Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ah, journalism

It may be true, as the Missourian hed proclaims, that "Watergate gave journalism a boost." Too bad it didn't teach journalism to look stuff up. Nixon was not, as the AP reports in the story above the said hed, impeached. Whether Deep Throat's information is what led to Tricky's resignation, as the lede also alleges, is a matter of opinion. I think it's a dumb opinion, but that's partly because I dislike single-cause explanations of complicated issues. But at least it's an opinion, which can't be false, rather than an assertion of fact, which can.

The aforementioned brief, high-intensity burst of nonsense is worth some detailed whingeing for several reasons:

1) Mutually exclusive facts can't both be true. If the lede story says Nixon was impeached and the timeline says he resigned "facing impeachment," somebody needed to determine which one was right.
2) Keep an eye on the wires (particularly when you're a morning paper leading with a story that moved at 2:30 in the freakin' afternoon). The AP corrected this blunder -- albeit sloppily -- within five minutes of moving the lede we used, and subsequent stories don't appear to have repeated it.
3) If a story is worth three-fourths of the front page, it's worth five minutes of copyed time in the World Almanac, the encyclopedia, or some other printed source that would have set the matter straight. Again, pls, a printed source. G*d knows where Google would take you, but my first guess would be some other site that didn't bother to look up the details.
4) When you see single-cause assertions about complicated events, kick the damn tires.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Strayhorn said...

Speaking of sources, I think reporters should bear in mind that Felt is 91 years old and unless he's willing to provide an office journal, all utterances should be treated as those of an elderly person who may or may not be misremembering. That's not disrespect, that's just human nature.

Yes, and you can now make jokes about Deep Throat and oral history.

9:50 AM, June 02, 2005  
Blogger fev said...

Well, ask and ye shall receive there, Brother Strayhorn:

Oral History: How Deep Throat Changed America
(http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=83204)

Readers of the entire bizarre essay will note that Roy joins the waterfront-property-buying crowd re the estimated $600 million earnings of "Deep Throat." Here's a good dissection of that tale:
http://www.latimes.com/business/custom/cotown/la-fi-golden10mar10,1,4683218.column?coll=la-headlines-business-enter

10:47 AM, June 03, 2005  

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