The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

From the ‘Too Good to Check’ File

Posted on | April 21, 2012 | 27 Comments

Here’s a tip for you kids who might be considering a career in journalism: Not everything you read on the Internet is true.

In fact, if you spend a lot of time reading liberal blogs — which too many kids who might be considering a career in journalism seem to be doing lately — you might be consuming large quantities of what veteran journalists call “complete dishonest bullshit.”

This point is worth emphasizing in light of a column by Patrick B. Pexton, ombudsman of the Washington Post, that carried this headline:

The Post fails a young blogger

Pexton’s column is a sympathetic account of the unfortunately brief tenure of a 20-something blogger for the WaPo, Elizabeth Flock.

Apparently, it sucks to be a WaPo blogger: The demand for output and traffic is insane. Flock’s blog “was supposed to attain 1 million to 2 million Web hits a month, Flock said, a huge number.” And she was averaging nearly six posts a day — some pretty heavy-duty aggregation, with a bit of actual reporting and fact-checking expected as well, the kind of remorseless grind that makes Nick Denton’s blog empire such a notorious hellhole.

So I was reading Pexton’s column and feeling a good deal of sympathy for Flock until I got to the seventh paragraph and read this:

She did a roundup on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney allegedly using an old Ku Klux Klan slogan in his stump speech — a story that went viral online yet was untrue — and she didn’t call the Romney campaign for comment, nor did any editor make sure she did.

This is what veteran journalists call “HOLY FREAKING CRAP!”

Not exactly a minor typo to falsely accuse a candidate for President of the United States of recycling KKK slogans in his stump speech. Where on earth did Flock find this? From “political commenters,” according to her story, and when you clicked the link . . .

John Aravosis.

Yeah, him — the deranged poofter who makes Andrew Sullivan look sane by comparison. The item by Aravosis got picked up and repeated by MSNBC, which subsequently apologized. Twenty-seven hours elapsed between the time Avarosis posted that and the time Flock “aggregated” it at the WaPo. Flock did not bother to contact the Romney campaign herself, but instead cited the HuffPo, which said a Romney spokeswoman “declined to comment on the matter.”

Believe it or not, after the HOLY FREAKING CRAP incident, Flock was not immediately fired, but continued on until a week ago when, in an item about possible life on Mars, she committed plagiarism:

Flock says that in haste she read about 10 stories about Mars life, including some of the research papers, and forgot to credit and link to the originator of the story, Discovery News. It appears that she copied, pasted and slightly rewrote two paragraphs from the Discovery story. Plagiarism perhaps, but also a perpetual danger in aggregated stories.
After Discovery News raised objections, Flock resigned voluntarily.

Fare thee well, Ms. Flock. And in your next job, if you ever call John Avarosis a “deranged poofter,” please make sure to credit me.


27 Responses to “From the ‘Too Good to Check’ File”

  1. MrPaulRevere
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 12:23 am

    She should e-mail Charles Johnson and ask if she can be a co-blogger. 

  2. Adjoran
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 1:26 am

    It must have been the outside plagiarism noise that did the trick – no way a WaPo writer gets canned for defaming a Republican. 

    WaPo doesn’t exactly have the greatest record of fact-checking, either.  They would have covered for Janet Cooke if they could have managed it.

  3. Sheer Politics
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 2:08 am

    Maybe she can get a job from Dan Rather….

  4. Charles Johnson
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 3:16 am

    I am always looking for a few more good sheep.  “Good” is doing what they are told and not asking questions.  

  5. CPAguy
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 4:12 am

    Newspapers may be dead…but there is still a place for journalism.

  6. Tommy Christopher’s Latest Kerfuffle, Over Romney’s “Obama Isn’t Working” Slogan
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 8:28 am

    […] seems that there’s been a rash of liberals shooting themselves in the feet by taking their own rhetoric as sober facts, though the Chicago Tribune gravely intoned that it was […]

  7. Cube
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    Plagiarism and publishing damaging stuff about Republicans without checking if it’s true (and it turns out it’s not). She’s got the right resume for a job at the New York Times.  Handled right, this could be a major career boost.

    But expecting 1-2 million hits per month without the benefit of Rule 5?  Uh huh.

  8. Saul
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    Ironic that this kind of fake commenting occurs the same day this blog complains that lefties are spoofing righties’ identities. And I recall “Charles Johnson” making his appearance here long before anyone did the same thing to Stacy or Lonely Conservative.

  9. Blogging Isn’t Traditional Journalism, and Vice-Versa: That’s the Point, Actually | Daily Pundit
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 10:33 am

    […] Vice-Versa: That’s the Point, Actually Posted on April 22, 2012 7:32 am by Bill Quick From the ‘Too Good to Check’ File : The Other McCain So I was reading Pexton’s column and feeling a good deal of sympathy for Flock until I got to […]

  10. Saul
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 11:04 am

    no way a WaPo writer gets canned for defaming a Republican

    It takes a pretty insane level of denial to insist that — contrary to all reaction from the WP — the WP actually liked what their blogger did. It takes a pretty poor level of  reading comprehension, too. This is the second time Pexton has castigated his own paper over this incident. Here’s the correction, which Pexton noted used “uncharacteristically strong language”:

    Editors’ note: This posting contains multiple, serious factual errors that undermine its premise. Mitt Romney is not using “Keep America American,” which was once a KKK slogan, as a catchphrase in stump speeches, as the posting and headline stated. In a YouTube video that the posting said showed Romney using the phrase, Romney actually used a different phrase, “Keep America America.” Further, the video that the blog posting labelled “Mitt Romney 2012 Campaign Ad” is not actually a Romney campaign ad. The video itself states “Mitt Romney does not actually support this ad.” The posting cited accounts of Romney saying “keep America American” at an appearance last week. Independent video from the event shows him saying “Keep America America.” The Post should have contacted the Romney campaign for comment before publication. Finally, we apologize that the posting began by saying “[s]omeone didn’t do his research” when, in fact, we had not done ours. 

    Real-world events are not conforming to your imagination…and you can’t handle it.

  11. Saul
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 11:20 am

    One of the other ironies here is that despite all the hate for the Washington Post (and Stacy has an especially fiery hatred for the Post) and the New York Times expressed here, this blog depends on their work, day in  and day out, for its very existence.

    As Pexton’s piece points out, the essence of aggregation blogging is “cashing in on the passing popularity of a story even if you don’t have a reporter covering it.” The subtext is this: blogging ain’t journalism. And that is exactly why WP bloggers who would rather be journalists have resigned in frustration, as Pexton reports.

    Blogging is a crazy parasite crying for the death of  the host that sustains it.

  12. ThePaganTemple
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

     Oh crap, this guy here pretending to be Charles Johnson is obviously not trying to make anybody think he really is Charles Johnson, that’s the difference. There is a big difference between a satire account and an actually fake one.

  13. ThePaganTemple
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

     Then what the hell are you doing here?

  14. ThePaganTemple
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

     Oh, and in case you’ve not been paying attention, are you aware that traditional newspapers and magazines have been hemorrhaging readers and subscribers in recent years? The New York Times is probably the most obvious example of this phenomenon, but there are plenty of others, like just for another example, Newsweek.

    But blogs depend on their work? Bullshit, if anything, blogs might be one of the few things keeping their sorry asses afloat. There are probably at the very least tens of thousands of people who would never read them if it weren’t for linking to one of their “stories” through blogs like this one.

  15. TR
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

    All points to the need for the RSM new new school of journalism to teach Neutral Objective Journalism and the way to get 1 million hits on your blog site.  Stacy you have the course material, you have the quirky accent, go for it!.
    “Stacy McCain, the Vegematic Hawkster of Blognitude”

  16. ThePaganTemple
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

     Real-world events are not conforming to your imagination…and you can’t handle it.

    Says the guy who chose a screen name in honor of a psychopathic, paranoid-schizophrenic mass murderer who was so terrified of his court musician he threw a javelin at him. Or are you just tall? If so, maybe you should go get bent.

  17. Datechguy's Blog » Blog Archive » Elizabeth Flock go have a sit down with Robert Stacy McCain » Datechguy's Blog
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

    […] reaction is one that one might expect from a person with decades in the reporting business: This is what veteran journalists call “HOLY FREAKING […]

  18. Saul
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

    blogs depend on their work? Bullshit

    Scroll to the top of the page and take a look at the catalyst for this post: material published by the New York Times. Talking about on what’s been in the newspaper is SOP for bloggers…and for TV news, for that matter. 

    if anything, blogs might be one of the few things keeping their sorry asses afloat.

    Not even close to how it works in the real world world. Anyone who clicks through on Stacy’s link to the NYT is reading for free — not subscribing. And even if the NYT gets page-view ad revenue from blog traffic, it’s just pennies. Ask Stacy how rich he’s getting off page views. No, the main sources of of revenue for newspapers are, 1) display advertising, and 2) classified advertising. And they don’t get either of those from blog traffic, despite the fact that news-oriented blogs are based on newspaper content.

    And as for “sorry asses,” it’s a shame to see there are Americans who denigrate newspapers. Many of the founding fathers were journalists and/or newspaper publishers. Then, as now, journalism is one of the pillars of American freedom. Arguably even more important than the military in the last half-century.

  19. Peter Ingemi
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

    As Stacy McCain is the patron saint for first hand shoe leather reporting on everything from presidential campaigns to Bill (The Tea Party killed him/oh no they didn’t nevermind) calling him parasitic for expecting a journalist for acting like…a journalist is laughable

  20. Bob Belvedere
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 5:56 pm
  21. Wombat_socho
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

     Maybe if the newspapers had been acting more like they did in the days of the Founders, they wouldn’t be bleeding readers and money the way they are. As for your comment about journalists being more important than the military in the last 50 years…I don’t want to know what you’re smoking. Nothing that causes that kind of brain damage is anything I want in my body.

  22. Wombat_socho
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

     Some people enjoy abuse.

  23. Saul
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

    Saint Shoe Leather indeed! The things I remember about Stacy’s “shoe-leather” trip to Kentucky are that he failed to uncover any facts about Bill Sparkman, but did discover that his (Stacy’s) diner waitress was a lesbian. Also, that Stacy linked Dan Riehl’s rumormongering that Sparkman was probably a child molester. The thing I remember about Stacy’s “shoe-leather” trip to the Rose Bowl is that he failed to find the practice field and failed to get into the game, but did interview the waitress in the bar where he ended up watching the game. The thing I remember about Stacy’s “shoe-leather” primary coverage is that he got kicked out of a Romney campaign office because he was a Santorum volunteer. The thing I remember about Stacy’s “shoe-leather” trip to cover the Scott Brown campaign is that his big get was a very brief video “interview” with Brown’s daughter, during which he muckled onto the poor girl “to make my (Stacy’s) wife jealous,” but didn’t actually get around to interviewing her. Also, the look on Brown’s daughter’s face. All of which goes to show that travel alone is not enough to break news, and to explain why I don’t pray to Saint Stacy. If you know of any journalists who do, however, feel free to point us to where their adorations can be read.

  24. ThePaganTemple
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

     Don’t underestimate the importance of on-line advertising for internet sites like The New York Times or other big name newspapers. The page views they get determines the amount of money they can charge for their ads, just like the bigger name blogs, which can charge tens of thousands of dollars a month just for one well-placed ad. I used to read Wonkette (back in the days when it was actually funny), and learned just to satisfy my curiosity that an ad purchase on that site, about five years ago, cost somewhere north of twenty thousand dollars.

     Anytime you click on a link to one of those Time Stories, you are contributing to that page view, and thus helping to shore up their advertising rates, whether you click on an ad or not. It doesn’t work like these little ads from Amazon like Stacy has here, which requires people to click on the ads directly before the blog-owner earns those few pennies a click.

  25. ThePaganTemple
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

    I don’t know about that, maybe in some cases, but the more important newspapers have always been as bad or worse than the ones today. To their credit, they made no attempt to hide their ideology, they just hit you over the head with it and didn’t even try to pretend to be “objective”.

    Some of the political coverage during the 1796, 1800 elections, and on up into the early decades of the 19th century were among the most incendiary news reports ever put to paper, with examples of libel and hateful rhetoric that would make Ed Schultz bow his head in shame. 

  26. ‘They Just Want the Money’ : The Other McCain
    April 23rd, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    […] pension plan.Indeed. Perhaps the NYT’s grumbling newsroom proletariat should read about working conditions for young bloggers at the Washington Post.The days of easy money and “banker’s hours” in the news business are definitely […]

  27. Media’s Lack of Accountability Now Blamed on ‘Right-Wing Bloggers’? : The Other McCain
    April 26th, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

    […] while only rarely and reluctantly acknowledging stories originated by the online Right?Isn’t this what the Elizabeth Flock story showed us? Notorious moonbat John Avarosis makes an outrageously irresponsible accusation — that Mitt […]