Patterico's Pontifications

5/10/2005

Terry Neal is Online Only! Go Figure!

Filed under: Judiciary,Media Bias — Patterico @ 9:12 pm

I just learned something about Terry Neal, that Washington Post columnist whose hack work was so neatly eviscerated by Hugh Hewitt. It turns out that Neal’s stuff doesn’t appear in the print edition of the Washington Post.

This means that, when Hugh linked Neal’s column to criticize it, he probably got Neal ten times the exposure that he generally gets.

I learned about Neal’s online-only status when I was perusing the corrected version of his much-criticized recent column on filibusters. Something didn’t seem right. The third paragraph now reads:

Eleven years ago, when Republicans were still in the minority, Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) described the filibuster as “one of the few tools that the minority has to protect itself and those the minority represents.” And while Hatch didn’t support a filibuster of any judicial nominee, he has voted to block at least one Democratic presidential appointment from receiving a straight up or down vote on the Seante floor.

The first sentence of that paragraph is rewritten from the original, and I wondered if the rewriting was more extensive than that. The whole paragraph had that rewritten feel to it, right down to the misspelling of the word “Senate.” I didn’t remember the original version admitting that Hatch “didn’t support a filibuster of any judicial nominee.” Was that phrase in the original? I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t sure.

And so your humble blogger went in search of the original version of the column. But I was unable to find it online in any of the usual places I would have expected to see a piece that had been printed in the Washington Post.

So I issued a general call for readers who might still have a hard copy of the print edition in which the column would have appeared. Except that it turns out it never did appear in the print edition. Two readers responded immediately to my query. Both confirmed that they could not locate Neal’s column in the relevant edition of the paper. One of them contacted the Post‘s national desk, and confirmed that Neal’s column never ran in print in the Post. The other reader noted that, when you visit this web page listing the Post‘s columns, Neal’s column appears under the listing of columns that are “Online Only.”

I hadn’t realized that.

So what kind of readership does Neal enjoy? Difficult to say.

If you went by the traffic of the Washington Post website as a whole, you might think a lot. This site claims that washingtonpost.com gets 7 million page views on a typical weekday — between 150 and 200 million a month. And this interview with washingtonpost.com executives has a graph that seems to indicate a monthly average of 6 million visitors.

That sounds impressive. But assuming that the 6 million visitors per month statistic is accurate, that number measures traffic for the site as a whole. How many of those people are seeking out an online-only column by Terry Neal?

My guess is: not too many. It’s only an educated guess, but I have a basis for it. Here are a couple of data points:

Traffic from links. As any blogger knows, a link from a big hitter like Instapundit brings in thousands upon thousands of visits in a day. Compare that with Howard Kurtz’s Media Notes Extra, which (like Neal’s column) is an online-only feature of the washingtonpost.com site. I was recently linked by Kurtz’s online column, and I counted maybe 10-15 visits that day from the link. And that’s Howard Kurtz. I suspect more people are reading him online than are reading Terry Neal.

Bloglines subscriptions. I subscribe to the Bloglines aggregator, and when you log in you can see how many people have subscribed to the feed for any particular blog. Instapundit’s RSS feed has 3,894 subscribers. Power Line has 955. Patterico has about 220. The Washington Post‘s Opinion feed has 114 subscribers. I’m not even sure whether Terry Neal’s column shows up on it — but if it does, those people aren’t all reading Terry Neal.

Perhaps he is syndicated. I have no idea. But I’m willing to bet that the traffic he gets from being on washingtonpost.com alone is miniscule when compared to Hugh Hewitt’s traffic.

If he had the prestige and readership that comes with being printed in one of the nation’s top newspapers, that would be one thing. But, as it stands, I’m not sure who’s reading his column anyway.

I never did find the original version of Neal’s column, but somehow I don’t care that much any more.

And, Hugh: it was a great slam at Neal. But it probably wasn’t worth your time . . .

Revealed: The L.A. Times‘s Deceptive Editing of Prof. Greenberg’s Filibuster Piece

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 12:06 am

I have been known to suspect L.A. Times editors of editing copy to promote their own political agenda. But it rarely gets clearer than this. [Or does it? See UPDATES.]

The other day, I harshly criticized an L.A. Times op-ed by Prof. David Greenberg, which argued that the current Democrat filibusters of judicial nominees have precedent in the alleged Republican “filibuster” of Justice Abe Fortas for the position of Chief Justice.

I was disappointed that Prof. Greenberg characterized Republicans’ concerns about Fortas’s ethics as “feigned outrage.” I found this especially disturbing, given that Prof. Greenberg failed to disclose to readers that Fortas resigned under a cloud of suspicion relating to serious ethical lapses. Prof. Greenberg’s piece also minimized the evidence supporting Republicans’ accusation that Fortas was a “crony” of LBJ’s. And I was offended by the over-the-top title of the piece: “The Republicans’ Filibuster Lie.”

It turns out that every single one of these defects in the piece was introduced by L.A. Times editors, rather than by Prof. Greenberg himself. [How do you know this? Maybe Greenberg did it himself. — Ed. Where were you five minutes ago, when I hit the “post” button?? See the UPDATE at the bottom. — Patterico] Both the title of the piece and two key paragraphs were changed to make the piece even more partisan than it had previously been. Far worse, the edits caused the piece to be significantly deceptive, in a way that the original was not.

The proof lies in a simple comparison of Prof. Greenberg’s original article (link via Pejman) to the shorter version published by the L.A. Times.

Don’t misunderstand me. I assume that Prof. Greenberg had the opportunity to review the final L.A. Times edit of his piece. If I’m right, then Prof. Greenberg bears the ultimate responsibility for allowing L.A. Times editors to insert these deceptions and half-truths into the final version of his op-ed.

Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see how they got there in the first place.

Let’s look at portions of the two pieces, side by side:

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