Unflattering Comparison: The Journal’s Treatment of Immigration Story vs. That of Real Newspapers

August 4th, 2014 · No Comments · Congress, Fact Check, immigration, journalism

By Arthur Alpert

Remember that old Albuquerque Journal hand who told me I was too quick to finger management’s political commissars for what was wrong at the daily. My informant advised that a lot of mistakes could be laid at the door of young, inexperienced staffers.

I’ve not forgotten and sometimes the Old Hand is exactly right. Case in point, the caption on a photo adorning Joline Gutierrez Krueger’s Up Front column Wednesday July 30.

“The steroids give her a bloated look and stretch marks, but that doesn’t phase Alorah.”

My italics.

Let us be kind. A misspelling, after all, is not a crime. Further, the author (who probably was channeling “Star Trek” and its cool phasers) may be a victim of visual learning. And blaming the victim isn’t nice.

Still, the Journal is big on accountability, sometimes, and you wonder if the editors will ever proof read the darn thing to minimize the countless, habitual misspellings and typos and awkward grammar.

It’s part of being accurate, which used to matter in the business.

Perhaps, though, management is too busy (sorry, Old Hand) playing politics with the news.

Having just read the Journal’s treatment of the House’s latest immigration debacle alongside what real newspapers did, I find that conclusion more than plausible.

Exhibit A: The Associated Press report by David Espo that the editors ran Friday, August 1 (A3) under the rubric, “Congress Hits impasse on immigration crisis”.

Espo, let’s note, is on my list of AP Washington staffers whose reports regularly include opinion.

This time he doesn’t get around to reporting what happened until the eighth (and ensuing) paragraphs. That’s when we learn – the Journal’s headline and his own lead notwithstanding – that the Congress didn’t hit an impasse.

No, the Republicans split. The leaders cancelled a vote on their own border security legislation “after a revolt by tea party-aligned GOP lawmakers, some of whom had conferred with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz the night before.”

Espo then spells out the GOP disarray.

At this point, I figured he’d buried the lead.

So I checked in at the Washington Post for its version of what happened. Here’s the headline:

House GOP leaders spike border bill rather than see it defeated”.

And here is reporter Paul Kane’s lead:

“House Republican leaders were ambushed by another conservative insurrection on Thursday, forced to scrap a pivotal vote on a border security bill and scramble to find a solution amid a familiar whirlwind of acrimony and finger-pointing.”

Nice to see that Kane and his editors agreed with me on the lead.

(Let’s not talk about the stupidity of “another conservative insurrection,” please. The insurrection came from the Far Right and was aimed at conservatives. But this blindness to the meaning of words is everywhere these days; surely, Orwell rotates in his grave.)

Then I checked the New York Times version.

Its headline was “Rebellion inside G.O.P Scuttles Vote on Border Bill”. Reporters Ashley Parker and Jonathan Weisman collaborated on this lead:

“Conservatives in the House rebelled against their leadership on Thursday to scuttle an emergency spending measure that addressed the migrant crisis at the southern border, pushing the issue to a showdown on Friday as lawmakers prepared to leave for a five-week recess. The unexpected turmoil offered a coda to the dysfunction that has gripped the Capitol for much of the year.”

Yep, the Times, too, misapprehends what “conservative” means, but like the Post it knew the lead.

Oh, and before we move on, be aware that the Post ran two sidebars, one on Sen. Cruz’s rising power within the GOP, the other a Dan Balz think piece headlined “Republicans deliver another self-inflicted wound”, neither of which the Journal picked up.

So to summarize, Journal editors passed on publishing three Washington Post stories on the GOP’s intraparty split. It went instead with an AP piece that suggested the Congress as a whole was stalemated and buried what the Post and Times zeroed in on.

Nicely done if, as I wrote here July 21, you reject “the journalistic goal of describing the world accurately” to foist “a false picture on readers.”

And the editors’ work wasn’t done.

In the same issue, the editors managed to find and front-page a story on consumer sentiment (glum); run another partisan attack on the President’s foreign policy by the incorrigible Victor Davis Hanson, and write one more snarky editorial on the IRS “scandal” with still no mention the IRS also investigated “liberal” organizations.

(See Denise Tessier’s July 31 post for more on the Journal’s stubborn refusal to report the whole story fairly.)

Whew. With all that political work, no wonder the editors cannot keep spelling errors off Page One.

I know a job like that would certainly f-a-z-e me.

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