Patterico's Pontifications

10/31/2007

L.A. Times Refuses to Correct Clear Errors; Justifies Decision with Sophistry

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 4:46 pm

Like Michael Goldfarb, I received an e-mail from the L.A. Times “Readers’ Representative” today refusing to correct numerous clear errors in a recent column by Tim Rutten. (My previous correspondence with the Readers’ Representative on this issue can be read here.)

The e-mail I received answers a question that the e-mail to Goldfarb did not: namely, why is the paper refusing to correct Rutten’s false claim that “Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him” since August? As Goldfarb says, even The New Republic doesn’t believe this.

When you put the two e-mails together, here is the current state of affairs:

  • Drudge included a link to the Memorandum for Record, but Rutten gets to say he didn’t.
  • The editors of The New Republic never admitted that Beauchamp made up the story about the disfigured woman, but Rutten gets to say they did.
  • The editors of The New Republic have talked to Beauchamp since August, but Rutten gets to say they didn’t.
  • Beauchamp gave no description of the disfigured woman as an Iraqi, but Rutten gets to say he did.
  • The L.A. Times believes that trying to run over dogs is the same as running over dogs and killing them.

Here is the full text of the e-mail I received. It is breathtaking in the depth and breadth of the disingenuous arguments it advances.

Thanks for your follow-up notes.

L.A. Times columnists, Rutten among them, are encouraged to use their columns as forums for their fact-based assessments of news events. His assessments might not match yours, but that doesn’t mean that his assessments warrant correction.

Regarding the first point that you raised: With all due respect for your analysis, I don’t think that readers were misled on that point. Even an individual who wasn’t as careful a reader as you couldn’t fail to note that much of Rutten’s column was about the communications between the editors and the soldier. To your other points: While the disfigured woman was not specifically described as being Iraqi, the columnist infers from the fact that she was there (vs. being sent home as a U.S. soldier or civilian would be) that she is Iraqi. Rutten referred to the Bradleys as trying to run over stray dogs, vs. kill the dogs, but I’m not seeing that point as warranting correction (I can’t imagine that a reader thinks that a Bradley trying to run over dogs is any different from a Bradley trying to kill dogs); re: whether, as the column said, the magazine “determined that the incident involving the disfigured woman was concocted and corrected”: The columnist’s point is that, as a scene in Iraq, it was “concocted” in that it never happened there. The magazine corrected it, which means editors admit it never happened there.

Thank you again for raising these points,

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

Gold doesn’t respond to my point that Rutten falsely claimed that “Drudge provided links to the transcripts and report but not to the purported ‘Memorandum for Record.’” But her response can be seen in the e-mail to Goldfarb:

Rutten’s assessment is that it was not clear that the memo at the end of the military officer’s report/summary is the same one to which Drudge’s original post referred. The columnist’s thinking: Drudge lists it apart from the final document, but — as Rutten wrote — Drudge provides no link, nor does he say it can be found at the end of the report, seeming to indicate possession of another document, but providing no link. I don’t believe that Rutten’s column warrants correction on that point.

That is stunningly disingenuous. In the documents Drudge posted was a document labeled:

memorandum-for-record.JPG

Rutten said it wasn’t there. It was. The paper won’t correct it. They should.

In the e-mail to me, Gold is careful to separate herself from Rutten’s argument that he was to correct to say the magazine had labeled the disfigured woman story as “concocted.” Ms. Gold’s job is to deal with corrections. She knows when a media outlet has admitted error and when they have admitted making something up — and she knows that the two are quite different.

This is about Timothy Rutten pigheadedly refusing to admit when he’s been caught with his pants down.

Ms. Gold, Rutten’s assessments don’t have to match mine, but they do have to match the facts. They don’t. And it is a shameful episode for your paper that the editors don’t seem to care.

UPDATE: I sent Ms. Gold an e-mail response, republished here, and focused my complaint on the distortion of the word “concocted.” There is much else I could have said in response. But I’m taking it one point at a time.

24 Responses to “L.A. Times Refuses to Correct Clear Errors; Justifies Decision with Sophistry”

  1. Jamie Gold is obviously, personally, a lying dishonest woman. I have no respect for her. And I hope she reads this comment.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  2. Back during the Clinton years, I would occasionally write to complain about a variety of things, chiefly regarding the apparent double standard the Times had and has regarding fundraising, conflicts of interest, and general comportment (particularly with interns and staff) of elected officeholders like Bill Clinton, versus moderate-conservative Republicans, like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bush 41. Ms. Gold’s answer to your queries was very similar to what I used to get- complete denial, well-mixed with disingenuity.

    The Times has been so bad for so long that it’s simply expected behavior for them. They can’t go belly up soon enough to suit me.

    trentk269 (3d3bfe)

  3. Stunning — and what a rotten business model. Imagine McDonald’s ignoring the issue and not taking action to recall tainted meat, or a drug company not correcting misprinted directions for its product.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  4. I’ve had the same experience with the NYT. When you point out an error of fact in an opinion column, you get rebuffed as if your point was merely a matter of differing opinion. With news articles, most of the notifications of errors of fact I’ve sent are simply ignored. They really, really don’t care.

    gp (5c8634)

  5. Pat, you’ve got a long history of not getting satisfaction on these types of things (errors in opinion columns, errors requiring analysis rather than a misspelled name). Write a LTE. Don’t just Groundhog Day.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  6. Tainted meat… that’s a good one!
    Its the reason I don’t eat at certain food estabishments and will now be my official explanation as to why I don’t read the LATimes.

    Dan F (797dc7)

  7. It really doesn’t surprise me that they won’t correct their errors. They, like the rest of the MSM and the majority of the Democratic party have a vested interest in seeing our soldiers as either victims or perpetrators, and the GWOT (and specifically the war in Iraq) as a failure. They can’t admit that they lied or were wrong.

    Jim C

    Jim C (4321d4)

  8. Just what I expected: Deny and obsfucate. Your point about the difference between attempting to run over dogs vs actually doing so is quite clear. First Gold distorts what you said, then she denies that the distorted version needs correcting.

    Did you ask the LAT about Rutten’s use of anonymice, apparently in violation of the LAT’s own code of ethics? I’d looooooooove to see her response to that one.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  9. Yeah, Bradley, I could have gone on and on about all the various brands of sophistry evident in the e-mail. You identify one — the strawman re the dogs — that I considered mentioning in the post, but couldn’t fit it into the flow. (Plus I had limited time, as we were headed out to Trick or Treat.)

    Note also that “the columnist infers from the fact that she was there” in Iraq that she was Iraqi — but infers from the fact that the magazine admitted she *wasn’t* in Iraq that the story was admittedly concocted.

    It’s quite amazing.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  10. Didn’t mention anonymice. Why don’t you write her about that? It was your catch. Report back and I’ll link your post.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  11. I sent Ms. Gold a response to her strange statement in defense of Rutten that: “I don’t believe that a reader thinks that a Bradley trying to run over dogs is different from a Bradley trying to kill dogs.”

    Ms. Gold. Let me try to make it clear for you. I’ll type very slowly. Suppose I say “I’m trying to take that pretty lady to bed.” Would my readers conclude I slept with her because I said I was trying? No, they would be waiting for additional information, like: “I was trying to get her to sleep with me, but I struck out.”

    So it is with trying to kill dogs with a Bradley, or trying to bed a pretty lady. Just because you’re trying, doesn’t mean you’re succeeding.

    http://strongasanoxandnearlyassmart.blogspot.com/2007/10/la-times-is-trying-but-not-succeeding.html

    Major Mike (2a3efb)

  12. If Tim Rutten had covered the Manson killings, would he have reported that the Manson crew tried to kill Sharon Tate & Co.?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  13. I blogged about this too.

    I must confess that I honestly thought that it couldn’t get any worse than the NYT’s definition of filibuster. (Search for it at my site.)

    I’ve been in the journalism business for 13 years now and I just shake my head at the stupidity and undeserved arrogance of far too many editors and reporters.

    The vast majority of the people in even the elite newsrooms were B and C students in high school. If you got A’s you were usually smart enough to go into a higher-paying profession — like public school teaching.

    Absolutely unbelievable.

    Hoystory (de9da0)

  14. Um, Hoystory? You seem to have misrepresented the NYT here. The article you criticise doesn’t define filibuster at all, let alone do so incorrectly. It correctly defines cloture. I think you owe the NYT an apology – and I’ll bet they don’t get many of those!

    Milhouse (f10fb3)

  15. I suggested that she change her email addr to “ruttens.rep@latimes.com”.

    Gary (eed95d)

  16. Any idea whether Goldfarb will be correcting this false assertion, which appeared in his August 6 article, entitled “Beauchamp Recants”?

    “[Beauchamp] signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods–fabrications containing only ‘a smidgen of truth,’ in the words of our source.”

    Moops (444e9b)

  17. Correction: the Goldfarb piece containing the falsehood was posted on August 7, not August 6.

    Moops (444e9b)

  18. Ms. Gold, you have demonstrated supremacy in the prerequisite skills for a successful politician – redefinition of English words, hand-waving, and stubbornly sticking to failed positions on principle. In fact, you seem more qualified than Hillary Clinton. Please throw your hat in the ring.

    Al (b624ac)

  19. Milhouse, go back farther in the archives — or follow the links in the post you did read. I’m referring to the NYT editorial board’s definition of filibuster, which is if anyone votes against cloture — even if that vote fails — then a filibuster has occurred. The NYT story I referred to in the post you read does get it right, which is why I highlighted it.

    Here’s the post I’m referring to.

    Hoystory (de9da0)

  20. Sorry, Hoystory, I think you’re wrong on that one too. According to your definition it would seem that there can be no such thing as a filibuster unless the motion ultimately fails. Was the Civil Rights Act filibustered? It passed in the end, so it would seem from your definition that there was only a failed attempt at a filibuster, not an actual one.

    If is possible for a filibuster to fail to achieve its goal, and yet remain a filibuster, then this must be possible even if a cloture vote succeeds. It would depend on when the cloture motion was brought. If it was brought early in the process, to preclude any threatened filibuster, then you’re right that no filibuster had yet occurred. But it’s also possible that a cloture motion is brought only after a filibuster has already clearly begun; in that case, the success of cloture doesn’t mean the filibuster never happened.

    BTW, the Fortas nomination was not filibustered. A filibuster, by definition, is an act of figurative piracy; it occurs when a minority holds up a majority. So long as the majority wants to continue debating, there can be no filibuster. In Fortas’s case, by the end of the debate there was no majority for his nomination, which means the majority was not being held up or frustrated. No hold-up, no filibuster.

    Milhouse (f10fb3)

  21. We’re getting way off topic here, sorry Patterico.

    I think at least one cloture vote has to fail for a filibuster to have occurred. It doesn’t have to fail for all time. A subsequent cloture vote, after more debate occurs can end a filibuster. And it would do just that end a filibuster.

    But it’s also possible that a cloture motion is brought only after a filibuster has already clearly begun; in that case, the success of cloture doesn’t mean the filibuster never happened.

    So, you’re of the opinion that the normal state of the Senate is one of filibuster? I think most call it unlimited debate.

    Let’s take the example I was complaining about with the NYT. If the Senate is debating a judicial nomination and the first cloture vote ends up succeeding 85-14, have the 14 filibustered the nominee?

    The NYT editorial page says yes. The NYT news pages say no. Both cannot be right. What do you say?

    As far as Fortas goes, I think you’re in the minority.

    hoystory (b9390a)

  22. No, the normal state of the Senate is not one of filibuster. So long as there are still senators whose mind is not completely made up, and there is something the other side can say that will persuade them to change their vote, it’s unlimited debate. But once it becomes obvious to the minority that all that can usefully be said has been said, and they simply do not have the numbers; once they stop debating to persuade and start debating to annoy the majority and to waste its time, in the hope that the majority will deem the game not worth the candle and give up; then a filibuster has begun. It’s not necessary for a formal vote to confirm this state of affairs; it’s something that the participants either recognise or don’t.

    Milhouse (f10fb3)

  23. Why are they so confidant that their lies can’t hurt them?

    j curtis (8bcca6)

  24. Having an ombudsman at the LA Times is like appointing a Chaplain to a whorehouse.

    As if there’s anything either one could say to make the degenerates stop what they been doing so merrily…

    Hector (07b276)


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