Friday, April 08, 2016

The Washington Post takes a shamefully slippery slide off the path to truth, dragging Democratic civility with it

Before this controversy gets drowned out by whatever the next controversy turns out to be, I need to say something cranky about Bernie Sanders’ attack on Hillary Clinton’s qualifications, which was prompted by a headline in the Washington Post.

Here’s the headline: “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president.”

What’s that sound like to you? To me, it sounds as if Hillary, by “questioning” Sanders qualifications, is saying he isn’t qualified. If I do think somebody is qualified, I wouldn’t question their qualifications.

The misleading headline was exacerbated by the Washington Post's lede, which repeated and thus reinforced the false claim. It said, “Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Wednesday questioned whether her rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is qualified to be president.”

Not surprisingly, Sanders struck back against what appeared to be a deliberate kick to the groin. His counterattack left no room for doubt that if Hillary takes the low road, he can do so too. If you can bear a few seconds of intrusive advertising before the newsclip, here’s what Sanders said:

Now someone at the Post has gotten defensively self-righteous about what was, at the very least, a reporting mistake exacerbated by a sloppy editing oversight. I’m not saying the Post is deliberately misleading its readers. I’ll leave that conclusion, or its opposite, to you.

A new Washington Post headline announces, “Sanders’s incorrect claim that Clinton called him ‘not qualified’ for the Presidency.” 

Notice, it doesn't say the Post was incorrect. It says that Sanders was incorrect for believing the Post's false headline and story copy. And that's what gets my goat.

The basis for the Post's perfidious  self-absolution is a lengthy, tangled, argumentative attempt to parse its own copy, along with he-said she-said quotes and a self-pitying whine that writing and displaying an accurate news story is hard. Oh, boo hoo!

“Headline writing is an imperfect art,” the Post sniveled. “The editor often has to summarize the meaning of a complex and nuanced article in just a few words. Many Washington-based reporters have experienced the frustration of having an accurate article denied by an agency spokesman because of a headline that went a little far off the mark.”

In other words, to echo what Barbie Doll was once crucified for saying about math when you pulled the string in her back, newspaper editing is hard.

You can try, if you’re courageous enough and you’ve taken your Ritalin today, to read the Post's whole convoluted self-justification for having committed the political equivalent of throwing a lighted match into a can of gasoline here

Frankly, I’m not buying the Post’s unapologetic apologia.  The headline could simply have said something like, “Clinton criticizes Sanders for lack of preparation,” which is what the story was really about once you get past the lede.

But that wouldn’t have made a sensational, newspaper-selling  story.

So now we have mud flying back and forth between the Clinton and the Sanders camps. Less civility, but more raw meat for the Washington Post, sparked by the sloths or dissemblers (take your pick) who write and edit stories there. 

Sadly, the ultimate victims are the American public, including those of us who live far from the Post's circulation zone. We are interested in learning about differences in policy, not in hearing the slosh of mud. That interest has been demonstrated by, among other things, the slow fall from favor of Donald Trump, the mudpie champion of the world.
The entire Washington Post staff, starting at the top, needs to be sent to bed without its supper.


Yastreblyansky said...

No Ritalin and I did NOT want to read it, but I'm very glad you did. This is excellent.

jsrtheta said...

I, for one, love to read the mud. But it has to be actual, valid mud.

I was outraged by what Bernie said, only to discover he had been misled by WaPo. I do think he should have read the actual story (or had someone read it and give him the facts), but that is a far cry from believing he went off on a ridiculous tear. As a Clinton supporter, I posted an outraged rant on FB (read by, maybe, three people, but still), only to have to apologize a few hours later. Maybe I should have also done the sort of vetting Bernie failed to do, but then I'm not WaPo. I do, though, strive to be accurate when ranting, and I felt like an idiot.

I do believe Bernie should have gotten his facts straight, but I also realize that he, mistakenly, had a right to be pissed at Hillary, and therefore his words were to some extent justified. Most people know better than to take me seriously. But Bernie has a right to be taken seriously indeed, and he got screwed by this. He deserved better.

Patricia said...

The Washington Post, was very big at my house when I lived near D.C., that was in the days of The Watergate Scandal, great journalists, great writing. I did a little digging because I read an article about tax dodging and the writer stated plainly, The Post did not review the Panama Papers. There's sloppy journalism all over that paper and it's not just them. Anyway, Jeff Bezos bought the Post a few years ago. He owns Amazon and is well known for his dodgy dealings. That could be just one of the reasons for the lack of oversight. You have to be a serious critical thinker when reading anything, but especially any of the major news outlets. Good Work Crank!