538’s climate science data problem compounded by legal threats

Paul Krugman has been throwing elbows at 538-ESPN lately because of a measurable decline in the quality of content from what we’re used to seeing from Nate Silver when he worked at the New York Times, and before that, writing for himself on Blogspot.

The first response I saw to that criticism was supposed to be a sort of self-parody as an apology, I guess. To me it comes off as a petulant act that he’d never have gotten away with while at the Times, and an example of where he’s gone off the rail.

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Anonymous sourcing problems at the New York Times

There are at least three major failures of the modern press worth writing about. The first is excessive coverage of trivial events of little or no public interest. Sex scandals, celebrity lifestyles, and manufactured scandals come to mind as examples. The second is the false choice (and often wrong choice) between balance and objectivity.

The third failure is the excessive use of anonymous sources. Glenn Greenwald wrote about this in early 2010 in a post worth reading every year to remind us of what happens in democracies when the guardians of public interest forget what their jobs are. No party outside of the government was more helpful in manufacturing public support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq than the pillars of print journalism, precisely because of the trust we have in them.

Clark Hoyt, the Times’ public editor in 2009, blasted his own paper for continuing to shield government officials from public scrutiny in violation of the Times’ “stylebook” section on anonymous sources. Margaret Sullivan, public editor since 2012, did it again on Tuesday, noting the indefensible use of anonymous sources even in stories that have nothing to do with the government.

Sullivan introduced a regular feature of her column where notable failures to abide by the Times’ policies would be called out in the hope that these practices will change. In supporting this effort, I’ve decided to go a little bit further than that by examining all failures across a set period of time.

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Highlighting anonymous cowards

Your elected officals at work.
Your elected officals at work.

Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the New York Times, is calling out her own paper by tracking the misuse of anonymous sources in her column this afternoon.  I support a strong and sustained effort in this area. Everyone’s standards vary, but I believe that a person should only be allowed anonymity when there is a credible threat of retaliation and punishment.

Anonymously smearing political foes or merely wanting to conceal your identity because you fear (probably justfiable) damage to your reputation should never suffice as justification, yet it is on a regular basis at the Times and practically everywhere else.

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When citizens are forced to be journalists

Glenn GreenwaldI was surprised and really pleased that Glenn Greenwald landed two major news scoops this week on the unbounded national security/surveillance state.

The New York Times and Washington Post still have their share of big stories, but nothing much lately. As some anti-journalism conservative sites have pointed out, few of the big stories this year have actually be exposed by real news organizations.

There never was a real story over Benghazi (other than the initial tragedy itself). All media coverage in the past few months has been of the entertainment nature, covering the hearings in the House (while ignoring them in the Democratic Senate) which failed to reveal any new information. All coverage of “MemoGate 2” ceased when the White House released emails which backed the administration’s version of events and showed the controversy to be politically-driven campaigning with no wrong-doing to be found.

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Landslide watch, or idiot watch?

I was directed to this story by Jim Hoft (aka Gatewaypundit) by a reader and was instantly overwhelmed with curiosity. Anyone that follows me on Twitter has already seen the result, but for those who haven’t, the big question in my mind after reading that story is whether Hoft was simply playing to his built-in audience, trying to pump up the base in the hope of giving Mitt Romney the extra turnout he needs to not lose the race he’s going to lose, or if he’s genuinely stupid.

My first thought is that nobody can be that stupid.

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