45 thoughts on “It’s Not Just Me! CJR Wags Finger at the Strib’s Limp Bachmann Coverage.

  1. john sherman says:

    Balloon Juice just did a piece on the NYC teabagger councilman from Queens who claimed city workers told him that their unions had forced them to slowdown plowing after the blizzard 12/26; the story got lots of outraged coverage. The only problem is that it appears to be total bullshit.

    If the story ever gets corrected, I bet it will be two inches in the middle of the B section with not nearly the outrage of the original. If we want people to stop lying to us, we have to whale the hell out of them when they do; otherwise, they’ll never stop.

    1. The absolute key is finding out if this stuff is true BEFORE publication. The business doesn’t work that way, of course. Almost no editors will hold a story after you’ve got one side saying “A” and someone else saying “B”. At that point … there work is done here, and if the story changes they’ll come back tomorrow. By that time a lie has traveled around the planet and back.

      1. john sherman says:

        There are lies that have been thoroughly debunked and yet are endless repeated. There are adverbs like “falsely,” “misleadingly,” “erroneously,” or “stupidly” which can be used to modify verbs like “stated,” “declared,” “claimed,” or “asserted”; all it takes is the willingness to use them when reporting Bachmann et. al.

  2. Sorry, I don’t have the source link, but I just read a couple days ago that some fact-checking organization checked Bachmann’s screed of the day, and in 13 facts checked found 7 ‘false’…but don’t think almost 50-50, they found the other 6 ‘demonstrably false’ (or some other category even more flabbergastrially false…I lose track of her level of wacky).

    Then I watched her posing in front of the Iwo Jima photo op…what, was it the 60th anniversary or something…is that the best the USA/tea party has left is dragging out 60 year old icons?

      1. As systemic as these false statements have become to the mission of the GOP, it is gaining the stench of the church repurposing pedo-priests and will diminish their party for generations.

  3. Jim Leinfelder says:

    It’s worth passing on to you that while you are boulevardiering up and down the Las Vegas strip and perusing the SW’s finest fossil and geode stands, your colleague here, Mr. Loveland, threw a well-deserved bone to Tom Scheck over at MPR for his thorough-going take down of Rep. Bachmann’s profound alienation from objective reality.

    1. i saw Scheck’s bit and linked to it on MinnPost. I applaud that. But will his editor’s allow him to insert that kind of fact-checking into a “breaking” story?

      1. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Fair point. Like anything Bachmann does is ever remotely “breaking.” It’s like saying that suddenly a play broke out on the thrust stage at the Guthrie. It’s all theatre of the absurd. But, yes, contemporaneously calling bullshit would be more useful to the listeners/readers. As for her base, debunking her malarkey, deliberate or not, well, it’s like fighting a fire with kerosene.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      That gambit has a familiar ring to it. Now where have I just recently been reading that the use of that very tactic?

    2. Very close to the root of this issue is that the papers actually care what the partisans say. They shouldn’t, no matter how troll-like the trolls get on the comment boards or how much the radio rabble shrieks and thunders. Again, in my experience, the new editing corps is so focused on following corporate dictums to produce a salable product, they are hyper-sensitive to criticism, particularly — in my experience — when that criticism comes wrapped with accusations of “liberal bias”, “elitism” and “contempt” for “American values”.

  4. John Gaterud says:

    Copy reminder, Mr. Lambert: Your its (both of them) are showing again, as well as your dangling punc outside your quotes. We realize you’re on holiday—but beware, please. This is still a public place.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      I don’t think I’d care if my punc were dangling if I were somewhere sunny. Besides, when Brian is on a roll, it’s best to let him go. I’m not usually one to complain about weather. I choose to live here after 50 years, after all. However, this shit is starting to wear on me. Wait, the sun just came……..oh, never mind. It’s gone now.

    2. Master Gaterud: I am truly mortified. I have cleaned up the “it’s”– I hope — but am awaiting your guidance on the “dangling punc”. I’m blaming it on bad schooling.

      1. John Gaterud says:

        “When using quotations—even fragments—then punctuation stays inside endquote, like this,” he wrote.

        Applies to all punc (periods, commas, q-marks, slammers).

        Among exceptions would be linking two (or more) independent clauses with semicolon (that rare bird)—in which case semi goes outside endquote. For example (assuming AP or NYT style, in which film titles are in quotes):

        Lambert raved about “The King’s Speech”; he said he thought it was great.

        Or where question is the full sentence:

        “Did you like ‘The King’s Speech'”? she asked.

        But, again, comma stays inside endquote at any “regular” attribution:

        “I thought ‘The King’s Speech’ was merely adequate,” critic Brian Lambert wrote.

        Or take the Ridder fragment in your when-are-the-media-gonna-really-take-Bachmann-to-task missive:

        …we had to become “the conservative alternative to the Star Tribune”.

        Should be ….”the conservative alternative to the Star Tribune.”

        British style (inc our northern neighbours) places punc “outside”. But not here, not among your Rowdy contemporaries, schooled as they’ve been, I suspect, in good-‘ol-fashioned Americanized AP/Chicago/MLA/APA styles.

        Least that’s my take on it.

        Thank you, Brian, for asking. Many students simply slink back to their seats and never bother to think twice (that’s harsh, I realize, but after grading 47,527 entry-level reporting stories over 20 years, you must excuse my tenor).

        Or, upon that rare occasion when so moved, slowly waving their arms like cilia in the alimentary canal of higher ed (to borrow Nick von Hoffman’s delightful description of White House pool reporters), it’s to ask only, “Is this gonna be on the test?”

        (Note I said “many,” not all. Mankato alum Rowdy stars such as Kennedy, Smith, Pettis & Powers [should be a law firm] were—and still are—in leagues of their own.)

        “See your Stylebook,” the teacher replies (no quotes for reference titles), slowly placing palm to forehead, then turns to gaze, as he has been with increasing frequency, he’s noticed lately, out the window to the world moving by just beyond the glass—reflecting, as it does, his lips moving ever so slightly.

      2. Mike Kennedy says:

        Professor John:

        Fascinating lesson. I’m still learning from you 30 years after the fact. It’s cool to have access to all three of my favorite profs: Mrja, Gaterud and Benidt and not have to pay for it.

        Now there is a law firm. Besides, doesn’t Ellen already have a law degree?

      3. Master Gaterud: I am humbled, contrite and determined to improve — at least enough to get a passing grade from you before spring break. My sloppiness with “it’s/its” is a weird tick most likely the result of recreational drug activity at a Who concert years ago. The “dangling punc” business is related to something I learned — inappropriately — in the context of “full quotes” and “partial quotes”. Don’t ask me what I mean by that. But I thank you sir, for your patience and direction in this matter.

    3. Dennis Lang says:

      This is beautiful! Coincidently, I was just wrestling with myself over the confusion of quotation marks in juxtaposition with punctuation this morning. I’ve got it now. Ah, the Crowd serves so many needs!

      1. John Gaterud says:

        Corrx in my previous post (sorry):

        “Did you like ‘The King’s Speech’”? she asked.

        Should be:

        “Did you like ‘The King’s Speech’?” she asked.

        Was an awkward construction—i.e., using title quotes within full quote—to illustrate q-mark placement for partials.

        Better example (though same principle):

        Have you seen “True Grit”?

        But this full quote OK, too:

        “Is this gonna be on the test?” he whined.

        When in doubt, read aloud; then recast, if necessary.

        (Reading aloud to yourself as habit, by the by, lets you catch nine of every 10 copy errors by virtue of forcing you to speak every word that may otherwise escape attention when read silently. This is why you should proofread—aloud—every email you send to your mother. Who cares if your office mates think you’re nuts? They already know.)

        I stand corrected.

  5. Gary Pettis says:

    It is well known that several of the Founding Fathers were against slavery, including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Thomas Jefferson, an owner of slaves, wrote this line published in the Summary View of Rights of British America:

    “The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those Colonies.”

    Fast forward to modern times: Michelle Bachman says something to the affect of “our founding fathers fought tirelessly against slavery.” In truth, more than a handful did and the freeing the slaves was debated during the crafting of the constitution.

    Imagine me working on Bachman’s campaign and someone from the Star Tribune calls. A reporter wants a response to what the congresswoman said.

    “Well,” I’d say, “she misspoke slightly and would have been more accurate in saying that a few founding fathers work hard to abolish slavery at the time, but lost their fight in the end.” Citing a few examples from American History would be easy.

    Attempting to parse Bachman’s inaccuracies, misstatements and speech fumbles is really boring news, if it is news at all. It would be effortless to respond with reasons why they happened. (See example above.) Last I checked, bloggers are not required to attend training in “Ethics in Blogging” or “What Bloggers Should Know About Libel/Slander Law” before they start posting their rants, points-of-view and opinions online cloaked as journalism.

    We are all human after all, capable of saying extremely stupid stuff. This sort of stuff is said on both sides of the aisle. The most popular phrase in the English language after “I love you” must be “what I meant to say.”

    1. Mike Kennedy says:


      You’re right about the slavery issue. Others, including Washington, owned slaves and struggled with it morally throughout their lives. They had deep problems with it but couldn’t “fight” it in the way we think of standing up to it.

      You’re also right about the verbal gaffes. We all commit them. How many states are there, President Obama?

      I laugh when liberals call for civility and then continue to call Palin and Bachmann (and Bush and on and on), stupid, idiotic, misinformed, clueless, dumb, Nazi etc.etc. etc.

      Well, I never believed in the whole civility thing anyway. Just stop being hypocrites about it. Politics has never been civil and shouldn’t be. Let’s take the gloves off, put on the hardware and have at it.

      “Jane…………you ignorant slut.”

    2. Ellen M says:

      Gary: If I may correct you —

      The most popular phrase in the English language after “I love you” is “but I’m not IN love with you.”

      Carry on.

      Ellen Mrja
      Mrja, Gaterud & Benidt, Chtd.

  6. Jake says:

    Back in the 60s in Chicago, my old editor, Arnie Dornfeld, used to pound this into the new reporters: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”

    I’m sure he didn’t coin the phrase but he did manage to instill a healthy sense of skepticism in that generation’s reporters (which in Chicago was required to survive).

    I don’t believe there is the same level of skepticism embedded in today’s print media’s news reporting. Part of the Strib’s issue is that management doesn’t want to offend so they can be all things to all people which translates that they are not much of anything to anybody. This is passed on from management to the editors and down to the reporters. So although they may report the facts, they’re not challenging them enough to provide insight for the reader. Dornie probably is turning over in his grave.

    1. The truly squirrely part is how editors and reporters (although more the former, in my experience) have convinced themselves in-story fact checking/truth calling is LESS journalistically sound than “reporting” quotes without calling out flagrant errors/misstatements/lies. Declaring wrong what is clearly wrong (and can be quickly determined to be inaccurate) is “taking sides”.

      1. PM says:

        maybe, if we know someone, we could see if the endowment they have have could be applied here? Maybe fund our get togethers?

        Is there someone we could talk to about that?

    1. PM says:

      It is one thing to be wrong when talking about the future, and quite another to be wrong in talking about the past.

      And, in Bachmanns case, both of them.

    1. PM says:

      There you go again, endlessly repeating the same talking points that have already been rebutted countless times. Don’t you know how to read, or are you simply to lazy to do so?
      read the Snopes article–it will explain the context to you, and show you why you are incorrect in your assertion.

      Or, (more probably) not. I know that it serves your purpose to make this assertion despite the facts and the evidence. because you really are not interested in truth or objectivity or facts or reality or context…all you are about is being a good soldier.

      Just realize that we all know that about you.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        PM–Really, I think I can speak for all of us pseudonymous ones out here when I say that there is no need to bite your tongue and swallow what you truly think. Express yourself freely!

      2. Newt says:

        Ah yes, so Al Gore is the victim of context and nuance.

        I worry about some liberal fact-checking outfit (“Snopes”?!) that requires 500 words to explain what is unmistakably clear English in 16 words.

        Gore doesn’t get a free pass, no more than Bachmann would if I wrote some absurd 500-word cover-up to hide my embarrassment.

        Gore has at least a dozen more outright lies and exaggerations that he hasn’t cleaned up. I’d say Bachmann is in good company.

  7. Dennis Lang says:

    (Of course, shhhh…Newt /Hyde, the brilliantly invented, depraved alter ego to the respected, perspicacious PM/Dr. Jekyll. Our secret PM.)

  8. Ellen Mrja says:

    Newt: I have tried to tell these Rowdies they should not underestimate Michelle Bachmann. I think she’s at her apogee about now; her rebuttal to the SOTU did her no favors on the national stage. However, she is not an idiot; she sometimes says “strange” things. But she has lots of support and we’d misjudge her if we forget that.

    I like to think of her as a smart Sarah Palin.

  9. Newt says:

    Yes Ellen. Bachmann was a federal tax attorney. I don’t know what her political future is, but she would be better served by saying less, as would Palin. Everything does not merit commentary.

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