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Monday, November 29, 2004

When Will MSM Learn? NYT Caught Using Dem Talking Points

First, it was Dan Rather's faked Bush National Guard memos, then The New York Times's lost munitions debacle. In both cases, the sloppy (or worse) reporting and researching by these MSM bastions was publicly exposed by the Blogosphere. Now it appears the Times has again tripped itself because somebody there thought nobody would notice their use of Senate Democratic Policy Committee talking points.

Wrong again, Fearless Fosdick! Check out Patterico's Pontifications here for the whole story. Suffice it to say in this space that whoever wrote the "Mr. Smith Goes Under the Gavel" editorial in the Sunday Times either had no idea a quote from Missouri Sen. Kit Bond was bogus or simply didn't care. The Bond quote appeared in an editorial defending Senate Democrats use of filibusters to block President Bush's judicial nominees. Here's the key graph from the Times:

"Judicial nominees have never been immune from filibusters. When Republicans opposed President Lyndon Johnson's choice for chief justice, Abe Fortas, they led a successful filibuster to stop him from getting the job. More recently, in the Clinton era, Republicans spoke out loudly in defense of their right to filibuster against the confirmation of cabinet members and judicial nominees. Republican senators, including Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine of Ohio, used a filibuster in 1995 to block President Bill Clinton's nominee for surgeon general. Bill Frist, now the Senate majority leader, supported a filibuster of a Clinton appeals court nomination. Senator Christopher Bond, a Missouri Republican, was quoted in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1993 saying, 'On important issues, I will not hesitate to join a filibuster.'"

Patterico, a University of Texas law school grad who now works as a prosecutor in California, did a quick Google search on the quote and found that the Missouri Senator was actually talking about President Clinton's $16.3 billion economic recovery package and his willingness to filibuster that measure. Patterico's research also found the DPC document here that used the Bond quote as an example of alleged Senate GOP waffling on the filibuster issue. Patterico's blog is part of the Oh, That Liberal Media truth squad that specializes in causing heartburn in MSM newsrooms across the country.

How many more such MSM embarrassments will be exposed by the Blogosphere before traditional editors, producers and reporters get the message - the day of the News-as-Lecture-from-on-High is over because somebody is watching over your shoulder now. I suspect the answer is many because old habits die hard among those who grow accustomed to living the unexamined professional life.

By the way, OTLM may well be a model for applying the Blogosphere's unique fact-checking and information generation capabilities to influential public policy institutions like the media. OTLM numbers include 16 mischevious types - one of whom is my Heritage colleague Mary Katherine Ham - who each keep an eye on particular MSM outlets and publish their gleanings collectively and on their respective blogs. That's the genius of the Blogosphere: Round up a bunch of smart people with a common interest and focus their collective energies, skills and wit on a particular institution or issue, then step back and watch the accountability fur fly.

Just think what could be done about, for example, government waste if the pork-happy congressmen responsible for the 11,000+ special interest spending projects enacted in 2004 knew they will be held up to public scorn by a "FeedingthePig" media blog modelled on OTLM? And think how much influence the Under-30 crowd could have with an aggressive and well-focused "ReformSocialSecurityNow" blog devoted to a daily spotlighting of the heroes and goats in the coming congressional debate on fixing Social Security?

Folks, we are just scratching the surface of what the Internet in general and the Blogosphere in particular can do for and to the media and the public policy process.