"I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who's right." (But that won't stop me from writing an entire column based on definitive claims I defend.)
The background: Joe Klein writes an entire column based on something obviously false. Hilarity ensues as Klein and his editors toss out contradictory explanations and follow-ups while digging their shared hole ever deeper.
In a previous post I covered how reporters, rather than report facts, report what people characterize as the facts. This Klein incident is an excellent example of that and more generally of "everything that is rancid and corrupt with our political media." He-said/he-said reporting, opinion columns devoid of standards and fact-checking along with a generous helping of sheer laziness.
"I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who's right."
Yet he wrote the piece. Joe Klein doesn't know if what he wrote is actually true - but that didn't stop him or his editors. The heart of journalism is verification - ha.
Others have done a wonderful job of bashing Klein. What I want to comment on is not his typically wretched "reporting" but the response to it. Ten years ago the piece would have run and the response would have been a few unpublished letters to the editor. There would be no way for the average Time reader to know that information in his column was fabricated, and no way for the informed reader aware of the fabrications to share that knowledge. To everyone without detailed knowledge of the subject matter Joe Klein would have remained an informed expert.
Mainstream journalists (including Klein here) relentlessly attack blogs while simultaneously attempting to co-opt and corporatize them. The reason is simple: blogs represent a way for people to get information and analysis from sources outside of the mainstream media, and to get negative information about the mainstream media itself.
Blogs are simply writing and information sharing, yet the mainstream media is scared to death of blogging -- because it is increasingly obvious that the mainstream media offers little over amateur enthusiasts. Across the country local coverage and beat reporting is being scaled back, as are in-depth investigations and independent reporting of all kinds. Serious journalists tell us they offer a valuable service that blogs can't provide while their organizations increasingly shuffle staff to online ventures that crudely approximate popular blogs.
The typical MSM attack on blogs is little more than "I'm in a major publication so that must mean I'm good at my job! I mean look - Time Magazine!" That emperor has no clothes.
Thanks to those meanies in the blogosphere the fact that Klein is revered by his peers as a thoughtful and serious journalist takes on a very different light. The peer of an incompetent fraud is another incompetent fraud. (This is a man who staked his credibility on the fact that he didn't write Primary Colors, so yes, fraud is the correct term.) When Joe Klein and his friends tell us that their robes are simply fabulous we no longer have to smile and nod dumbly. Instead some voice in the crowd can point out that his fabulous robes are really his wrinkled naked skin.