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Sep 08, 2008

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Spag

For a guy interested in the truth, Roch has a real problem fact checking liberals. Kind of hurts the argument.

Roch101

"Roch has a real problem fact checking liberals." -- Spag

Of the letters I have flagged, one was clearly not of a partisan matter. That the rest of the plagiarism and falsehoods come from writers with a right-wing perspective is simply a matter of fact. You may not like it, but it's not my doing.

If I've missed any letters to the editor in the N&R that were plagiarized or contain empirically false statements, please let me know.

cara michele

I think it's time for JR to put Roch on the payroll.

justcorbly

>>"Kind of hurts the argument."

Why?

Why are the people you call liberals required to be all-knowing and pure of heart before pointing to the mistakes of others? This is politics, not a bemused and detached search for the truth.

And that from someone who's VP candidate today announced that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae had been gobbling up too much of the taxpayers' money, one day after Bush bailed out the huge private firms after failing to police them for years, thereby demonstrating that she doesn't know how much she doesn't know.

Roch101

Actually, J. Corby, there is nothing political about my fact-checking endeavor. It's more an effort to encourage the N&R to reconsider their lackadaisical approach to publishing falsehoods and plagiarism.

A preponderance of the letters I've flagged have been from a right-wing perspective, but I haven't set out to only target letters with a certain point of view. In fact, when I do this and am accused of being partisan, I invite the accusers to please point me to plagiarized or fabricated content that I may have missed. They don't.

I'm sure, if the N&R doesn't change their standards, it will only be a matter of time before I find the plagiarized or factually wrong letter from the "left," but for now, it's silly to blame me for the fact that the offending letters come almost exclusively from the right. I'm noting them, not writing them.

justcorbly

I stand corrected, then, and admit I was carrying over a disagreement from another thread. I have no patience with the notion that a Republican's faults are unaddressable so long as one Democrat can be found with the same fault.

I'd expect newspapers to make an effort to check the accuracy of quotes in readers' letters, at least quotes by public figures.

Fred Gregory
Ed's Mom

Talked to N-R writer and, guess what!--it's not that they have an inadequate fact checker, they have NO fact checker for the letters column. An equal opportunity bi-partisan example of bad journalistic practice.

Roch101

I'll pass, Fred, no time to chase down flame bait. But of the matter at hand, do you support the N&R's policy of allowing plagiarism and errors of fact on their letters page?

Tony Wilkins

Roch, do you know of any newspaper anywhere that checks the facts of their LTE's?

Fred Gregory

Roch,

You will pass. HA ! How about just voting present. What a big bluffer you are when challenged. Okay you keep pickin' the guanno and be happy

You really should read dthe NY Times daily correction section if you are intersted in seeing fact checking checked.

Spag has a good sense of smell.. fear is in the air and we know where it is coming from.

Sorry old chap but you're lost and need one of these to lead you out of liberaland.

Ituran

Roch101

OK, Fred. Thanks. But do you support the N&R's policy of allowing plagiarism and errors of fact on their letters page?

Roch101

Tony,

I hadn't asked myself about that, so I did a one-cup-of-coffee Google search, and yes, there are newspapers who fact check letters to the editor, including:

USA Today
The Sacramento Bee
The Naples Daily News
Asheville Citizen-Times
The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)
The Altoona Star (PA)
The Community Journal (Central Massachusetts)
The Corsican Daily Sun (TX)
The Chesterfield Observer (VA)
Morrison County Record (MN)
And more...
[Hyperlinks limited to avoid being flagged as spam by this blog]

What about you, Tony? Do you approve of the N&R allowing plagiarism and errors of fact on its letters page?

mick

Well, then I guess we will see how the fact checking goes today over at N&R.

Roch101

Fred, Tony, from you silence, I'll assume the answer is yes.

Tony Wilkins

Of course I don't approve of it Roch, but I do not expect to find "fact" on the editorial pages nor do I expect the N&R to take the time to verify LTE's.

Ed Cone

You don't expect to find facts in the opinion pages?

I think you should raise your expectations.

To trot out DPM's famous quote yet again, we're entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.

Letters, columns, and editorials should express strong points of view, but they should not be unmoored from reality.

Roch101

So, there's a practice you don't approve of but you don't expect the responsible party to do anything about it. Interesting.

Mick

You havent found any factual errors in any LTEs over the last couple days Roch?

Roch101

I haven't checked them for a couple of days, Mick. It sounds like maybe you have. Care to share?

Mick

Im actually glad to hear you havent checked. That is a silly place to be honest.

Ive just read a lot of anti-palin suff and wanted to see what a more reasonable left leaner had to say.

As far as my take on the screening of LTE's...

Wouldnt bother me if they did. But, I believe that would create a no-win situation for AJ and the paper. Charges of bias and discrimination would follow within 24 hours.

Roch101

Mick,

I've read the letters, nothing jumped out at me so I didn't bother doing any checking, but I'll go back and take a closer look -- I promise.

A practical solution might be for the N&R to go ahead and publish letters as written, but add editor's notes to correct facts or point out plagiarism. I'm not talking about offering counter opinion with such notes (as they once did with letters opposed to the FedEx hub), but a judicious use of notes that would correct misrepresentations or empirical data or cite the original source of plagiarized material.

Such a practice would squelch any suggestion of censorship and would, I think, quickly result in writers writing their own letters and getting their facts straight so as not to suffer a public correction.

Roch101

Okay, Mick. I found one.

Denise Baker says that Sarah Palin denies that global warming is occurring. Not so, as far as I can tell. It appears as if Sarah Palin (recently, at least) acknowledges climate change is occurring, but denies that it is man-made.

This isn't quite the kind of misstatement of empirical data for which I've scolded the N&R before. Some facts are much more cut and dry. Still, an editor's note in this case might be something like (I'm making this up):

"In an interview with Time (4/01/08), Plain says global warming is happening but that she does not think it is man-made."

Another option would be for editors to contact writers in a case like this and say, Time says Palin believes global warming is happening. Can you document your assertion that she denies it? This kind of request for substantiation would give writers a chance to substantiate their assertions or correct inaccuracies before publication.

mick

Take a peek at a letter by I believe Stephen Yarborough a couple of days ago.

Roch101

Why don't you just spit it out, Mick, instead of asking me to chase down a letter with no hyperlink or date?

mick

"Sarah Palins sarcasm hides conflicted soul."

No worries. Not really playing gotcha with you. Just trying to follow your instructions to point things out. Ill save you the time here.

Did Sarah Palin cut the budget for special needs children by 60%?

eric

@mick: "Did Sarah Palin cut the budget for special needs children by 60%? "

No. The letter writer may have gotten than from a Washington Monthly blog post. To his credit, the author of that post issued a correction.

Tony Wilkins

"editorial": adj 1: of or relating to an article stating opinions or giving perspectives.
Opinions and perspectives are what I expect to see on the Editorial pages. To expect everyone who writes an LTE to have all their facts straight is an unachievable goal,imo.
I have more of a beef with their election endorsements which I think they should eliminate.
Ed, concerning the Editorial page endorsements for the upcoming election. Without one single Republican on the staff that determines these endorsements do you think a member of the GOP gets fair treatment? That's like letting you and Roch and Dave Ribar...never mind.

Ed Cone

Tony, the Moynihan quote is profound. An opinion ungrounded in fact is not very valuable.

Editorials and columns should be factually accurate.

The constraints of time and cost make it impossible for the N&R to rigorously check every letter, but the standards for letters still should be higher than the standards for a barroom argument -- and even bartenders keep dictionaries (and baseball bats) behind the bar. The Google makes it possible to flag egregious errors.

Demand more from your paper.

Mick

Roch,

Did Sarah Palin attempt to have books banned from the library?

Ed Cone

The library story, as I understand it: Palin asked the town librarian about banning books, but did not specify which books. The librarian said no way. Palin later fired the librarian.

The list of books supposedly banned by Palin that was circulating on the net is phony.

Mick

Ed,

Just trying to help:) Not really playing gotcha and I dont really expect him to check every letter every day.

"A preponderance of the letters I've flagged have been from a right-wing perspective, but I haven't set out to only target letters with a certain point of view. In fact, when I do this and am accused of being partisan, I invite the accusers to please point me to plagiarized or fabricated content that I may have missed. They don't"

Roch101

Look, Mick, I'm delighted that you seem to be on my side regarding the troubling practices of the N&R on its letters page, but you don't have to make me the middle man. If you find some suspect content, debunk it and post it with links to the correct facts. I'm all for it. But, it doesn't have to be, shouldn't be, is not, about me.

Tony, if I submitted a letter that said that, IN MY OPINION, I don't support John McCain for president because he was convicted for smuggling heroin into the US, donated $5,000 to The Arizona Knights for White Supremacy and shot his dog dead in front of his daughter because she wouldn't take it for a walk, is that ok? I mean, you know, if it was my opinion that those things were true, there should be no reason not to print it, right?

Mick

Talk the talk...
Aww shucks, you know the rest.I

".... invite the accusers to please point me to plagiarized or fabricated content that I may have missed. They don't"


Roch101

So quit the cryptic questions and point us to it already. You seem more interested in trying to make a point about me.

Mick

What cryptic questions? I gave two examples of recent LTE misinformation which you asked for. That is all.

"If I've missed any letters to the editor in the N&R that were plagiarized or contain empirically false statements, please let me know."

Roch101

Okay, doofus. I don't have any more time to waste with you today.

Roch101

"I gave two examples of recent LTE misinformation which you asked for."

To be clear. No you didn't. You posed your own questions, "Did Sarah Palin do this or that." No quotes from the suspect letters. No hyperlinks to them. No dates so I can find them myself and evaluate them in context. What the f**k do you want me to fact check? You haven't offered me anything to look at, only your insipid questions. And, most importantly, you'd rather waste your time jerking my chain than stand up and offer any fact-checking of your own. Lame. Lazy.

I've tried to politely engage you on this subject because it is important to me and I thought it was important to you. You are more interested in a little passive aggressive game of keep away. Have it, child.

Ed Cone

What I think Roch is trying to say is that it would be helpful to provide links to the specific letters, and citations from those letters.

The goal is to fact-check the letters, not to play gotcha with each other, right?

David Wharton

Here's on for you boys, from today's LTEs:

"Palin previously tried to assert her elected mayoral position to have the town librarian fired because she refused Palin’s request to ban certain books."

Have at it.

Ed Cone

DW, I addressed this a few comments ago, but it needs more digging.

But I think you are missing the point here -- the idea is for you to have at it, and tell us what you find out, complete with citations.

David Wharton

Oops, sorry -- I thought at first that it was just a generalized discussion of the whole Palin/library thing.

But I think it's a fair question for Roch, who's taken up fisking the N&R LTEs -- do you want to have at the LTE I linked, Roch? I mean, I could do it, too, but would like to give Roch first crack.

Ed Cone

What Roch said: "...you don't have to make me the middle man. If you find some suspect content, debunk it and post it with links to the correct facts. I'm all for it. But, it doesn't have to be, shouldn't be, is not, about me."

It's one of those distributed, self-assigned, spirit-of-the-interwebs things.

Ian McDowell

Here are two statements:

"John Hammer pretends to espouse traditional morality while courting Goodfella club owners via a weekly feature presenting their mob-owned establishments as places where even a portly red-faced fifty-something Ned Beatty lookalike can pick up big-boobed blondes less than half his age."

"Fred Gregory and Tony Wilkins were arrested last week for indulging in a quaint old Scottish sexual practice with Billy Yow's goats."

Some would claim that both statements are equally false. Hammer would dispute the validity of the first, and if I said it in the wrong place or to the wrong person, it could get me sued or beaten up. But it's not the same type of lie as the latter statement. The first "creatively" interprets facts, repeats gossip, impugns motives, and deals in guilt by association, but it can't be quickly and easily disproven. The second describes a single specific event that never happened, one which CAN easily be debunked by a check of police records (Fred and Tony may or may not be goat-shaggers, but if they were ever arrested for it, it wasn't last week).

Roch's examples strike me as more similar to the the hypothetical claim that Fred and Tony were arrested for goat-shagging than the claim that Hammer is pimping for the Jersey Mob. The various examples of liberal "lies" that others refer to, almost always without an actual citation, seem more like the latter; innuendo and possible distortions colored by the writer's opinions, but not obviously bald-faced lies.

Saying "Bush lied about WMD" is not the same thing as listing specific titles of books that Palin tried to have banned. Saying that Global Warming is clearly happening is not the same thing as saying that Bush refused to sell his home to black people. The former are opinions. The latter are bullshit.

Here are some widely circulated lies about conservatives. Bush has the lowest IQ of any president in recorded history. Sarah Palin said "without Jesus, we'd be Muslims, too, or Jewish, which would be a little better due to the superior Israeli Air Force." Sarah Palin tried to get A Wrinkle in Time banned from the Wasilla, Alaska public library. John McCain called himself a war criminal. All of these bullshit "facts" and "quotes" are easily disproven.

I challenge those who challenge Roch's motives to provide links to actual N&R LTEs that make obviously false and easily disprovable claims about conservatives comparable to the ones I list in the paragraph above. Don't say "the liberal media has repeated this" or "The New York Times said that." Give me actual letters in our actual local paper.

Once these examples are brought to Roch's attention, we will see if he blogs about them, too. If the examples really are comparable (and are not, say, just someone calling Bush a "liar" or saying that McCain is "senile"), and if, once Roch is aware of them, he doesn't cite them in his blog, then you may have a case for his alleged hypocrisy. But until then, you're just bloviating.

Roch101

I expected more from you Dr. Wharton. Why do you want to give me first crack at it? Because you are more interested in seeing if I am capable of noting errors of fact in a letter with a liberal point of view than addressing the real problem? That's mighty big of you.

I'm going to lift weights, you fact check it for us David. Mmmkay, sweetie?

Joe Killian

For what it's worth we'd routinely fact-check letters to the editor at my college newspaper. When we came across something that was just proveably false we'd send the letter back to its author (usually via e-mail) and ask them to either take it out or revise the letter if they wanted to see it published.

If it was one of those weird areas where it wasn't an outright lie but they were clearly misrepresenting facts or making implications they couldn't back up, we'd sometimes do an editor's note.

We had basically the same policy for columnists.

Of course it was a much smaller audience and we didn't have to pay the staffers who did it a living wage...

sean coon

lift weights? sweetie?

really?

i know i'm chiming in like a neighbor who escaped and then returned to stepford, but c'mon now, this politically infused vitriol is just plain childish.

Ian McDowell

See, that's why I call so many of you goobers while expressing respect for Dr. Wharton (and Jeffrey Sykes, although he's not yet in this particular fight). None of the whining or chest-thumping that makes me think some local conservatives should be hollowed out and given to poor children as Halloween costumes, but a literate rejoinder that's all the more effective for its understatement (I don't do understatement, myself, but respect those who do), complete with citation and link.

Roch, Malin's statement that the librarian was fired "because she refused Palin’s request to ban certain books" appears to be bullshit that should have been fact-checked, although to give the N&R a Spagnolian defense, it's harder to do so with a still-breaking story that Snopes debunked today than it would have been with Green's lies about a speech that Obama made several weeks ago. And Malin's bullshit was a brief aside in a much longer piece that seems less bullshitty overall (the first time I read her letter, I missed the sentence that Dr. Wharton quoted). And since it's in today's N&R, Roch can't be faulted for not posting anything about it yet.

But yes, it will help his case if he cites it in his blog in the near future.

Ian McDowell

Roch, I like you, or at least your phosphor simulacrum, but your reply to David makes you sound like a prick. Fred, I dislike you, or at least your phosphor simulacrum here (for all I know I'd adore you so much in real life I'd ask you to marry me), but all your posts in this thread make you sound like even more of a jerk than usual. Tony and Spag, your posts here make you sound like a politician and a lawyer, respectively.

Ed, Ed's mom, Cara Michelle, and Joe all have interesting things to say on the broader subject that most of you other folks are avoiding. When Roch calls for the N&R to "add editor's notes to correct facts or point out plagiarism," all you had to was say "I'd support that, as long as it was impartially applied" and then you would seem like bigger and better men.

And really, what if it's NOT impartially applied? Shouldn't we want our own house to be clean, no matter what our opponents are doing? An editorial policy that kept conservatives from lying or plagiarizing while allowing liberals to get away with it would ultimately do conservatives good and liberals harm.

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