The NY Times and the Clinton Rules

So, the NY Times had a story that it got a touch wrong although you can’t see that in the linked article–the original title was Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email (you can see the original here). As Kevin Drum states the NY Times got almost everything wrong: there wasn’t a criminal inquiry, Clinton was not the target, and the emails were not classified when they were sent to Clinton.

The story was botched so badly that the NY Times had both an editor’s note and a column by their Public Editor. The editor’s note doesn’t even pretend to apologize, it just lists the errors. The column by Margaret Sullivan is better noting this:

And the evolving story, which began to include a new development, simply replaced the older version. That development was that several instances of classified information had been found in Mrs. Clinton’s personal email – although, in fairness, it’s doubtful whether the information was marked as classified when she sent or received those emails. Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way – in small notices on Page A2.

But you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle – they ripple through the entire news system.

So it was, to put it mildly, a mess. As a result, I’ve been spending the last couple of days asking how this could happen and how something similar can be prevented in the future.

but then there’s this:

He agreed, as Mr. Purdy did, that special care has to come with the use of anonymous sources, but he believes that the errors here “may have been unavoidable.” And Mr. Purdy said that he thought The Times probably took too long to append a correction in the first instance.

But, Mr. Baquet said, he does not fault the reporters or editors directly involved.

“You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral,” Mr. Baquet said. “I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”

Thus we get a concrete, high-level example of the Clinton Rules which include this:

Every allegation, no matter how ludicrous, is believable until it can be proven completely and utterly false. And even then, it keeps a life of its own in the conservative media world.

The reporters couldn’t have asked the Clinton camp and they couldn’t have waited for more confirmation because …. well, the story was about Hillary Clinton (except it turned out it wasn’t). Is it irresponsible to speculate, it is irresponsible not to.

Sullivan does worry about anonymity and has even written about it before but in neither of these articles does she bring up a possible solution (and the reporters of the article don’t even seem to contemplate it)–if you lie to a reporter, that reporter will then give out your name. This would almost immediately cut down the number of ‘inside sources’ that are trying to put out propaganda.

All in all, you can see why Hillary Clinton decided to put a response letter on her site and why the Clintons don’t seem to get along with the press.

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