Sounds Like a Crock to Us

Last week, Jay Rosen opined that the lull between primary season and the conventions will become a “point in the election story when a larger portion of the news is triggered by the decisions of journalists.” What, Rosen asked (as has Campaign Desk), will the press do with “this greater freedom to define and shape the campaign narrative?”

If you’re Stan Crock, a Washington-based correspondent for BusinessWeek, you indulge by getting a handful of doctors to speculate about something that has “mystified” you for some time and has, in your opinion, “appalled” “foreigners, especially diplomats”: Namely, President Bush’s “tendency to mangle words and syntax.”

On March 12, Crock’s twice-monthly BusinessWeek Online “Affairs of State” feature bore the headline “‘Analyzating’ Bush’s Grey Matter,” and a subhead that tells us that Bush “may” have “an undiagnosed language and hearing disability, say some experts.”

The headlines don’t inspire confidence (one can find “some experts” who will “say” just about anything), but, perhaps, Campaign Desk wondered, the story was motivated by the publication of a new neurological study or the release of some never-before-seen presidential medical records. Nope. Turns out Crock has a friend who told him that the president’s speech traits remind her of her son’s, and her son has central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). So Crock did “some Web research” and “talk[ed] to some experts” and tells us “there’s intriguing consensus afoot” that he’s “here to report.” The consensus? While “CAPD isn’t recognized as a formal diagnosis yet, party because not enough research has been done on it,” all the experts that Crock talked to “seem to agree” that Bush may have some “phonological problems.”

It is a piece that merits disclaimers, which Crock provides in abundance. “I’m no doctor,” Crock reminds us, “I’m a journalist.” And “these experts haven’t tested the president,” Crock writes, “so they caution that they can’t be certain of a diagnosis.” Also, there are “alternate [non-medical] explanations” for “all” of the behaviors about which he and his experts speculate.

As Jay Rosen wrote: “If the press digs where it thinks there’s a story, then it matters how the press thinks.”

Assuming, that is, they’re being thoughtful at all.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.