Friday, June 1, 2012

Journalism in the Washington Post

Ignore the politics of the recall in Wisconsin. Focus, instead, on this example of flawed journalism that relates to the recall.

Or, more directly, why Greg Sargent's latest post should be an embarrassment for the Washington Post. Here is a moment Sargent tells us everyone is talking about. By which, Sargent means the people who made the video and support Barrett, a moment they want everyone to talk about. Because it helps their guy; nothing wrong with that. Making ads is part of politics. But, the problem is that Sargent, as a journalist, should have a better B.S. detector.

Since, you know people are all talking about how "Greg Sargent [of the Washington Post] will write anything you give him. He was the go-to guy to leak stuff," he should do a better job of not feeding that narrative. But, you ask, surely he did at least vet it to see that he was repeating true, factual news, right? Well, no.

There is a curious fact that Sargent forgot to include, which I am also seeing in other places. Ann Althouse's blog covered it, which made me check out my personal B.S. detector: Google. Which, you know, I'd hope a journalist had access to. The take away: Barrett was wrong about his claim.

The PolitiFact piece is dated today at about 11:00 a.m. Not only that, but Althouse, who is probably the go-to blogger for all things Wisconsin, had her post up at 12:54 p.m., Blogger time. Sargent's post is time stamped at 5:06 p.m. So, people are talking about the thing Sargent posted, in the context of Barrett being wrong. Not only that, but, per PolitiFact: "To be sure, felony charges are among those pending, but none involving Walker aides or the appointee has yet resulted in a felony conviction."

If a newspaper were to say someone accused of a crime were a convicted felon, that is libel that is clear on its face. You can find that out by going to your AP style book and looking it up. I figured I'd state that since we're clearly not dealing with experienced journalists, oh wait, we are. So, why would the Washington Post (and Sargent!) reproduce an attack ad made by partisans that makes a claim that could be libel without fact checking the statement?

Because the WaPo trusts Sargent, and Sargent is a bad journalist. Let me provide some journalistic advice: If you are a journalist, and if you want people to trust you, it behooves you to fact check propaganda pieces sent to your inbox by political campaigns. That way, you don't embarrassingly reproduce propaganda and libel.

Or do they not teach that in J-school?



Links will come later tonight. It's not that I hate the Washington Post; it's just that I read their stuff so often that I notice the errors.

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