Back in 2003, Virginia Postrel wrote that British newspapers often play as fast and loose with the truth as well as, to bring the analogy up to date, the average American JournoList member — though in comparison with that rather low standard, the storytelling is often much more fun for the reader at home to consume:
Chuck Freund has a typically astute piece on the press and the war. (Via Matt Welch.) I would add another point: Each national press corps seems to have its own pathology. For the American press, it’s the giant campaign swing, as applicable in military campaigns as in electoral contests. First the front-runner can’t lose. Then he’s a total disaster. Ditto the U.S. military in Iraq. The audience, reporters seem to believe, will reward drama.
The British press corps serves its market, in turn, by passing on every rumor someone tells a reporter in a bar. The result are lots of juicy stories, some of them true. As a former U.S. news editor told her editors after 9/11, when asked why her paper wasn’t getting the great stories in the British press, “They’re great stories. But they aren’t true.”
That last sentence is the operative phrase for an item on Sarah Palin by Jane Fryer in the Daily Mail, according to Kathy Shaidle at David Horowitz’s NewsReal blog. Or as Kathy writes, “British reporter’s anti-Palin Tea Party dispatch sounds frankly made up.” After quoting extensively from the original, Kathy writes:
Where to start? The “Africa” story is a third hand rumor spread by unnamed McCain staffers not known for their affection for Palin.
And Ms Fryer is evidently the last sentient being who doesn’t “get” that the “Russia” remark was the punchline of a SNL sketch and not an authentic Palin quote.
Soon we’re introduced to “Tom” who wears “a ten-gallon hat” and says to Fryer, “Which is where Sarah Palin comes in. She’s a proper leader.”
Unless “Tom” and his “ten-gallon hat” did their post-grad at Oxford or Cambridge, I can’t figure out how he picked up the adjective “proper” while residing in Kansas. Maybe he gets Coronation Street on his satellite dish. (Of an evening.)
Then one individual supposedly informs Fryer that Obama is “not fit to be a hair on Abraham Lincoln’s rear end.” I ask you…
As Kathy concludes:
I’d love to trace Fryer’s mobile phone coordinates. This on-the-spot report reads like it was filed from deep in the wilds of the Red Door spa on 691 Fifth Avenue at 54th Street, with a heavily underlined and now soggy copy of In Cold Blood used to help with “local color.”
Heh. I guess the local Olive Garden was all booked up that day.