France. And I think they're only called that ("french") in the USA (and perhaps a couple of other coutries). In most countries they are "chips" / "fried potatoes" / etc..

Now... can "freedom fries" refuse to be eaten?

RMN
~~~

[ Parent ]

Raises the basic question... (4.77 / 9) (#41)
by LairBob on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:18:43 PM EST

...have we effectively forsaken the premise that a free, "objective" press is a necessary component of [American] democracy? I mean, if there's a legitimate question whether or not we have a genuinely free press, is there automatically a question whether we live in a credible democracy? Or, do the other components of the [American] democratic model still ensure that to a sufficient degree, the will of the people is still a pre-dominant factor in the workings of government (free press or no free press)?

There's a lot (justified) cynicism in this thread and everywhere else regarding the lap-dog nature of the US press. Blatant shams like this story and last week's press conference make it almost impossible for the press to stand there with a straight face and claim that they haven't willfully abridged their own constitutional autonomy.

So, where do we stand? If the press has now basically openly abdicated whatever responsibilities it might have had in ensuring democracy, is this the dawn of a new era, or are we just finally admitting a naive flaw in our ideals?

i will try to respond to this (none / 0) (#53)
by thePositron on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 06:54:33 AM EST

The press has never been obligated to do or adhere to anything in order to uphold our nascent democracy or the republican form of government we believe in  and have followed here in the U.S for awhile..

Whether one trusts them (the press or the government for that matter) or not is optional.

One would hope that those in the business of selling information would have an objective standard that upholds the highest ideals developed by the minds of our foremothers and forefathers but alas it seems that short term gain and approval outweigh eternal principles and ideas in the minds of those tasked to report information to us.

Short term personal motivations also seem to dominate our political caste as well.

The question is; Does this reflect the spirit of our nation or is it a violation of the popular will?

The answer to that question for me is that it seems to be both but I have not come to any conclusions yet.

What do you think?

Perhaps this area of inquiry deserves more questioning?

[ Parent ]

Certainly gives me pause for thought (none / 0) (#62)
by LairBob on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 10:54:52 AM EST

I'm personally pretty deeply divided on this. I'd agree that, First Amendment freedoms notwithstanding, the press doesn't have any explicit mandate or obligation to expose objective facts. It has, though, since the times of Ben Franklin and earlier, adopted a self-appointed role as a guardian of democracy.

To try and put a finer edge on my own perspective, I think the need for that comes down to a balanced management of interests. Our [American] democratic process, like most others, is primarily driven by political self-interest, on an individual and on an institutional level. Politicians essentially nominate themselves, the political parties basically exist to pursue their specific political agendas, and even when the Executive and Legislative branches are dominated by a single party, the two branches also pursue their own specific programs as well.

This isn't necessarily all bad. I've long held a parallel opinion that capitalism is pragmatically much more viable than most forms of socialism--much as I might admire them morally--because it's founded on a presumption of self-interest. I think that similarly, our political system is admirably practically viable, given some huge ethical reservations with the way people then behave inside it.

Constitutionally, though, the big check on all of this unfettered self-interest is supposed to be the Judicial branch. I'll leave it to each reader to form their own opinion as to how well it actually plays that role, but even if we were to have an overwhelmingly fair and balanced judicial body, that branch has a fundamental constraint--it can only rule on the issues that are brought before it. All of the actively investigative arms of the government are under the umbrella of either the Legislative or the Executive branches (primarily the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security). Whether or not you're thrilled with the current Attorney General, all you have to do is spend four years with a party in power that doesn't share your agenda to get a painfully clear message that AGs aren't usually models of objectivity. (Want to take bets on who's more hated--Janet Reno or Edwin Meese?)

So, who's going to play the role of actively sniffing out self-interest before it seriously runs amok, instead of waiting for it to happen and decide how to redress it? If not the press, I can't think of anyone else.

[ Parent ]

I'm confused (2.75 / 4) (#43)
by Silent Chris on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 03:18:39 PM EST

Are we supposed to be for or against the journalist?  It seems both him and the administration were wrong (although, it wouldn't be the first time for the administration).

The point of a nonbiased press... (5.00 / 3) (#45)
by maynard on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 04:22:21 PM EST

...is to print facts rather than opinion so that you may make up your own mind. Weisman admonished himself publicly and then complained about conflict of interest issues between journalists and the White House Press Office leading to unethical behavior on his part. He's also new to the beat, so he clearly made a mistake he (hopefully) won't repeat.

The question then becomes: if the White House Press Office succeeded with Weisman once, is this sort of behavior standard practice? How could we - the readership - determine this one way or the other? Access to the White House Press Office is a pretty closed club. The only reason we do know about this instance is because Weisman put his ass on the line by exposing his ethical breach. Who else would have that courage of conviction? --M


Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]

You decide (none / 0) (#63)
by MikeWarren on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 07:40:55 PM EST

The idea is that you decide who you're "for" or "against".

You're "supposed" to think for yourself, IOW.


-- mike warren
[ Parent ]
Oxymoron (2.14 / 7) (#44)
by X-Nc on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 03:39:03 PM EST

The words journalist and ethics don't belong in the same universe, let alone the same sentence.

--
Aaahhhh!!!! My K5 subscription expired. Now I can't spell anymore.
Disagree? (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by X-Nc on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 09:29:19 AM EST

It seems that, judging by the rating my comment is getting, that there is some disagreement with my opinion of journalists and journalism. Granted, my comment was very general, but it is accurate for a majority of the "news media". I know that most reports of news are slanted, at best, and outright lies, at worst. The big news organizations and the high profile news reporters have started to see themselves as news makers rather than news reporters. A quick search of google will show this.

Think I'm a cynical SOB? Maybe. Prove me wrong.

--
Aaahhhh!!!! My K5 subscription expired. Now I can't spell anymore.
[ Parent ]

Well, you asked... (none / 0) (#68)
by Blackstone on Mon May 19, 2003 at 02:54:10 AM EST

Give me a break.

I honestly believe that journalism is one of the most ethics-conscious professions. Does that mean that all reporters act ethically? Of course not. Does it mean reporters don't cut corners? No -- I'll freely admit that sometimes reporters do cut corners. They might print something without adequate fact-checking because they're on a tight deadline, for example. Sometimes, unfortunately, ethics have to bow to reality.

By ethics-conscious I mean that journalism is one of the few professions in which discussions about ethics regularly take place in the newsroom. Lawyers and doctors are confined by ethics that are dictated by ethical codes -- the canons of ethics in law, for example. Journalists rarely have such clear-cut codes to draw upon. Instead ethical decisions are made based on discussions within the newsroom on a case-by-case basis. I think that most journalists feel that they have a public responsibility of some sort and aim to fulfill that public responsibility. That they do so imperfectly is simply a reflection of the fact that they're human.

As for slant -- the issue of "bias" in the media will go on and on and on, and no matter how brilliantly reasoned this post is (heh), I'm not going to put a stop to it here. But the polls in this area speak for themselves, I think: people who consider themselves liberal think the media has a conservative bent; conservatives think the media is liberal. What it boils down to is that you can please some of the people some of the time -- if you're pleasing some of the people /all/ of the time, or /all/ of the people /all/ of the time, that's when your reporting is biased.

Getting back to the WashPost story, I don't think the issue is quite as simple as it seems at first glance. Changing a quotation like that is obviously a quid pro quo -- the reporter does it in the hopes that he will eventually receive consideration in the form of better access. Who are we going to fault? The White House Press Office? They're doing their jobs, like it or not. The reporter? How do we know that the improved access he will get as a result of this fiddling won't serve the public better? And are we really expecting him to go to the doghouse over a quotation when somebody else will just step up to take his place?

An unfortunate state of affairs, perhaps, but not one that's easy to resolve.

[ Parent ]

He should be shot for treason. (2.13 / 15) (#46)
by gloin on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 04:27:05 PM EST

Like all of us, the journalist in this story has a duty to help his country in time of war. That duty required that he not tell this story, and that he not impugn the integrity of our leadership. Doing so can only weaken us in a time of crisis; and he should be punished for it just as he would be for delivering state secrets to our enemies.

Thanks (none / 0) (#52)
by thePositron on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 06:39:07 AM EST

But no thanks.

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. "

-- George Washington
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/washing.htm

[ Parent ]

Troll (NT) (5.00 / 2) (#55)
by Wulfius on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 08:52:23 PM EST



---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]
How can jounalists possibly be free to report? (5.00 / 9) (#49)
by Insaa on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 05:52:31 PM EST

Ok, I don't know much about how the White House journalist group works however I was under the impression that if you wanted to get your questions answered or even be in the room in the first place you have to be reasonably in favour with the White House staff in the first place.

How can you write a story that says even the first thing bad when if you do you will be pushed to the bottom of the list of people to be allowed to ask questions because of the obvious lack of time official have for questions (well, officials aren't suppose to tell you what they are doing, that would just be stupid).

This 'land of the free deal' is just that, a deal, a PR deal that they try and sell the world as being something that we are so so jealous about. And while I'm here, could someone explain how Americans live in a democracy when in the end, the people who decide who goes into the Senate are the very rich and very influential. Free Democracy my arse.

May I make a request of anyone who decides to reply to this. Say that I'm the one blowing noxious gas out of my arse if you want but back it up with some decent sources so that I might even believe what you say. Or show me some water tight logic.

Very Simple (none / 0) (#61)
by CENGEL3 on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 10:00:10 AM EST

1 Person = 1 Vote

A candidate can spend all the special interest money they want on advertising but at the end of the day it's still individual voters who make the call.

Let me tell you if the "very rich and very influential" REALLY were the ones who decided who goes to the Senate we would have a flat tax rate.

"And while I'm here, could someone explain how Americans live in a democracy when in the end, the people who decide who goes into the Senate are the very rich and very influential. Free Democracy my arse."


[ Parent ]

Those who vote for whomever the TV says (none / 0) (#65)
by pin0cchio on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 10:15:41 AM EST

A candidate can spend all the special interest money they want on advertising but at the end of the day it's still individual voters who make the call.

In fact, it's largely the individual swing voters who make the call, and swing voters often tend to check the first name that comes to mind. The boob tube does a good job of making names come to mind. That's how I'd characterize TV's influence on U.S. elections.


lj65
[ Parent ]
The Electronic Voting System (none / 0) (#67)
by vile on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 11:06:39 AM EST

I don't think you remember our last election. Remember the CNN mess-up? Remember how votes were calculated live on TV? Interesting.

Further Interesting -- Bush did not win based on Individual Voters. Gore did. Bush won by.. electoral vote.. supposedly.

Oh yeah.. and what pushed him over the line? His brother's state? Another interesting thought.

Yeah.. individual voters... right... ;)

~
The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
Finally a chance for the US to learn from China (2.00 / 1) (#64)
by bjoerns on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 12:59:35 AM EST

While censorship is still making babysteps in the US, China has a proven system that's been in place for decades.

I say the US should form a censorship task force and go to China to study their system, ASAP.  Especially in these difficult war times, telling the truth just adds to the ignorant public's useless questioning of authority.

Just as China has "Chinese communism" (to distinguish it from real communism, which it acknowledges doesn't work), the US can invent "US dictatorship" and run PR campaigns (lots of marketing agencies wanna help with that, I'm sure) to make people understand why it's in their best interest, and therefore ensure its successful adoption.

Of course, later, the PR budget can be cut as there will be real constitutional changes and a very real concentration of absolute military power under the benevolent dictator; no need to beg for support anymore.

Finally something Bush can be remembered for!

Even better, Bush can just refuse to give away his military power until he dies, ensuring a prosperous Bush family for a long time to come.

Or, why not let power pass on.  If he's smart he's already started to train his son for the big responsibility he'll have taking over after his father (and grandfather).  Hope he does as good a job as the grandfather did training the current president.

[ For the humor-impaired, this is a joke, or at least half-a-joke. I don't like all the similarities between dictatorships and the US that has popped up lately. Many people don't know how good they have it BECAUSE of freedom of speech. Don't take it lightly. It all starts with censorship. ]

Great idea! (1.00 / 1) (#66)
by John Asscroft on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 03:04:25 PM EST

I am forming a task group at the Department of Injustice immediately! We will eliminate the threat of those filthy liberals anti-war terrorists, kikes, rag-heads, and papists forever!

The free speech zones in the Nevada desert are ready. 36 hours and counting until the bullets fly. It's Asscroft time!
We must destroy freedom to save it from the terrorists who want to destroy freedom. Else the terrorists have won.
[ Parent ]

White House press staff rewrites attributed quote after the fact | 68 comments (44 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
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