Yesterday in one of Politico’s write-ups of the furor that ensued as it became known that damaging quotes from General Stanley McChrystal and his staff would appear in an article by Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone, the following paragraphs appeared:
McChrystal, an expert on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, has long been thought to be uniquely qualified to lead in Afghanistan. But he is not known for being media savvy. Hastings, who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years, according to the magazine, is not well-known within the Defense Department.
And as a freelance reporter, Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.
And in the version of that article live on the site today, what’s happened to the material on Hastings’s favorable position to report damaging remarks: poof!
Politico managing editor Bill Nichols declined to discuss the deletion with me or to send on a version of the article as it was originally published—making it quite difficult to tell how extensively the article was revised or “updated” beyond this excision.
“[W]e don’t get into why we make editing decisions,” Nichols wrote in a brief email.
The current version notes that it was updated at 8:35 this morning, but there’s no note to inform readers how or why the article was changed.
The paragraph was widely touted as a perhaps unintentionally revealing diagnosis of the dangers of Washington reporters becoming captive to the institutions on their beat: prominently on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, by my colleague Liz on this blog, in tweets from Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen, and many others.
UPDATE, 6-24, 1pm: Politico Deputy Managing Editor Tim Grieve has written Jay Rosen to say that he, without prompting from anyone else, removed the section “solely for the purposes of keeping the story tight and readable” as more information came in and was incorporated into the article.Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.