Friday, April 8, 2011

NRO - Not Reporting Objectively?

Now Re-editing Outrageously?

Never Remember Offensiveness?

Nimrod Reporter Obfuscates?

Well, I thought NRO meant National Review Online.

Whatever it means, I believe from here forward I'll take anything they publish with a grain (or maybe a shaker) of salt.

Here's the deal:

On April 4, Robert Costa at NRO published an interview with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-evolting, SC) who wanted to clarify his utterly gawd-awful remarks on limiting free speech from the day before. You remember. He said:
"I wish we could find some way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we're in a war."
And then he was shocked (shocked!) to realize that ordinary Americans were outraged at his lack of comprehension when it comes to the Constitution. So, apparently as ignorant of "The First Rule of Holes" as he is of basic American principles, Graham called Costa to borrow a shovel to clarify his remarks. He said (among other things):
"General Petraeus sent a statement out to all news organizations yesterday, urging our government to ban Koran burning. Free speech probably allows that, but I don’t like that."

This is where it gets interesting.

After being linked by several other sites, including Hot Air and Reason, Costa went back and changed his piece. Now the interview reads (emphasis mine):
General Petraeus sent a statement out to all news organizations yesterday, urging our government to [condemn] Koran burning. Free speech probably allows that, but I don’t like that.

Excuse me?

What the hell happened here?

Well, according to Costa, there was a transcription error. He was befuddled by the Senator's southern accent and misheard. He corrected his error by changing the word (and adding brackets - flashy!) and including this at the end of his piece:
"EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been amended since its original posting."

Now, I'm not a reporter. Hell, I don't even play one on TV. But I spend an inordinate amount of my time reading the news. I have never seen a "correction" handled in this fashion. Nevah!

In fact, the only times I've seen brackets within a quote is when the writers/editors are clarifying something... and in those cases the brackets specifically denote that the wording is not a direct quote. (For the record, I checked with an actual newspaper reporter of my acquaintance who concurs.)

I call bullshit.

And I'm not the only one. From the comments on the Reason article:
"Fishy. That's not plausibly a transcribing error, so either NRO intentionally misquoted him or they're covering his ass."

Nailed it in one.

I have a thing for accents. I love them, and it doesn't much matter what kind. (Except my own... which draws comments every time I speak to someone new. They always want to know what kind of accent it is. I dunno... hillbilly, I guess.) Anyway, I've listened intently to the music in others' speech all my life. I can not think of - or mimic - a single accent that turns "condemn" into "ban". Try it. Go on. Put on your best southern-fried and try it... No one can hear you. Probably.

The hard "d" in condemn wrecks it every time.

Furthermore, Graham's accent is mild. Here's the video of his original remarks to Bob Schieffer:

Are we seriously supposed to believe that that little bit o' nothin' twang is unintelligible?

At best, we can question NRO's correction policies, which is an amusing endeavor on its own. See, I searched the site for their correction policy. While I didn't find one, I did find a whole list of articles where they hammer other media outlets over sub par policy. That lovely list produced this little gem in a Donald Luskin piece celebrating the fact that NRO had succeeded in getting no less than the NYTimes to change their policy. Luskin rejoices:
No longer will the columnists be responsible for running their own corrections, appended as end-notes to their columns (or snuck into the main text so they don’t look like corrections at all).


Mind you, that quote was about the NYT's editorial page. Maybe NRO doesn't think it's important to hold straight reporters to the same standards.

But I did say that was an "at best" assumption. There's also an "at worst".

Maybe Senator Graham misquoted General Petraeus and the National Review is engaged in a little butt-covering on the Senator's behalf.

It is decidedly strange that Costa would go back after his piece was posted - and linked! - and relisten to the interview. Shouldn't he have done that before putting his (and Graham's) words on the worldwide web? Does he not realize that the old carpenters' motto of "measure twice, cut once" applies to much of life?

Does he not know (as even a humble blogger does) that you don't attribute a quote you aren't 100% certain of? And that (as even the same humble blogger knows) you don't correct a misquote by putting it in brackets and then not mentioning the fact that you screwed up?!

His "correction" doesn't say that he misquoted Graham. It simply says the article was amended. That could mean anything.

I don't like this. It's so fishy I wish we still had a government website for fishiness. (OK, not really.) But something stinks.

Mr. Costa, release the damn tape. If you did make a transcription error, you owe Graham more than the half-assed "correction" you offered. You owe him an apology.

And if it wasn't a transcription error, you owe your readers an apology.

Until the recording (and a better explanation) is offered up, I'm going to view NRO's reporting about the same way I view Bat Boy reporting from the Weekly World News...

Which is to say, with extreme prejudice and a near-total lack of belief.

Cross-posted at Republican Redefined


Matt said...

"I call bullshit."

You nailed it there.

ScratcherMMBI said...

Thanks, Matt.

I'm glad to know you see something off here, too.

Anonymous said...

A similar story about a congressman's comments about passing an anti-flag-burning amendment after 9/11 and the free and easy way news media construct "quotes."