Patterico's Pontifications


The New York Times‘s Adam Cohen Lectures Bloggers — and Makes a Few Seemingly Unsupportable Claims of His Own in the Process

Filed under: Media Bias — Patterico @ 10:03 pm

The New York Times will be printing this tomorrow, so it must be true:

[Dan] Rather’s and [Eason] Jordan’s misdeeds would most likely not have landed them in trouble in the world of bloggers, where few rules apply. Many bloggers make little effort to check their information, and think nothing of posting a personal attack without calling the target first – or calling the target at all. They rarely have procedures for running a correction. The wall between their editorial content and advertising is often nonexistent. (Wonkette, a witty and well-read Washington blog, posts a weekly shout-out inside its editorial text to its advertisers, including partisan ones like And bloggers rarely disclose whether they are receiving money from the people or causes they write about.

Adam Cohen, the author of the piece, probably has no factual support for these statements. But we would never criticize him without first giving him the chance to respond, right? So I drafted up the following e-mail to send to him:

Dear Mr. Cohen:

What is your factual support for your statement that bloggers “rarely have procedures for running a correction”? What is your factual support for your statement that “bloggers rarely disclose whether they are receiving money from the people or causes they write about”?

There are a lot of blogs out there, and the ones I read generally have procedures for running a correction — and I don’t know of any support for the concept that bloggers fail to disclose financial conflicts of interest at a greater rate than journalists.

But you obviously know better. Since you are a representative of the Biggest of Big Media, I am certain that you verified these “facts” about bloggers before printing them. And I’d like to know what your factual support for these statements is.

You have made generalized claims about all bloggers in this piece, saying they “rarely” do certain things that you claim Big Media does. Accordingly, I certainly hope your support for these assertions is more solid than citing one or two examples of blogs that have these flaws. I am sure I don’t have to tell you that an anecdote or two is not support for what an entire group of people “rarely” does or does not do.

Were it otherwise, I would be equally justified in citing the examples of one or two Big Media folks (including a former employee of your very paper) as support for this statement:

Journalists rarely visit the places they claim to have visited. Many take money from people they write about and fail to disclose it. And, more often then not, they manufacture their facts out of whole cloth.

Based on your piece, I am tempted to make that last claim about you, since I doubt you have any support for these claims whatsoever. But I could be wrong — so I am giving you the opportunity to respond first before I make that accusation. I will be happy to print any response in the post that I plan to run.

I assume you admit that it would be ironic indeed if you made factually unsupported statements in a screed about bloggers’ failure to do the same.

By the way, I plan to publish my post tomorrow evening, so do please try to respond by then.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to send this e-mail to Mr. Cohen directly. You see, he has not seen fit to include his e-mail address among those made public by the New York Times. So I had to settle for sending the e-mail to Dan Okrent. I asked Mr. Okrent to forward the e-mail to Cohen, or alternatively, to respond to my concerns himself.

As always, I will report any response in full. Incidentally, that kind of full and fair opportunity to have your entire response printed “rarely” happens in Big Media. But we bloggers do it all the time. What about that, Mr. Cohen?

15 Responses to “The New York Times‘s Adam Cohen Lectures Bloggers — and Makes a Few Seemingly Unsupportable Claims of His Own in the Process”

  1. […] logs for supposedly lacking their ethical standards. Recall, for example, that Adam Cohen said blogs “rarely have procedures for running a correction.” Tod […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » The Newsweek Standard for Running a Retraction (0c6a63)

  2. Let’s test his theory. I just caught a significant error on The Other Xrlq’s blog, which I just pointed out a couple of minutes ago. Let’s see how his correction rate compares to that of either coast’s Dog Trainer.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  3. Good post. Guessing I should not withhold food and water waiting for a cogent response.

    Old Coot (224bec)

  4. How would a far-right extreme blog even know if it was being funded by (say) the Bushies? Someone could drop a grand a week (say) in the ‘tip jar’ and no one would know different.

    Roger (c3df1a)

  5. Yup. And someone could drop a grand a week in a reporter’s bank account and no one would know different. So: what’s the difference?

    Patterico (756436)

  6. Surely it’s ridiculous for either Cohen or Patterico to worry about how most blogs behave. There are literally millions of blogs. It would be unsurprising and uninteresting, for example, to find out that most of them don’t correct errors. All that matters is how blogs that are well-respected or well-read behave.

    Journalists know this of course, and they only worry about blogs that are well-respected or well read, and it with respect to these blogs that maybe we should gather statistics. The irony, as we all know, is that journalists are most angered when blogs get things right that they (the journalists) get wrong.

    LTEC (9db880)

  7. LTEC,

    I think what’s going on is that Cohen feels safe in making the statement about “most” bloggers because there are so many out there — so how could they all be responsible? Yet people assume that he is referring to the ones that people actually read. Fact is, he almost certainly lacks statistics as to either.

    Patterico (756436)

  8. More to the point, if a thousand a week appeared in the tip jar, and the blogger had no idea who put it there or why, how would that pollute the objectivity of the blogger? Other than, perhaps, to give encouragement to a marginal talent with an approved viewpoint? In order to be bribed, one has to know what one is being bribed to do.

    S. Weasel (7c3329)

  9. S. Weasel,

    I have added a Paypal button at the bottom of the page in case anyone wants to test this. Just drop a grand in the tip jar each week — anonymously, of course. Give it about a year, and I’ll let you know whether I felt influenced.

    Patterico (756436)

    Thorough silliness. Would someone care to explain to me how we bloggers are supposed to “reform ourselves”? Shall we call a convention? Shall we lobby for blogging legislation in Congress? What exactly can serve as a better modus operandi other…

    Pejmanesque (2ae9b5)

  11. nyt: pot calls kettle black
    This is rich: The New York Times editorial page delivers a lecture to bloggers on ethics — the last journalistic organization in this country qualified to do so.

    There are two paragraphs in this piece that are particularly laughable. The first:

    evolution (5d4d56)

  12. FU-NYT: Adam Cohen Fact Checked
    I wrote about Adam Cohen earlier today. Big day for Adam, seldom is one person discredited at by so many people so thoroughly. Here is my letter to the editor: Dear Editor, Does the New York Times keep Adam Cohen on staff for the sole purpose of ensuri…

    Swing State Project (7abf79)

  13. This is just another example of MSMers talking to each other to reassure themselves that they are still the elite and the bloggers are not at ALL like them….

    raf (dec2b9)

  14. What A Maroon
    This piece of crap had me fuming earlier. But I had to work so now I’m calmed down. The Latest Rumbling in the Blogosphere: Questions About Ethics – New York Times I think Mr. Cohen ought to take a closer…

    Just Some Poor Schmuck (36e489)

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