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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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Okrent and the Times TV moonlighters

His term as ombud is nearly up, and Daniel Okrent seems to be approaching Earth from his sojourn on Planet Whimsy.

On Judith Miller's Hardball 'scoop' about her old pal Ahmed Chalabi (February 3), he has wise words for NYT Co management on the credibility danger of its journos' TV excursions:
The only way the Times is going solve this problem is by making it a practice to regulate its reporters' appearances, and letting the paper - the reason everyone's here - speak for itself.

It's an egregious racket, of course: the journalistic equivalent of the non-denial denial. The journo - more or less with the complicity of his editors - gets into the news bloodstream a titbit that goes a little bit further than his published pieces.

He has cover:

Firstly, everyone misspeaks on live TV.

Secondly, the extemporised formulation of ideas and assertions is bound to be looser than its written equivalent, honed with the facility of a WP program. Ambiguities abound. (Compare the transcript of a TV interview with a Times news piece.)

Thirdly, it's a medium - cable TV, certainly - where standards are different to those in force (supposedly) at the Times - logically, his work should be held to the standards of the medium in which it appears.

In the Miller/Matthews case, the bombshell was qualified by the words
according to one report
this is just one report
- an indication that the story had fallen short of even the Times' sourcing standards [1].

Quite why Miller should have sought a further dose of notoriety on top of her imminent soujourn at Club Fed, I know not.

But, in general, there is a clear joint interest of journo and paper in using TV to create a buzz around him and his work in a medium where straightening the curves is winked at much as were the antics of Luke and Bo Duke.

(Okrent focuses on the
many, many reasons why newspaper people would want to appear on television
but on the reasons why their editors and managers would want them to do so - not so much.)

Meanwhile, Bill Keller is poking Okrent in the eye:
I'm sorry to be unhelpful on this one, but Judy faces a serious danger of being sent to jail for protecting a confidential source. I think this is not the time to be drawn into unrelated public discussions of Judy.

The Rove machine couldn't have done it better.

  1. Use of the word report would suggests a news product - a wire piece, or at least a press release - rather than a source. In which case, if it exists, somone might have tracked it down.


Just reading Nicholas Lemann's New Yorker piece Fear and Favor: Why is everyone mad at the mainstream media? - to which I may return - and, in a Memory Lane section that may or may not be Golden Agist without the irony, I read:
My grandfather...would sit in his easy chair on Sundays reading the Times in a spirit not dissimilar to that of someone taking the sacrament...Quite often, the aural accompaniment to this exercise was the soothing sound of WQXR, the Times’ radio station, which between segments of classical music would occasionally air interviews with Times correspondents and critics—men, I inferred from their calm, distinguished voices, with neat Vandyke beards, their heads wreathed in contemplative clouds of pipe smoke.

Even then, Timesmen were at it...

STILL MORE (February 21)

The suggestion is that Dana Milbank has been up to the same trick as Judith Miller over the question whether Jeff Gannon/James Guckert had a hard pass from the White House.

Milbank is, according to CW, one of the whiter hats amongst political hacks. But, as Joe E Brown said to Jack Lemmon...

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