Last week saw yet another victim of the war on two fronts that is coverage of political campaigning on one hand, and fighting off the competition on the other hand. The editor of Politico.com, a new political news website that shot to prominence, admitted that he allowed an article put up on the site which completely mischaracterized a candidate. Just as the original writer at the newspaper, which is vehemently opposed to the candidate, had intended. Said article in the New York Post took one sentence completely out of context, in an apparent drive to damage the candidate.
Without thinking, fearing that competitors would outrun them, Politico.com simply copied the story, without checking the facts. Later on, when the reporters did get to check the facts, they found out how slanted the story was.
So John F. Harris, a renowned reporter and co-editor of Politico.com, put up an apologetic article. Or so it seemed, because the article is hardly apologetic. If only it had been!
Call me whatever you want, but I could not resist writing Harris an email to explain how appalled I was.
Here it is, in full:
‘Dear Mr Harris,
I’m an avid reader of Politico, and I enjoyed your “The Way To Win:2008” book
(with Halperin) very much.
But I’m also a journalist, and I thought your article ‘How small stories become big
news’ hair raising.
There is one scene in your article which I found particularly painful.
You describe how Jonathan Martin was “furiously typing away”, explaining to you what Clinton had said. Later on, you write that “Martin himself knew about Clinton’s remarks from the New York tabloid’s story”.
So let me get this straight: Martin wrote his story solely based on what he’d read on the NYP’s site? Or did he check another, less partisan source to back up the story?
And – the horror, the horror! – only after publishing the story on your site, did you and Martin sit down to see what Clinton actually said on the Argus video?
Seriously: are you guys journalists, or are you just automated copywriting machines?
Here is what I think truly happened, but what you fail (yet should have the honesty) to admit:
1.Politico violated Rule Number One from the Book of Journalism: one source is no source.
2.And even then the one source you did quote, was not one of the more objective news media. The New
York Post is not exactly a friend of Clinton, or anyone Democratic.
So it seems that, as you wrote it, you allowed Politico.com to report the “story” with the NYP’s (very much anti-Clinton, anti-Democratic) slant.
The NYP took one sentence, ripped it from it’s context completely, and started bashing Clinton with
By basically copying what they wrote, you became part of the NYP’s agenda.
I think you’ve got your priorities all wrong. Sure, you’re looking for traffic but if you guys are writing the same stories all the others are writing, then what’s your unique selling point?
Trust me, there’s a huge audience out there that’s dying to read the stories based on facts, and on a neutral (well, as neutral as possible…) website.
I for one will, from now on, always have to second guess Politico. Who or what is the source of the stories? Did they check them before they put them up on the site?
There’s hardly a non-partisan news outlet left in America today. If I can’t trust Politico, who do I trust?”
Of course, I’m still waiting for a reply. Naturally, I realise full well that I’m just one blogger, out of the millions out there, and I’m sure that the email server of Politico.com was smoking in the hours after Harris put up his article.
But surely, the points I made in the email are valid?