The unfolding of the New York Times’ latest reporting disaster is fascinating—especially for anybody who’s ever been a reporter.
It was easy to recognize immediately that the story alleging a Justice Brett Kavanaugh “bombshell” had rookie mistakes that the city editor on a small town daily wouldn’t have let into the paper back in the day.
Now, even the New York Times reporters from whose book the ill-reported article was taken seem to be seeking cover by blaming the fiasco on their editors.
Fox quotes the reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, as saying that the essential, exculpatory information was in their original story but editors removed it. This is an incredibly damning charge for the reporters to make against their newspaper. It is also risky, I would imagine, for their own futures at the newspaper.
Both are veterans of the newspaper, and Pogrebin has a distinguished lineage in New York’s left-leaning social circles: she is the daughter of Letty Cottin Pogregin, a Ms. Magazine founder. Here is what they are charging:
Pogrebin and Kelly said in an interview that information was included in their original draft of the piece.
"In your draft of the article, did it include those words that have since been added to the article?" MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell asked.
"It did," both Pogrebin and Kelly responded.
"So somewhere in the editing process, those words were trimmed," O'Donnell said in clarification.
Pogrebin then explained that The Times doesn't usually include names of victims and that she believed that when the editors removed the name, the crucial information that she didn't remember was also removed.
"So I think it was just sort of an editing, you know, done in the haste in the editing process," Pogrebin added.
"Were you involved in the decision to amend this and do the correction- the addition online to the piece?" O'Donnell followed.
"We discussed it," Pogrebin said. "We felt like there was so much heat, there's so much- everyone has been has been seizing on various aspects of this that we certainly didn't want it to be an issue anymore and we certainly never intended to mislead in any way. We wanted to give as full of a story as possible."
Almost all editing is done in haste on a daily newspaper. And this isn’t exactly standing up and taking responsibility on the part of the reporters. It doesn’t make them or their employer look good. They were forced to issue a correction not because people were “seizing” on parts of the story but because it was flat out wrong.
There is no honorable explanation for a mistake this basic and of this magnitude. Indeed, Bill McGurn ponders the possible motivation behind publishing such a transparently false story in this morning’s Wall Street Journal:
With no evidence, the prospects for unseating Justice Kavanaugh are nil. So why the continuing assaults? Because if you throw enough mud, it leaves a stain. Ms. Blasey Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, laid this out in an April speech at the University of Baltimore:
“He will always have an asterisk next to his name. When he takes a scalpel to Roe v. Wade, we will know who he is, we know his character, and we know what motivates him, and that is important. It is important that we know, and that is part of what motivated Christine.”
These remarks—suggesting that Ms. Katz’s client had motivations other than the truth—surfaced only this month with the release of Ryan Lovelace ’s “Search and Destroy: Inside the Campaign Against Brett Kavanaugh.” Mr. Lovelace’s scoop cries out for follow-up reporting, but the Times won’t touch it.
Just for the record, Mollie Hemingway, part of a fact-based reporting duo who do journalism like it used to be done, was the first to publicly point out the Times’ omission of crucial facts in the latest Kavanaugh misfire.
Yep, the latest Kavanaugh "bombshell" detonated in the newsroom, but I doubt if mainstream journalists will be inspired to return to fact-based reporting.