Everyone’s a Media Critic

We’ve seen a few high-profile slip-ups by the mainstream news media recently, and to no one’s surprise, the blogs are all over them.

The Daily Kos wades into the furor over John Kerry’s supposed remark that “foreign leaders” have told him they’re rooting for him to beat Bush. It now appears that the original report on Kerry’s comments misquoted him. Kos reproduces the mea culpa email from the reporter who made the error, which also includes the correct version (which replaces “foreign leaders” with “more leaders”). Not that this is the most consequential issue in the campaign, but we can’t help noticing: The new version isn’t that different.

Not to be outdone, Wonkette! has the goods on Newsweek’s recent fire-fighter-related correction activities. As the Queen of Beltway Gossip explains, Newsweek reported that firefighters used in the president’s campaign ads were actors. Then it corrected its online version to say that “the people in the ads were authentic volunteer firefighters,” but neglected to indicate that a correction had been made — a big no-no in terms of online protocol. Finally, Newsweek did came clean; but not before giving Wonkette! an issue tailor-made for snarky humor.

Mickey Kaus, writing on Slate, sticks with the media critic role, and takes a page out of Campaign Desk’s playbook. He asks why Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder lead off their report on the results of a new NYT/CBS poll with the news that voters believe “the nation is veering in the wrong direction.” The big news, according to Kaus, is that the poll shows President Bush inching ahead, 46 to 43. Kaus recalls a similar slant in the lead-up to the 2002 midterms, “when Nagourney buried the big news (that the Republicans were surging) in Paragraph 6.”

Meanwhile, Noam Scheiber, on his New Republic blog, looks at Dan Balz and Jim Vandehei’s useful rundown in yesterday’s Washington Post on the battleground states and worries that with Kerry making economic issues so central to the campaign, “there isn’t any Plan B if the job situation improves.” Luckily, he adds, the president’s campaign seems “just as na´ve” in targeting Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, states which all voted for Gore in 2000, and which Scheiber reckons to be an even tougher sell for Republicans this time around.

And Amy Sullivan — whose Political Aims blog is now part of The Gadflyer — sees echoes of 1984 in a New York Times report (highlighted yesterday on Campaign Desk). The Bush administration produced “news” segments praising the new Medicare bill, and sent them to local TV news stations. Says Sullivan, “Shame on us if we let them get away with it. Especially when they’re using our money.”

Zachary Roth

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Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.