Some Dubious News Reporting

Last week the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the beginning of demolition of a mostly abandoned strip shopping center about five minutes from The Curmudgeon’s home. The story noted that a backhoe had begun ripping into the vacant K-Mart site, mentioned some of the other stores that had once occupied the shopping, and added that “A Burger King store on a separate pad site was recently demolished.”

Coincidentally, The Curmudgeon headed in that general direction the following night and, while spinning through one of New Jersey’s notorious jug handles, thought he noticed some light coming from the area where the Burger King is – or, according to the article, was – located. His interest piqued, The Curmudgeon returned to the scene the following afternoon, in daylight.

And there stood the Burger King: lights on, cars in the parking lot, and open for business, the scent of searing animal flesh wafting through the air.

That night The Curmudgeon wrote a quick and only partially snarky email to the Inquirer reporter who wrote that the Burger King was gone. After three days without a reply The Curmudgeon contacted the person who runs the newspaper, himself a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. It still took more than a business day but the error was corrected (although the beginning of the article did not note that it had been updated, which is usually the case on the newspaper’s web site).

Last month another Inquirer reporter wrote of the announced closing of a factory located one very long block from where The Curmudgeon once lived in Philadelphia. The factory’s jobs, the article reported, were to be relocated to one of the company’s other plants in Wisconsin. Funding for the shift, the reporter noted, was underwritten in part by the state of Wisconsin.

If only he had written it that way. Instead, he wrote that

… Bemis [note: the company] is using corporate welfare grants from Wisconsin as it consolidates operations (from Pa. and other states) to its homestate. Gov. Scott Walker, who has shared credit for Bemis’ relocation, was running for President at the time. (I felt it was hypocritical of him as a conservative to be throwing money at corporations that way, but I’ve heard from a number of readers who insist Walker hasn’t claimed to be that kind of a conservative.)

Is there anything inaccurate about this statement. No – at least, assuming it’s true.

What bothers The Curmudgeon is the reference to “corporate welfare grants” and the explanation that the reporter felt that providing the grant was hypocritical on the part of the state’s government.

[Note: The Curmudgeon made a mistake in preparing for this account by not keeping the original newspaper story. Readers blasted the author for his editorializing and he revised it, softening his criticism, which originally was longer and more biting, although – interestingly, and like the correction noted above – the newspaper’s web site did not indicate that the article had been updated.]

The Curmudgeon has used this space to rail against corporate welfare on more than one occasion – including twice just last week – and will undoubtedly do so again, but his problem here is that this particular railing was done in a news article. In his eyes, that kind of observation belongs in a column or on the op-ed page and clearly labeled as opinion.

And last we look at an Associated Press story published last week, the day after the Republican presidential debate, that began by observing that

Two fresh faces in the Republican Party – House Speaker Paul Ryan and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – are offering messages of diversity and openness to immigrants that could answer the GOP establishment’s increasingly desperate search for an antidote to the loud pronouncements of presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Two fresh faces? The Curmudgeon agrees that Haley is a fresh face since, prior to election as South Carolina’s governor in 2010, she’d only served as a state representative and her response to the state of the union was, as far as he can recall, her first major appearance on the national stage.

But Paul Ryan is a fresh face? This is his 17th year in Congress, he spent four years as the high-profile chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, and he spent ten months as chairman of the similarly powerful House Ways and Means Committee before being chosen – elevated, really – to Speaker of the House.

Oh, and along the way he ran on a national ticket as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate, which put him on television and in the newspapers, and all over the internet, on a daily basis for three months.

The Curmudgeon’s not fond of Ryan, but this has nothing to do with that. He’s been in Congress for 17 years and is now running the whole show, and he’s not a fresh face. If you asked the average American to name ten members of the House he or she probably wouldn’t be able to, but those who can probably would name Ryan. The very public process of persuading the seemingly reluctant Ryan to seek the speakership played out on television and in newspapers across the country for several weeks last fall. If Ryan were to announce his candidacy for president tomorrow, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich would lose virtually all of their supporters and Ted Cruz and Chris Christie would lose many of theirs.

Certainly, Ryan’s is a young face – at least, for the world of politics: he turns only 46 later this month. But a fresh face?

The Curmudgeon thinks not.

A late addition to this piece: today’s Washington Post devotes an entire news story/commentary to the outfit Sarah Palin wore when she endorsed Donald Trump in Iowa – hair, glasses, and sweater. Naturally, the writer – a fashion writer – disapproved and suggested all sorts of untoward and underhanded reasons why Palin dressed as she did. No one would write such a piece about a man making a political endorsement. The Post should be ashamed of itself.

And so should the New York Times, which yesterday ran an article titled “How Hillary Clinton Ended the Clothing Conversation.” Again: unnecessary, insulting, and sexist. And, ultimately, untrue, since the Times wrote about it.

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