Patterico's Pontifications

9/7/2005

It Depends On What the Meaning of “Never” Is

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Sheehan — Patterico @ 6:57 am

Regular readers will remember that I recently noted that the L.A. Times edited wire copy in a way that distorted the truth about Cindy Sheehan. The Times version of an AP story asserted that Bush “never” met with Sheehan:

Sheehan had vowed to stay in Crawford until Bush’s monthlong vacation ended or until she could question him about the war that claimed the life of her son Casey and nearly 1,900 other U.S. soldiers. She missed a week of the protest because her mother suffered a stroke.

Although two top administration officials talked to Sheehan the first day, the president never did — though he said that he sympathizes with her. He ended his vacation Wednesday to monitor federal aid to hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast.

It was inaccurate to say that Bush “never” met with Sheehan, because the president met with her in June 2004. As I noted in my previous post, the original version of the AP story had included a clarifying phrase (“during her Crawford stay”) that Times editors removed:

While two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the first day, the president never did during her Crawford stay — although he said that he sympathizes with her.

That four-word phrase removed by Times editors appeared in every other version of the story I could find, in newspapers across the country.

I wrote Readers’ Representative Jamie Gold about this. After all, saying the president “never” met with Sheehan, when he actually did, sounded an awful lot like a factual misstatement to me. In my e-mail to Ms. Gold, I said: “I think a correction is warranted — unless you have a different definition of ‘never’ than I do.”

Gold never responded to my e-mail.

But make sure to click on “more” to read the rest of the story!

[extended entry]

I received Gold’s reply yesterday. It reads in its entirety:

Thanks for the note. I’m not sure that the issue rests on the same premise you say it rests on — that is, the meaning of “never.” I think the context made it clear to readers that the reference was to the time Sheehan was in Crawford.

I understand you think that readers won’t get it, but we will just have to agree to disagree about whether that reference was wrong or misleading.

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

So, according to the L.A. Times, “never” means “not while Cindy Sheehan was in Crawford, Texas.” Just so we’re clear.

P.S. I trust I didn’t confuse you by saying “Gold never responded to my e-mail.” When I said “never,” I meant “never” in the L.A. Times sense — “not while Cindy Sheehan was in Crawford, Texas.” Gold didn’t respond until yesterday, by which time Sheehan had already left Crawford. Even before reading the extended entry, I’m sure you could tell from the context that I didn’t mean “never” in the sense of, you know, never.

18 Responses to “It Depends On What the Meaning of “Never” Is”

  1. lol.

    LMAO!

    That may be in the top ten lamest things I EVER read that anyone said.

    Let me put it this way. If the context made clear the meaning, as she asserts, then why did they delete the 4 words from the original quote?

    You see what I’m saying, right? If the article was accurate, why delete the four words at all? Did not the deletion change the meaning and/or context? And if so why make the change then?

    I mean that is just shamefully lame.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  2. I’ve always wondered how to handle that “never say never” conundrum. Now I know: don’t say the word, even for purposes of lecturing others not to, while President Bush is in Crawford, TX.

    Xrlq (428dfd)

  3. Well, I never!

    The left is wonderful! “Are you screwing your intern Billy Bob?” Well no, not at this very moment, no, I’m not.

    The left used to lie for a perceived noble purpose. The purpose turned out to be an impossible dream, but it was there. Now they just lie, constantly, stupidly, visibly, like heroin addicts.

    Fred Z (83acf5)

  4. Jamie Gold has to have the worst job in the world. Nicely played Patterico, every day you make it worth my while to come by your site.

    LAT is dying...dying... (e593dd)

  5. I compared the LAT version against the Washington Post version and, of the cuts the LAT made to shorten the article, the only one that could have left the reader with a different impresssion than the original copy was the one you cited – funny how it just happened to be one that made Bush look bad.

    And, for what it’s worth, there are plenty of other 4 word segments that could have been cut in lieu of the 4 words the LAT felt it so important to leave out.

    Much of the AP article was rehashing material already put out numerous times, so I’ll give the LAT credit for shortening the article and not giving it the play the other papers did.

    steve sturm (e37e4c)

  6. “…but we will just have to agree to disagree about whether that reference was wrong or misleading.”

    Is this the Times correction policy? If it’s wrong we will grudgingly correct it, but if it’s just misleading, then we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    CPAguy (d3f5fd)

  7. Assuming “never” only refers to her time in Crawford only makes sense if the reader already knows that she met with Bush at another time. LA Times articles are written for people who have obtained facts from other, more complete sources of information.

    Shredstar (532850)

  8. Is this the Times correction policy? If it’s wrong we will grudgingly correct it, but if it’s just misleading, then we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    No, I think she meant that she didn’t agree that it was wrong and she didn’t agree it was misleading — not that it was only misleading, not wrong. I see the potential ambiguity, but this is one of those times where the context *does* in fact help.

    Patterico (ee7c8f)

  9. “funny how it just happened to be one that made Bush look bad”

    These omissions favor liberals with about the same frequency that billing errors favor the companies that produce them.

    Believing these omissions are anything other than partisan credulity is akin to believing in the Tooth Fairy, i.e. impossible for a grown adult without a conscious suspension of disbelief.

    Scott (57c0cc)

  10. Nothing suprises me from the LAT. That’s why I stopped reading that rag years ago.

    Craig Hancock (cb0612)

  11. These omissions favor liberals with about the same frequency that billing errors favor the companies that produce them.

    Nah, companies make billing errors in consumers’ favor all the time. Not 50-50, of course, as chance would have it, but much closer to that tha L.A. Times errors.

    Xrlq (5ffe06)

  12. “Nah, companies make billing errors in consumers’ favor all the time. Not 50-50, of course, as chance would have it, but much closer to that tha L.A. Times errors.”

    So far I’ve experienced plenty of errors that have raised my amount “due”, but nothing to date that would move the balance in the other direction and I don’t know anyone whose had a different experience.

    While I recognize that doesn’t nail it down conclusively, I’d still have a hard time believing that billing errors favoring customers are anything but the exception, my point being that “errors” committed by the unscrupulous and which support the agenda of those committing them tend to make it past the local checks & balances with a greater than average frequency.

    Scott (57c0cc)

  13. You should inquire as to why “during her Crawford stay” was removed. What additional clarity or accuracy did that bring to the article?

    Gerald A (dd601b)

  14. Perhaps the AP can employ the “Rather Nostrum.” They can grin, puff up, and try to keep a straight face, while they make the disingenuous claim that although the facts might be bogus, the story was probably, well at least likely, or might possibly really, really, be true.

    Black Jack (ee3eb6)

  15. Of course, the AP could always try the “Clinton Ruse.” Slick Willy went on TV, wagged his finger in the face of the American public, and lied like a dog. Democrats believed him, or said they did, even if they weren’t really sure, or even if they suspected he might not be quite on the up and up.

    It is indeed curious how Clinton’s lies and pretense now somehow strangely seem more forthright than Dan Rather’s goofy dissembling and preposterous double talk. Incidentally, today is the anniversary of Dan’s disgrace. We haven’t heard much from ‘ol Dan lately. Perhaps he’s been busy, you know, hot on the trail of Lucy Rameriz.

    Black Jack (ee3eb6)

  16. http://lacowboy.blogspot.com/2005/09/los-angeles-times-editorial-on_08.html

    Above posts details how almost every fact or observation or premise in the LA Times last Saturday editorial on Katrina and California earthquakes was dead wrong. Interestingly, a later news artcile got the facts mostly right! Makes one wonder if the wall between editorial and news is always wise. Have also send errors to reader’s rep to see if they will correct editorial.

    Brady Westwater (72f6df)

  17. Under the LA Times rationale, that means that the Mets “never” won the series, man “never” walked on the moon, and Casey Sheehan “never” died in Iraq — all because these things “never” happened during a specific timeframe that just so happens to make their number one target look heartless.

    Lee Perla (b8c3ce)


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