Blogs Keeping Check on Stupid Newspaper Tricks

This happens a lot. Someone writes a letter to the editor of a MSM publication. The letter is published — but with so many edits and deletions as to change substantially its meaning.

The old excuse for this kind of tendentious editing was, “space considerations.” That was an obvious lie in some specific cases, but there was enough general truth in the phrase to maintain the plausible deniability of editorial bias.

But now, with zero-marginal-cost Internet publishing, there is no excuse for editing on-topic, clearly written, non-abusive reader comments or letters. Yet some MSM editors still do it.

Here’s a recent example (with additional commentary here).

What’s nice about this case is that a blogger got hold of the “before” version of the letter to the editor and published it, showing all of the self-serving edits made by the newspaper. (The paper also published the edited letter online in a way that made it easy to overlook.)

Bloggers should do this kind of thing routinely. People who write letters to MSM publications, especially their local newspapers, should publish the original version of each letter on their own blogs. And they should publish the letters of other letter writers who don’t have blogs. Of course there are bloggers, like Henry at Herald Watch, and the illustrious Jim Miller, who already do this, but the practice should be much more widespread. In this day and age it’s ridiculous that any newspaper editor should be able to get away with butchering reader letters.

5 thoughts on “Blogs Keeping Check on Stupid Newspaper Tricks”

  1. For sure–blogs will be our road to good reporting and decent analysis. Let’s cancel all subscriptins to magazines and newspapers and get sold objective news from our blogs. Tell me which you go to for objective reporting, plese.

  2. I don’t know how Joseph Hill went from “bloggers should hold newspapers accountable” to “we should stop reading newspapers altogether”. Perhaps he could try actually reading next time.

  3. The circumstances of the case which you cite make it a particularly egregious case of censorship by a major metropolitan newspaper. A reporter for The Miami Herald was arrested on a charge of soliciting the services of a teenage prostitute on Friday, Aug. 3. The Herald reported the story 4 days after the fact in 90 words at the bottom of page 3 in the Metro section, without mentioning the reporter’s name or the paper to which he was affiliated in the headline.

    The reporter was Oscar Corral, who last year had been responsible for the firing of three colleagues at the paper because he claimed in a story that they had violated The Herald’s ethics policy by freelancing for Radio Martí, the VOA’s radio service to Cuba. As it was later revealed, the paper had known of their involvement and had in fact not only approved of it but had published a story a year earlier where it acknowledged that connection and even boasted of it. The journalists were subsequently rehired by The Herald while the publisher and executive editor resigned and retired, respectively, because of the fallout from the story. Corral’s reporting, which failed to note that thousands of other journalists from the MSM had worked for the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe over 56 years, including Edward R. Morrow, was denounced by The Herald’s ombudsman as faulty, misleading and a hatchet job, but Corral was not fired nor any disciplinary action taken against him by the paper.

    Paul Crespo, the author of the letter which The Herald not only edited but re-wrote in sections, adding words and phrases not contained in the original, was one of the journalists who had been fired in the wake of Corral’s “Miami Moonlighter” story of Sept. 8, 2006. Crespo’s letter remonstrated with the paper for its draconian treatment of Crespo and his colleagues last year and contrasted it with the unconditional support that Corral has received from The Herald, whose editor even asserted his belief in Corral’s “innocence” while offering no grounds for it but implicitly denying that he was on assignment for the paper when he was arrested.

  4. dear Lotharbot: poking fun…or can’t yo understand that? I do read. And lots from the right and from the left and from MSM too.

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