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July 26, 2007

Guild Loyalties?

Not to escalate my current dispute with J-Pod -- which I hope he takes in the spirit it's offered, a good-natured disagreement -- but CJ writes the following. I've edited out some of the stronger stuff out of respect for NRO.

I am not in the media business and know nothing about it, but it seems to me that a number of people (all of the NRO) who are poo-pooing this story [are part of the] good old boy school of journalism...

...

Yes, they are on your side politcally, but that's only where it doesn't [conflict with class/guild loyalties]. The problem isn't journalism as the left practices it or the right practices it. The problem is journalism.

I'll say that's overstated, but there does seem to be a feeling out there -- maybe J-Pod isn't guilty of this, but we have seen this before -- that if a blogger breaks a story, it must not have been a story, because only those in the media are actually qualified to break stories, and, if they don't break it, it is, ipso facto, not a story.

We saw that with Rathergate, God knows, and a dozen times since then. It's not actually a story unless and until the MSM says it is, and if the story doesn't originate somewhere within their ranks, they're very reluctant to confirm story status on it.

As I said last night, I do not consider the name of Scott Thomas Beauchamp "huge." I said it was a "random name" which would mean nothing to anyone. I also said there was an angle in the how of how he got hired, but that too was not "huge" -- a story, yes, but not a huge one.

I do not believe this is a huge story, even though it is giving me lots of traffic. It is a fairly minor story. I admit this.

But yeah, it's a minor story that broke here, and and even a minor story is still, in fact, a story. And the media runs hundreds of minor stories every day about bigger stories -- unable to actually make progress on the bigger story, they nibble around the edges with smaller stories tangential to the big one.

J-Pod, I'm afraid, is behaving as if he's never witnessed such a phenomenon in all of of his years of journalism.

Huge story? Definitely not. I've repeatedly, expressly warned people this was not a huge story. I warned them not to expect a huge thing.

But not a story at all? Are you kidding me? No story value here whatever? No resonance with the Plame matter? No questions about TNR's candidate-search processes? No questions about TNR just running a guy's claims without fact-checking them because he is vouched for personally by someone on the staff -- his wife, of course -- and because, of course, he is politically "one of us"?

No story value in that Jon? Not even a little teensey itty bitty bit?

The fact of the matter that this guy was hired for all the wrong reasons -- ease of recruitment, social relationship to the organization, the right political leaning -- which is, I guess, fine and all, and fairly common, but one certainly should not then run such a dubiously-qualified "reporter's" stories with no fact-checking whatsoever. Hire him if you will, sure, but you cannot pretend you have just hired someone like John Burns whose track record and experience and reputation make his dispatches nearly self-verifying.

More fact-checking -- before the stories were run, mind you -- were needed based upon who this guy was and how he got hired, not less, for God's sakes.

And especially at TNR, which, I must stress, has a rather bad history with young, ambitious, unproven reporters with yearnings for a book deasl and minds that run toward the creatively, fictively faux-dramatic.


Admission: This story is being overplayed on the right because, let's face it, it's slightly juicy. It's got the thrill of a secret revealed to it. Undoubtedly more is being read into it than should be. No doubt I'm getting more traffic today than Blackfive, Greyhawk, etc., who really ought to be getting more traffic, because their reportage is more important.

So I concede that: This is a minor story which is, wrongly, playing huge just because it has a little bit of skullduggery and sex appeal to it.

On the other hand, it does have the benefit of being a new fact, rather than new (or old) speculation and analysis. New facts always get big play, even when they're not, in the scheme of things, the biggest new facts one could imagine.

But , yes, the story is probably getting more attention that it deserves. And yet I still reject the claim that there is no story here at all. There is a story here. Just not a huge one.

Hire someone related to the magazine by marriage? Wouldn't be the first time, God knows.

Let this person, with scarce additional qualifications or experience apart from his personal relaionship with a staffer, run his pieces with no fact-checking?

That is a story. And for TNR, more than any other news outfit (with, perhaps, the exception of CBSNews), an absolute disgrace which can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.


On Fact-Checking TNR: If Confederate Yankee can find the email of the supervising officer in this area of Baghdad within a half hour, and get a response an hour later, why is it that Franklin Foer couldn't have?

Why is Franklin Foer only doing this fact-checking now?

And let's address a flat-out lie by Foer:

Although the article was rigorously edited and fact-checked before it was published, we have decided to go back and, to the extent possible, re-report every detail.

There is no other way to characterize this: This statement is a lie.

This is what Foer means by "rigorous editing and fact-checking," it seems:

"We showed the stories to people who'd been embedded in Iraq to make sure that it all smelled good. We talked to one of the members of his unit to confirm the woman, a female contractor. We talked to a medic who'd served in Iraq to make sure that a woman could be in an FOB. We spent a lot of time with him on the phone asking hard questions."


Let's see... rigourous editing and fact checking. Four parts to that:

1) Pass the stories around to people who were not witnesses to see if it "smells good" -- i.e., is not immediately, jump-right-out-at-you absurdly fraudulent.

2) "Confirm the woman," whatever that means. That she exists? That she was wounded? What? Well, there was a woman in Baghdad -- that much Foer can swear to you.

3) Establish that women are in fact permitted in FOB Falcon, which, um, I'm not sure anyone ever doubted.

4) Ask the "reporter" hard questions. Like, I imagine: "Really? You're sure? No bullshittin'? Seriously, are you jerking my chain?"

As if asking him that would eventually produce the response, "Please! I can't take it any longer! I admit it! I faked a lot of the details!"

Rigorous editing and fact-checking, Franklin?

Pull the other one why don't you.

I guess you did so much fact-checking you haven't asked Ryan Lizza to stay on (he having departed to work at another magazine) in order to lead the actual fact-checking investigation now, huh?

If this fact-checking was done before, why do you not already have the confirmations -- the names, the emails, the phone-numbers, etc. -- ready to share with everyone?

Why is it your whole magazine is scrambling to prove these things true now?


digg this
posted by Ace at 06:08 PM

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