Sunday, May 22, 2011

Taking a Look at ABC's Sloppy Coverage of Governor Palin's Interviews

Recently, ABC News has descended into the sort of sloppy journalism usually reserved for the entertainment section of any media institution. That stands to reason considering that they have been assigning an entertainment writer to cover political news.

That entertainment reporter, Sheila Marikar (apparently also a writer for ABC's The Note, which bills itself as being "Washington's Original and Most Influential Tipsheet") has been the designated reporter covering Governor Palin's recent Fox News interviews. Her awful reporting skills became apparent last week, after she wrote a piece on the governor's interviews with Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren. Marikar started her piece (emphasis added):
In a pair of conservative talk show appearances Wednesday night, Sarah Palin defended presidential contender Newt Gingrich's criticism of fellow Republican Paul Ryan's Medicare plan by reiterating her frustration with the “leftist lame-stream media."

Um, no she did not.

What Governor Palin said in regards to Newt Gingrich during those interviews was:

On Hannity:
I do believe that Newt Gingrich is terribly wrong on his assessment of Representative Ryan's plan. It is good fiscally sound and courageous plan. And it's not all just about Medicare, we have to make sure that we are understanding that Ryan's budget is a big difference as opposed to the Obama budget, which of course have has us on the road to bankruptcy.

On Greta:
Well, I think that the media -- that we all have a right to ask Speaker Gingrich, what in the heck did you mean that Paul Ryan's budget plan is radical or social engineering? No, what is radical is not proposing a plan to counter Obama's budget plan that has us on the road to bankruptcy.

[...]

You know what I thought after the whole Newt Gingrich thing in these last 24 hours, Greta, was, "Bless his heart" and every other good ol' boy's heart that's in that political game there in the Beltway. They don't really know any more than the rest of us. Greta, it was Newt Gingrich who told me in January of this year, Sarah Palin needs to slow down and really think through what it is that she has to say. Well, you know, he stumbles, too. We all stumble. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses.

Clearly the governor's statements were not an endorsement of Newt Gingrich's position on Paul Ryan's plan. Or at least whatever Newt's position was the day he stumbled, but I digress...

Keeping up with that sort of journalistic standard, Marikar "reported" on Sunday for ABC (emphasis added):
“Anyone who studies history, studies the old testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times,” Palin said on Jeanine Pirro’s “Justice With Judge Jeanine.” “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our enemies in Israel.”

That's quite the typo you've got there, Sheila.

She later changed it by replacing the word "enemies" with "friends" however, nowhere in the article does it mention that she made any changes from a previous version. Which it should have considering other news outlets, like the Israeli media site Ynet, used ABC as a reference to cover the interview. As of right now, Ynet's article still reads "enemies."

I'm sure the readers on Ynet can read the rest of the article and conclude that Governor Palin did not mean "enemies" but when placed in quotation marks like that, they may conclude that she said it. Worse, perhaps someone will only read that part of the article and conclude that the governor really meant that!

Do you see how sloppy journalism can effect people's perceptions? One poorly designated reporter writes up a couple of articles laden with mischaracterizations and misquotes, other reporters pick up the words and repeat them for readers all of over the world. This is how rumors and false perceptions begin. Although the press deeply resents that Governor Palin refers to them as the lamestream media, they are more than deserving of that title. In fact, they should thank her for being so kind.
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