Patterico's Pontifications

6/1/2009

L.A. Times Sends Embarrassing Quote Down the Memory Hole

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 1:10 am

Yesterday at Hot Air, I criticized the L.A. Times for falsely accusing John Cornyn of being concerned with Sonia Sotomayor’s “heritage.” The article in question stated:

Only days earlier, Cornyn said in a radio interview that it was “terrible” for conservatives to be attacking Sotomayor as a “racist.” But today, the senator did not reiterate those sentiments and pledged that he and other Republican lawmakers would probe deeply into Sotomayor’s past comments and rulings to see if her heritage colors her ability to make fair decisions.

As I proved in the Hot Air post, Cornyn said no such thing. As I said: “Rather than focusing on Sotomayor’s ethnicity, Cornyn focused on Sotomayor’s statements and rulings.” As for the accusation that the GOP would question her “heritage” — well, the L.A. Times simply made that part up.

Guess what? Now, if you click on the link for that article, it turns out that the offending quote is now gone — sent down the memory hole. The passage has now been brought in line with what I said would be accurate:

Days earlier, Cornyn said in a radio interview that it was “terrible” for conservatives to be attacking Sotomayor as a racist. He did not reiterate those sentiments Sunday and pledged that he and other Republican lawmakers would investigate Sotomayor’s past comments and rulings to judge her fairness.

(Emphasis added.)

I applaud the fact that they finally got it right — but not the fact that they tried to sweep their earlier false quote under the rug.

In order to prove that the earlier quote was actually published, I now have to provide you with a screenshot. Look at the bottom of the screenshot for the offending quote:

I also saved a copy of the text of the entire article as originally published, here. I normally don’t reproduce articles in their entirety — but given that they’re trying to disappear their embarrassing quote, I think it’s necessary to do so, to prove that I didn’t make up the quote, and to allow you to see it in its original context.

The paper does this on a disturbingly routine basis: publishing articles and then editing them and replacing the entire article at the same Web address. This practice is totally at odds with standard practice of blogs, which is to acknowledge when content at the same Web address has been changed. The blog practice is better; when the content of a link might change without notice at any time, that renders the content less reliable.

When will the L.A. Times figure this out??

UPDATE: Via Highgamma in the comments, here is a link to the original version of the story at boston.com.

45 Responses to “L.A. Times Sends Embarrassing Quote Down the Memory Hole”

  1. [...] (6/1/09): On his own blog, Patterico notes, “L.A. Times Sends Embarrassing Quote Down the Memory Hole.” Keep rockin’! Filed under: Oh, That Liberal [...]

    Ed Driscoll » L.A. Times Smears Cornyn’s Comments on Sotomayor (a3d746)

  2. Silly Patterico. If you only had layers and layers of fact checkers and editors, you would be able to see that, in this instance, they decided correctly and you are too stupid to see that the quote, while fake, was accurate.

    Americano (211c00)

  3. Above snark aside, I wonder how any editor would be expected to catch the mistake. They don’t listen to all the primary materials, do they?

    It seems to me that the onus is on the reporter to get it correct.

    Any room here for the possibility that it was an honest mistake? I mean, for a week, the big story has been her heritage and ethnicity.

    Americano (211c00)

  4. “…to see if her heritage colors her ability to make fair decisions.”

    No honest mistake, this. Au contraire: This is clearass code for “You all need to realize right now that all Republicans are racist scum.”

    Also note use of the word “probe.” Actually “probe deeply.”
    Brings to mind uglyass visuals, of course. In a newsroom no other word elicits more giggles and guffaws.
    Writer could just as easily have used “delve,” “pore over,” etc.

    OSweet (f61a75)

  5. Silly Patterico. If you only had layers and layers of fact checkers and editors, you would be able to see that, in this instance, they decided correctly and you are too stupid to see that the quote, while fake, was accurate.

    Comment by Americano

    I wonder how long we’ll have to endure this kind of crap?

    xerocky (cf0c5e)

  6. I wonder how long we’ll have to endure this kind of crap?

    I thought, having mentioned the “layers and layers” “fake but accurate” and alluded to “the deciders”, as well as going out of my way to immediately post that it was “snark” that it was clear that I wasn’t really calling Patterico “stupid.”

    Xerocky, unless you work for the LA Times, you weren’t picking up what I was putting down. My bad.

    Americano (211c00)

  7. LA Times may have sent it down the memory hole, but here it is at boston.com.

    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/06/01/gop_increasingly_making_race_focus_of_sotomayor_nomination/

    “Days earlier, Cornyn had said in a radio interview that it was “terrible” for conservatives to be attacking Sotomayor as a racist. He did not reiterate those sentiments yesterday, and pledged that he and other Republican lawmakers would probe deeply into Sotomayor’s past comments and rulings to see whether her heritage colors her ability to make fair decisions.”

    Highgamma (cf3793)

  8. George Orwell is alive and doing fine at the LATimes.

    PCD (02f8c1)

  9. Apparently the Boston Globe doesn’t feel any heat, or the paper is being so close to dead these days the person in charge of Quotation Annihilation doesn’t come in till Tuesday.

    Erick Brockway (f475a7)

  10. Any room here for the possibility that it was an honest mistake? I mean, for a week, the big story has been her heritage and ethnicity.

    If this were a one-off thing, possibly. But this sort of distortion is SOP at the LAT — and it constantly favors the left. Honest mistakes shouldn’t show any pattern of favoritism. And as the blogmeister said, sneak corrections are bad practice.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  11. The LA Times had better watch themselves. No questioning of Teh Narrative is allowed.

    JD (0d1f38)

  12. I really wonder what Times staffers think about all this dishonesty. Are they so in the tank for Obama that they think it is just fine tuning the message, or are they capable of embarrassment ?

    Mike K (2cf494)

  13. [...] Tacitly acknowledging the error, the LA Times later removed the statement. They did so silently (of course) but Patterico has the screenshot. [...]

    LA Times invents Cornyn statement from whole cloth « Internet Scofflaw (908738)

  14. The old Soviets had a habit of altering photographs to remove people who were out of favor, politically. They would then remove the old copies of those books and periodicals from libraries.

    The “new” Truth™. Now with more political bias!

    This is the real danger of statism: governmental control of the media. The current adolescent crush that the MSM has on all matters left of center is the prelude.

    Eric Blair (5a226d)

  15. I think Patrick’s completely right here — readers deserve to be told when content changes and the acknowledgement needs to be at the same Web address. Typical blog practice is better and should be adopted by newspapers (including the LAT) for their online editions.

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  16. Keep on ‘em. Good work.

    Vermont Neighbor (efb5a9)

  17. Eric Blair,
    The MSM’s crush on leftism now seems more like Alzheimer’s than adolescence.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R., (4c7356)

  18. Tim McGarry – Wouldn’t it be nice if they weren’t lying dishonest partisan hacks in the first place?

    JD (ca9da7)

  19. I actually don’t have much of a problem with this, as I would much prefer that the false statement appear nowhere, than it appear and be corrected somewhere that the reader might not get to (see “The Jump”).

    The old printed newspaper model requires separate corrections, but one of the benefits of electronic communications is immediacy. This is a natural outgrowth of that. I don’t see it as unethical, but as a different ethic based on a different model. I will also point out that not all blogs or bloggers agree with the strikeout correction method.

    It is more important to me that the error is corrected than it is exposed.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  20. It is more important to me that the error is corrected than it is exposed.

    I guess where I take exception with that approach is when the LA Times is caught week after week do the same thing – just making “facts” and “quotes” up out of thin air.

    Their way of handling it allows them to throw out any old agenda supporting nonsense but never have to say “sorry” or “we misled you” when they are caught. Reading the LA Times is like reading the children’s book Where’s Waldo, the only difference is that you aren’t looking for the guy with the funny striped hat – you are looking for the lie.

    in_awe (bc82df)

  21. JD, I agree with Patrick’s point about corrections and I hope the LAT will come around to the same view in the end. Your comments, on the other hand, don’t impress me much. My experience is that there are a lot of smart, talented and good people working on Spring Street. Their product has been my window to the world since I was a little boy and has served me well as a consumer of news, even if I don’t agree with all the paper’s policies. Unlike a lot of people here, I hope the Times survives. Los Angeles will be a poorer place if it doesn’t.

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  22. The original passage in Wallsten’s article is also still up at the San Jose Mercury News.

    DRJ (180b67)

  23. Tim McGarry,

    Do you want the LA Times to survive because you think it produces a quality product or because it kindles your nostalgia? I suspect it’s a little of both, but please consider whether you’ve let your nostalgia blind you to legitimate quality concerns.

    DRJ (180b67)

  24. I am not trying to “impress” you, Tim McGarry. I asked you a simple question.

    Let me try again … Wouldn’t it be nice if they were not dishonest in the first place, then we would not have to discuss the technical aspects of them cleaning up after themselves?

    JD (ca9da7)

  25. There are quality concerns and they’ve grown with the paper’s financial woes. My greatest concerns relate to what goes uncovered, with a drastically reduced staff.

    My ideological lenses are different from yours, granted. At the same time, I agree that bias should be everyone’s concern, as should be the critically important notion of getting it right.

    The Times has at times fallen short on both fronts, and Patrick has at times been a crucial voice pointing this out. I have sometimes found him very persuasive, other times much less so. One continuing caveat I have is his extremely narrow focus — almost always political or legal affairs coverage. The window provided by the newspaper is much bigger than that. That’s something I appreciate, even if others don’t.

    I don’t think nostalgia has much to do with it. Sure, I miss Jack Smith. But what I think we’ll all miss more, if print dies, is a countervailing moral force to governmental and corporate power. The Times has a significant legacy in that regard and I appreciate it.

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  26. How is the print media in general, or the LA Times specifically, a countervailing moral force to government power? They may have a “legacy” of doing so, but they have abrogated any historical goodwill in pursuit of their nakedly partisan agenda during the last decade or so. But thanks for not at all answering the fairly straight forward question posited.

    Machinist – Understand why people react not-so-well to his sophistry?

    JD (ca9da7)

  27. JD, I think Wallstein made a mistake by not thinking things through. Careless? That seems warranted. Insufficiently precise? Certainly. A liar? No. I think it’s wise to be careful about imputing dishonesty to others.

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  28. I’m also sure there are a lot of smart, talented and good people at the LA Times. However, they don’t appear to be calling the shots.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R., (4c7356)

  29. I am interested in how it was not a lie, or dishonest, to put words in Sen. Cornyn’s mouth that he clearly did not use.

    probe deeply into Sotomayor’s past comments and rulings to see if her heritage colors her ability to make fair decisions.

    and

    investigate Sotomayor’s past comments and rulings to judge her fairness.

    How would one accidentally make this mistake? The 2 comments really only have the usage of the English language in common.

    JD (ca9da7)

  30. I think they owe you a paycheck. At least a hat tip, which you could savor in your year-end LAT review and maybe on your editorial resume. Maybe you could add, to the frequent gratis letters of correction you send them, some tagline such as “must cite Patterico as source of correction”–but more lawyerly worded.

    m (8d7090)

  31. JD, I think we can agree that Wallstein’s paraphrase seriously distorted Cornyn’s meaning. We can agree, further, that Patrick and others who pointed this out did all readers a favor.

    We part company with respect to the reporter’s motives and character. I’m not going to assail either.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if they weren’t lying dishonest partisan hacks in the first place?

    This is not a simple question, but a highly loaded one. However, if you want to characterize an unwillingness to bite on such toxic bait as “sophistry,” feel free.

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  32. Certainly, “seriously distorted” is sophistry.

    SPQR (72771e)

  33. In his “Hot Air” post, Patrick also used “distortion” to characterize what was done to Cornyn’s meaning.

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  34. You say seriously distorted, I say bastardized beyond all recognition. Tomato. Aardvark.

    JD (1206f2)

  35. How is the print media in general, or the LA Times specifically, a countervailing moral force to government power?

    It’s an article of faith at the LA Times that Prop. 13 is bad, that Neanderthal Republicans are holding up deserved social services, and that businesses should pay more taxes. Seeing supposedly independent journalists devolve into a pack of sheeple is disheartening.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R., (4c7356)

  36. I’ve got a letter to the Boston Globe, asking them to do the right thing and print a correction.

    sierra (dfb2fa)

  37. Brother Bradley of the C.O.R. – It would be a godsend and a blessing were there more people like you in the media, and less that would apologize away abject dishonesty on the part of the media that benefits from layers and layers of fact-checking while providing a moral counterbalance to government. I have to admit, just typing that makes me laugh, especially in reference to the LA Times. Have they released that video of Teh One, Khalidi, and Ayers yet?

    JD (584916)

  38. JD,
    In response to you,

    I think your question was quite loaded, rather a “Have you stopped beating your wife?” kind of thing. I am not surprised that you asked it and can sympathize with your sentiment but I am surprised you would present it to Tim McGarry as a proper question and expect him to answer it. I wouldn’t likely answer a hostile and loaded question either. Tim came here and agreed with Patterico about this issue. He was supportive and complimentary of Patterico. He was met with a sarcastic and rather hostile question, which he let go by. I respect his restraint and while I might not agree with him on some aspects of this I listen with interest to his perspective on the paper as a long time reader, something I don’t have. Is this what you call sophistry?

    I think I understand all too well why people here “react not-so-well” to him. I may not agree with you on the reason, however. My political views are quite different than Tim’s but I have found him honest and reasonable. I listen to and look at his opinions as a valuable alternative point of view. Echo chambers are dangerous. Having recently had my own integrity and competence smeared because I disagreed with some of the regulars here I am a bit sensitive on the issue. Is it my sophistry? I’ll have to look that word up.

    Sorry if this comes across as grating and tiresome, and I’m sure I’ll be accused of whining, but you asked me, Sir.

    Machinist (c5fc28)

  39. Fair enough. It was a loaded question. I could have done better, yes. The idea the the Times inserting language never uttered and never alluded to in order to make it appear the the Republicans are using race and culture to oppose this lady really horked me off. I respect your opinion far more than his, and will take your advise.

    JD (d6df01)

  40. JD,
    Thank you. I give credit to Patterico and before him to the late Cathy Seipp, for their yeoman bloggery. It’s easier to know conservatives as human beings, and not the other described by your peers, if you can talk with them. Blogs make this easy.

    However, most reporters IMO still view blogs as something dangerous, even if they don’t object to learning different points of view. This is made worse by most newspapers’ restrictive policies on taking part in blog discussions, for fear of revealing bias. That is rather a bad joke, of course, as it’s not fooling anyone. Better to air issues in candid discussions with the reporters, than just have editors issue lofty pronouncements no one believes.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  41. Did the line about heritage end up in the print edition or only the first published version of the Web story?

    I don’t know what the practices at LAT are, but newspapers don’t always send Web stories through the same chain of editors as they do print stories.

    For example, an article may be edited by the city desk and immediately posted on line without being viewed by the copyeditor who reads the same story and edits for print publication, making corrections to any grammatical errors and providing a last line of defense against errors of substance.

    I’m guessing, but only guessing that this is what happened here. A copyeditor realized the line about heritage was untrue and made the necessary change.

    Mr. Pink (0b6502)

  42. “Did the line about heritage end up in the print edition or only the first published version of the Web story?”

    I can’t get to either print version (for the LA Times or Boston Globe); however, the Boston Globe story is still there. If they were going to print it, I guess it made it to print.

    Highgamma (bdca0d)

  43. [...] UPDATE: Guess what? They sent the false quote down the memory hole. Details here. [...]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » L.A. Times Lies About Cornyn’s Comments on Sotomayor (e4ab32)

  44. [...] she doesn’t have the slightest clue about the facts of the case. Because the Washington Post (like the L.A. Times) has the habit of revising content without telling readers that it has done so, I am [...]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » WaPo’s Anne Applebaum Botches the Facts as She Whines About Polanski (e4ab32)

  45. [...] Editors claimed that Sen. John Cornyn said he “would probe deeply into Sotomayor’s past comments and rulings to see if her heritage colors her ability to make fair decisions.” This was a lie, as Cornyn said no such thing. Editors then sent the false claim down the memory hole. [...]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Patterico’s Los Angeles Dog Trainer Year in Review 2009 (e4ab32)


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