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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shocked by Those Shocked by Trump Win

It looks to me like New York Times readers were especially surprised by Trump's win. It seems that the paper really hadn't prepared them for the possibility. Of course, that's because the Times itself was caught completely off-guard. Many internal and external criticisms have followed. Here's an excerpt of an internal one by Liz Spayd, the Times Public Editor:
The red state America campaign coverage that rang the loudest in news coverage grew out of Trump rallies, and it often amplified the voices of the most hateful. One especially compelling video produced with footage collected over months on the campaign trail, captured the ugly vitriol like few others. That’s important coverage. But it and pieces like it drowned out the kind of agenda-free, deep narratives that could have taken Times readers deeper into the lives and values of the people who just elected the next president.
Funny she mentions "agenda" and "narratives." Because Michael Cieply, an editor who worked for the Times up until July wrote:
[At the Times] by and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line. [...] senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. ... 
I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?” 
The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”
To summarize, they come up with a narrative, then find stories to fit it. That's journalism? This is the venerable Grey Lady, the paper of record? Really?

When I first read this via a link from Instapundit, I thought it was satire or a hoax or something. After all, if the Times was really doing their reporting backwards by coming up with the narrative first, we would have heard about it long ago, wouldn't we? Isn't that a rather important detail? Wouldn't some Times journalist or Times ex-journalist happen to mention that, perhaps inadvertently, to the world?

It might still be a hoax, but right now it doesn't look like it to me. Many other clearly legitimate media organizations have now quoted this story. If it was a hoax, I think someone would've pointed it out by now.

But what's further bewildering me is that the other organizations' attitudes seem to be something like, "yeah, sure, no surprise that's what the Times does, and really, no biggie." Okay, well, good to know it's no biggie, because otherwise I might've been outraged. No, wait! I am kinda outraged! The Times is trying to tell the country what to think. And they're succeeding for much of their readership. A readership that is fortunately dwindling. A readership that is absolutely baffled about the Trump phenomenon, mostly thanks to the Times (and the rest of the Main Stream Media).

I've been skeptical of the Times for a long time. Now I'm gonna have trouble believing anything I read in that paper.


erp said...

Doubt the rest of the media is much different. Moving the narrative forward is the goal and that's been obvious for at least 50 years.

Harry Eagar said...

He wrote about movies. I doubt he ever was on the same floor where this alleged narrative was concocted. (I have worked in the Times building, on the National news copy desk; the place where the National news staff works is quite small and not close even to the International desk. The toy shop departments are far away, mostly on other floors and reached by winding corridors; I used to get lost.)

When I was a reporter, I would occasionally call a newsmaker (this happened after a long, complicated public discussion) and ask him, 'I would like to quote you as saying something like this . . . '

This happened when 1) the source was not very articulate; 2) he had made the point I was after him to make but in fragments at different points during the discussion; and 3) I was trying to boil something down to where a reader could start to grasp it.

I didn't do it often but I never had a source decline and sometimes would get a thank-you: 'Yes, that's what I was trying to say.'

I don't think the most urgent problem is whether you believe what's in the Times but whether the putative next president beliees what's on Infowars and Stormfront.

Bret said...

Harry wrote: "I doubt he ever was on the same floor..."

He claims to have been.

But what's more interesting to me is that several papers (and numerous blogs) picked it up and none thought it was noteworthy. The attitude is "of course that's what the NY Times does!"

Harry wrote: "I don't think the most urgent problem is whether you believe what's in the Times..."

Yes, that's not a problem at all. At this point I don't believe even a single word of what's published in the NY Times and other mainstream media. No problem!

In fact, at this point, I don't even accept links to articles in main stream media as any sort of data in support of any side in any debate.

Harry Eagar said...

No question the Times covered Trump ineptly but that was because they misunderstood the basic indecency of the man. Surprising if you consider how familiar with him they were.

Consider also that Timesmen and -women think of themselves as reasonable people (well, sometimes it's hard to accept for the Style section). What are they to conclude when they interview a voter who says he/she is attracted by Trump's plainspokenness, hten also tells the reporter that he/she depends on Obamacare.

There were many such interviews; you could hear them on NPR, so there is no question of a writer misreporting what was said.

A reasonable person would conclude, no way is that person going to vote for Trump. But reasonable people can be dad wrong about human behavior which is frequently unreasonable.

You are in a pickle, though. Silicon Valley told us that once theft had destroyed papers other sources of all the news we need would (magically) appear. I recall you making that point and trying to prove it by finding sports scores online.

I said it wouldn't happen and it didn't.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] I don't think the most urgent problem is whether you believe what's in the Times but whether the putative next president beliees what's on Infowars and Stormfront.

Epic fail, Harry.

Almost no one reads Infowars and Stormfront*, especially in comparison to the NYT. So the question you avoided through failing to see the obvious is how urgent the problem is that people who read -- and subscribe -- to the NYT should believe anything other than that it consists of shameless shills.

Silicon Valley told us that once theft had destroyed papers other sources of all the news we need would (magically) appear.

Prove it.


* I read, in the NYT, that there was some white supremacist gathering in DC, about which we should get the vapors.

Total attendance: 200.

The last Bronycon 7,000. That means there are something like 30 times as many people dressing up as anthropomorphic horses as want to say and do racist things.

Harry Eagar said...

Trump reads Infowars and Stormfront. This might be important.

And has what might be called visual schizophrenia. Instead of hearing voices he sees events that no one else sees.

Bret is too young to have read it, but there really was an influential national publication where the editors in New York rejected the reports of their correspondents and rewrote the stories in the opposite sense to suit the marrative of the publisher.

Unfortunately for Bret's narrative of the narrative, this publication was rightwing.

It's still around, much diminished in size and revenue, and it seems to have almost no influence any more.

Then, of course, there are the national newspapers run by friends of Trump that reported throughout the campaign that Clinton had, variously, gained 97 pounds, was about to be indicted, was in a lesbian relationship with Abedin etc. Remarkably, no one at Great Guys seemed to be offended.

Why, it's almost as if Great Guys has an agenda

Bret said...

Great Guys certainly has an agenda (though each "guy" has his own specific agenda). However, we don't claim to be a "paper of record" with a motto of "all the news that's fit to print."

You are correct that I'm not in the least offended that it was reported that Clinton gained weight, etc. In fact, other than the possible indictment, I wasn't even aware of such reports, but I wouldn't have cared anyway.

erp said...


I am not familiar with any national newspapers run by friends of Trump and certainly don't know of any who supported him or even treated him somewhat fairly. List them please.

Hmmm? Influential New York newspaper editors who changed stories to fit their narrative at a time Bret would have been too young to have read about it?

List these too please.

Harry Eagar said...

So why weren't you offended by a rank attempt to publicize fake news? Because you don't really object to fake reporting as such?

erp, I am unsurprised you do not know of the publications: Enquirer, Globe, Time

Bret said...

I have no problem at all with fake news. If the NY Times wishes to be a fake news outlet, so be it. I know that now.

erp said...

Which are they Harry? Trump's friends or the publications that Bret is too young to have read?

Harry Eagar said...

'I have no problem at all with fake news.'

You seem to have selective problems.

What precise fake events do you think the Times published?

Where I fault the Times and other news outlets is falling for McCarthyite tactics; I guess they forgot how they were bamboozled in the '50s.

Harry Eagar said...

Facts schmacts

It seems that -- if Lewandoski is correct -- it would be impossible to report fake news about Trump even if you wanted to.

By the way the front page of the Enquirer, which is seen by more people in a week than see a front page of the Times in a year, reports this week that Clinton has committed treason. I await a protest from anybody on the right. You, anybody.

erp said...

Don't consider the Times, the Washington Post or the Enquirer credible sources, so what's your point?

Harry Eagar said...

Your opinin on this subject is worth moting since you claim not to have looed at the papers.

The point is that doubts or objections about fake news are not about fake news as such -- rightwingers are fine with some kinds of it. Prefer it to the real McCoy

erp said...

I have no opinion because I don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about.

McCarthy was right and was vilified. Everything in the media about him was fake. I would have thought you had read about that in the newspapers when the Soviets collapsed and their files we made public.

Clinton committed treason as did Teddy, Kerry ... This is news to you? It's been in all the papers.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] Trump reads Infowars and Stormfront. This might be important.

[followed by even more shameful wastes of pixels]

Why, it's almost as if Great Guys has an agenda

That which you offer without substantiation can be ignored out of hand.

What precise fake events do you think the Times published?

85% chance of Hillary! winning
Gifford shooting and "eliminationist rhetoric"
Duranty and Stalin
Matthews and Castro
Jayson Blair
Every word it writes on climate change
All the News That's Fit to Fake
More on NYT fake news, from an NYT reporter.

You really need to read papers more.

Harry Eagar said...

You do know Trump called Jones right after the election to tell him how great Infowars was?