Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 11, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

GROPING-GATE EXPLAINED....I don't think this is going to change anybody's mind, but LA Times editor John Carroll has a piece in the Sunday paper explaining his decision to publish the Arnold-groping story five days before the recall election. His main points:

  • Arnold has had this reputation for years, and when he announced his candidacy it became news.

  • Investigating a story like this is enormously time consuming.

  • They published it as soon as they could given the extremely compressed timeframe of the election.

  • They investigated similar stories about Gray Davis but found them wanting.

Carroll is obviously pretty peeved at the accusations hurled at the Times, and it shows. I suspect that the most quoted part of his explanation will be this one, where he hits back at reports that the Times acted maliciously:

In days past, such misleading stories tended to make a brief splash and then sink into richly deserved oblivion, but we're living in changing times.

Today, if a story has potential to stir resentment among large numbers of people, it is seized like gold by the talk shows. Whether true or false, it is cynically packaged as the inside story "they" don't want you to know.

Early in its electronic life cycle, such a story bounces around the talk shows and the Internet, often presented breathlessly as a revelation. Later, intoned on TV by people in dark suits, it acquires the solemnity of established truth.

The electronic revolution has brought us many blessings, but it has also blindsided us with a tidal wave of pornography. In similar fashion, we are now getting a faceful of rotten journalism journalistic pornography, actually in which ratings are everything and truth is nothing.

For what it's worth, (a) he's probably right, and (b) he probably shouldn't have written this. Under the circumstances, it sounds a little too close to Bill O'Reilly petulance for his own good.

POSTSCRIPT: Carroll also tells us that the story was too graphic for some people. "My wife informed me that I'd strayed far over the line in publishing one of the anecdotes," he says. At a wild guess, click on the story and search for "coffee" to find the anecdote he's talking about.

A complete list of all the groping stories is here.

Kevin Drum 3:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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