Monday, July 06, 2009

All the News That's Fit to Steal


The New York Times yesterday published a humongous front-page story about an anti-war essay that a Columbia University undergraduate named Barack Obama wrote in March 1983.

The piece, written by veteran reporters David Sanger and William Broad, even included part of the actual essay--yellowed with age--from a now defunct campus publication, Sundial.

Sanger and Broad, who don't seem to notice Obama expressed the same kind of views disseminated by Soviet apologists at the time, declared with typical Timesean omniscience that the article "came to light on the internet just before the inauguration" but precisely "how the article found its way onto the internet is unclear."

Uh, unclear to anyone who doesn't read Human Events, the Washington Post or the Politico.

The Obama essay didn't just show up on the internet out of the ether one day. I extracted it from Columbia with aggressive reporting.

I first heard of the article from one of Obama's classmates but he wouldn't give it to me.

The issue of Sundial where the essay appeared was strangely missing from the Columbia archives and not accessible to the public online. Columbia Today, an alumni publication, quoted from the article in the class notes section of its November 2008/December 2008 issue but refused to reproduce the actual essay.

The class notes section which quoted the essay was only available to Columbia students, faculty and alumni. Journalists couldn't get it.

But I managed to browbeat Columbia into giving me a scan of the article.

On January 7, I asked David Stone, Vice President for Communications, if the school really wanted to be known as keeping relevant information about Obama from the public. In other words, keep it up and O'Reilly's producer is likely to show up on your lawn.

Voila: the article appeared in my inbox the next day.

On January 9, I was the first journalist to write about the essay, exclusively for Human Events, a longstanding conservative publication, not a blog.

The Washington Post gossip column January 13 did its lead item on the essay, which they noted I "excavated."

The same day, Ben Smith wrote about the essay on his widely-read Politico blog. Smith posted the actual essay--with credit to me.

So much for the mystery.

The Times claim about the article's unknown origins is demonstrably false.

Moreover, someone at the Times surely knew it was false because the paper reproduced part of the actual essay, which appeared online only at the Politico.

So they apparently took something from Politico but don't know where they got it?

Given that the Times is imploding thanks to online competition why would the once mighty paper of record want to pretend that traditional reporting is nothing more than internet gossip?
New York Times Washington bureau chief Dean Baquest was asked how the origins of the story were unclear if the Washington Post and the Politico stated the source. "You're acting like a jerk," he explained, but "I'll look into it."

But a conversation with William J. Broad, the Times veteran science reporter who wrote most of the piece, proved quite instructive. His combination of arrogance and laziness is astounding. 

The following is not parody. 

Evan Gahr: Why did you say it was unclear how the article ended up on the internet?

Bill Broad: It looked like you were first but I couldn’t be certain.

Evan Gahr: You work at the New York Times and can’t figure out how something ended up on the internet.

Bill Broad: That’s right. It’s like science.

Evan Gahr: But aren’t you a science reporter?

Bill Broad: That’s right.

Evan Gahr: Why did you say it was unclear how the article appeared on the internet if the Washington Post and Politico had it there first.                                                                                                                                                                    

Bill Broad: I don’t care what they said.

Evan Gahr: You don’t care what the Politico and Washington Post said?

Bill Broad: That’s  right.

Evan Gahr: Why was the Post article unclear? Was it written in Swahili?

Bill Broad: You’re insulting me.

His combination of arrogance and laziness is astounding.

--EVAN GAHR has embarassed liberals with their own words for the New York Post, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal and American Spectator.