Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bad Journalism -- Are You a Victim?

I hate bad journalism. Just saw an example today from the New York Post. For the article, see New York Post Article.

The article, about author Ann Coulter, quotes a so-called expert who blatantly misleads everyone. Below is the letter I wrote to the reporter, Philip Recchia, who clearly did not do his homework. Watch out for such reporters. They do an injustice to the good work that real journalists do.


My response to the article (as an email to the reporter):

How can you make the following statement: "Conservative scribe Ann Coulter cribbed liberally in her latest book, Godless, according to a plagiarism expert" when he cites only three instances covering less than 100 words in a 75,000-word book?

I'm not sure of the word count of the book but a typical book has about 75,000 words. I haven't read her book. But the lead statement to your article is clearly misleading given the evidence cited in the article. My guess is that most books could match the same criteria (3 instances of less than 100 words total). So does every author crib liberally?

Now, it is legitimate to criticize her lack of citations in her column. That's just plain decency to cite your sources. It might not be illegal or such, but it is good authorship to cite sources, especially when using extensive content from such sources.

As for her 344 citations, Barrie gives no example of them being misleading. Is that your fault for not citing his examples, or does he not have any? Making such a statement and then not backing it up is as bad as anything Ann has done. It's red-baiting.

And your lead statement in the article is also as bad as anything Ann has done. Clean up your act. You are not being a journalist when you use terms like "cribbed liberally" and then cite only three examples. That's just bad, bad journalism.

I'm on a campaign to clean up such bad journalism. Sure, it makes great copy, but it just ain't true -- at least not according to the content of your own article (which is all I have to judge from since I haven't read her book or seen Barrie's complete news release or interview).


I don't know anyone who's ever been interviewed by a reporter who hasn't sometimes felt a victim of the reporter cutting and pasting quotes out of context, misleading his or her readers, etc. I wish journalism schools would teach true journalistic standards because despite news media claims to objectivity, there is very little of that in any media, liberal or conservative or impartial. Newspapers, radio, and TV are the worst purveyers of lax standards, but magazines do their fair share of sloppy editing and fact checking.
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