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Author: Subject: The Grey Lady pees her pants again...

A Peach Supreme





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  posted on 3/28/2007 at 04:45 AM
The Soft Bigotry of The New York Times Magazine
Another Mother of all scandals.

By Mark Hemingway


Two weeks ago, The New York Times Magazine’s cover story told the tale of six-year Navy veteran, Amorita Randall. Randall told Sara Corbett, a contributing writer for the Magazine, that she had been raped twice in the Navy, and that while stationed in Iraq in 2004 she was the victim of an improvised explosive device attack that left her with a brain injury.

The trouble is that according to an editor’s note in this past Sunday’s Times Magazine, Navy records report that in 2004 Randall was in Guam, not Iraq. And, by the way, she was never in Iraq. Further, there are no records that back up Randall’s claims she was raped. While lots of traumatized women don’t report rapes, unfortunately her claim that she was in Iraq certainly casts doubt on everything Randall says.

For their part, according to an article in the Navy Times, the Navy is understandably “annoyed,” particularly because a Times Magazine fact-checker didn’t contact them until three days before the story went to press — not enough time to verify much of the article.

The tone of the original article doesn’t help much either — even the writer seemed to be hedging her bets as to the veracity of her subject. As Randall recalls her fictional IED attack, Times Magazine writer Corbett cautioned: “It was difficult to know what had traumatized Randall: whether she had in fact been in combat or whether she was reacting to some more generalized recollection of powerlessness.” Now here’s a fun experiment: Corral the nearest veteran and ask them if they’re sympathetic to a “generalized recollection of powerlessness” from a person who lied about a brain injury as a result of a nonexistent combat record. You’re almost guaranteed to provoke a response that makes R. Lee Ermey sound like Fred Rogers.

This comes on the heels of another, criminally ignored scandal at The New York Times Magazine last year. Jack Hitt’s cover story on April 9, 2006, centered on abortion restrictions in El Salvador, relaying the story of a woman named Carmen Climaco who had been sentenced to a 30-year jail term for aborting a fetus at 18 weeks, or as Hitt put it: “Something defined as absolutely legal in the United States. It’s just that she’d had an abortion in El Salvador.”

After Hitt’s article, pro-life groups howled in protest. Climaco had not, in fact, been sentenced to 30 years for an abortion; she’d been convicted of strangling an infant that had already been born. It turned out that Hitt had received much of his information about Climaco’s case from a translator with close ties to an abortion-advocacy group — one which immediately used the Times Magazine piece in an online fundraising appeal. The claim that she’d had an abortion at 18 weeks came from an estimate submitted by a doctor at Climaco’s trial who hadn’t seen the infant. That report was found by the judges in the case to be flawed, and was totally at odds with the report of the doctor who performed the infant’s autopsy.

Remarkably, the Times Magazine didn’t issue a correction to the Hitt piece. Only after being queried by the Office of the Publisher at the Times about a possible error, did the Magazine respond. “We have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the facts as reported in our article, which was not part of any campaign to promote abortion,” said a note by the paper’s standards editor Craig Whitney and approved by Times Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati.



On December 31, 2006, the New York Times public editor Bryon Calame finally devoted an entire column to eviscerating Hitt’s story. With the help of a Times stringer in El Salvador, Calame was able to locate a copy of the relevant court documents which clearly contradict Hitt’s story. In the column, Calame stopped just shy of directly challenging the Times standards editor, who still said he was “not ready ... to order up a correction or Editors’ Note at this point,” even after an English translation of the damning court documents had been made available. “Accuracy and fairness were not pursued with the vigor Times readers have a right to expect,” Calame concluded.

Finally, a week after Calame’s column, and almost exactly eight months after the story ran, an “Editor’s Note” was appended to the original story on the Times website.

Now aside from the breathtaking failure of The New York Times Magazine to enforce any sort of journalistic standards in either of these cases, you might ask yourself what both of these stories have in common. It’s admittedly something of a tenuous link, but perhaps worth mentioning if only to make a point.

After I read the about the Times Magazine’s problem over the weekend I immediately Googled “Sara Corbett” in conjunction with “Mother Jones.” Sure enough, Corbett has written for the ballyhooed liberal bimonthly. As had Jack Hitt. Further, while there were no problems found with the article per se, another recent Times Magazine article on abortion rankled quite a few people; Emily Bazelon questioned whether women who’ve had abortions suffer as a result, titled “Is There a Post Abortion Syndrome?” Bazelon is, not improbably, Betty Friedan’s cousin and previously had written a skeptical article about the group Feminists for Life for — you guessed it — Mother Jones.

Now, I’m not advocating a political-neutrality litmus test for magazine writers, nor do I even think that because you’ve written for Mother Jones you necessarily must subscribe to whatever brand of watered-down socialism the magazine is currently selling. Further, there’s plenty of good journalism to be had at Mother Jones, which is why it’s an incubator for The New York Times Magazine which, accuracy-issues aside, is usually full of good writing.

But clearly there’s a pattern here with the Times Magazine. From the outside looking in, it seems as if the Times Magazine is fond of hiring writers normally aligned with liberal publications and foundations. They then are given a long leash to write on contentious issues and end up making major distortions of the truth that would seem to reflect a strong liberal bias.

Not that the journalistic establishment is likely to see it that way.

When recently discussing the Hitt scandal recently with a journalist I respect who regularly contributes to such liberal-journalistic tent poles as Harper’s and Rolling Stone, I was told that “noting errors of some of its reporters (Hitt) and the giant blind spots of others (Bazelon), Mother Jones publishes and develops better reporters than the conservative magazines.”

Obviously, I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I think that next time editors at The New York Times Magazine want to assign an article about abortion or the war they might try taking a look at the masthead of National Review, The Weekly Standard, or even Reason, where there is a tremendous amount of under-recognized journalistic talent. If nothing else, they can’t do much worse than their ideological and error-prone stable from Mother Jones.

— Mark Hemingway is a writer in Washington, D.C.

 

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Mark Ramsey

 
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Zen Peach



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  posted on 3/29/2007 at 08:08 AM
Unlike other fair and balanced news organizations, at least the NYT corrects their mistakes and explains how they came to the conclusions they did.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/pageoneplus/corrections.html?_r=1&pag ewanted=print&oref=slogin

Amazing that your article included nothing regarding that. Criminal scandal? That would be whats going on with Alberto Gonzales (one of many scandals) that Im sure 'writer' Mark Hemingway is going to get around to reporting at some point.

Or, if that fails, they could start quoting anonymous bloggers like Bush has done.

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/pressingissues_display.jsp? vnu_content_id=1003564636

[Edited on 3/29/2007 by SquatchTexas]

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 3/29/2007 at 02:07 PM
Deatils, Details, Details, people get so hung up on details.

 

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  posted on 3/29/2007 at 04:51 PM
Since you like to point to the alleged liberal bias of the NY Times, I am wondering if you think Fox is "fair and balanced" or just as biased the other way.
 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 3/29/2007 at 05:51 PM
quote:
quote:
Since you like to point to the alleged liberal bias of the NY Times, I am wondering if you think Fox is "fair and balanced" or just as biased the other way.


I was thinking the same thing. Mark has started other threads or posted in some about the NYT "bias", but his blinders prevent him from seeing "unfair and biased" Fox reporting.


Well, this is good, the right can get their bias from Fox and the Left can get it from the NYTimes, so everyone is happy believing what they want to believe. Problem solved.

 

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A Peach Supreme



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  posted on 3/29/2007 at 06:46 PM
OTF, I'll be happy to acknowledge the rightward lean of FOX. You want to retract that smug comment about "blinders"? I think it behooves us all to look to multiple sources for info.

 

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Mark Ramsey

 

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  posted on 3/29/2007 at 07:05 PM
quote:
OTF, I'll be happy to acknowledge the rightward lean of FOX. You want to retract that smug comment about "blinders"? I think it behooves us all to look to multiple sources for info.


I'll give you credit. The majority of the Fox watchers that I know think it really is fair and balanced.


 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 3/29/2007 at 08:40 PM
quote:
I think it behooves us all to look to multiple sources for info.

I guess Fox, World Net Daily and the Washington Times count as "multiple sources," but they don't exactly offer a diversity of opinions.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 3/30/2007 at 08:09 AM
quote:
quote:
I think it behooves us all to look to multiple sources for info.

I guess Fox, World Net Daily and the Washington Times count as "multiple sources," but they don't exactly offer a diversity of opinions.


Nail, head.

 

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Extreme Peach



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  posted on 3/30/2007 at 08:54 AM
Maarley, you forgot The Wall Street Journal. And Charles Krauthammer. See, a nice balanced view.
 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 3/30/2007 at 09:11 AM
If only there were more sources of news that gave out a view that the Left could embrace, then things would be balanced. Got it.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 3/30/2007 at 12:45 PM
quote:
If only there were more sources of news that gave out a view that the Left could embrace, then things would be balanced. Got it.


Cmon Dutch, you have to admit that the RW news sources are far worse in their presentation than any supposed LW source. From outright lying and distortion to ignoring legitimate news, they have done everything they can to avoid having to discuss any real issues.

 

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  posted on 4/2/2007 at 02:43 PM
quote:
Well, this is good, the right can get their bias from Fox and the Left can get it from the NYTimes, so everyone is happy believing what they want to believe. Problem solved.


i like what dutch said!

 

Maximum Peach



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  posted on 4/3/2007 at 01:55 PM
Of course a thread touching on controversial political issues resembles not so much a discussion of the merits of the thread starter's point but immediately becomes a Left versus Right fest.

To keep the focus on the New York Times, since there have been and will be plenty of other threads about Fox News or whomever else is being held as its counterpart, I want to affirm Mark's point that the Times is atrociously biased, and I would say this is so in almost all aspects of its presentation of news. The Times mindset naturally leads to journalistic travesties such as those described in Mark's article.

Take a "neutral" news article that may hold the tiniest potential of political ramifications to some. The Times headline spins any possible political angle to the detriment of the supposed opposition--again, even if the article itself does not say much at all along the lines that the event or issue is much of a bone of contention between contentious boneheads.

The headline slant is amplified in the short online summary, one or two sentences long, before you click to open the article. The article itself may surprisingly contain very little of a contentious nature, and you might have to skim through it again to see where the headline and summary writer(s) came up with their take. Then you think, "That's just the Times--sophisticatedly sensationalizing the banal for those of their readers who feed on blood."

The lead sentence or paragraph for the article itself may highlight contention that is not borne out by the straighter reportage of the rest of the article. The writer and editor deliberately set a particular tone and an outlook, no matter whether it's merited. Journalists, and writers in general, learn early in school that (as with most things in life) you have to grab the attention of the reader (or whomever), but the Times ends up insulting the intelligence of many of its readers in order to lure and pander to the boneheads they feel akin to. That's shoddy and deceptive journalism, even if not as astoundingly reprehensible as the incidents cited in the article in Mark's lead post here.

A further level of how the Times' bias seeps into a story: order of presentation of reportage. The Times' viewpoint is given the last word, especially in rebuttal, to any opposition viewpoint the article may present. Say you have extended quotations from several members of the "enemy" side, which constitute the gist of the story. Then the Times gets one little quote from one of its "fellow travelers" to cast doubt (no matter how illogical or poorly substantiated) on the strong reasoning and "factualism" of the enemies who preceded him (or her). So, the reader is left not only with the final impression along the lines the Times wants, but this technique reinforces the spin of the heading etc., no matter how different the vast bulk of the article was.

Finally, the basic writing generally betrays the Times' "us versus them" mentality. Look at a biographical snippet of a person being quoted, or at any colorful or subjective description of him (or of an event, a setting, whatever), and you can see whether the Times thinks he's "one of them" or not. There's something distasteful about that, and it's not good journalism. It's fine for the op-ed page, but it's appalling that the Times has to let you know, or insidiously imply, where it stands, and where you should stand, on everything.

As a preemptive measure, let me cite my personal fitness to comment on this, which some may be keen to call into question rather than discuss the issues at hand. I read through the online Times every day. (Unlike my sister-in-law, a former full-time Democratic party worker who's become so disgusted by the Times' unfairness that she won't even read "neutral" Times articles I thought she would like and used to try to forward to her. That is, she's boycotting the Times.) I check out all the heads and summaries--except those of the op-ed pieces, which I've given up on (though I haven't removed them from my custom contents menu yet). This morning, for instance, I thoroughly read a moderate amount (four articles), skimmed through a couple others, and forwarded myself another for later. So, my exposure to Times content and style is fairly substantial, despite my general skepticism of the Times and the way I negotiate many articles expecting to step on mines.

I'm not qualified to comment on the Times' conservative counterparts (but again, that's really off topic, anyway): I don't get cable TV, so I don't see Fox News more than the rare Sunday morning show with Chris Wallace--or Chris Matthews. The broadcast evening news shows provide some info (about 1 hour/week for me), but--not to be harsh on my fellow Americans--it's not hard to keep in mind the mindset of the viewer they're pandering to (to use a strong but apt synonym for "targeting" or "marketing to" again).

I get a good amount of basic news from wire stories run by local papers and internet sites. My second-biggest news source, besides the New York Times, though: Almost every day I look at Slate, which is an online newsmag or -paper produced by the Washington Post. Perhaps I need to balance my reading better.

 

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"This is an old true story;
this is called 'I Must Have Did Somebody Wrong.'
(I wonder who.)"

 
 


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