Integrity and slime, in old media and new

Time could learn from the New York Times about how to handle questions from critics. Of course, bloggers screw up too.

By Joan Walsh
November 29, 2007 5:45PM (UTC)
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New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt did me the honor yesterday of replying to my column last week asking him to stop the brawl over Ronald Reagan and race on the paper's Op-Ed page. Hoyt declined to step in, but he did pass along news that Times editorial pages editor Andrew Rosenthal had already said, "Enough," which means we won't have another unconvincing rejoinder on the topic from David Brooks. Thanks, Andy! Hoyt defended the Op-Ed page debate as healthy, which is fine, because so did a lot of Salon readers. I appreciated his thoughtful reply, and even more, I appreciate the Times' integrity for having taken the enormous risk of appointing a "public editor," in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal and the paper's flawed reporting on the run-up to war with Iraq. Hoyt was a particularly good choice on that score since he was a leader of one of the only mainstream news organizations to shine on that subject, Knight Ridder.

Time magazine could certainly take a page from the New York Times. Glenn Greenwald has indefatigably documented the problems with Joe Klein's column sliming Democrats for a FISA bill whose provisions he misrepresented, as well as Klein's many efforts on his blog to explain himself, which only made him look worse. Days after Greenwald pointed out Klein's error and Klein himself acknowledged it (sort of) on the blog, Time appended a grudging semi-correction to the original column online. Then today they had to correct their correction! They've made no public statement on their mess, refusing to comment to the many bloggers who've tried to get a response. Time's ethical blunders and arrogance on this story help explain why the blogosphere is booming and the mainstream media is in free fall.


But not all bloggers are Glenn Greenwald. The folks over at Jezebel are blogging amok lately. They ran an unsourced nasty item about Barack Obama a couple of weeks ago, and then today claimed to have a source who had seen the transcript of Rebecca Traister's conversation with Michelle Obama, and who revealed the alleged slip of the tongue the Obama camp had kept off the record. Of course, the claim was completely false. Of course, no one called me or Traister for comment. Late in the day they appended an update: Their source had confessed he was, like, totally joking! Funny! Luckily no one (except maybe poor Mickey Kaus, who linked to Jezebel's first scurrilous Obama item) takes them seriously -- and it's looking like no one ever will. Sure, it's a relatively young blog, but it's part of Nick Denton's vast empire, and he should know better. Yuck.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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