NYT Failed to Think Politically in McCain Story

New York Times building Jay Rosen has a lengthy examination of the flap over the New York Times story on John McCain and hits on a very plausible theory:

“Times editors are smart people prevented by their own codes from thinking politically. Yet those same codes permit intrusions into politics, like the Vicki Iseman story, that require them to think politically or risk terrible missteps.’

Rosen isn’t saying that the Times needs to “carry out a political agenda” but rather that they must be aware of “the larger political realities” into which they inject a story. Ordinary readers immediately recognized that references to suspicions about adultery and other misdeeds needed to be corroborated, whereas the Times‘ editors thought they didn’t because they thought the story was about McCain’s carelessness about appearances.

Read the whole thing.

Photo credit: New York Magazine

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Media, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Hal says:

    Wow, Jeff Jarvis. That’s some weighty criticism there.

    In any event, the paper of record that published Judith “I was f*cking right” Miller and in no small part rallied us into the current five year long nightmare (I guess that’s going to be 100 years, if McCain is elected) in Iraq has a long record of being idiotic.

    Still, I find it almost hilarious that people are up in arms over allegations of a presidential candidate having an affair offered with out solid evidence. I mean, hello? Gennifer Flowers anyone?

    But I guess it’s okay if it’s against the democrats.

    Hey, BTW, I see that the whole “Is Obama Patriotic Enough To Be President” meme has taken hold, James. Glad to see that this whole outrage isn’t a partisan affair and that equal effort on the right is being put into dispelling a myth with even less smoke than McCain’s.

    <lol>

  2. James Joyner says:

    I see that the whole “Is Obama Patriotic Enough To Be President” meme has taken hold, James. Glad to see that this whole outrage isn’t a partisan affair and that equal effort on the right is being put into dispelling a myth with even less smoke than McCain’s.

    The meme, to the extent it exists, has been widely dismissed.

    I’ve written about the specific comments made by Michelle Obama that got her into some hot water — and which I think were properly newsworthy — but have never questioned either Obama’s loyalty. My analysis was on the politics of the situation.

    It’s not that Left hates America; few do and I can’t imagine the Obamas are among them. But there is a strain of the elite Left that takes the Chomskyan stance of hyper-self-criticism of one’s own country. In bending over backwards not to be jingoistic and judgmental of others — cultural norms are entirely relative, don’t you know (unless they’re oppressive of people of color or womyn, of course) — they emphasize America’s faults to the exclusion of its good.

    It’s a useful stance to take, actually, in private. Self-examination is good. Recognizing our limits in changing the world is good. Understanding how others might perceive us is good. But one doesn’t want to say that they’re not proud of their country if they’re looking to lead it. The Obama campaign needs to walk this one back and pronto. This isn’t the kind of “change” Americans are looking for. And it’s the opposite of “hope.”

    I explicitly reject the “Obama’s not patriotic enough” charge.

  3. Hal says:

    The meme, to the extent it exists, has been widely dismissed

    Hmm. So I guess CNN running a push poll “Is Obama Patriotic Enough To Be President” is just a manifestation of the lack of staying power it has.

    WRT to your explanation regarding Michelle Obama, I’ll only note that this is precisely Keller’s justification as well.

  4. James Joyner says:

    WRT to your explanation regarding Michelle Obama, I’ll only note that this is precisely Keller’s justification as well.

    And I’d have had no issue with an op-ed or feature article raising questions about McCain’s ties to lobbyists vis-a-vis his squeaky clean rhetoric. Giving it the front page above-the-fold news treatment, complete with a late-evening Web rollout to get breaking news treatment on the talking heads shows, is a whole different animal.

  5. Hal says:

    a whole different animal

    Perhaps, but man isn’t this putting a “chilling effect” on the freedom of the press? <snicker>

    Seriously, though, I think y’all have opened Pandora’s box in the early nineties with Whitewater, Vince Foster, Gennifer Flowers, John, McCain’s black love child (wait, that was Roves), and of course the entire Impeachment affair.

    This is the world the right had a heavy hand in creating, shaping and nurturing. As I mentioned on a

    Welcome to the world we’ve been living in for quite some time.

  6. James Joyner says:

    I think y’all have opened Pandora’s box in the early nineties with Whitewater, Vince Foster, Gennifer Flowers, John, McCain’s black love child (wait, that was Roves), and of course the entire Impeachment affair.

    The “black love child” thing was just a smear and certainly there were plenty of sleazy allegations on many of the others, notably the Foster suicide.

    Still, the stories were real.

    Gennifer Flowers had gone public about an affair with a sitting governor who was running for president. There was in fact an affair.

    There were serious questions about Whitewater that spawned a legit investigation. No wrongdoing was found on the part of the Clintons themselves, a fact that didn’t get the publicity that the charges got, but their associates, the McDougal’s, were indeed crooks.

    The Vince Foster suicide, like the Kennedy assassination, spawned a series of conspiracy theories. Scumbags like Jerry Falwell capitalized on it. But the suicide of a White House counsel and some of the ensuing questions were legit news stories, even if the coverage was distasteful.

  7. Hal says:

    the stories were real.

    So, what isn’t real about the NY Times story? Everything they printed has been shown to be true. The Times never came out and said he had an affair. McCain’s sad denials of the lobbying accusations have, in fact, turned out to be false and the Time’s version has been upheld.

    Again, according to the standards you’re professing, there’s nothing wrong with the Time’s story – other than it’s about John McCain.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Again, according to the standards you’re professing, there’s nothing wrong with the Time’s story – other than it’s about John McCain.

    The other stories were breaking news brought to the forefront of public discussion by actual events happening at the time — a dead public official, charges made in public, and the like. The McCain story was a manufactured piece based on suspicions unnamed people had about something nine years ago that was treated like breaking news.

    If Vicki Iseman had held a press conference — or initiated a law suit – alleging an affair with John McCain, that’d been breaking news. This wasn’t.

  9. Hal says:

    Wow, that’s some parsing about what is and isn’t considered “breaking news”.

    Hokay then. Pretty well settled. I’ll remember this the next time “chilling effect” comes up.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Wow, that’s some parsing about what is and isn’t considered “breaking news”.

    Breaking news should be 1) breaking and 2) news.

    I’ll remember this the next time “chilling effect” comes up.

    I’m not suggesting government regulations on the matter, merely the application of common journalistic standards. Everyone from Josh Marshall to the NYT public editor seems to agree on that score.

  11. Hal says:

    Breaking news should be 1) breaking and 2) news

    In the politics section? In a series entitled “THE LONG RUN”? Lot’s of stuff makes it to the front page which is neither breaking nor news – and “not news” is purely your interpretation. As we’ve seen, a lot of this stuff is actually news to people who haven’t been political junkies. Which is, of course, why the outrage o meter is dialed up to 11 on the right.

    Okay. Whatever. I really don’t have any particular dog in this fight other than the sheer joy at watching the Right play the victim card and assail the NY Times as we all watch McCain flop around like a fish out of water on the actual meat of the article. Quite amusing, to say the least.

    I have a strong feeling this is just the beginning of the whining and that the strategy on the right seems to be settled on victim hood. That’ll be hilarious…

  12. capital L says:

    The troll! It hungers!