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smoking gun!

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 05, 2005

The invaluable Terry Mattingly at Get Religion has a great post concerning a revealing editing goof that was captured in an on-line New York Times story about the legacy of Pope John Paul II.

In the midst of the web version of Ian Fisher's April 2nd NYT article, hanging in the dead space between two paragraphs of stock liberal condescension (the latter including a critical quote from Hans Küng), was the journalist's note-to-self:

need some quote from supporter

The gaffe-draft was only up briefly, of course, then hastily taken down, corrected, and re-posted -- but not before some alert blogger spotted and got a screen shot of the original boner (eat your hearts out, redaction critics!). Like the guy who feeds the meat-grinder that compounds the sliders for White Castle, now we KNOW how New York Times articles are made!

Not that there was ever much doubt. One can usually tell when a reporter has truly been informed by his source and when, on the contrary, he has gone in search of a sock puppet to voice an opinion pre-assigned to the dramatis personae. The NYT's slip-of-the-mouse-button has simply provided visual proof of the anti-Catholic bias -- "prejudice" is exactly the right word here -- that fair-minded readers have long protested and that the editors have implausibly tried to deny. As Mattingly rightly points out, this captured screen-shot is more than just a great "gotcha!" story:

I especially like the slap of the word "some," as in "go to the closet and get me some old flannel shirt so I can change the oil in the car." It doesn't matter what quote from what pope lover. The story is written. The point of view is established. The desk just needs some quote from some reporter talking to some pope supporter to add some balance to the editorial viewpoint of the newsroom.

Well put. To change the metaphor, if all you need for "balance" is dead weight on one end of the scale beam, what matter if that weight is provided by an anvil, a sack of ready-mix, or a rusty engine block?

By contrast, we have the example of the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen. Though confessedly liberal in his own convictions, Allen makes commendable efforts to solicit opinions from all sides of a controversy, and obviously takes pains to listen carefully to his sources and to report accurately what they want to say. To his credit, he gives us more than the sensational lines or indiscretions that spill out in an interview, and the five or six conservatives I've spoken to who've been interviewed by Allen all admit to being impressed by the fact that they can recognize themselves in print. It's dismaying to read his own religious opinions (expressed in various public addresses), yet Allen is almost always able to separate his personal views from his reportage, and seems genuinely curious about what makes "the other guys" tick. Hard to imagine a perfunctory "need some quote from supporter" turning up in his notes.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Apr. 06, 2005 2:01 PM ET USA

    Thank God for bloggers. Caught the NYT red handed. You really need to get this out to some place like "Best of the Web" in the Opinion Journal. Nice job!

  • Posted by: sparch - Apr. 05, 2005 3:55 PM ET USA

    Just reading the page made me weary. The writer obviously has no sense of history and what makes history.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 05, 2005 10:16 AM ET USA

    This is one reason why I stopped reading newspapers except one weekly, stopped listening to NPR with the beginning of Gulf war I and their imperial boosterism, and stopped listening to all television news with the election of Clinton.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 05, 2005 9:30 AM ET USA

    Every time I see a quote from the NY Times; I realize how great life is without the Times, LA Times and the Wash Post. We all know where they stand. They are anti God, anti Catholic. pro abortion and pro euthanasia. Reading them is an absolute waste of time!

  • Posted by: - Apr. 05, 2005 8:00 AM ET USA

    Nice comment on John Allen. I've been quite impressed with his reporting, as well as his sources.

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