October 15, 2007

NY Times ‘Questions For’ Writer Follows Hallowed ‘Journalistic’ Tradition

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 12:32 pm

It’s a tradition that goes back at least as far as the Vietnam War, when CBS edited and reshuffled the content of a TV interview with a US general to make it appear as if he believed that having wars from time to time was a necessary and good thing. CBS, operating in the days of Old Media’s de facto monopoly, paid little if any price for its transgression. Someone on the order of a Bill Buckley or Cal Thomas objected, and that was about it.

That creative editing was occurring and considered a hallowed right of Old Media during its “good old days” is almost indisputable. As I recall it, several Nixon Administration advisers in the early 1970s whom the networks wished to interview agreed to do so, with but one proviso: The interviews would either be live, or air unedited. My recall is that CBS never followed through on any of these interviews. Readers are welcome to fill in any gaps in yours truly’s memory.

The practice of “creative interviewing” continues. The latest to get caught doing it is New York Times “Questions For” writer Deborah Solomon.

At least this time, someone at the media outlet involved is openly questioning the technique. That would be Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt, who skewered Solomon’s methodology in his Sunday column (HT Don Luskin; link requires free registration; bolds are mine throughout this post):

The reality (of Solomon’s column) is something else: the 700 or so words each week are boiled down from interviews that sometimes last more than an hour and run 10,000 words. Though presented in a way that suggests a verbatim transcript, the order of the interview is sometimes altered, and the wording of questions is changed — for clarity or context, editors say. At least three interviews have been conducted by e-mail because the subjects couldn’t speak English or had other speech difficulties. And, Solomon told me, “Very early on, I might have inserted a question retroactively, so the interview would flow better,” a practice she said she no longer uses.

In other words, she admits that she made stuff up. Continuing (links added by me):

“Questions For” came under fire recently when a reporter for New York Press (that would be Matt Elzweig; it’s amazing how the Times chronically refuses to credit people for their work — Ed.) a free alternative weekly, interviewed two high-profile journalists — Amy Dickinson, the advice columnist who followed Ann Landers at The Chicago Tribune, and Ira Glass, creator of the public radio program “This American Life” — who said their published interviews with Solomon contained questions she never asked.

While the vast majority of Solomon’s interview subjects have never complained, these are not the first who have. Last year, The Times Magazine published an angry letter from NBC’s Tim Russert, who said that the portrayal of his interview with her was “misleading, callous and hurtful.”

Russert, the author of two books about his father, told me that the interview had been presented as an opportunity to talk about his mom on Mother’s Day. Instead, the interview, headlined, “All About My Father,” featured a seemingly insensitive Russert dodging Solomon’s questions about his mother. “I talked at great length about my mother,” he said, but none of it appeared in the published interview. Russert said that Solomon combined questions and took “an answer and transposed it to another question.”

Gerald Marzorati, the editor of the magazine, said, “We examined his complaint and found it more or less justified.” Russert had talked about his mother, Marzorati said, and Solomon made it appear that he had not. Solomon said, “I made a mistake not putting in what he said about his mother.”

Afterward, Marzorati said, a new policy was put in place, requiring that Solomon give the tapes of her interviews to her editor or a magazine researcher, in case a subject raised an objection. It was then, Solomon said, that she also stopped inserting retroactive questions.

In other words, she supposedly stopped making stuff up once she knew she would be taped.

Hoyt goes on to describe a Solomon interview with Ira Glass of Showtime’s “This American Life.” I come away from that segment believing that Solomon may have refined her “interviewing” technique to note a question asked, then following it with an answer that was given (perhaps even to another question) at a different point in the interview. In other words, there is reason to believe that Solomon is still trying her level best to make stuff within her new constraints.


….. In an interview with Columbia Journalism Review in 2005, Solomon said: “Feel free to mix the pieces of this interview around, which is what I do.”

“Is there a general protocol on that?” her questioner asked.

“There’s no Q. and A. protocol,” Solomon replied. “You can write the manual.” Solomon told me she was joking.

Judge for yourself. My verdict: Not joking.

Hoyt’s take on Solomon’s journalism:

In fact, there is a protocol, and “Questions For” isn’t living up to it. The Times’s Manual of Style and Usage says that readers have a right to assume that every word in quotation marks is what was actually said.

Imagine that.

Cross-posted at Newsbusters.org.


UPDATE: This would represent a significant degree of corroboration of the first two paragraphs above. Thanks, Ed.

Giuliani Promises He Will Lower Taxes, Calls Out Dems for Promising to Raise Them

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,Wide Open — Tom @ 7:46 am

Mark at Weapons of Mass Discussion will like this (Matt too, though I can’t find a post).

Just one Minute has two videos (HT Instapundit) where presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani promises that he “will lower taxes,” and that he “will lower the right taxes” — the ones that, when lowered, stimulate economic growth.

The two videos show a candidate who is a kick-butt presenter, totally on his game.

The former New York City Mayor points out that he cut taxes so many times, there’s a big dispute of just how many times there were. He also notes that of all the GOP candidates who talk about taxes, he’s the one who has actual experience cutting them. Can anybody credibly argue that Gotham, and the nation as a whole, isn’t better off because of Giuliani’s fiscal management while he was mayor? Remember that lib commentators were calling the Big Apple “ungovernable” in the last days of previous mayor David Dinkins. (In case anyone wonders, this is NOT an endorsement.)

After noting that the three leading Democratic candidates want to raise taxes substantially, Giuliani masterfully (second vid) calls out Hillary Clinton for this quote (fourth-last paragraph at link):

“I have a million ideas. The country can’t afford them all.”

He then wonders, “Can we afford any of them?”

Good question. Mrs. Clinton has proposed spending amounting to over $750 billion over a four-year presidential term. I count 15 ideas at the link, meaning that with over a year until the presidential election, she still has 999,985 ideas to choose from. Yikes.

Giuliani’s tax-cut promise, especially “the right taxes part,” is specific enough for me. It lays down an important marker in the campaign, one that the other GOP candidates need to respond to, and quickly.

Cross-posted at Wide Open.

Hillary Clinton Helped Start and (Still) Supports Media Matters

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:11 am

Here’s the vid.

Here’s a transcript of the relevant section:

…. we have certainly suffered over the last years from a real imbalance in the political world in our country. But we are righting that balance, or left-ing that balance, …. certainly (we are) better prepared and more focused on taking our arguments and making them effective and disseminating them widely, and really putting together a network, in the blogosphere, in a lot of new progressive infrastructure, institutions that I helped to start and support like Media Matters and the Center for American Progress. We’re beginning to match what I have said for years was the advantage of the other side.

Mrs. Clinton either a shameless resume-enhancing liar, or she’s in bed (eeewwww) with George Soros.

This is why in the future, the two organizations Mrs. Clinton named will be referred to by yours truly as SCAMM (Soros-Clinton’s Awful Media Matters) and SCRAP (Soros-Clinton’s Repealing American Progress), respectively.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (101507)

Inaction speaks louder than (lack of) words (HT John Stephenson at NewsBusters):

Every major daily paper in New York took note of President Bush’s decision to bestow the first Medal of Honor of Operation Enduring Freedom on Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy – a Long Islander who gave his life for his country and his fellow SEALs.

Every paper but one, that is.

And it shouldn’t be particularly hard to guess which one.

Here is Newsday’s coverage (with video), and Ellis Henican’s outstanding tribute, which ends thusly:

“He carried ….. the emblem of the New York City Fire Department (on his uniform). Engine 53, Ladder Company 43. El Barrio’s Bravest. The firefighters have their own memorial to him. You can look it up on their Web site. There is a huge plaque of Michael in uniform in the firehouse. The SEALs presented it to them. The firefighters touch it every day for good luck before they go out on a call.

“It’s all very personal.”

Actually, I don’t think the Times’s failure to cover Michael Murphy is as much a deliberate slap in the face at the military as it is a reflection of a newsroom mindset that Long Island isn’t part of the paper’s core constituency any more. Manhattan moonbats, and their philosophical kin around the country, are.

The Old Grey Lady’s journey towards becoming Manhattan’s quaint little alternative newspaper has progressed further than I had thought.


Don Luskin, on gold and inflation:

….. Today’s Fed is nearly blind to inflation risk, obsessed with bailing the economy out of the consequences of the subprime credit binge.It’s not just the Fed, either. No one seems really focused on inflation. And why should they be? Official measures like the CPI are heading down, after all. But those indicators lag reality. If I’m right about a new wave of inflation, it could take months or even years before it shows up in those statistics. Especially since inflation is being statistically masked by lucky flukes such as the flood of cheap consumer goods from China, artificially suppressing measured average prices.

….. Look at what’s happening already. At the first whiff of a housing slowdown in the U.S. last year, Ben Bernanke stopped raising interest rates. Last month, after a little bout of market volatility triggered when some subprime mortgages went into default, Bernanke cut rates. Imagine what Bernanke would do if things started to really get bad. Interest rates would be back to 1% before you know it. I think they’d be zero, or even negative, if Bernanke thought he could pull it off.

Whether that would be enough to do anything about a housing collapse I have no idea. But I know that it would ignite a wave of inflation pressures.

….. There’s no way out but up for gold now. Either the global boom continues and rising demand carries gold higher, or the boom goes bust and the consequent inflation does the job for gold.

I’m not sure I buy into Luskin’s delayed-inflation premise, but the gold bugs do. My tendency is to trust the instincts of the markets above my own in matters such as these.


Taranto, on Al Gore’s POS Peace Prize:

When the Nobel Peace Prize was established more than a century ago, wars were largely fought between traditional nation-states over material interests. But the 20th century saw the rise of a series of aggressive ideologies–communism, Nazism, radical Islam–that render old-fashioned notions of war and peace quaint. Determined ideologues cannot be appeased; peace through strength is the only alternative to war.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee rejects strength as well as war–hence its failure to award a Nobel to Ronald Reagan for winning the Cold War (Mikhail Gorbachev got one for losing, in 1990), or, say, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for averting armed international conflict in Europe for half a century after World War II.

But why Al Gore? Here’s one explanation: Global warmism is an all-encompassing ideology, but one that, unlike communism, Nazism and radical Islam, has yet to inspire anyone to take up arms. Maybe in defining “peace” the Norwegians have simply decided not to set their sights too high.

We can be relieved that at least Gore didn’t get awarded a science-based Nobel.

More: Consensus, conschmensus — and a BizzyBlog blast from the past.

Plus this additional BB past blast — “Settled, Schmettled.”

Still more: Judge this, why doncha?


Rush elaborates on what should come to be known as Bull-SCHIP:

….. to send him (Graeme Frost) out there as a 12-year-old, and say that Bush wants to deny and the Republicans want to deny coverage to people like him is just incorrect. It is a falsehood and it is a lie — and they continue to use children as foils like this. This program is exactly what, as it’s currently constituted? The S-CHIP program is exactly what got Graeme Frost and his sister their coverage! Yet they send him out there to say that Bush wants to deny people like him coverage? No! Bush is for increasing the coverage to poor children by $4 billion a year.

Another alternative name for the program: ParisCare.

Positivity: Teen Walks Out Of Rehab After He Was Given Dim Prospects Of Survival

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Greenfield, NH (video at link):

POSTED: 6:22 pm EDT September 28, 2007

After Matt Pratt, 16, was in a serious accident in July, doctors told his family he likely wouldn’t survive. When he did, doctors thought he wouldn’t walk or talk again. But Friday, he walked out of a rehabilitation center and will spend his first night at home in nearly three months.

“We were very concerned when Matt first came to us,” said Barbara Berwick of Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center.

Matt arrived at Crotched Mountain in a coma, the victim of a car crash in Langdon, N.H., on July 2. He had a broken neck and pelvis, and his arm was shattered. He’d lost his spleen and ruptured his bowel. He also had a serious brain injury.

The crash is still under investigation. Police said Matt was a passenger in a car being driven by his friend. The car went out of control and slammed into a telephone pole, and although Matt was buckled in, he was still ejected.

“If he got through the first few weeks, the next step was what quality of life he would have,” said his mother, Joan Pratt.
Therapists said that it was unclear how well Matt would recover from the brain injury.

“With brain injuries, it’s hard to tell what he’s going to gain. How fast they’re going to gain. Everyone has their own timetable for recovery,” Berwick said.

After 30 days in a coma, Matt opened his eyes and came out of the shadows. His family said the care that he received at Crotched Mountain led to his recovery.

“It’s a second home,” said his father, Mike Pratt. “It’s great. It’s like a family atmosphere here.”

Matt’s friend, Caleb Perham, said he never had any doubt that he would see his friend back to his old self.

“Ever since I’ve known Matt, he was real stubborn,” Perham said.

With his parents by his side, Matt went through rigorous rehabilitation.

“I beat the odds,” Matt said.

His parents have to help him stand, but Matt can walk and talk. He said that the people at Crotched Mountain worked hard to bring him back.

Go here for the rest of the story.