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The PJ Tatler

by
Patrick Richardson

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August 20, 2011 - 12:31 pm

After Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Reporter Eric Lichtblau was caught lying about Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.) in print (which should tell you all you really need to know about the Pulitzer these days, and as an aside, deliberate MSM lies will henceforth be known as “Doing a Lichtblau”) the NYT is scrambling to do damage control.

The lies started in the lede:

Here on the third floor of a gleaming office building overlooking a golf course in the rugged foothills north of San Diego, Darrell Issa, the entrepreneur, oversees the hub of a growing financial empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Of course, as we’ve previously reported the golf course is a freeway and the “gleaming office building,” is an ugly, four-story, concrete and glass box.

None of this matters to the Times, who are scrambling to defend a story with 13 substantive errors, the Politico reports:

Dean Baquet, the Times’ D.C. bureau chief who is becoming a top editor in New York this fall, said he is looking at Issa’s office’s complaints.
“I think if you look carefully at Mr. Issa’s complaints, and the story, you will see that there is nothing that gets to the heart of it,” Baquet said. “Happy to consider any mistakes they point out, and we are looking at those. But I’m not seeing a need for any sort of retraction.”
He also argued that Lichtblau’s lede was not misleading.
“I don’t think it implied — at least to my mind — that Issa’s office overlooked the golf course,” he said. “I think it is trying to give a sense that this is a building in a cool area. That’s the way I always read it. Otherwise it really would have said his office overlooked the golf course. That would have been even cooler to say.”

Uh, Earth to Dean, that’s exactly what it DID say. Dweeb.

Deano also seems to feel there’s no reason for anyone to be upset over the mistake in the lede. Now, for those of you who are not journoweenies like myself, the lede (pronounced lead) is the first paragraph of the story, one generally tries to be accurate there.

“It feels to me, to be frank, that the discussion of a very sophisticated and nuanced story has been shifted to what the story did not say, rather than what it did say,” he said. “What it did say is that Mr. Issa is doing something rare among members of Congress by actively leading a business empire and that this raises questions that are rarely confronted. I think that is a very, very legitimate issue to explore in the pages of the paper.”
Lichtblau, who did visit the hall of the third floor, told POLITICO he didn’t see the golf course from any of the windows of that floor. He said he stood at Shadowridge Country Club, about a quarter mile to the southwest of the building, and could see the building from there.
He also said a brochure for the building’s lessor bragged about its golf course views, but he could not produce that flier. Issa’s office said it does not know about any advertisement describing such views.
Lichtblau said the “golf course was some color, but the point of the lede was, symbolically, what it said to have his business office literally next door to his congressional office.”

Well, Eric me boy, you did get one part of this right, your screw up in the lede was symbolic — which is why so many people are ticked off about it. It’s symbolic of the sort of sloppy reporting and outright prevarication the former “newspaper of record” engages in in any story about their political enemies.
Not that the Politico is much better. Check out the final line of their story which tells you exactly which side they’re on:

Issa is the bombastic chairman of the top investigative committee in Congress, and takes it upon himself to be the check on the Obama administration’s actions. He is worth several hundred million dollars in assets, making him perhaps the richest lawmaker in Washington.

Gee, how dare Issa take it upon himself to *gasp* do his job, that dirty rich guy.

I sent an email to Lichtblau earlier this week asking him if he would do the honorable thing and issue a retraction and apology.

The crickets are still chirping.

I have to tell you folks, if I turned in a story with 13 factual errors my paper wouldn’t be digging in to protect me. I’d be looking for a new job while my publisher was issuing a public apology both to our readers and to whomever the story was about.  That the Times refuses to do so tells you all you need to know their editors.

Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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