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24 Hours of Media Malpractice

9 314 0
30.08.2019

In the Trump era, it increasingly appears that journalistic standards are on life support. Consider, if you will, what a day in the life of contemporary journalism now looks like.

Late Tuesday afternoon, some conservatives on Twitter started grumbling about an article the Washington Post published that morning. The op-ed in question accused best-selling conservative author J.D. Vance of being racist, and otherwise tried dubiously to connect the dots between mainstream pro-life advocates and white supremacists. At a speech in July, Vance said the following: “Our people aren’t having enough children to replace themselves. That should bother us.” Washington Post contributor Marissa Brostoff characterized the remark by saying, “Vance did not spell out exactly who was included in the word ‘our.’ He didn’t need to.” Her clear implication was that Vance was referring to the fact he only wanted to have white children. This would be news to Vance, since he’s married to a woman of color, and his best-selling “Hillbilly Elegy” ­– a movie version, directed by Oscar winner Ron Howard, is in post-production – is a very critical look at the mores of poor white Americans.

And Vance did, in fact, spell out exactly what his pronoun referred to. A couple of sentences earlier in his remarks, which Brostoff didn’t bother to read closely, he makes it clear he’s referring to all Americans. Low birth rates are a serious concern in Western countries for many reasons, including the need to sustain liberal welfare policies, which have nothing to do with racism.

The Post printed a correction after all this was pointed out, but that doesn’t answer the question of how it got published in the first place. Once upon a time, accusing people of racism was a serious matter. If you were going to do it in print, editors would demand it was sufficiently backed up by evidence. But if Brostoff is to be believed, “my editor suggested that Vance’s comments might be added to the list of evidence being marshaled” and “we both did our due diligence in putting them in context.” Perhaps it’s telling that this op-ed appeared in a section of the Washington Post’s website called “Post Everything,” a title that, based on many other ill-advised opinion pieces that have run under that heading, appears to have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The whole point of journalism is that you don’t post everything – you make sure it’s fair........

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