Comments of the Week

November 30 - December 4, 2009

Every Friday, we excerpt some of the most insightful, articulate, interesting, and entertaining comments we receive each week. Think we’ve missed something? Well…comment!

Back to the Beltway

Jill Drew’s article on the closure of the final three national bureaus at The Washington Post promoted discussion on the possible consequences for both national and regional news coverage at the D.C. institution.

“…What is happening today is that Politico, an Internet upstart that has a 35,000 printed version, is eating up the Post on political stories. As you know, politics makes Washington work, and it is embarrassing how the Post is now regularly beaten on what should be its hometown story. Now the owner of Politico is expanding his operations, and hiring reporters and editors for a local news version of his operation. This further eats into the Post’s base.

“I frankly do not understand how the Post is in such dire straits. In the last few weeks, the Washington Blade has gone under, and the Washington Times is cutting almost half of its staff and going to a giveaway model. The Post owns the suburban weeklies. Perhaps the Post has become too fat and happy. It took them three days to put a staff reporter on the Tiger Woods story (they previously used AP), and although they broke the story of the White House gatecrashers, other outlets beat them on key developments of a story they should have owned. There are big financial stories, but you don’t read them in the Post. This is a newspaper that is in deep trouble.”

“The Post has let its local coverage slip badly, in part because the best people at the paper never wanted to cover or supervise local or regional news. The staff’s pretty much entirely turned over now and as a reader and local resident I’d like to see more effort and institutional support given to affairs of DC, Maryland and Virginia. T.R. Reid and Jay Mathews and Steve Coll were great, but as the extant bureaus shrank and those stars all left or got reassigned, the people whose bylines remained spent a lot of time on fashion and entertainment and celebrities. The New York and LA bureaus became a luxury. I’m surprised they lasted this long.”
– Jeff Kosnett

Tiger, Caged

The big headline this week was the news of Tiger Woods’s car crash and alleged marital infidelities. The world’s number-one golfer kept mum on the subject for much of the week, but fervent media coverage persisted. Was it the shock of the allegations against Tiger that kept the story buzz worthy, or did the media have a hand in blowing it out of proportion? In this week’s News Meeting question, a reader illuminates the golfer’s overall history in the spotlight.

“It boils down to if you like Tiger [or not]. We all have close friends or associates that we will forgive for anything. ‘Don’t worry-nobody is perfect.’ And then we all know/work with folks where we are waiting for them to screw-up and pounce all over them. This humanity creeps into an editor’s decisions. Where was the media protectionism for Kate Hudson when the New York tabloids pounced on her, where was the mainstream media honor on that one- and all she did was openly date a guy who was single. And if Tiger gets 100 mil a year for being an endorser/spokesperson, why can’t a gal get a few bucks for her pictures/story? My point is that I have never seen this mainstream media reluctance for the story with others. Tiger is like a baseball player who has hit a number of easy home runs off the media- then the tabloids came in and threw him some brushback/knockdown pitches. How come I never say a story angle such as a fire hydrant getting knoked out of service poses a problem if your house is on fire? The media built his reputation and looked the other way at his faults. Where was the outrage when he threw his golf club into the crowd a while back-any other player in another sports would have been suspended but the mainstream media looked the other way. How about more coverage of Tiger being called out for not being socially responsible with his money, talk to Jim Brown about that. Most of the media likes Tiger so they DON’T want to go after him.”
–Paul T. O’Connor

Warren Piece

Ryan Chittum praised the Bloomberg profile of Congressional Oversight Committee head Elizabeth Warren, which elicited some enthusiastic, if not humorous, commenter support.

“God, I love this woman! I’m retired and semi-handicapped, so I watch a lot of CSPAN, and I’ve seen her testify or take part on panels a number of times, and her intelligence and earnestness shine. I say let her and Sheila Baer run the economy and let Larry and Tim go back home!”
–Carol Harper

On Knowing Where the Wind Blows, With or Without Weathermen

Fallout from “ClimateGate”—the leaked e-mails from University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, purporting that the immediacy of concern about global warming may have been forced—prompted a lengthy and thorough analysis by CJR’s Curtis Brainard about the objectivity of climate coverage.

“I like the logic on display here. Emails deleted in response to an FOI request are no biggie (and who cares what the emails said anyway), but emails released by a whistleblower are a “hack” and “theft.”

“Real Climate may have been surreptitiously and dishonestly barring any opinions from its “neutral” site that went against the AGW “consensus (even to the point of deleting reader comments), but they’re still the best place to look for info. What??

“You guys are in denial. The upstart of all this is that people no longer trust AGW-promoting “scientists” and that goes triple for anyone or thing remotely connected to Climategate. So goodbye Jones, Real Climate, Mann, “value added” data, etc, etc.”

“Kudos on a surprisingly even handed article on this ongoing story.

“Couple of points. Although the emails have received the most attention, the data release was not strictly limited to emails. Also included were chat logs and raw source code and the code is one of the more interesting, and under reported aspects of the story. Programmer Eric Raymond took a look at the code and concluded that Mann’s now famous hockey stick was hardcoded into the program so that no matter what data was entered, the results would always show a similar significant warming trend. This follows a critical report issued by the National Academy of Sciences Edward Wegman who found significant issues with the statistical methodology used by Mann and co. It’s no wonder why the CRU and its affiliates were so hesitant to release the source code for their models.

“While the emails may show a degree of tribalism, professional bullying, groupthink and possible criminal conspiracies (misreporting grant money and destroying FOIA material), the code is where we might see real evidence of scientific fraud.

“The lack of transparency is what’s key, and journalists have fallen flat on their asses when it comes to demanding it.”
–Mike H

Shut Up, CJR!

After President Obama’s speech on strategy in Afghanistan, CNN convened a small party of media types to analyze his remarks—including, for some reason, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. A reader not-so-subtly slammed CJR for not giving the good doctor his due. for presenting opinion as fact; perhaps the journalistic equivalent of a premature “mission accomplished” speech.

“I am getting a little tired of these CJR reviews. You are doing a disservice to the Columbia name with these trivial, opinion-as-fact articles. Your editorial peculiarities are particularly annoying. Sanjay Gupta was one of the few that taught me something I hadn’t already heard a thousand times, I wonder sometimes if the writers for this site even watch or read what they blog about. I expect a little more diligence from this brand name school.”
–Sherry Winston

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Sara Germano is an intern at CJR.