Thursday, December 29, 2011

Politico: Boston Globe Undermined Its Claim to Expertise by Getting John Kerry's Vietnam Story Correct

In "Boston Globe wants the Mitt Romney franchise," Politico's Dylan Byers rightly gives the Globe a tip of the hat for being one of the definitive sources on Mitt Romney -- particularly his history and biography.

But mixed into the story, Byers takes a bizarre tangent:
Presidential elections always present newspapers with the chance to be an authoritative voice on their hometown candidates, but they also bring in national media eager to find just the overlooked biographical detail or unexplained financial transaction that will redefine the candidate — and undermine the local paper’s claim to expertise.  

The Globe learned this lesson the hard way in 2004, shortly after it published its biography of another Massachusetts presidential candidate, Democrat John Kerry — a seven-part series on the candidate had appeared a year earlier. The Globe authors offered what, at the time, was the most detailed portrayal of Kerry’s Vietnam War experience, only to have that account overshadowed by the narrative presented by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the Republican group that largely succeeded in redefining what had been the highlight of Kerry’s career.  

Though the Globe’s initial reporting may have been accurate and thorough — “it stands the test of time,” said Michael Kranish, one of the book’s authors — the narrative was no longer theirs.  

Other papers have struggled on the national stage, as well. 
So while the Boston Globe's coverage of Kerry's time in Vietnam "may have been accurate and thorough," somehow the Globe had its expertise "undermine[d]" because other outlets later went on to get the Kerry history wrong?

By the Byers rule, imagine the stories various papers could be getting wrong right now! Perhaps the Dallas Morning News is failing in their Rick Perry coverage because they haven't yet reported future untrue allegations that Perry is Hindu! Perhaps the Salt Lake Tribune's Jon Huntsman coverage today will one day be seen as having missed future untrue allegations that Huntsman is actually a giraffe! The possibilities.

The Swift Boaters certainly had a huge effect on the 2004 election. But Byers and Politico are so post-fact that they think that's all that matters, and that it's actually irrelevant that the Swift Boaters were wrong. If the facts really don't matter, perhaps nothing's left to stop you from convincing yourself that the Globe had somehow undermined its claim to expertise in the matter by getting it correct.


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