January 1, 2005

Another Righteous Fisking

A blogging prosecutor, Patterico, specializes in fisking what used to be known as the Whale, the Lost Angeles Times. Patterico unkindly calls it the "dog-trainer."

The Whale nickname refers both to the size and thickness of the paper, and its dominant position in the newspaper market in the Los Angeles metro area. Unlike the New York Times, late and unlamented on my reading list, which has to contend with the New York Post and Daily News yapping at its heels, the LA Times has only local, weekly, and subregional competition, such as the Orange County Register and the Daily News in the San Fernando Valley.

Patterico, to make a long story short, has thoroughly fisked the Whale's Presidential election coverage and after that just about everything else except the sports section, which, being sports-talk challenged and my life being shot, I rarely read.

"Fisking," by the way, refers to an Anglo-Bolshevik journalist, Robert Fisk, whose bias an arrogance provoked enough thorough blogosphere thrashings as to elevate Herr Fisk to the rarefied pantheon of those whose names became standard English words, such as the Earl of Sandwich.

Kudos to Patterico, whose specialization is a characteristic of the blogosphere. MSM ignore the Pattericos of the blogosphere to their peril.

Two examples will have to suffice here. After all, you can read the whole thing. The first is the Whale's neglect of a revealing incident:

In some media outlets, it made headlines when a photo-op with some Marines badly backfired on Kerry. The Marines later told reporters that they resented being used by Kerry, and that they supported Bush 100%. Although the Times had a reporter at the Wendy's restaurant where this incident had occurred, the story of the failed photo-op never made it into the paper. Instead, the L.A. Times article portrayed the Wendy's visit as a public relations triumph for Kerry. (The paper did report dissent on the Bush campaign trail: one boy holding an anti-Bush sign.)

While Kerry and Edwards were eating at the Wendy's, gourmet lunches were waiting for them on the campaign bus -- fancy meals including shrimp vindallo and grilled diver sea scallops. Also, Teresa Heinz-Kerry pointed to a picture of a bowl of chili and asked "What's that?" These anecdotes reinforced the image of Kerry and his wife as out-of-touch patricians. But neither story was reported in the L.A. Times -- even though they were widely reported in other news outlets. I wrote one of the L.A. Times reporters who worked on the story, to ask him why. I never got a response.

The second isn't as funny, but is much more substantive:

In the summer of 2003, when Joe Wilson said he had "debunked" President Bush's claims that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Africa, the L.A. Times ran numerous stories touting Wilson's claims -- including several on the front page. Commentators incessantly bloviated about the "sixteen words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, and the notion that President Bush had lied to the American people about Iraq was born.

But in July 2004, when a Senate intelligence committee report made made several stunning findings undermining Wilson's credibility -- guess what? Ol' Joe Wilson wasn't news at the L.A. Times anymore.

What did the editors consider more important than evidence that Joe Wilson was a liar? Well, there was that front-page story about counting fish. An article about the Bush daughters' Vogue magazine photo shoot made it into Section A. There was a front-page story reporting that America had gone to war based on faulty information that understated the threat faced by Americans -- but it turned out that the war in question was the war on cholesterol.

Meanwhile, Joe Wilson's imploding credibility was hidden from L.A. Times readers for days.

When the Times finally ended its news blackout on Joe Wilson's lies, the editors buried the story on page A6, and didn't even report the most compelling evidence that Wilson had lied. (Page One space that day was reserved for stories that the editors considered more important -- like the one about Harrah's buying Caesar's.)

According to Howard Kurtz, the final tally was 48 stories in the L.A. Times touting Joe Wilson's allegations that President Bush had lied about Iraq -- and only two stories covering the Senate report that destroyed Wilson's credibility. It was pseudo-journalism at its finest.

(There are numerous interesting links in the original, for which q.v.)

Ironically, editor John Carroll is given to pontificating at J-schools about the lack of journalistic ethics in other media, such as Fox News.

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