Saturday, April 16, 2005

See the joke was that CJR Daily gets the correction wrong . . .

On April 3, 2005, an entry appeared over at The Third Estate Sunday Review entitled "CJW Daily from Corporate Journalism Whores (parody for your laughing pleasure)." It's a funny piece. And, disclosure, Ava and I thought it up while tossing mocking references back and forth to CJR Daily. We had something of a comedy performance by the time we were through and really didn't have any idea that it was anything worth writing down until, to provide some much needed laughs the Saturday April 2nd, we offered our spoof to the others. (Jim, Ty, Jess and Dona of The Third Estate Sunday Review; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man.) At which point, everyone got to work on taking a comedy bit and turning it into something more.

Most of the jokes were ones people got. For instance, calling Watler Cronkite (see the entry) "Wilson Cronkite" was a joke alluding to how CJR Daily reduced Kathleen Hall Jamieson to "Kathleen Jamieson." (Though, as has been noted, maybe we should all be glad they didn't take it further and call her "Kathy Jamieson.")

But throughout the "Wilson Cronkite" piece, there are intentional errors. Walter Cronkite hosted the news on CBS, evening news, and we knew that. A few concerned people wrote in to The Third Estate Sunday Review about that and Ava's still getting e-mails on that. To cut down on her having to explain it and to note a flaw that we've alluded to here but never really addressed, I told her I'd do so. (And community member Dallas also made this possible/necessary by hunting down the specifics on something I've repeatedly alluded to here.)
(No community member e-mailed here about the issue. Either they were aware of the intention behind the joke because it's been alluded to so much here or they felt that since it appeared in The Third Estate Sunday Review, they should take the question to The Third Estate Sunday Review.)

Walter Cronkite did not work on Good Morning America or Nightly News (or anything else we intentionally put in). The joke was to get to the correction which is in fact wrong.

CJR Daily ran a 'correction' to a post that was not correct and that's what we were spoofing.

You need to go to "Hidden Angle: Taking Pot Shots" from October 22, 2004. The author is Susan Q. Stranahan. In that piece, Stranahan reports on coverage of John Kerry and Jodi Wilgoren. Stranahan doesn't make the point that Bob Somerby did at The Daily Howler, which is how two reporters (one for the New York Times and one for the Washington Post) covering the John Kerry campaign were also able to apparently pop over to Dick Cheney's
event in the same state and quote him (in remarkably similar passages).

Stranahan focuses solely on the New York Times (in the text) and on the report filed by Jodi Wilgoren. While repeating Wilgoren's reptition of Cheney's remark that to go duck hunting, John Kerry had borrowed a jacket, Stranahan -- taking Wilgoren to task -- makes a mistake that Wilgoren didn't make, she presents only one view: Cheney's claim that Kerry borrowed the jacket.

Later, the piece was ammended to include a "correction" in the form of an "Update:"

In fact, as the Washington Post reported, Kerry borrowed the camouflage jacket. He did not buy a new one as Vice President Cheney indicated.

There's a problem with this correction (labeled an "Update") and it's that Stranahan or someone appears to want to provide cover for not noting that earlier. To read the post and the "Update," is to be left with the impression that, dealing with the Wilgoren article, they were left to believe that Cheney's comments were correct and thank God for the Washington Post.

That's simply not the truth. Stranahan should have read the Wigoren piece more carefully. And the "Update" should have noted that the same thing was reported by Wilgoren in her Times piece that Stranahan was reporting on.

Wilgoren included that detail in the piece Stranahan was reviewing. And the second comment on the "Go to Comments" page noted that:

Another question is why was an UPDATE needed via the Washington Post? In Wilgoren's pice, right after quoting Cheney, she immediately noted that he'd borrowed the jacket:
"I understand he bought a new camoflage jacket for the occassion, which did make me wonder how regularly he does go goose hunting," Mr. Cheney said to a chorus of boos. "My personal opinion is his new came jacket is an October disguise, an effort he's making to hide the fact that he votes against gun-owner rights at every turn."
In fact, the outfit was borrowed, along with the shotgun, from the farm's owner, and within hours Mr. Kerry was back in tailored suit and rose-colored tie for another photo-op [. . .]
Again, in Wilgoren's paragraph right after the Cheney quote, we have the info that is later necessary for an "update" and via the Washington Post.
[Do not consider this an endorsement of Wilgoren's writing. I'm merely noting that in her article for the Times -- the one that CJR Daily is dicussing -- she covered this issue. The Washington Post wasn't needed for an UPDATE, in fact, no UPDATE was needed.]

I agree with the majority of that posted comment except I'd add to "no UPDATE was needed" this: "if Stranahan had read the Wilgoren piece more closely."

She didn't. Now maybe she or CJR Daily got taken to task for the piece, for reprinting a falsehood (Kerry bought a new jacket) which was GOP spin and as such didn't bear repeating in the watchdog forum that CJR Daily is supposed to be? Or mabye Stranahan or someone at CJR Daily later read the Washington Post piece and noticed that the jacket was not borrowed. Thinking this fact was noted there, and only there, they felt the need for an "Update."

But the fact remains that Wilgoren's original article included that the jacket was borrowed (immediately below the Cheney quote -- and Stranahan quotes the Cheney quote so she read at least that far from Wilgoren's article).

So to write that "In fact, as the Washington Post reported, Kerry borrowed . . ." is flat out wrong. "In fact, as Wilgoren noted in her next paragraph and as the Washington Post reported, Kerry borrowed . . ." is closer to the truth.

At the time of the "Update," no one may have been aware that Wilgoren reported that in her original article. (I have no idea who wrote the "Update." Perhaps it was someone other than Stranahan and Stranahan herself might have been aware that Wilgoren's piece included the paragraph. If so, Stranahan may have felt, as Bob Somerby did, that you don't include a known falsehood at length and then in the next paragraph, after the chuckles die out, fleetingly note, "Oh by the way, Cheney is incorrect.")

But when going to the trouble of doing an "Update," someone should have checked Wilgoren's original article, the one Stranahan was commenting on, because the information that the jacket was borrowed is in that article.

As it stands, the "Update" implies that Wilgoren left that piece of information out of her reporting. Wilgoren did include that in her report.

And while missing it that day might have been possible, there are writers that give me a headache and in that period, I wouldn't fault Stranahan for bailing on Wilgoren early on, the fact remains that three days later in their "go to comments" a CJR Daily reader noted that Wilgoren had included that fact in her article and even went to the trouble to quote the paragraph it was from.

Maybe CJR Daily doesn't read the comments? Maybe they're just offered to let readers vent and CJR Daily is too above it all to note reactions to their pieces? I have no idea.

But the "Update" has been allowed to stand (Dallas copy and pasted and sent this in this week) and impression from the "Update" is that Wilgoren missed a detail but thank God the Washington Post didn't! That's not reality.

And that's why one of the joke's of "Suzy Q.'s" Blog Report in the CJW spoof was to make mistakes repeatedly and then run a correction that still got it wrong.

As with most jokes, it loses something when it's explained. But I've alluded to that mistake from time to time here and when Ava passed on that she was still attempting this week to explain the joke to concerned Third Estate Sunday Review readers who were attempting to inform The Third Estate Sunday Review that the mistakes were intentional and part of the joke, I thought we'd touch on it here. When Dallas then went to the trouble of hunting the entry down for me, it was something I intended to address all week but kept putting off due to time limitations.

Stranahan may not have authored the "Update." Whomever did, however, appears unaware (to this day) that no article from the Washington Post was needed to round out that Kerry borrowed the jacket since the details were included in Wilgoren's original article cited by Stranahan. The correction (labeled "Update") leaves the impression that Wilgoren didn't include the detail. Wilgoren did include the detail and the "Update" should have been ammended long ago to note that. (My opinion.)

And noting this is not praising Wilgoren's reporting on the Kerry campaign. It's not praise worthy. It's embarrassing, my opinion. Also my opinion, Wilgoren's recent reporting is a remarkable turn around and far from the fluff and mean spirited nonsense she turned in during the Kerry campaign and immediately after. Because I found her so useless reporting on the campaign and immediately after, I thought she was completely useless. I was wrong. And I can say that without cringing (I'm often wrong). CJR Daily needs to admit that their "Update" is wrong and correct it since the web page remains and will apparently do so for some time.

(And note, Lois Romano is the author of the Washington Post piece cited in the "Update" CJR Daily refers to.)

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