Let Us Pause to Honor the 47th Most Courageous Press Corps in the World

  lamestream media

mainstream mediaHow is the 47th Freest press in the world doing these days? Fair-to-middling, as usual! This is the state of affairs according to the New York Times anyway, which has kindly informed its readers that they basically can’t trust any of the quotes contained within its pages, especially if these quotes come from persons associated with either the Obama Administration or the Romney campaign.  See, allowing officials, aides, surrogates, and strategists to review and redact their quotes as a precondition of an interview has become the “default position.” Everyone is doing it, so the courageous journalists of the New York Times have to, or it won’t get interviews! And if they don’t get interviews, then they won’t get meaningless and sanitized quotes, see? USA! USA! USA!

The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative. They are sent by e-mail from the Obama headquarters in Chicago to reporters who have interviewed campaign officials under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name.

Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all midlevel aides in Chicago and at the White House — almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.) It is also commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail…

The Romney campaign insists that journalists interviewing any of Mitt Romney’s five sons agree to use only quotations that are approved by the press office. And Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article. […]

From Capitol Hill to the Treasury Department, interviews granted only with quote approval have become the default position…It was difficult to find a news outlet that had not agreed to quote approval, albeit reluctantly. Organizations like Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Reuters and The New York Times have all consented to interviews under such terms…

 
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“We don’t like the practice,” said Dean Baquet, managing editor for news at The New York Times. “We encourage our reporters to push back. Unfortunately this practice is becoming increasingly common, and maybe we have to push back harder.”

Oh you know. Just maybe. MAYBE. Not for sure. But something to think about! Wouldn’t want the paper to be a “truth vigilante” or anything, because that would be vulgar. Why attribute actual quotes when you can just used paraphrased, edited, and sanitized comments, or alternatively, seek out  “American officials,”officials,” “officials and a person briefed on the matter,” “those involved with the discussion,” or “some advisers to Romney” for quotes that can’t be verified and for which no one can ever be held accountable? Good thing the government doesn’t control our press, though; nope, it’s controlled by corporations, which is MUCH better!

[New York Times]

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About the author

Kris E. Benson writes about politics for Wonkette and is pursuing a doctorate in philosophy. This will come in handy for when they finally open that philosophy factory in the next town over. @Kris_E_Benson

View all articles by Kris E. Benson

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119 comments

      1. SorosBot

        I'm watching it on Hulu (don't have cable period) and the ads on the DirectTV situation are really annoying – they say "Call DirectTV and tell them to put great shows like Tosh.0, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report back on", but Tosh.0 is a horrible show (even ignoring what a horrific misogynistic dudebro douche Tosh is) and should go away from the TV forever.

        1. ASHLEIGH_Joe

          Seriously. It's literally just The Soup (but after The Soup changed its name from Talk Soup and suddenly stopped being good), crossed with annoying Internet Reenactment.

          If I wanted more Internet Reenactment in my life, I'd simply attend more house parties hosted by my geeky college friends, don't really need a TV show for that.

    1. ColHeightsChic

      I love Jon Stewart. I'd have his babies. That said, I was overwhelmingly saddened when I saw him take a McCain (who I despise) comment so out of context, and creatively cut in the middle of a statement, to completely distort what McCain was saying… much in the same way Fox News does. I still watch Stewart religiously, but he does the same exact thing he so brilliantly exposes others for. sigh.

  1. ManchuCandidate

    Who knew that consolidation of news into business units and mergers would allow the suits to turn the news departments into spineless PR machines? (AKA He who has the gold and owns the press, makes the rules.)

    Although to be, um, fair and balanced… the media has always given tongue baths to their favorites.

    1. sullivanst

      Who knew that defunding investigative journalism might lead to less investigative journalism?

      "News gathering is expensive, that's why we don't do it" – almost every newsroom in the country.

  2. sullivanst

    A free press would be such a tremendous threat to our freedom, that's why the Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment to ensure we wouldn't have one, For Amurka!

  3. Jus_Wonderin

    Mom always told me it was important to keep a small package of sanitized quotes in your clutch in the event of an "emergency". She was smart that way.

  4. Maman

    How about reporters only being allowed to ask questions that candidates want to answer? Or FOX being called news at all.

  5. EatsBabyDingos

    "On background" usually means "when I hear the voices after three Ambien and a bottle of Mad Dog." Why should the press be different than Teabaggers?

    Or me?

    1. Jus_Wonderin

      Oh, look, there is my quote on the importance of maintaining our infrastructure…stuck and hanging; snagged on the tightly packed quotes about the importance of making Mr. Obama a one term president. Damn! Damn! When will I learn NOT to feed this fuckin' machine.

  6. sbj1964

    Fox News using the term fair&Balanced is like the Ford Motor company saying "Quality is Job #1."

  7. prommie

    Ever since the New York Times knowingly printed government misinformation and propaganda written by the CIA asset Judith Miller, for the purpose of supporting the Bush administration's intention to set up fraudulent and spurious grounds for an illegal war, we pay attention to that paper why? I mean, really, is there any way any how, that the Times isn't just a fucking joke? Our Pravda? Ever since the chairman of GE, manufacturer of atom bombs, missiles, and weapons of all kinds) barged into a network newsroom and demanded they call the 2000 election for Bush, ever since Dan Rather was purged for reporting a true story about Bush, ever since really about 1990, can anyone believe that the corporate media puts out anything but lies and distractions?

    1. Vecchiojohn

      "we pay attention to that paper why?" Where else are we gonna get the trenchant commentary of Tom "Let's go over to the middle east and kick somebody's ass, anybody's ass" Friedman? Huh? Answer me that!

      1. prommie

        Speaking of whom, that was only hyperbole about Miller being a CIA agent; she was a PNAC-AIPAC-Isreali operative. I actually think the CIA, or some people with integrity within the CIA, tried to fight the neocons.

        1. Vecchiojohn

          Yes, just as there was a CIA agent who tried to inform li'l' Georgie about bin Laden before he was inaugurated, whereupon he was told that now that he'd covered his ass he could go back to Washington.

    2. FakaktaSouth

      Well at least we were eased in to all of this. At first I knew what to believe on the news based on the commercials in between. I mean, when all of your sponsors are named Eli Lilly, I kinda see where you are coming from, ya know? And then when you are a wholly owned subsidiary OF GE itself, I mean, there you have it, blatantly, obviously, this is where we are coming from, so it's still fully disclosed, no? What is wrong with one of the largest corporations in the world dictating 'free' press? Things are fucking great everywhere, just take the good news and like it.

      1. prommie

        You know, if you tend to wiggle and move around and and tap your feet and such all the time, you might be suffering from restless leg syndrome! All you need to fix it up is a lifetime, lifelong eternal prescription to this new drug by Ely Lilly!

        1. FakaktaSouth

          Honest to god I know people say this all of the time, but seriously, seriously, the side effects of the restless leg syndrome meds are so much worse than jimmy-legs, I just cannot believe there are that many people willing to risk eye-blood and stroking out to death just to stop kicking around some. I think the only people who encourage those prescriptions are the ones getting kicked in their sleep.

      2. prommie

        Or more succinctly, "I was terrified when my doctor told me I might have an interesting personality trait, but now I take soma, and I think and act exactly like everyone else."

        1. FakaktaSouth

          Fucking soma should have a "may cause tattoos" warning – and you know, you don't NEED adderall, these things really SHOULD be boring you

          1. pdiddycornchips

            I recall a commercial for Ambein that suggested using if you were feeling aggressively normal.

    3. UnholyMoses

      Paul Krugman is almost worth a subscription … if his blog weren't free.

      But it is, so fuck the NYT.

  8. valthemus

    "American officials"
    "officials"
    "officials and a person briefed on the matter"
    "those involved with the discussion"
    "some advisers…"

    When I see phrases like these it always makes me think of Deep Throat.
    The porno flick, not the Watergate guy.

  9. Vecchiojohn

    This makes sense to me. You have to be careful of the way you say things; otherwise, people might get the right idea.

  10. ChernobylSoup

    An advisor to ChernobylSoup said he is the most thorough and attentive lover in the history of procreation. You can quote her on that.

      1. Billmatic

        Next time someone mentions a book that has slightly similar themes with 1984, I'm just going to post the above and then doff my cap like I'm clever.

  11. Mittens Howell, III

    Filed under 'Reluctant Butt-Sechs Tips":

    “We don’t like the practice,” said Dean Baquet, managing editor for news at The New York Times. “We encourage our reporters to push back. Unfortunately this practice is becoming increasingly common, and maybe we have to push back harder.”

  12. HateMachine

    Everyone is doing it, so the courageous journalists of the New York Times have to, or it won’t get interviews!

    Oh boo fucking hoo. You know what, New York Times? You're the New York Goddamned Fucking Times. If a candidate ain't willing to have the whole interview on record, then they won't get their words in the New Fucking York Times, asshole. Find some fucking stones and quit acting like no journalist in the world has any power over politicians whatsoever.

    1. actor212

      Or better yet, write the story, mentioning you asked Romney/Obama/whomever to comment but they refused to go on the record so we're ignoring them.

      1. HateMachine

        Almost there, but we can be a little more vindictive than that. Nah, fuck whatever the story was. The request for redaction and the refusal of the interview is THE story now. Front fucking page, Sunday edition. Preferably build up like a week's worth of these refusals to build the whole story around, so you can say that, say, Romney refused to be interviewed on
        -Jobs
        -Health care
        -His tax returns
        -His tax returns
        -His tax returns
        -Bain Capital
        unless his campaign got free redaction from the interview. Run that shit, let it circulate for the next news cycle.

        And then the day after they've taken heat for that, call up the Romney campaign for an interview, and ask sweetly if they would like to set any special conditions.

  13. FakaktaSouth

    Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article.

    Well, things do change everyday, not least of all what a Romney is "saying he thinks."

    This is absolutely the worst part of what is so terribly wrong with this country of ours – that there is no such thing as "facts" anymore. No empirical truths, no actualities, all just whatever someone needs for someone to believe they think today.

    1. prommie

      I have a right to equal time for my facts, and pointing out that my facts are false violates my religious freedom to believe in superstitious bullshit! Some people say the world was created 6,000 years ago by a giant cloud-dwelling, somewhat peavish and easily angered anthropomorphic God. On the other hand, every single degree-holding practicing non-insane scientist working at a real accredited institution of learning or study, says this is a laughable superstition. So that means the debate is completely even, and the answer is totally up in the air, right?

      1. FakaktaSouth

        That gives me a headache. But all due respect for being able to process enough of that bullshit to write a whole paragraph about it, truly. Caffeine is a hell of a drug.

    1. weejee

      nunchucks

      Isn't that what happens to Sister Caligula when she eats some chicken salad that had been in the fridge a bit too long?

  14. SorosBot

    Well at least it's not like The New York Times' shoddy journalism practices enabled the lies that lead us into an unwinnable war fought because of the President's daddy issues or anything.

    1. prommie

      More like it was fought because of the neocons Israel issues. Speaking of which, my punk-skiffle band is changing its name to Sheldon Adelsons Cash.

  15. EatsBabyDingos

    Big Media is Etch-a-Sketchy? I am shocked. Shocked. But only because I dropped my Lil Rupert Brain Dildo in the bathtub while it was plugged in.

  16. SayItWithWookies

    Soon the reporters will stop quoting people entirely, and just make up quotations based on what the reporter thinks the person means. But don't worry — that's how Reagan's advisers ran the executive branch, and nothing bad happened then.

    1. Designer_Rants

      Editrix needs to cut that shit out. I've had several comments deleted or "awaiting moderation" over the last week. I just had one deleted when I pointed out how re-tarded these changes are.

      1. JustPixelz

        Read her book "Commie Girl in the O.C." She wasn't so shy about using the R-word back then. Of course, the wingers of the O.C. are hard to describe in other terms.

    2. Mumbletypeg

      Fisting for solidarity! (and no, I have no idea why either. We should all start doing the $ubst!tuti0n of rogue letters in select phrases to make our point)~

  17. RalphCrown

    Old Quote: I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

    New Quote: I'm pleased as punch and I'm going to take it as long as they dish it out!

  18. Designer_Rants

    If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:

    “The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.” <a href="http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/should-the-times-be-a-truth-vigilante/

    ” target=”_blank”>http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/should-the-times-be-a-truth-vigilante/

    YES! YES! YOU SHOULD BE CALLING BULLSHIT, NOT BLITHELY DISSEMINATING IT!

    1. actor212

      This is what journalists used to do: it was called "fact checking." When someone made a claim, the reporter (or more likely, a cub or researcher) would be set to proving or disproving what he said.

      Part of the problem with a 24 hour news cycle is no one does this until the story has moved on.

      1. SorosBot

        No, "fact checking" is criticizing politicians for being too partisan; for example calling out a claim that Paul Ryan's plan to destroy Medicare would destroy Medicare as a lie of the year, because while 100% accurate it's mean.

    2. ASHLEIGH_Joe

      Meanwhile, Tough Guy Bush actually literally did apologize to Communist China, not even three months into his presidency. (Remember how the neocons were trying to make this up into the Next Cuban Missile Crisis?) But, y'know, who's actually counting anyway, instead of just cold making shit up on the spot.

  19. Goonemeritus

    Our Fourth Estate apparently is a rickety trailer propped up on blocks in a flood zone and used mostly to cook meth.

  20. AddHomonym

    But are the non-sanitized quotes from campaign "officials" or Romney sons worth a shit anyway? Talk to someone else!

  21. Mumbletypeg

    This whole "what you read now, isn't really what was originally stated." Reminds me of when I first learned politicians used speechwriters. Then I started regarding our church's minister preaching from his pulpit rather quizzically.

  22. ASHLEIGH_Joe

    See, allowing officials, aides, surrogates, and strategists to review and redact their quotes as a precondition of an interview has become the “default position.”

    Everyone is doing it, so the courageous journalists of the New York Times have to, or it won’t get interviews! And if they don’t get interviews, then they won’t get meaningless and sanitized quotes, see? USA! USA! USA!

    Hmm, I wonder if this might have anything to do with the R-money campaign's ostensibly delusional belief that it can demand retractions of articles without actually disputing any of the actual facts reported therein, and which we only know about because of the two instances where newspapers have reported this and publicly declined to do so.

    1. SorosBot

      It's sort of like how his experience in business is supposed to somehow magically make him qualified to be President, yet no one is allowed to look into what he actually did in business.

  23. bureaucrap

    NYT could save a lot of money on writers, editors, etc. if every day, it just published a single 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper reading, "You want the TRUTH? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!" And maybe with a picture of a cute kitten or puppy to boost sales.

  24. Mumbletypeg

    From the Reporters Without Borders link:

    Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes.

    Couldn't help but notice Finland tops the press freedom charts. You know what ELSE Finland dominates other nations in excelling at — Educmacation, that's what.

    1. Buckminster

      Gosh, if we start encouraging the masses to think for themselves, it would result in…it would result in…I dunno, freedom?

  25. mavenmaven

    Fortunately, I get the Illuminati newsletter, so I always know what actually is going to happen. And for balance, there's the secret Elders of Zion twitter.

  26. UnholyMoses

    Two things killed journalism in this nation (well, okay: three things):

    1. The change in ownership rules—Used to be, a company could only own a certain number of outlets in each market. This ensured competition and, for papers, a low barrier to entry. Once that restriction was removed, alternative viewpoints were purchased into irrelevance. Meanwhile, the right saw their opportunity and bought up outlet after outlet on which they could spread their propaganda.

    2. The Reagan Administration—They had a group of people paid to bitch to the press about coverage of our Most Senile President. They were so good at it that the WaPo stopped fact checking his speeches. (See Bill Moyers' special about the failures of the press leading up to Iraq … but only if you have strong liquor, meds, and/or weed nearby, and remove all sharp objects from your house.)

    3. The Internet—The media was slow on the uptake at first, followed Drudge into an abyss of lies and clinical stupidity second, and then decided that bloggers who kept scooping them needed to held to a higher standard than anyone else ever. Sadly, this has also included the outing of polarization, which was always there, but it was hidden from most people. Now that it's exposed, it's driven the right into Batshit Crazy Land—"Where all the rides make those with IQs over 80 throw up!(R)—whilst making the media afraid of telling the truth, lest they be labeled as biased.

    It's all very sad and fucked up and shit, especially for people like me who were taught in J school that the Truth was All That Matters, and Screw Those Who Don't Like It.

    **sigh**

    1. pdiddycornchips

      Journalists with ambition have learned the best way to get ahead is to be connected. If being connected means you're essentially a stenographer for the people you're most connected to, so be it. What gets reported and how it makes in print or on the airwaves is not a decision left to reporters. Editors and management decide what to print or what stories to give air time to. I suspect in the past, editors would ask tougher questions of their reporters about sources and their motives. I don't think those conversations take place much any more.

      Between SuperPacs and the two campaigns, they'll spend over a billion dollars, almost all that money makes its way into the coffers of large media conglomerates. The point is, big media and politics are so interconnected that one could not function (in it's current, unhealthy form) without the other. Both have a vested interest in keeping the status quo no matter how harmful it is to country or the ideal of an independent press.

  27. Callyson

    Why do we care what political hacks, I mean spokespeople, have to say? How about talking to subject experts (e.g., economists, foreign policy analysts) and ordinary citizens instead?

    1. pdiddycornchips

      Because policy wonks are powerless, economists are wrong almost all the time, and ordinary citizens are just plain stupid. Haven't you ever seen Jay Leno?

      1. Callyson

        True, though “wrong and stupid” would apply to most politicos as well. (Too bad about the power thing…)

  28. owhatever

    The collaboration began under W, when reporters and staff got together after a speech and tried to figure out what the hell he just said. Make the pie higher.

  29. netaloid

    Responsible newspapers who wish to own reporters must sign our neutering agreement first. Otherwise before you know it the neighborhood will be overrun with feral, breeding reporters.

    That would suck hard.

  30. James Michael Curley

    "I can gather all the news I need on the weather report."

    The outlook is high snark with a possibility of smarmy.

  31. LadyWisdom

    OH, NOOOOOO!!! Where will our political gaffes come from? And what will Wonkette do for material?

    This will backfire. Amusing quotes and the opportunity to point and laugh are the reason people pay attention to politics.

  32. Biel_ze_Bubba

    The U.S. dropped 27 places, thanks to the arrests of journalists at the Occupy Wall St. protests. Mayor Bloomberg must be so proud!

  33. ttommyunger

    Why not just stick with the old tried and true "Some say….."? Been working for Faux Snooze for years.

Comments are closed.