Sunday, May 15, 2011

I don't usually read articles like this one by Jason Horowitz, in eht Washington Post

It is a discussion of Cherri and Mitch Daniels. I am interested in little asides which I consider to be direct assaults on all standards of decent journalism. To save space I will just discuss the first violation of the most fundamental rules of news reporting.

"The governor’s political enemies — those who are eager to box out a promising contender with a reputation for fiscal seriousness, establishment backing and intellectual heft"

The assertions about the alleged reputation for fiscal seriousness etc are absolutely not supported by any evidence presented in the article. I think this should not be allowed by Washington Post editors. It is bad enough to quote anonymous sources, but here there is no hint of a source.

Horowitz does not explain what convinces him that Daniels has that reputation. He may consider it obvious that a Bush administration OMB director must have a reputation for "fiscal seriousnes" (for the same reason that Dick Cheney is reputed to be a a pacifist).

My objection is not due to the fact that I consider it absolutely proven beyond all doubt that Daniels has no fiscal seriousness whatsoever. The same objection would be valid if Horowitz had written "a reputation for fiscal non-seriousness."

They are really two objections. First a claim of fact (that Daniels has such a reputation) is made with no supporting evidence whatsoever.

Second, even if the claim is true, it is a claim about opinions. I think Horowitz is definitely not allowed to write "I think that Daniels is fiscally serious." He sure can't write that without presenting some evidence of fiscal seriousness, but he also can't write that after presenting evidence, because he is supposed to be a reporter.

But reporting on someone's reputation is worse. If reporters reported their personal opinions, there would be a debate of sorts. If they report what is the conventional wisdom, there is no debate. This is worse. This would be terrible if the alleged reputation corresponded to what most people with some information on the subject say. It would be terrible even if those people were all sincere and and none are political operatives claiming to personally believe what they want the public to believe. It would still be opinion not evidence.

But, in fact, it is possible for such anti-jouranlism to be manipulated. It is possible for most reporters to think that the conventional view is wrong and yet for all of them to report the conventional view and not their personal opinion that it is wrong.

I guess the reader can tell how rarely I read such articles from the fact that I express total shock and dismay for the way things obviously are. But I was shocked. Honestly.

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