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.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Those crazy echo chambers

As David Roberts put it,
There is no "echo chamber" more closed, more immune to outside correction, than the echo chamber of self-styled non-partisan technocrats.
That captures the irony. These same people -- the center-right echo chamber -- are in fact the ones who make the "echo chamber" accusation most often, of people to their left and right.

Of course, you can't convince them of this. If you could, they wouldn't be the echo chamber.

Friday, December 23, 2011

So ready to be done with this Politifact thing

Actually I think Gawker's post is one of the best:
What Politifact is, really, is just a blog written by some people at the St. Petersburg Times. But since it calls itself Politifact and assigns ratings that you can just glance over, it undeservedly becomes a irresistible cudgel to use against your political opponents. Politifact! It's a portmanteau of "politics" and "facts," so it can't be wrong.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Downside of the Boston Globe Still Having a Serious DC Bureau

I feel bad for the Globe. They manage to hold on to a fair amount of their talent in Boston. Then they send people to the DC bureau, where many of them shine (see this and this and this), and then get stolen away by larger news organizations, or higher posts. (Ok, Kornblut may never shine, but still got recruited away). The latest steal was Donovan Slack, nabbed the other week by Politico.

Yeah, maybe there's something in it for the Globe, in that people within the news biz know they find and develop talent, and it gives the paper cred. But I'd think for the Globe it's mostly just got to be frustrating.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Post-Politifact Era?

So Politifact picked as their "lie of the year" something that was actually true.

Matt Yglesias (Politifact's Bizarre "Lie of the Year") and Paul Krugman (Politifact, R.I.P.) sum this up well.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Once you're done reading the 20 or so Hitchens tributes in Slate ("Anna Wintour on Why Hitchens Was So Fun To Hang Out With"), here's some better stuff: Katha Pollitt on the various ways in which he was awful.

How did that Iraq war thing start, anyway?

Washington Post comes up with all sorts of other reasons why the Iraq war started, relegating WMD to just one little reason among a bunch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blackwater FOIA

I know sometimes Gawker does some silly stuff, but I think often they do really impressive stuff, too. For example: FOIAing the State Department for documents on Blackwater's horrible actions in Iraq.

Today in news to make you feel old

Sarah Ganim, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter who broke many aspects of the Penn State story, is 24. Read an interview with her here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Parallel parking

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Better Civil War reading

Ta-Nehisi Coates's new article is about claiming the Civil War as black history. He sets up how to this day the war is usually portrayed in the US as a tragedy, not a triumph. And how he hopes that will one day finally change.
For that particular community, for my community, the message has long been clear: the Civil War is a story for white people—acted out by white people, on white people’s terms—in which blacks feature strictly as stock characters and props. We are invited to listen, but never to truly join the narrative, for to speak as the slave would, to say that we are as happy for the Civil War as most Americans are for the Revolutionary War, is to rupture the narrative. Having been tendered such a conditional invitation, we have elected—as most sane people would—to decline.
I found it very useful.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Inside the warehouse

LA Times tours Greenpeace's SF warehouse of fun. They have one in Maryland, too.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

How we got here, here being that Obama uses Occupy language

Words are just words, and they're not policies. Still, that the President has dramatically changed his tone and now gives a speech railing about economic inequality is a rather big deal. I think Ezra Klein's piece this morning captures nicely how big the shift is and how it would be hard to believe Occupy didn't play a significant role in making this happen.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Mid-sized papers giving me hope

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is in the middle of a nine-part series on "how Florida police officers can stay on the job despite multiple complaints, crimes."
Reporters analyzed the 22,000 cases in the FDLE’s misconduct database, then filed public records requests to get the personnel files of more than 250 current and former officers.
Impressive stuff (and depressing). Gives me hope.

Gates Foundation in the news

Gates Foundation giving grant to far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Just great.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Martina Correia, 1967-2011

Martina Correia was the older sister of Troy Davis, and the driving force behind everything in the struggle to save his life. She was, meanwhile, fighting breast cancer, and she died on Thursday. No one can do this justice, but Laura Moye and Liliana Segura, who knew her well, are worth reading. Martina was a force to be reckoned with and everyone could only be in awe. She will be sorely missed.