Watchdog Blog

George Lardner Jr.: Spreading Lies, Rather Than Debunking Them

Posted at 2:12 pm, August 17th, 2008
George Lardner Mug

Here we go again. In a mindless display of he-said, she-said journalism, the Washington Post gave its readers a front-page ad last week for books about Barack Obama, the most prominent being a hatchet job by the notoriously inaccurate “author” who maligned John Kerry in 2004.

The New York Times had the day before published a piece, on an inside page, about the same book, pointing out a few of the inaccuracies in this tome and quoting the author in a series of non-denial denials contending that anyone who took issue with him was a left-wing kook. It made him look like a kook, which is what he is.

So why did the Post put a so-called news story about the book (and incidentally, for the sake of “fairness” no doubt, a pro-Obama book) on Page 1? And why did it fail to cite its lies instead of just saying that the main-stream media had pointed some out. All the story did was quote the Obama campaign and others as saying the hatchet man, Jerome Corsi, was wrong. And then quote Corsi as saying he was right.

The Post couldn’t bring itself to do what a newspaper should do and tell its readers what was true and what was false. It has been unable to do this in its presidential campaign coverage for many years, but most often in the last two decades. When I worked there, I was often asked in my last years to “get somebody to say this” about points I made in one story after another that were irrefutable Does two plus two equal four? Get somebody to say this, please.

Newspapers like the Post used to tell the truth to its readers, no matter who was offended. The truth always offends someone. But now they can’t do that, unless it’s buried on an inside page without the particulars that the truth demands. They’re too worried about losing readers they’ve already lost.

3 Responses to “Spreading Lies, Rather Than Debunking Them”

  1. RPM says:

    Are they worried about losing readers, or about antagonizing sources?

  2. John says:

    What good are sources if you don’t have any readers?

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