Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Washington Post Re-Writes Lori Montgomery Lede; Paper May Actually Have Some Limits on its Deficit Campaigning

Earlier today, Mitchell Plitnick caught the Washington Post doing what it does so regularly: publishing extremely misleading (and in many cases outright false) articles about deficit issues. The Post had issued a breaking news alert headlined: "U.S. deficit to top $1 trillion for 4th year in a row." The article, by Lori Montgomery, began:
The federal budget deficit will top $1 trillion for a fourth straight year, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday in a report that predicts a nearly $1.1 trillion gap between government spending and tax collections for 2012.
Plitnick rightly pointed out that the lede was incredibly misleading, because the real news was what immediately followed it in the article:
That figure is the smallest – both in nominal terms and as a percentage of the economy – since the Great Recession began taking a heavy toll on the federal budget in 2009.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the deficit would continue to fall, dropping sharply in 2013 and throughout the remainder of the decade if policymakers follow through with major changes in both tax policy and government spending now on the books.
But what's happened now is shocking: I noticed that the Post has actually updated the article to make it better. In the version up now, stamped for 12:10pm, the headline is "U.S. deficit to top $1 trillion, smallest since ’09." And the lede is now:
The federal budget deficit will top $1 trillion for a fourth straight year, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday, but is likely to be the smallest since the Great Recession began taking a toll on the budget in 2009.
After the last few years, I thought there was nothing the Washington Post wouldn't let Lori Montgomery write. Most major papers usually don't let reporters so openly campaign in the news pages, and even for the Post, Montgomery's advocacy in the past few years, undeterred by facts, has stood out.

May the re-write of today's lede be one very, very small step in the right direction for the Post.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Schneiderman appointment

The President's announcement of a mortgage investigation committee, or whatever it is, was one of a relatively few substantive things in the SOTU that wasn't known very far at all in advance. Let alone that NY AG Eric Schneiderman would be a co-chair. I don't really follow this stuff, so I don't know what to believe. RJ Eskow has a look at the arguments that this is a victory, a sell-out, and various possibilities in between.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Associated Press Calls Suspect Abu Zubaydah a "Terrorist"

Abu Zubaydah is being held indefinitely in Guantanamo Bay, and he has not been convicted of a crime -- or even charged.

The Associated Press, which is usually more careful about these things, today referred to Zubaydah as a "terrorist."
A former CIA officer who told reporters he participated in the interrogation of terrorist Abu Zubaydah has been charged with leaking classified secrets about CIA operatives and other information to reporters.
The AP has changed it in a later version of the article, although the original one still appears on some sites. This new version refers to Zubaydah as a "top suspected terrorist" and "suspected al Qaeda financier."

The Washington Post, which sent out an email news alert this afternoon using AP's flawed language, now has its own article, terming Zubaydah an "alleged al-Qaeda operative," while Politico goes with "alleged al-Qaeda leader." The DOJ press release uses "terrorism suspect."

It's good that AP changed the language in its later versions, but the original version should be corrected. And this shouldn't happen in the first place.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Mini Minimalist / ganache videos

Time to rewind to a classic series of three videos.

1. Mark Bittman makes chocolate ganache.
2. The Mini Minimalist version (he was three).
3. Minimalist and Mini Minimalist make popsicles.

"... ganache -- a word that's so intimidating that many people never bother to make the stuff."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Things Obama did you didn't even know

Actual lines from Andrew Sullivan's Obama lovefest on the cover of Newsweek:
Under Obama, support for marriage equality and marijuana legalization has crested to record levels. Under Obama, a crucial state, New York, made marriage equality for gays an irreversible fact of American life. 
I mean, really. If we're listing events that aren't the actions of the federal administration, why even stop there?!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Joe Nocera's BP lovefest

David Gessner sets the record straight on Nocera's column from last week, which said that on the Gulf Coast, the "beaches are sparkling."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tea Party relevancy

I'm surprised when I hear people ask about "what has the Tea Party actually done?" or suggest it doesn't matter anymore. David Weigel lays out how the Tea Party has completely set the Republican agenda, and the policies of the GOP presidential candidates (excluding Huntsman, sort of, but including Romney). Yeah, we all know this stuff already, I think. But sometimes people forget it.

The Tea Party isn't what they were a few years ago, obviously. But in many senses a lot of their work is done and remains in place -- moving the goal posts, creating a new normal.

More tornadoes on weekdays

Yup. Linked to pollution during the week.


Ok, to everyone who makes fun of me for bikesharing the fairly short distance from the Woodley Park metro to 18th and Columbia. This just in from data crunching by a GGW reader:
The four most common one-way trips are Adams Mill/Columbia to Calvert/Woodley and back as well as Eastern Market Metro to Lincoln Park and back.
Basically everyone's doing it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Non-stop" with a stop

WSJ catches several airlines, particularly United Continental, making unscheduled refueling stops on flights from Europe to the Northeast. The problem: the airlines are using more 757s on the routes, and the winter winds have been unusually strong. The issue actually isn't new, but it's gotten worse:
Last month, United said, its 169-seat 757s had to stop 43 times to refuel out of nearly 1,100 flights headed to the U.S. A year earlier, there were only 12 unscheduled stops on roughly the same volume of 757 flights.
Note that if a WSJ article is locked when you get to it, you can cut a phrase from the first paragraph, put it in Google, and then you can read it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Politics & Prose in Doonesbury


Friday, January 06, 2012

Discussion of "The Obamas" begins

Huffington Post seems to have gotten an advance on some parts of Jodi Kantor's new "The Obamas" book. And it's very interesting, about conflict between Michelle Obama and Rahm Emanuel.

Of course, these books should always be taken with a grain of salt, no matter who writes them (I don't have an idea of Kantor's history and how it compares to some of the others who do these things, like Suskind or Woodward). You can tell pretty clearly in that article that these are the claims of Michelle Obama's camp, and of Rahm Emanuel's camp. So it's not one clear factual story out of here, but effectively a series of accusations, which is very different but still extremely important.

Reading the HuffPost piece made me think how little information has emerged about Michelle Obama's role in the White House. Kind of important. And, if Kantor's right -- and it does make sense -- a rather important positive force.

Oh Hank Johnson

Remember Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, who was concerned that if there were more people on Guam the island might tip over and capsize?

A small earthquake the other day had Johnson declaring victory:
Don't say I didn't warn y'all. "Magnitude 5.2 Earthquake - Guam Region" on.doi.gov/ykLyab
Not sure which is worse: no one on staff explained he was wrong, or he didn't get it. Or he gets it, but thinks he can dig himself out?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Fact-checking as separate from most journalism

Alec MacGillis nicely sums up the point that the "fact checker" columns shouldn't be something totally separate from all reporting; indeed, this new "fact checker" set up seems to explicitly imply that it's not the job of "normal" news pieces to hold anyone accountable. Leave any actual thinking to the fact checker column, apparently.

Of course, (do pardon me here), while it's nice everyone is getting on this point now (while the self-appointed factcheckers are rightly in ill-repute), a number of us were making this point back several years ago when the "fact checker" trend was taking off.

It's not unrelated to the problem of the term "investigative journalism" -- implying that other journalism doesn't involve investigating stuff.

Monday, January 02, 2012

"Walking Wikipedia"

Oy. The term is "walking encyclopedia," not "walking Wikipedia," NY Times.