Media


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In her haste to find a conservative scholar that was critical of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg attributed a quote critical of the Defense of Marriage Act to that of the VRA.

I have always believed in correcting mistakes, especially bad ones. In my wrap-up piece at the end of the Supreme Court term, I quoted Northwestern University law professor John McGinnis as one of several conservative scholars highly critical of the court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act. In my telling, he called the decision “as singular a failure as I’ve seen in the history of the Supreme Court.” But I inadvertently misused the quote, which came from his appearance on a panel at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

McGinnis used those words to describe the court’s decision in the Defense Of Marriage Act case, not the Voting Rights Act decision about which he was also critical but not nearly as sweeping in his condemnation. I listened to the whole panel but apparently got confused in my notations about what McGinnis was talking about at about an hour and 10 minutes into the panel.

All the other quotes in my piece were from interviews that I personally conducted. This one was not, and my error illustrates why I should have been doubly careful.

I deeply regret the error and apologize to McGinnis and to listeners.

While I applaud Totenberg’s apology, her excuse for mixing up the quotes is a little suspect.  As a legal affairs correspondent she should be able to follow the arguments and distinguish which case is being spoken about.

I don’t think she was as confused as she professed, but had to apologize for getting caught spinning a story to make it look like conservatives were equally appalled as liberals with the VRA decision.

 

The New Canaan News in Connecticut announced last Friday that they had fired award-winning reporter Paresh Jha after it was discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in at least 25 stories he wrote in the last two years for the paper.

“We have found 25 stories written by Paresh Jha over the last year and a half that contain quotes from nonexistent sources,” David McCumber, editorial director of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, said Friday.

McCumber said that Jha was exposed when editors attempted to fact check “unusually spelled names” and that when confronted Jha admitted to the fabrications.

He also apologized  to readers for the “gross violation of our standards.”

The paper is now checking the validity of every story Jha wrote in his 22 months at the News.

Jha isn’t the first reporter to have been caught fabricating sources or quotes, USA Today’s Jack Kelley comes to mind for having fabricated major stories he wrote for the paper while overseas.  And that was 8 years ago when the internet was still in its infancy, and didn’t serve as the repository of information as it does today.

While Jha deserves the bulk of the blame for lying to the News’ readers, the editors are also at fault for accepting his work at face value and not doing the necessary fact checking.

No wonder the public distrusts the media so much

Mitt Romney spoke yesterday at the NRA convention in St. Louis and received a warm welcome from the attendees, but the media did its best to downplay Romney’s appearance.

James Hohmann of Politico was one of the biggest offenders when he wrote about the venue and what he thought was the NRA’s plan to make Romney’s speech sound bigger and better than it actually was.

Here is what Hohmann wrote;

Romney spoke in the cavernous stadium where the St. Louis Rams football team normally plays. The dimly-lit venue was divided for the conference to make it feel smaller and less empty. High ceilings meant Romney’s voice echoed around the arena.

Hohmann made it sound like this was some kind of tactic that the NRA had set up juts for Romney’s speech, when in fact this type of venue has been used for years, starting in 2008 at the US Airways arena in Phoenix.  As for dimly lit, Hohmann didn’t realize that the stage lighting was set for daylight for the television cameras and to accentuate all the speakers rather than have them being washed out in a sea of stadium lighting.  Hohmann would know this if he had actually attended previous NRA meetings which he obviously hadn’t.

Maybe Hohmann was feeling a bit put out though by the time Romney stepped up to the stage.  The two previous speakers, Chris Cox the executive director of the NRA-ILA and Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA made withering attacks on the mainstream media for their coverage of the gun issue and challenged the audience to let  the media know who they really were.

The New York Times which has been under siege lately after it was revealed that they would be giving soon to be departed CEO Janet L. Robinson  her $10.9 million pension early on top of a one-year $4.5 million consulting contract,  while freezing employee pensions only made matters worse yesterday with an errant email.

The email which was supposed to have been sent to 300 people who had recently canceled their subscriptions, instead went out to 8 million people, which the paper had email addresses for.

I was one of those 8 million people.

When I received the email I thought it was curious since I had canceled my subscription more than two years ago and switched to the cheaper Kindle version.  But I just brushed it off as a computer error.  Little did I know it was a large error which may have been attributable to a Times employee who goofed big time.

Here’s the email.

Dear Home Delivery Subscriber,Our records indicate that you recently requested to cancel your home delivery subscription. Please keep in mind when your delivery service ends, you will no longer have unlimited access to NYTimes.com and our NYTimes apps.

We do hope you’ll reconsider.

As a valued Times reader we invite you to continue your current subscription at an exclusive rate of 50% off for 16 weeks. This is a limited-time offer and will no longer be valid once your current subscription ends.*

Continue your subscription and you’ll keep your free, unlimited digital access, a benefit available only for our home delivery subscribers. You’ll receive unlimited access to NYTimes.com on any device, full access to our smartphone and iPad® apps, plus you can now share your unlimited access with a family member.

To continue your subscription call 1-877-698-0025 and mention code 38H9H (Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. E.D.T.).

Even with the 50% discount, a subscription will still cost almost 60% more than the Kindle version, which is a good reason to pass on the offer.

But never fear the paper isn’t going to honor the discounts anyway.

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