Friday, April 08, 2005

Gridiron Garbage

I’ll have a longer response to Mark Hyman’s comments on the state of the media later on Friday (which will also be cross-posted on
SinclairAction’s website), but I wanted to briefly touch on Hyman’s specific remarks about the Gridiron dinner.

Hyman claims that one reason newspapers “no longer have American trust” is exemplified by the fact that the Washington Post described the proceedings of the “off the record” Gridiron dinner and described a song that wasn’t actually performed.

Hyman says, “Two days later, the Post dismissed its fabricating of news by way of a correction notice, admitting no such skit ever took place.”

Although Hyman insinuates that the Washington Post violated the sanctity of the Gridiron Dinner by reporting on it, the fact is that the proceedings are only technically “off the record.” In fact, this year’s dinner was even covered by the
Associated Press. To suggest the Washington Post’s summary of the events was unusual or out of order is deceptive.

As for the reporting of the unperformed song, the Post’s reporter apparently was describing the event based on a script that included the performance, but the song was cut just before the dinner. Writing at least partial versions of articles describing scripted events beforehand, particularly when the event occurs late in the evening and the story is set to run the following morning, is a widespread practice in newspaper reporting.

Then there’s Hyman’s use of the word “dismissed.” This word suggests that the Post made light of the error or didn’t take responsibility for it. They did. That’s what correction notices do. In its correction, the Post said:

"the article incorrectly reported that a satirical version of ‘Sweet Home
Alabama’ was performed at the dinner and described reaction to it. Such a skit was written, but it was dropped before the final performance."

In what way is this statement dismissive? What should the Post have said instead? Hyman does not say.

Oh, and satirical song’s subject (who goes unnamed by Hyman)? Journalist-for-hire and Sinclair favorite, Armstrong Williams.

There’s plenty of things that specific newspapers and print journalism in general can be faulted for, and several underlying reasons for the drop in the audience for newspapers. But the attempt to smear the Washington Post for political purposes on the basis of a mistaken inclusion of a detail in a story from its style section is simply dumb.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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