There are cases where a story is inadequate, but a subsequent story in the same publication helps repair the first one. Thus, a piece in last Thursday’s New York Times highlighted charges that President Obama has inaccurately “filled in his own details” of Republican proposals “as if they were in the Republican plan,” even though the story acknowledges that “Mr. Obama’s general points about the scale of Republican spending cuts and fiscal effects of high-end tax cuts have a solid factual basis.” The story’s focus was justified with the statement that “Mr. Obama is employing the biggest megaphone in politics, and his words are parsed like no other politician’s.” While the article referenced the vagueness of Republican proposals, that vagueness was not understood as the key piece of news to be explored.
Before we got to it, however, yesterday’s Times carried a page one story entitled “As G.O.P. Seeks Spending Cuts, Details Are Scarce.” That certainly made it less necessary to repair the previous piece. On the other hand, the more recent story manages to go from beginning to end without asking a single Republican politician to speak to the issue of the lack of details. Posing those questions (and not settling merely for single sound-bite answers) would have either confirmed or debunked the charges of vagueness and failure to account for consequences—an important element to the story either way.
So perhaps we can describe the state of play as “partially repaired.” In any event, having discussed them here, these pieces will not be among those featured in upcoming installments of Story Repair.
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It is time to turn Launch Pad over to reports from another new venture. I’m grateful to CJR for having given us the opportunity to tell (the beginning of) our story, and we’ll be looking to our colleagues and readers to provide us with guidance and criticism.