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July 22, 2004

How to Write Distorted News: NYTimes v. Washington Post

Via Instapundit, I discover that Belgravia Dispatch has a wonderful dissection of the amazingly biased New York Times July 22 story on Sandy Berger. It is a good post to read for two reasons: (1) To see how a journalist carefully twists facts, and (2) To see yet another example of the liberal bias at the New York Times has wrecked the paper while the liberal bias at the Washington Post has not stopped it from being a reliable news source.

The Washington Post July 22 story is " Archives Staff Was Suspicious of Berger, Why Documents Were Missing Is Disputed." Here are the first three paragraphs.

Last Oct. 2, former Clinton national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger stayed huddled over papers at the National Archives until 8 p.m.

What he did not know as he labored through that long Thursday was that the same Archives employees who were solicitously retrieving documents for him were also watching their important visitor with a suspicious eye.

After Berger's previous visit, in September, Archives officials believed documents were missing. This time, they specially coded the papers to more easily tell whether some disappeared, said government officials and legal sources familiar with the case.

The New York Times July 22 story is "White House Knew of Inquiry on Aide; Kerry Camp Irked." It does not actually say what Berger did until the 14th paragraph (up to then, the story is about his persecution by Republicans) and then only vaguely:

The Justice Department declined to comment. The department is investigating whether Mr. Berger broke federal law on the handling of classified material by removing from a secure government reading room a handful of documents related to an after-action report on the 1999 millennium plots, as well as notes he took during his review.

In preparing for testimony before the Sept. 11 commission, Mr. Berger viewed thousands of pages of intelligence documents. He said he removed the documents by mistake, but Republicans accused him of stashing the material in his clothes on purpose. They have offered theories about what that purpose may have been, like an effort to withhold information that reflected badly on the Clinton administration.

Notice the sentence I put in red. It's not just deceptive writing, but poor writing that has crept into the Times. In the old days, a Times reporter would have written They have offered theories about what that purpose may have been, such as an effort to withhold information , to at least get the grammar correct, or They say the purpose may have been to withhold information , to make it less verbose and clearer. In the old days, if one reporter had written so badly, his co-author would have caught it and rewritten it. In the old days, if two reporters had written so badly together, especially on a major story, their editor would have caught it and rewritten it. Not today, though.

Posted by erasmuse at July 22, 2004 10:40 AM

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Your opening paragraph makes a critical point. The Washington Post has a decidedly liberal bias too, no less than the New York Times, the LA Times, or other establishment papers. The fact that the latter two have completely lost all credibility, while the Post still maintains some, should not obscure the Post's leftward tilt. They are encapsulated perfectly by their writer, Howard Kurtz: They are aware of the arguments, strength and cogency of the right wing, and do not outright pretend that it doesnt exist, but they do try to downplay it. They also try to use subtle manipulation tricks - "GROWING anti Bush sentiment", "INCREASING frustration" etc. Litle things like that.

In general, those on the right must learn to ignore what the lefty papers have to say. They certainly have some influence, but our time is better spent pushing a right wing agenda, like repeal of Democrat legislation, than worrying about what our critics think. After all, the New York Times never worried about what Rush Limbaugh had to say, conservatives should never worry about what the Times has to say.

Posted by: David at July 22, 2004 02:03 PM

I heartily approve of parsing text from the Times and the Post, but if you're nitpicking grammar, you might want to tidy up your own, "to at least get the grammar right." :-)

Posted by: JM Hanes at July 22, 2004 04:15 PM

BTW, pls. feel free to edit out my comment above (and this one too!) along with the split infinitive, should you choose to make changes.

Posted by: JM Hanes at July 22, 2004 04:19 PM

J.M. Hanes has inspired me to perhaps foolishly write a lengthy reply on the issue of split infinitives, at


Posted by: Eric Rasmusen at July 23, 2004 05:22 AM

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