“Free-For-All Internet Media Culture” is a Euphemism For…

…, apparently, the Washington press corps.

The New York Times’s Peter Baker today writes about the rumored “nuptials that never were,” Chelsea Clinton’s, how the rumor that the former first daughter would marry (in August in Martha’s Vineyard) came to be, and its staying power (emphasis mine):

The persistence of the rumor despite the lack of tangible evidence says something about today’s free-for-all Internet media culture, where facts sometimes don’t get in the way of a good story. It also says something about the Clintons and the mistrust they have engendered over the years that so many people do not take them at their word, even over a question like this.

Blame the Clintons! Blame “today’s free-for-all Internet media culture!” And then, support the latter assertion by citing articles entirely from traditional (legacy, some) media! (So, more like “yesterday’s free-for-all newspapers and magazines.”) To wit (emphasis mine):

The wedding rumor mill got started by the Boston Globe, which reported in May that “buzz is building that Chelsea Clinton will get married on Martha’s Vineyard this summer…”

…Then New York magazine picked up the ball in June…In July, the New York Daily News said that “Clintonistas are quietly being told to save the date” for a wedding at [Vernon] Jordan’s “the last week of August.”

More denials ensued. “There is no truth to that,” Mrs. Clinton said on Fox News

The Washington Post reported in August that “a Washington couple let slip that they’ve been invited to Chelsea’s wedding this month” …The Post followed up with a 1,775-word piece on how Chelsea Clinton could execute a full-scale wedding in secret, complete with five easy steps…

On Sunday, the New York Post reported that the wedding could be that very day…

And, on July 26, the following sentence appeared in — oh, “today’s free-for-all Internet media culture” —the New York Times:

The Democrats are back in power, which means Martha’s Vineyard is on the political radar again. The Kennedys have been coming since there were actual vineyards, Chelsea Clinton is reportedly tying the knot on the island…

This maddening unwillingness (among Washington reporters, in particular) to acknowledge that the problem, in part, is us, this framing of a story as if some other were doing something that is actually being done by the reporters themselves, does not pop up only in stories as light as a “real fairytale wedding.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.