NYT: Say, maybe we should have waited for the facts before blaming the Right

posted at 1:55 pm on January 17, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Don’t worry, though, because the New York Times’ public editor (their term for ombudsman) “shares the view to an extent” (emphasis mine) that the Times and the media rushed to put the Tucson shootings in a political context.  Well, that’s certainly a relief.  So whose fault was it that the Times pursued it to the extent of having its editorial board issue an essay the very next day putting the blame on the Right, saying that “it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats”?  Uh … genetics, or something:

So why does a story get framed this way? Journalism educators characterize this kind of framing as a storytelling habit — one of relating new facts to an existing storyline — and also as a reflex of news organizations that are built to handle some topics well, and others less well.

Jerry Ceppos, dean of the journalism school at the University of Nevada, Reno, said journalists’ impulse to quickly impose a frame on a story is “genetic.”

“Journalists developed automatic framing protocols generations ago because of the need to report quickly,” he said. “Today’s hyper-deadlines, requiring journalists to report all day long and all night long, made that genetic disposition even more dominant.”

To be fair, there were some good reasons to steer the coverage initially in this direction. As Rick Berke, the national editor, said: “Our coverage early on was broad and touched everything from the possible shooter to the victims to the reaction to, yes, the political climate in Arizona. By our count, there were 49 stories in the paper the first six days after the tragedy, of which only 14 were political in nature. But it would be ridiculous for us to neglect that. After all, a politician was shot in the head while meeting with constituents. That same lawmaker had her office vandalized during an especially rancorous campaign. And after the shooting the sheriff called his state the capital of hatred and bigotry.”

Still, I think the intense focus on political conflict — not just by The Times — detracted from what has emerged as the salient story line, that of a mentally ill individual with lawful access to a gun.

Er, no, to be fair, there were no good reasons to steer the coverage in any direction.  In fact, Arthur Brisbane’s notion that steering coverage of a breaking event is journalism should come as a rude awakening to the few defenders the Times still has.  Why “steer the coverage” at all until the facts came out?  Within a couple of hours, the gunman had been identified and enough was known about him to understand that he was a lunatic, not a political activist.  Yet even after those facts became known and verified, the editorial board published its attack on the Right, implicitly blaming conservatives for the tragedy while using just enough weasel words to cover their own rear ends in case the witch hunt blew up in its face.

Ironically, Brisbane starts off the column by scolding the Times’ bloggers for repeating the erroneous NPR report of Giffords’ death without having its editors fact-check it first:

Ms. McElroy said, “I should have looked at every change,” but she thought Mr. Goodman was referring to small stuff. Mr. Goodman told me he then erred by reporting Representative Giffords’s death in the lead as though The Times itself were standing behind the information. In any event, Ms. McElroy had said O.K. without seeing that change, so Mr. Goodman pushed the button.

The result was a news story with changes that were not edited. Less than 10 minutes later, a new story appeared with the words “and killed” stricken.

“Nobody should self-publish,” said Philip B. Corbett, standards editor for The Times. “Everything should go through an editor. Ideally, it should go through two editors.”

Why?  So that they can “steer the coverage” to their liking?   In the case of the Times, the editors appear to be the problem, not the solution.  The failure of the Times on this story had nothing to do with self-publishing a factual error that they quickly corrected, but an editorial decision to focus on a meme that was known to be false long before the editors themselves hit the publish button.  Brisbane apparently doesn’t want to talk about that; he’d prefer that the Times stick to giving its readers one bum steer after another.


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Midas, crr6 has already admitted that wasn’t true about the “400 times greater” claim. What she will NOT admit is that she has no evidence that those threats are a result of “the apocalyptic rhetoric of Glenn Beck, et. al.” She just believes it, and we are supposed to come up with another explanation for those threats, because she’s too dim to do it herself.

JannyMae on January 17, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Trochilus on January 17, 2011 at 6:28 PM

Taranto’s “Best of the Web” at the online WSJ has a heyday with the NYT’s corrections (“Other than that (usually a myriad of corrections), the story was correct.”) and contradictions (“Two papers in one!”). The problem is probably one of its fast-paced “framing the narrative,” based on its former boilerplate coverage.

onlineanalyst on January 17, 2011 at 7:29 PM

JannyMae and missy: You two are really good. Our resident law student ccr666 went scurrying out, all wee-wee’d up, looking for more Axelturf talking points.

ajacksonisn: You are my hero.

onlineanalyst on January 17, 2011 at 7:33 PM

Man alive, I really fouled up a number of S-V agreement statements earlier. I should know better.

onlineanalyst on January 17, 2011 at 7:40 PM

“In your statement, you assert that our actions, though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitated violence. But is this a logical assertion?

“Isn’t this like condemning the robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and philosophical inquiry precipitated the act by a misguided populace made him drink the hemlock?….

“We must come to see as the federal courts affirm, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence.

“Society must protect the robbed, and punish the robber.”

“Letter from the Birmingham Jail”
Martin Luther King, April 1963

Fallon on January 17, 2011 at 7:55 PM

Fallon on January 17, 2011 at 7:55 PM

I don’t think the Left considers Rev. King as anyone worth quoting. A black Republican who thinks character should trump skin color? That’s an Uncle Tom if they ever saw one.

malclave on January 17, 2011 at 8:31 PM

Ok, so why do you think death threats against Obama are so high? If the apocalyptic rhetoric from Beck et al. isn’t to blame, what is?

crr6 on January 17, 2011 at 4:03 PM

We have a media and a government that lies to us and won’t listen to us. That’s what’s making people upset.

alwaysfiredup on January 17, 2011 at 8:58 PM

I guess that we all expected that the leftist media would downplay Eric Fuller’s “You’re dead!” outburst at the ABC town hall. But it is even worse at MSNBC. Here a link to Da Techguy’s blog who says that it was not mentioned at all on Morning Joe. A commenter said that it was also not mention on Good Morning America by their town hall reporter. This is all very Stalin-like where individuals got air-brushed out of photos in the Soviet Union.

scrubjay on January 17, 2011 at 8:58 PM

From this idiot Jerry Ceppos,

Partisan media helped pull trigger in Tucson

Although Fox News attracts an audience on a typical night of no more than 3 million viewers – barely 1% of the nation’s population – for its most popular show (Bill O’Reilly), the network commands a disproportionate influence over what makes news and the way it is covered.

Fox News on a typical night attracts more viewers than CNN, MSNBC and Headline News put together.

Or less than 1% of the nation’s population, combined with BOR, 98% of the nation’s population have no idea what is being said on FNC or the other channels. (True, if you watch MSNBC you will find out what was being said on FNC as that appears to be the reason MSNBC exists, to repeat what was said on FNC)

Perversely, Fox’s success has forced the rival cable channels to become increasingly opinionated in

That, according to Jerry Ceppos, 98% of the nation’s population have no idea what is being said.

Math test!

If 98% of the nation’s population have no idea what is being said on cable and radio,
and the 2% is split Right/Left, what are the odds the shooter was affected by Right wing cable and radio?

99 to 1

What does this tell us about the people who did jump to that conclusion?
Crickets? Is that Crickets I hear?

DSchoen on January 17, 2011 at 10:00 PM

You call it “automatic framing protocols” and I call it bias. What’s the difference?

Fred 2 on January 17, 2011 at 10:35 PM

crr6 wants to be a lawyer, is very apropos.
darwin on January 17, 2011 at 3:48 PM

If crr6 wants to be a lawyer it would behoove him to take some math classes.

“the rate of threats against the president has increased 400 per cent”

Any “number” of “something real”, “not emotional”, expressed as a percentage can not be above 100.
Percentage means per 100.
There is no 400 per 100, that make no sense.

If the number of threats has actually gone up by more than 100%, he would have to say the number of threats has gone up by a factor of whatever, 1.1, 1.3 whatever.

Example:
If it were 3000 and it went up to 12000, that would be a factor of 4.

crr6, just because people don’t tell you to your face, that when you use 400% that your an idiot, that is what they are thinking.

DSchoen on January 17, 2011 at 10:37 PM

What part of this “Today’s hyper-deadlines” and “automatic framing protocols” says
make sh1t up?

Here’s a wacky idea lets make a list of what the media got right on that day!
Lets see
Who got shot
Who was killed
Who the shooter was
The time line
Anything else?

DSchoen on January 17, 2011 at 10:39 PM

This seems to be a way of life for the NYT. They’ll put a false story out to see how well it will fly and if they get caught, they say sorry. Krugman is still putting out his trash. No wonder their readership is down. The only thing this paper, and others, are good for is for lining bird cages.

Wills on January 18, 2011 at 8:50 AM

DSchoen, there are plenty of reasons for crr6 to be known as dim, but I can’t excuse a wrongly applied one. An increase of ANYTHING can indeed be expressed in terms of percent. I bought a car for $300 and sold it for $1,500, making a profit of 400%, or a sale price 500% of the original purchase price. This is perfectly valid.

And percent means not “per 100″, as you said, but “per hundredth”, which is why 100 of them makes 1. A cent is one hundredth part of a dollar. See how that works?

Thanks for playing.

Freelancer on January 18, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Arrogant to the bitter end, aren’t they?

They need to be shamed as pariahs all the way to bankruptcy.

scotash on January 18, 2011 at 1:26 PM

When you do not even own the building you inhabit and bankruptcy is at the doorstop, it takes a “genius” to attack conservatives who are the majority of Americans with lies and distortions without any facts whatsoever. The NYT has been brainwashing New Yorkers for decades. Those lemmings can be riled with the constant illiteracy from their presses and explains how a babbling fool like Bloomberg can be mayor and the entire state facing the same fate of bankruptcy that they are. Lil Artie Sulzberger will never change, its in his genes.

volsense on January 18, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Just goes to show you we can’t let our guard down one second. The Libs would row a third hand if they could show you two hands didnt have anything in them. Trust them not.

johnnyU on January 18, 2011 at 6:00 PM

A cent is one hundredth part of a dollar. See how that works?
Thanks for playing.
Freelancer on January 18, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Yes, and 100 penny’s equal one dollar or 100 cents.
And 50 penny’s equal 50 cents or 50% of 1 dollar.

If you start with 100 penny’s and you add or subtract penny’s as a percentage of the “original 100 penny’s” what number above the “original 100” can you add?

Lets say ya add 25 penny’s, that’s 25% of “the original 100”, you would now have 125 penny’s, or a $1.25
or
Lets say ya add 89 penny’s, that’s 89% of “the original 100”, you would now have 189 penny’s, or $1.89
or
Lets say ya add 100 penny’s, that’s 100% of “the original 100”, you would now have 200 penny’s, or $2.00

What “percentage” of “the original 100” is left after adding “100%” of “the original 100”?

Can’t be “101” as that is more than the “original 100”.
You do believe “101” is greater than “100

right?

See the problem here?

Lets say ya subtract 25 penny’s, that’s 25% of the “original 100”, you would now have 75 penny’s, or a $0.75
or
Lets say ya subtract 89 penny’s, that’s 89% of the “original 100”, you would now have 11 penny’s, or a $0.11
or
Lets say ya subtract 100 penny’s, that’s 100% of the “original 100”, you would now have 0 penny’s, or a $0.00

What “percentage” of the “original 100” is left after subtracting “100% of the original 100”?

nothing, its gone!
See the problem here?

From The Math Doctors

A percentage is simply another way of writing a fraction with a
denominator of 100. For example, 6% = 6/100. Just as you can have an
improper fraction (a fraction whose numerator is greater than the
denominator), such as 4/3, so you can have what we might call an
improper percentage” like 120% or 300%.

There are situations in which a percentage greater than 100% makes no sense. For instance,
“The Math Doctors answered 146% of the questions
received last month.” This makes no sense because if we received 5061 questions, we couldn’t possibly answer more than all of them.

It’s just as nonsensical as saying “I ate 4/3 of the cake.

Are ya getting it now?

To interpret an “improper percentage” you have to convert it to a decimal.

If someone used an “improper percentage” of say an increase of 229% we have to convert 229% to 2.29 and multiply it by the original number (X).

The increase of (X) is “a factor of 2.29”

Thanks for playing!

DSchoen on January 18, 2011 at 11:34 PM

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