September 08, 2004

How to Read a Newspaper (Updated)

I'm annoyed at the AP. My post yesterday made no sense after several people in my comments box pointed out that a Dick Cheney quote I republished had been Dowdified by the reporter.

I didn't agree with the Dowdified quote. I didn't agree with the real quote, either, but at least what Cheney actually said was less obnoxious than what I first thought.

Mark Twain famously said "The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." This is so true. I know this in part because when I know a subject well I often scoff at how non-specialty newspapers cover it. My wife says the same thing, and her areas of knowledge are completely separate from mine.

So count me as one who appreciates what Jeremy Brown wrote today on his blog:

The trick is to not just believe what you read in the papers anymore. Naw man, you got to swagger in like you goin' into a used car dealership. Then you got to show them motherfuckers you ain't no easy mark, that you ain't nobody's two bit skank, never was, and got no plans to be.
Yep. I guess so. It's been that way for centuries now, hasn't it Mr. Twain?


UPDATE: Katherine in the comments points to this this Washington Post story:

In a change that highlighted the sensitivity of Cheney's statement, the White House yesterday released a revised version of the transcript of his remarks. The official transcript, posted on the White House Web site Tuesday afternoon and e-mailed to reporters, said: "(I)t's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again."

In a version released Tuesday to reporters traveling with Cheney, however, the period at the end of "hit again" was removed and replaced with a comma, which linked his blunter statement to his standard stump language expressing concern that future attacks would be treated as "just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war."

(Sigh.)

So, okay. Maybe the quote wasn't actually Dowdified. It was taken out of context, which is kinda lame but a lot less lame. Then again, I'm going to follow Jeremy's advice and remain suspicious of newspapers at least for the rest of the day.

I would ask if anyone has an audio link to the Cheney speech, but it isn't really important. The reason I wanted to comment on this in the first place was to make a couple of points that aren't even relevant any more anyway. There is a point when a "he said, she said" argument about punctuation gets tiresome (how do you pronounce a comma, anyway?) and I think we've passed it. Next subject...

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2004 07:59 PM
Comments

It's simple. You just have to remember that 9 out of 10 journalists identify themselves as Democrats.

Posted by: David at September 8, 2004 08:06 PM

David: is that such a bad thing?

Posted by: someone at September 8, 2004 08:09 PM

It's simple. You just have to remember that 9 out of 10 people who post comments on blogs talk out of their ass with silly, made up statistics that have no sources and no basis in reality.

cough*Thatmeansyou,David*cough

Posted by: Greg at September 8, 2004 08:10 PM

...9 out of 10 (I'm sure the actual number in much higher) CEOs identify themselves as Republicans.

Posted by: someone at September 8, 2004 08:10 PM

Forgive me if I sound stupid (I'm drunk), but: 9 out of 10 ballerinas identify themselves as women -- does that mean that they are bad ballerinas? No, it doesn't.

Posted by: someone at September 8, 2004 08:14 PM

I've only been aware of blogs for maybe 15 months, but it is incredible the impact they have had on how I view the network news/CNN, newspapers and the wire services. Time and again blatant episodes of errors, bias and incomplete reporting have been discovered and reported in this medium.

During the 15 years I worked on Wall St., every time there was an article on a transaction in which I was involved, the journalists made major reporting errors. 100% of the time, covering a couple of hundred transactions. That included the NYT business section, the Journal's journalism pages, Business Week etc. I always assumed that was because reporters either a) didn't have sufficient expertise in the field they were reporting on or b) felt the need to "dumb things down" for a mass audience.

In hindsight, given what blogs have demonstrated about the mass media I now think it was c) deliberate tailoring of stories to fit pre-conceived story lines.

I don't know how far blogs will go in becoming primary disseminators of news, but as a watchdog and corrective to the mass media they have already established huge value.

It really is amazing to see.

Posted by: spc67 at September 8, 2004 08:14 PM

It simple when you see an article on a speech which raises your hackle it should ALSO raise
a redflag and prompt you to

READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT!!!!!!!

Unless I am mistaken it is here,

http://www.georgebush.com/News/Read.aspx?ID=3461

I took out these cuts.

"It's vitally important that the decision we make going forward this year -- get it right. Because there are fundamental differences between the way the President wants to proceed and the way we've operated now for the last three years, and the way Senator Kerry would approach these problems. I think the record is pretty clear."

< He then says some nice things about Kerry's Vietnam service sinc I did not hear the speech, but am only reading it I do not know if these are flat statements or were spoken with a sarcastic tone>

The problem I have with Senator Kerry's record is what happened after he got to the United States Senate, and what he did for 20 years in the Senate.

OK Michael tell me what I am over looking.

Which part of the speech do you find obnoxious?

For it to be "less" obnoxious implies a degree remaining.

What parts does Cheney misrepresent? Kerry's voting record? Kerry's support and then opposition to various issue.

Where is the remaining lesser amount of poison you accused the man of spreading.

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at September 8, 2004 08:18 PM

Someone,

That's not REMOTELY accurate.Here's a partial list.

CEO's are all over the lot. Much of silicon valley runs Democrat, as does much of Wall st.

Posted by: spc67 at September 8, 2004 08:18 PM

"9 out of 10 (I'm sure the actual number in much higher) CEOs identify themselves as Republicans"--someone
"It's simple. You just have to remember that 9 out of 10 people who post comments on blogs talk out of their ass with silly, made up statistics that have no sources and no basis in reality" --Greg

In line with statistics, 2 out of 2 posters have taken the point made by MJT and made themselves look foolish with it.

Posted by: dougf at September 8, 2004 08:19 PM

dougf: First of all, it is not the same point. Secondly, even if it were, you cannot point the finger at me and Greg since both weren't aware of the other poster's post (he posted first, and I started typing prior to Greg's pressing of the submit button)

Posted by: somebody at September 8, 2004 08:21 PM

I'm annoyed at the AP. My post yesterday made no sense after several people in my comments box pointed out that a Dick Cheney quote I republished had been Dowdified by the reporter.
************************************************
Michael, Michael (shaking head ruefully)

This is the same AP that reported.

"The AP ran this story:

WEST ALLIS, Wis. - President Bush (news - web sites) on Friday wished Bill Clinton (news - web sites) "best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery." "He's is in our thoughts and prayers," Bush said at a campaign rally. Bush's audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed. Bush did nothing to stop them. "

A number of people who were at the rally and didn't hear any boos sent angry emails to the AP, which resulted in a rewrite of the story. If you follow the link to the original story, this is what you get. Nothing.

The AP put up a revised version which is exactly the same as the original, except that it omits the two sentences about the crowd booing and Bush "doing nothing to stop them." No explanation and, as of yet, no apology.

Meanwhile, someone came up with an audio of the President Bush's speech, which is linked to by Drudge. Listen to it here. The audio is stunning. When the President says that he's just received word that Clinton had been hospitalized, you can hear the crowd react with sympathy and dismay. When Bush goes on to say that President Clinton is in our thoughts and prayers, and we send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery, the crowd applauds and cheers enthusiastically. No booing. None.
***************************************************
Now we small town Hicks in Flyover Land have a saying "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on _________"

For 10 extra credit points fill in the blank ;-)

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at September 8, 2004 08:24 PM

Correction:

It's simple. You just have to remember that 55% of journalists identify themselves as Liberals, and only 17% identify themselves as conservatives.

http://www.mrc.org/SpecialReports/2004/report063004_p2.asp

Posted by: David at September 8, 2004 08:26 PM

Dan: Where is the remaining lesser amount of poison you accused the man of spreading.

I don't think what Cheney said is poison. (Although I did first think so.)

Cheney says Kerry would respond to another 911 as though the terrorists were mere criminals. I don't see evidence of that. Maybe I'm missing it, though.

I do remember a few people who said we should treat Al Qaeda and the Taliban as though they were mere criminals, but John Kerry was not one of those people.

I have problems with John Kerry. But this is not one of them. I don't think he has a grasp of any pro-active grand-strategy, and I don't trust him to pre-emptively take out a threat.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2004 08:29 PM

I would imagine it difficult to find out
the political affliation of CEOs

I will point out that according to
http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/donordemographics.asp?cycle=2002

Democrats get 90% of all Political donations of $1 Million Dollars and up

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at September 8, 2004 08:33 PM

"...9 out of 10 (I'm sure the actual number in much higher) CEOs identify themselves as Republicans."

Actually, the number would be substantially lower, probably in the 60% range.

Posted by: Gerry at September 8, 2004 08:44 PM

>>>...9 out of 10 (I'm sure the actual number in much higher) CEOs identify themselves as Republicans."

The lucky for you they aren't the ones reporting the news.

Posted by: David at September 8, 2004 08:49 PM

Hey -- everbody is commenting on my 9/10 CEO/Repbulican remark, but not on the 9/10 ballerina/woman remark.

Posted by: somebody at September 8, 2004 09:05 PM

I don't think [Kerry] has a grasp of any pro-active grand-strategy,

I don't think Kerry would be so stupid as to initiate a war that would, in effect, succeed primarily in liberating fundamentalist Islamic fanatics.

I see what you mean about the Cheney quote - the AP lopped off the last part of the sentence, and I was focussing on the wrong part before - but it's still a pretty putrid quote.

Posted by: kc at September 8, 2004 09:14 PM

Michael,

It's always hard to figure out what's going on. Hell, I don't even know what the office politics are where I work. Newspapers don't solve the problem, they just throw out bits and scraps. I treat it like gossip, and bear in mind that some gossips are malicious and enjoy stirring up trouble. What else can one do? Life moves on, the present recedes into myth, the future arrives unexpected, and no one knows wtf is going on at the moment. Life's a bitch if we think to play G*d.

Posted by: chuck at September 8, 2004 09:32 PM

Grrr. OK, I HATE to admit this, but when you're wrong, you're wrong. [grudgingly] You're right, Mr. Totten, when I read the whole quote, it really isn't as dreadful as I first thought it was.

So on a putrid scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most putrid, I'd have to scale it back from a 10 to, I dunno, a 7.5.

Posted by: kc at September 8, 2004 09:39 PM

kc,

that's great, but more importantly, ask yourself what's up at the AP that they're so selectively and deceitfully delivering the news like that. It can't have anything to do with their ideology right?

Posted by: David at September 8, 2004 09:42 PM

KC: when I read the whole quote, it really isn't as dreadful as I first thought it was.

No biggie. We're all wrong about stuff. I was wrong, too.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2004 09:49 PM

The difference between law enforcement and war is simple: In law enforcement, you must wait for the perpetrators to commit a crime. That's the law. (Our law, anyway.)

In war, you identify the enemy and eliminate the enemy's ability to inflict harm. Because the alternative is losing the society that sustains the law.

Cheney's lapse doesn't seem a lapse to me at all. It was a gauntlet thrown down to the Democrats, and so far what we've gotten is the charge of "No fair!"

The targets of Jihad will get hit again, and the only question that counts will be do the targets bind themselves in the rule of law, or do they respond with war. I want to hear Team Kerry come out in favor of war.

Posted by: Mark Poling at September 8, 2004 10:25 PM

On a different tack, a healthy disrespect for the press might be the best side effect of this whole internet thing. As Michael pointed out, Mark Twain back in the nineteenth century had this all sussed out. You academics out there might write a great little book about how the press went from a ridiculed entertainment to the sword-bearers of righteousness and (soon) back to their roots.

A good working title would be "From Sinners to Saints to Sinners in 150 Easy Years."

Or not so easy.

Posted by: Mark Poling at September 8, 2004 10:29 PM

Michael: The original White House transcript reported Cheney's remarks as follows:

Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again. That we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war.

The White House later released a "corrected" transcript that ran the sentences together. See the last three paragraphs of this Washington Post story.

You can argue that the second sentence is important context that the AP should not have left out, but reporters make judgement calls about shortening quotations all the time. It's not "Dowdifying". (This is actually much, much less blatant than the way Kerry's "more sensitive war on terror" remark was taken out of context and distorted by both the Bush campaign and the press.)

I didn't hear Cheney's remarks, so I can't comment on which punctuation is more accurate. I am inclined to think the White House is covering its a*s, but who knows. Anyway, I don't blame the AP for relying on an official transcript (anymore than I blame you), so I think a second correction is in order.

Posted by: Katherine at September 8, 2004 11:50 PM

Katherine,

Boy am I tired of this subject now! I posted a correction. Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 9, 2004 12:37 AM

Okay, so everybody's tired of this overly serious and tedious story. Here's something to lighten the mood...

BUSHISM #1,764,3...oh hell, I've lost count::

At a rally of cheering Bush supporters in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Bush made his usual pitch for limiting "frivilous" lawsuits that he said drive up the cost of health care and run doctors out of business. But then he added, "We've got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

Unfazed, Bush went on to deride his rivals as "pro-trial lawyer" and concluded, "I think you've got to make a choice. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket. I made my choice. I'm for medical liability reform now."

Posted by: Grant McEntire at September 9, 2004 12:54 AM

See? Politics is fun again!

Posted by: Grant McEntire at September 9, 2004 12:54 AM

Maybe Bush should have these out of "practice" OB-GYNs talk to his friend Bob Dole?

Oooooh snap! I made a funny.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at September 9, 2004 12:58 AM

George W. Bush: Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country.

Would you please stop that? You're the president.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 9, 2004 01:09 AM

MJT,

I saw a video of Cheney's speech, and I think you we're right the first time. Cheney said what AP said he said. Cheney would be wise to claim that he mispoke, rather than that he was misquoted.

Posted by: HA at September 9, 2004 03:27 AM

Michael, I have one word for you: NUKULAR. That's the one I wish he would learn to pronounce.

But, Congrats to Michael for his speedy clarification and admission that maybe he overreacted to a less than complete quote.

Compare this to how MSM deals with such things: newspapers publish "corrections" or "clarifications" many days, weeks, or months after the fact and bury them on the lower inside corner of page 7 just below the Macy's One Day Sale ads; on television they correct the story, again, days, weeks, or months later, in a brief little piece just before the jump from the Weather to a string of ads.

Bloggers, OTOH, place their corrections front and center at the top of their current page.

I'm with Mark Twain on this one. Oh, and remember all that criticism of W as being "uncurious" because he doesn't read newspapers?

Posted by: steve at September 9, 2004 03:27 AM

Well, that Mark Twain quote is going to make my e-mail signature file rotation.

Regarding newspapers - and I'll extend that to the media in general - I just ran across this recently:

http://www.projectcensored.org/publications/2005/11.html

The site appears to be very much to the left. However, if the court decision it refers to is legitimate, it would make the movie "Absence of Malice" look like something that harkens back to a more innocent day and age.

Posted by: joekm at September 9, 2004 05:34 AM

also tired of this subject, but thanks for the correction.

Posted by: Katherine at September 9, 2004 07:03 AM

The AP has become an entirely unreliable source of information, having apparently sold its journalistic integrity in favor of a Kerry win. After the bogus report of boos when Bush asked a crowd to pray for Clinton's recovery (which AP had to retract, it being an utter fabrication) and this bogus report of Cheney's remarks, it is quite clear that the AP cannot be relied upon for any information about this election.

Posted by: Smaack at September 9, 2004 07:38 AM

Michael,

My reactions yestewrday were not only to the AP, but to the audio I had heard on the way in... Cheney either took a far-too pregnant pause, or it was the end of the sentence.

At any rate, I think that this is a perfect example of something I love to discuss.

Noise in the Information Channel

There have been dozens of posts, on this blog alone, concerning Mr. Cheney's remarks. Almost everyone (including myself) made posts as though we actually knew what we were talking about. David and the other Bush Apologists, decided that the AP were evil MSM Left-Wing liars, the Kerry Apologists were sure it was another example of Cheney showing his true self.

What in the hell are we doing here? We argue about semantics of statements made by people who have a vested interest in winning the election. Bush said, Cheney said, Kerry said, Joe BlowBloger said.... As we saw in this, we can't even be sure of the statements and quotes we argue about. There is always noise in the communications channel. For TV and radio its static, for print media, its semantics, misspelled words and commas that were periods.

Now of course, none of this will change anything... As soon as a quote that makes Kerry look bad shows up, David will be sure to say its proof positive that Kerry is the anti-Christ and will bring about the Immanitzation of the Eschaton, just as soon as he swears in.

Meanwhile, Mork will be more than happy to use the next Bush/Cheney quote to prove that they are indeed the 21st century equivilent of The Emperor and Vader... though I think Vader could pronounce nuclear.

It would do us all well, to remember that every piece of information we get, from blogger, news outlet, press release and interview is not only baised (based on the way that the writer interperts the information), but prone to being on a 'noisy' channel.

tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 9, 2004 09:59 AM

Correction:

It's simple. You just have to remember that 55% of journalists identify themselves as Liberals, and only 17% identify themselves as conservatives.

http://www.mrc.org/SpecialReports/2004/report063004_p2.asp

That's not a correction. That's just further proof that your assertion has no basis in reality and no reliable statistics to back it up. MRC is not a reliable source, it is a mouthpiece for the right.

Posted by: Greg at September 9, 2004 10:46 AM

Greg, just out of curiosity, do you have anything to back up your assertion about MRC being a mouthpiece. Secondly, does their being a mouthpiece necessarily have any bearing on the accuracy of the article cited in the link? Is not valid data, valid, regardless of whose mouth it comes from?

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at September 9, 2004 02:11 PM

"Is not valid data, valid, regardless of whose mouth it comes from?"

Oh my BRD, you should know better that, by now... There is verifable and valid data that went into F/911, however, I don't think any wise person would call it valid when it came out. To not take into account the bais of the source is a blunder in today's political world... especially when said data exists only in 1 or 2 places (that tend to share a bias) and not anywhere else.

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 9, 2004 02:16 PM

Yeah, I heard it and it definately was a commaed remark.
You may or may not agree with the statement but the context was important.
BTW even the LA Times says he has a right to make such a statement. The Dems should also, if they belive they can do the job better. After all, this is the important issue of the election.

Posted by: Ed at September 9, 2004 11:05 PM

In reference to this comment:

"Forgive me if I sound stupid (I'm drunk), but: 9 out of 10 ballerinas identify themselves as women -- does that mean that they are bad ballerinas? No, it doesn't."

Yes, it does if they are charged with dancing the recital as the part calls for... sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman, without their own natural dance talents getting in the way of the interpretation called for.

The analogy wasn't relevant. Only because there are no facts in the art of dance. It's all subjective and nothing and the audience isn't formulating an opinion on world affairs based on the interpretation of the dance.

Posted by: Dan Sherman at September 9, 2004 11:15 PM
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