Patterico's Pontifications


Apparently the L.A. Times Got It Wrong Again

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:07 pm

I have warned you about the L.A. Times’s use of the word “apparently” before, saying:

Apparently, the editors at the Los Angeles Times believe that using the word “apparently” in front of a factual assertion relieves them of the responsibility to back up that assertion with evidence.

A journalist friend later told me that he had been taught in journalism school not to use the word “apparently,” ever. Times editors should have taken that advice when publishing yesterday’s story on Bush’s speech, which said:

Hundreds of troops stood at attention without applauding as Bush entered, and refrained from clapping during most of the address.

There was one round of applause in the middle of the speech, apparently sparked by a White House aide.

The story nowhere set forth the basis for this assertion, nor did it provide the context for the troops’ silence (they had been warned not to turn the event into a pep rally). Now, via Cori Dauber comes a New York Times article that not only provides the missing context, but provides substantial reason to doubt the assertion that a White House staffer “apparently” started the applause:

Capt. Tom Earnhardt, a public affairs officer at Fort Bragg who participated in the planning for the president’s trip, said that from the first meetings with White House officials there was agreement that a hall full of wildly cheering troops would not create the right atmosphere for a speech devoted to policy and strategy.

“The guy from White House advance, during the initial meetings, said, ‘Be careful not to let this become a pep rally,’ ” Captain Earnhardt recalled in a telephone interview. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, confirmed that account.

As the message drifted down to commanders, it appears that it may have gained an interpretation beyond what the administration’s image-makers had in mind. “This is a very disciplined environment,” said Captain Earnhardt, “and some guys may have taken it a bit far,” leaving the troops hesitant to applaud.

After two presidential campaigns, Mr. Bush has finely tuned his sense of timing for cueing applause, especially when it comes to his most oft-expressed declarations of resolve to face down terrorists. But when the crowd did not respond on Tuesday , he seemed to speed up his delivery a bit. Then, toward the end of the 28-minute speech, there was an outbreak of clapping when Mr. Bush said, “We will stay in the fight until the fight is done.”

Terry Moran, an ABC News White House correspondent, said on the air on Tuesday night that the first to clap appeared to be a woman who works for the White House, arranging events. Some other reporters had the same account, but Captain Earnhardt and others in the back of the room say the applause was started by a group of officers.

Not that Terry Moran has ever shown any hostility towards the Bush Administration or the war, but I’m not sure that I’m willing to accept his word over that of Capt. Earnhardt and the other military men who say Moran was wrong. As a guy who firmly maintains that he is not anti-military, I’m sure Moran would agree.

Anybody want to demand a correction? Feel free to write the Reader’s Representative at My guess: if you write them, they’ll tell you they never said the aide started the applause; just that the aide “apparently” did so.

6 Responses to “Apparently the L.A. Times Got It Wrong Again”

  1. “There was one round of applause in the middle of the speech, apparently sparked by a White House aide.”

    maybe he read it on a blog? I did.

    actus (cd484e)

  2. My guess: if you write them, they’ll tell you they never said the aide started the applause; just that the aide “apparently” did so.

    Either that, or that they never said the aide started anything, only that he apparently sparked it. See, e.g., Xrlq v. Dog Trainer (2004) (federal law prohibiting interstate purchase of firearms no “bar” to interstate purchase of firearms).

    Xrlq (ffb240)

  3. As you know, Pat, I have a great professional interest in diction. There is an interesting point to make anent the adverbs apparently and evidently.

    Whenever I have questions about the actual meaning of words in literate, edited prose, I turn to my favorite reference: the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage. Unlike an ordinary dictionary, which simply chronicles how people tend to use a term, a dictionary of English usage actually looks at how words, and even terms, have been used throughout the history of literature by the best of writers, not the worst.

    The essential difference between the two adverbs is that “evidently” means (as it suggests) that there is some actual evidence supporting the following statement; while “apparently” means the same as “seemingly,” that the following statement appears, on the surface, to be true, but there is no evidence for it… and in fact, if evidence exists, it tends to belie it.

    Apparently is properly used of that which seems, but may not be, real; evidently, of that which both seems and is real.

    (A.S. Hill 1895)

    Thus, by using “apparently” instead of “evidently,” the Los Angeles Times gives us a choice of two: either it means that the applause was seemingly initiated by a staffer from la Casa Blanca, but really not… or else it means that the L.A. Times is illiterate.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  4. “Apparently” seems to translate to “a guy in the back of the press bus told me that his cameraman heard that…”

    The editors just tightened it up a bit.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  5. Sir,

    Thank you for your support. It’s been a long week since David Sanger’s story broke. I have nothing against the way David portrayed my remarks. I just wish everyone could have heard the rest of the phone conversation we had. I left no doubt with David as to what happened regarding the applause. I read your post, and I was gratified not to see my remarks heckled or belittled for once. Thank you.

    Tom Earnhardt

    Tom Earnhardt (bfc37b)


    RIO WALSH (695a1d)

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