« Supply-side "straight talk" from McCain | Main | Bork: For tort reform before he was against it »

June 13, 2007


While the technicalities of the error were easy to catch by an editor, the Post (and other MSM) will not do so if the story fits in with the prevailing "meme" about Gore -- that he will say or misstate anything to win an argument. When facts hit up against this paradigm, the paradigm wins. We saw this behavior by the Post throughout the 2000 election campaign and it contributed significantly to Gore's defeat by an unqualified opponent.

If only it were true that this sort of sloppiness is tolerated only in opinion journalism. Sadly, mistakes on the news side of the paper are every bit as common, and don't appear to be the career-destroyers you imagine.

Remember Jayson Blair? Here's part of the Wikipedia entry on him:

By 2000, his editors were rebuking Blair for the high error rate in his articles and his sloppy work habits, but in January 2001, despite making more mistakes than any other writer in the paper's Metro section, Blair was made a full-time staff reporter.

After several more mistakes, poor evaluations and a period of leave during which he was said to be dealing with "personal problems," Blair's editor Jonathan Landman sent a memo to management, warning them "to stop Jayson from writing for The New York Times. Right now." Instead, in 2002, Blair was promoted to the national desk.

Despite recurring criticism of his performance, he was assigned to the Beltway sniper attacks, in particular because he knew the area and seemed "hungry." Blair wrote 52 stories during the sniper attacks. His reporting errors were so serious that one led a prosecutor to hold a press conference to denounce the claim that "all the evidence" pointed to Lee Boyd Malvo being the shooter. The error rate of Blair's material again became an issue internally. In another instance, Fairfax County, Virginia, prosecutor Bob Horan claimed that 60 percent of a story written by Blair, in which he was quoted, was inaccurate.

Despite such accusations and many corrections the paper was forced to make in the wake of his reporting, Blair continued to cover critical stories for The New York Times, moving from the sniper attacks to national coverage of the Iraq war. In his four years at The Times, Blair wrote more than 600 articles.

The comments to this entry are closed.