Biden is right about the NYT

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    Biden’s career, or the political wisdom of the Biden campaign’s media critiques, one paragraph in the letter to the Times should be of interest to anyone who produces or follows political reporting:

    In recent years the Times has become a leading perpetrator of one of the most corrosive trends in modern journalism—“savvy” reporting that prizes the identification of disingenuous political tactics at the expense of focusing on the facts that voters need to know. This unfortunate tendency was visible in the days the scandal that has led Trump to the brink of impeachment broke, as the Times rehashed this hateful and disproven conspiracy theory as though it hadn’t been put to bed. Two of our staff members, when discussing the Trump news with a pair of Times reporters, were stopped as they tried to outline how disproven the smear Trump wanted to pressure Ukraine into fomenting was, being told that this piece wasn’t about the facts of what happened and instead had to do with trying to forecast how it might play in the Democratic primary.

    Anyone who doubts the reality of the dynamic the letter describes need only look at this week’s controversy concerning statements Elizabeth Warren has made over the years about her pregnancy and departure from a teaching job in 1971. Warren has said that she was pushed out of the job over that pregnancy and no hard evidence has ever been furnished proving otherwise, despite a Washington Free Beacon story Monday that dubiously suggested county records contradicted Warren’s account. Yet Warren’s pregnancy became a topic of discussion in the mainstream press, not only among opinion writers, but in straight news reportage and broadcasts which have speculated how the story might impact the primary campaign. One of them was a Wednesday segment on CBS This Morning with the network’s political correspondent Ed O’Keefe, which began with an anchor noting that “a series of reports” had questioned Warren’s story. “Some,” O’Keefe intoned, “have questioned her version of events.”

    Of course, one can always find “some” questioning one thing or another about public figures. One standard that might help delineate which questions, “reports,” doubts, and concerns qualify as reportable news would be to reference them only after it is established that they are firmly based in fact. But political journalism is full of distancing, canned phrases that allow reporters to jump on new and potentially impactful information at the expense of accuracy, precision and clarity. Questions “surface.” Concerns “emerge.” But from whom and from where? And why should news consumers care?

    Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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