Friday, May 11, 2012

"Journalism" at the Washington Post, math at the Star-Tribune

Several decades ago, when I was a young journalism student and the movie "All the President's Men" was sweeping the country, I used to dream about someday working at the Washington Post. Then I matured, gained a bit of wisdom and - most importantly - spent several years living in Washington and seeing on a daily basis that the Post wasn't really a newspaper, it was pretty much just a liberal opinion/propaganda publication.

If anything, it's gotten worse since then, and Thursday the paper provided more proof that it can't really be trusted. It's big expose on Thursday was that nearly 50 years ago, in 1965, while a high school student, Mitt Romney was part of a group of guys that pinned a fellow student to the ground and gave him a haircut.

Yep. That's the story. Except that it took only a few paragraphs to notice the sloppy reporting:

“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident," the Post reported.

Except that it turns out Stu White - "long been bothered" by the incident - told ABC News yesterday that he wasn't there when it happened, and didn't even know about it until a Post reporter told him about it a few weeks ago.

So, you know, he's a pretty reliable source.

Caught with its hand in the cookie jar, the Post tried to cover its tracks. By Thursday night, the online edition of the Post had changed the false paragraph to read that White "has been 'disturbed' by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago."

Nice work, fellows. That helps your credibility.

A much more minor - but still fun to point out -goof appeared on the Star-Tribune's web site, where Rachel Stassen-Berger wrote a piece about the retiring members of the Minnesota Legislature. It's a tradition at the legislature that departing members give "retirement speeches" on the session's final day, and that took place yesterday.

Stassen-Berger took note, and then wrote, "Nearly ten percent of the 201-member Legislature will not be running for re-election next year." She then went on to list 41 names of members who are not running for re-election.

Well, first of all, no one is running for re-election "next year," they are running for re-election THIS year, but let's take a moment to focus on the math. "Nearly ten percent" of 201 would - by my finger-and-toe arithmetic - would seem to mean that about 19 or so members were not returning. The 41 names she listed, on the other hand, would seem to constitute just a fraction over 20 percent of the legislature.

I hope Stassen-Berger's math was better when she reported on the stadium bill, and yo hae to wonder just who - if anyone - is editing the copy over on Portland Ave.

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