24 December 2005

How Quickly Things Turn

Remember the student who got the visit from federal agents for getting Mao's Little Red Book? He was lying.

And you know what, this article's almost as bad as the first one. We still don't get the guy's name. We don't get any information on why he was lying. Political reasons? Trying to suck up to his leftish professors? Late paper? We don't get any information about if the school plans to do anything to the student or to the professors who reported without anything further than the kid's say so.

Still, the original was worse. If the reporters had done some precursory investigation they would have found enough flaws to make them suspicious. And how do run that story without interviewing the original source?

If one were cynical he might conclude that the reporter and his editor wanted their cake and to eat it too. If you put out the story incomplete then you guarantee at least one follow-up (either Kid Lies! or Confirmed! Rights Trampled!).

Thanks to TWM for the pointer.


Windypundit said...

I think it's a matter of laziness and deniability. If they check the story and find out it's a lie, they have to kill it. If they don't check, the story runs. Thus, some stories are just too good to check.

If I understand correctly, I believe you have a similar set of incentives if your client is telling his story to the court.

markm said...

Ken does have a reason to check whether the prosecutor can blow huge holes in the client's story before he uses it in court. Being caught in one lie makes the rest of your case less credible. Trials are an adversarial process - meaning there's another lawyer in the room that is paid to present the other side, and to catch your side lying if possible. The truth is supposed to appear in weighing the opposing evidence and arguments.

News reporting is not (supposed to be) an adversarial process. The only people getting paid to fact-check the reporters are the reporters and their editors. When they don't bother to fact-check, they lose credibility, and unlike lawyers, credibility is the only thing they've got to sell.