Your story prompted a flashback. In 1998, I had a dinner date with a certain New York Times bestselling author, who had spent tons of weeks on the list, but had recently been weighed down by a debilitating case of writer’s block. Among his many worries: How prominent would his Times obit be? Curious myself, I called a reporter/friend at the Gray Lady who told me the size of one’s obit had to do with the number of references in the paper and how recent they were. A list topper from two decades ago would warrant much less attention, he explained. In the case of my dinner companion, my Times friend counseled, “Now would actually be the most opportune time for him to pass away.” Fortunately, I can report that said author remains with us today. Now I am anxious about his future obit in the Times.
Chapel Hill, NC
Cut on the bias?
In your editorial, “Hard Truths,” Mitt Romney “lied” while President Obama was “misleading.” Paul Ryan, Republican, was “hypocritical”—zilch for any Democrat guilty of that sin. But forget the usual media bias against Republican politicians, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the article—“covering facts.”
You can opine all you want about factchecking, but it’s now plain to see how it was manipulated to insure Obamacare became law. Factcheckers evidently are just as prone to weighing conclusions according to their own mindsets; reporters selected those “facts” that supported their own inclinations.
Since the majority of reporters are liberal Democrats, the public was never adequately informed about Obamacare. The partisan media intended at all costs that Obamacare would pass.
Today, we are finally learning more details, to the chagrin of many. Yet the same information was available to the media before it became law. The media barrage for its defense, the suppression of negative aspects, the denials and obfuscation, the persistent calumniation of its critics, put Obamacare over the top. The hard truth was available; the media chose not to help citizens understand many crucial implications.
I have a suggestion for CJR editorial to help remand the situation. Evoke articles on objectivity. Initiate conversations on this lost criterion. How did we blunder from the standard of media objectivity to media partisanship?
If not recognizing and defending journalistic standards like objectivity, just what is the essence of the Columbia Journalism Review in the scheme of things? Merely to kibbutz? [sic]
Thousand Oaks, CA
Rules of engagement
It’s no wonder that Bruce Porter had a difficult time locating Marcy Bachmann (“Lost and found,” CJR, November/December) and failed to find her in a 1954 high-school yearbook. A 17-year-old girl in 1967 would have been four years old in 1954. No wonder “the yearbook gambit also proved a dead end.”
The editors respond: McElwain’s right, and we regret the math error. It also has come to our attention that Marcy, the subject of Porter’s story, is unhappy about having her saga retold in CJR, and claims it repeats a number of factual errors from the original Newsweek piece. She declined to provide a list of her complaints for publication, but we asked Porter to respond.