STUMP » Articles » How Not to Look Like a Complete Ass When Doing Your Job... AS A REPORTER » 2 March 2015, 01:01

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

How Not to Look Like a Complete Ass When Doing Your Job... AS A REPORTER  


2 March 2015, 01:01

I can’t believe this, but I’m going to have to make a tag for this.

Back last year, during the election season, a losing campaign decided to do a pirouette on the shark with a ridiculous ‘story’ and a newspaper joined in the fun. I also have covered a couple of non-political cases of dumbassery.

But now, we’ve got a new category: totally munging up a story.

To be sure, people like James Taranto at the WSJ regularly cover media dumbassery but “doesn’t even do a simple google search” is about the lowest level of media fuckupery.

I mentioned another time when I thought I had a hot story, and then realized it was a bunch of nothing.

I realized if there was something that hot, and eye-popping, somebody would have written something. So I did a little googling. And realized I was on a wild goose chase.

SO a few people who are actually getting paid to cover politics need to do at least that amount of due diligence.

Who have been the recent asses?

First up, Gail Collins bitched about Scott Walker hurting the teachers via layoffs…that occurred before he was actually in office.

Amusingly, the title was “Scott Walker Needs an Eraser”.

But hey, if math class is hard, reading calendars is even harder.

Disclosure time: I used to think the Vikings were in England before the Romans. I didn’t figure this out til the past decade. I got the chronology of the Celts, Romans, Angles/Saxons/Jutes, Vikings (Danes and otherwise), and Normans (another kind of Viking) straight thanks to The Great Courses (Happy Anniversary!)

I was wrong.

You see? That wasn’t difficult to say.

Of course, my job wasn’t to write opinion about the Vikings vs. the Romans in England. If it were, then I’d actually look up some dates and stuff.

Gail Collins didn’t, and now she looks like an ass.

Then we have the great fact-checking of Jonah Goldberg and Kevin Williamson.

If you are wondering where the fact-checking comes in for all of that, you’re going to keep wondering. Politifact doubly embarrassed itself on the issue, first with the risibly sloppy and shockingly (if you don’t know very many reporters) lazy reporting habits of Louis Jacobson, who wrote that neither Jonah nor I had “returned inquiries,” by which he means to say responded to them. He tried to contact Jonah by sending a single email to a rarely used public account, and me he tried to contact—if you can call it that—by tweeting that he was fact-checking something. I do not follow him on Twitter, having been contentedly unaware of his existence, and I do not follow Politifact, for that matter. I am not sure that what Jacobson did constituted an “inquiry” at all, but I am sure that it does not constitute “inquiries.” When I pointed this out—and noted that National Review is in the telephone directory and has been since the Eisenhower administration, that we employ an energetic young man to answer the telephones, that my email address is obtainable from the web site, that National Review retains the services of various publicists and whatnot for the purpose of connecting its writers with media figures, etc.—“pick up the goddamned telephone,” in short—Jacobson responded in an odd way: by sending the same email again to Jonah the next morning, long after the piece had been published. His editor, the feckless, gormless, and in any intelligent world unemployable Angie Holan, noting the general mockery and merriment that my complaints about Politifact’s practices produced on Twitter and elsewhere, very quickly found a way to get in touch with me—turns out that it’s not that hard!—and asked for a telephone conversation, which I declined, having nothing to say to the intellectually dishonest, the cretinous, or the servile, except in those cases in which I am matched with such on cable-news panels. (Hello, Sally.)

Read more at:

Tell us what you really think, Kevin.

Finally, there is the blockbuster from somebody whose name I forget…oh wait, it got retracted so I can’t link it:

The Daily Beast has retracted an article from one of its college columnists that claimed that the Wisconsin governor’s budget would cut sexual assault reporting from the state’s universities.

The post, published Friday, cited a report from Jezebel that wrongly interpreted a section of the state budget to mean that all assault reporting requirements were to get cut altogether.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin system requested the deletion of the requirements to get rid of redundancy, as it already provides similar information to the federal government, UW System spokesman Alex Hummel told The Associated Press on Friday.

Needless to say, Twitchy has been all over this.

You know, when Ace of Spades runs something as “too good to be true,” he is acknowledging he is running a story of questionable factuality because he really really likes it. But he’s not pretending to be a journalist — he does commentary, and sometimes he also fucks up. That’s okay. He also acknowledges when he fucks up.

Look, all three of these situations are not showing only credulity on the part of people who are in a business where credulity does not help credibility (not sure what field where it does help… I’m still thinking….) but also showing people too lazy or too dumb to do simple, effective google searches.

I’m working on going through decades’ worth of actuarial reports from the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, and I’m going to check the numbers (and double check them) before I post anything. I have my fellow actuaries at the Actuarial Outpost whom I will consult with, as well as some email correspondents who have been helping me.


This is a hobby for me, but I am putting more work into my hobby than these supposed professional journalists.

I have been impressed by the level of detail Stacy McCain has gone into researching his Sex Trouble book, and he’s doing that for cold, hard cash. He puts in the legwork (and brainwork), and it shows.

These supposed professionals are making themselves look like clowns.

Look, I understand you’re unhappy with Scott Walker. You don’t have to make yourselves look like idiots coming up with these lame stories.

No, you’re unlikely to come up with anything substantial that the Wisconsin public unions have not already tried throwing at him, and you need to realize that. It’s like the few times I thought I was onto something big, and realized it was a big load of nothing (the post about my fizzled research is not my only screw up – I have multiple blog post drafts I’ve abandoned because I realized the “facts” were not what I originally thought.)

In my particular cases, I was not covering obscure people – the likelihood that I had uncovered something others had missed when these people had been targets for years…. yeah. Yes, there is still the possibility that I may come across something surprising, but I do realize it will tend to be in something very technical or obscure.

I guess I had better set up a new blog category, though, if the reporters are going to keep losing their shit over the prospect that the Republicans may actually win the next Presidential election.

Seriously, get some therapy. Don’t shitcan your career over not being able to deal with unpleasant truths.

And get some lessons in googling.

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