Sunday, November 09, 2003

Robert Cox of The National Debate replied to the post before last in our comment section. When I first put comments on this blog, I put them on top of the posts rather than underneath them so that people who disagreed with me so much they didn't finish the entire post would see there was somewhere to answer back before leaving in disgust. Some people have commented underneath a post, others on top of them. There really is no 'wrong' location to comment, and I've never felt comfortable deleting comments, or even learned how. So I'll leave both comments in place despite his suggestion - Robert doesn't have to worry I'll accuse him of trying to spam my comment section.

In one sense I think the core of his reply is "In the case of Maureen Dowd's column of May 14th, we broke that story that morning. It seems somewhat natural that we would take a special interest in it as it is not often that we break a story that goes so far and wide", and ' If you delve a little deeper into our site you will see that I spent several hours attempting to alert the New York Times to the problem with the Dowd column that morning and only went public after being treated disdainfully by Times employees - to that extent its "personal"', although people who read his commenhts will have to decide for themselves. I might feel the same way if a post from my blog had made it into a major newspaper - after being dissed by the subject of the story! Nevertheless I stand by my major points. While I believe that blogs which point out errors and biases in major news sources are doing a valuable service, deciding that a given story is perpetually news until the New York Times makes the correction in a way you think is appropriate is slightly different.

The Washington Times, which I believe was the first non blog news outlet to pick up the story, recently decided that a book by a conservative saying the Democratc party had gone too far to the left was front page news. I'm understand your personal motives are not partisan, but unless the correction policy of the Washington Times turns out to be different than that of the New York Times, I believe they are using your non ideological goals in service of their ideological ones. This is not in itself bad - maybe if other bloggers started reading the Washington Times for misleading quotations and pushed them to make corrections the net effect would be positive. Have you wondered about the correction policy of the Washington Times? Differences and similiraties would be relevant to the story you take a special interest in.

The New York Times is imperfect, but they do their best to be objective - before Howard Raines (now gone) Andrew Sullivan worked for them. They don't pick up stories about misleading quotes in the Washington Times as far as I know, and if they did they would try to report misleading quotes in liberal periodicals as well. The Washington Times is aggressively conservative, and does not hesitate to bash the media (except presumably themselves) for being too liberal while often giving only one point of view to those who read only the Washington Times.

I am convinced your motives are nonpartisan, but someone else won't be, and will probably do the same to the Washington Times that you have done to the New York Times. So in the long run the net effect will be extremely good. The Washington Times may well curse the day they picked up your story. I understand completely your personal involvement in this story, but someone might unthinkingly assume the New York Times to have a different corrections policy from other papers, and assume their corrections policy was unusual. I gather that you have no opinion on this question. You have emphasized what is important from your perspective, as I emphasize what is important from mine.

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