The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, January 19, 2004

After his South Dakota snafu, suddenly Novak's an expert on Iowa!

While it's plagiarism and curve-straightening which cause the sackcloth and ashes shortages in the US media, an abiding problem much less stressed is its having the attention-span of a gerbil.

Every damned news cycle is Year Zero; every news story is presumptively barred by a sort of statute of limitations (if it's been covered, it can't be news) and can only be revived if some new event happens which the journos don't think beneath their notice.

Case in point: when last seen here (January 13), Bob Novak was trying to extricate himself from having alleged on CNN that the 2002 US Senate election in South Dakota was rigged by various Indians stuffing ballot-boxes.

At no stage, did Novak produce any evidence that ballot-boxes had been stuffed in that election, by Indians or anyone else. Strangely or not, his fellow hacks (as a matter of professional courtesy?) did not press him to produce the evidence. And did not hound him when he failed to do so.

Now, it seems, that little episode might have happened back in Ancient Greece. A new week, a new Novak - providing his two cents on the Iowa caucus. Just as if the pile of steaming manure he'd deposited on CNN's studio floor ten days or so ago wasn't still there, none the fresher.

Professional courtesy. You have to wonder what other snafus Novak has perpetrated, and were let go, or stepped over, by his colleagues. And not only Novak, of course.

Periodically, the vultures will descend - as with Jack Kelley (piece earlier today). But it's as if it's a ritual sacrifice: all are (more or less) guilty, but if they were all punished for every instance of plagiarism and invention, there'd soon be no journalists left.

So, once in a while, the knives descend, and the knifers can feel sanctimony at despatching a wrongdoer, as well as relief that it's not their bodies on the slab. Catharsis, closure - everyone moves on.

Read those Hammond organ-accompanied ombud soul-searching pieces (not to mention editors' mission statements and journo's acceptance speeches) with this in mind.

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