Remarkably, Kessler can’t tell: We’ve been telling you this for years, but as of today, it’s official:
You no longer have an actual press corps. Officially, we’re all living in a post-journalistic madhouse.
It’s hard not to draw that conclusion after reading Glenn Kessler’s latest Fact Checker piece for the Washington Post. For what it’s worth, we agree with some of Kessler’s conclusions about Jonathan Karl’s now-famous May 10 report for ABC News.
In that report, Karl presented twelve versions of the now-famous talking points about Benghazi. Midway through his report, Karl made an horrendous error concerning one of the e-mails which helped create the now-famous talking points.
Karl has largely refused to explain his error in the days since it came to light.
That said, Kessler jumps several sharks as he fumbles about in the dark concerning errors made by various journalists in reports about those e-mails. Good God! Just consider what he says about a May 10 report filed by CBS News under Sharyl Attkisson’s name.
Attkisson is a major CBS correspondent of long standing. On May 10, she also filed an on-line report discussing those famous e-mails.
In her report as published, Attkisson quoted one of the e-mails inaccurately. (Her error differed from Karl’s.) In his new Fact Checker piece, Kessler explains, or pretends to explain, how that error occurred.
Below, you see your “press corps” in action, though Kessler shows no sign of seeing how crazy this story actually is. Below, we will translate Kessler’s prose into English:
KESSLER (5/21/13): A columnist for Mediaite reported that Attkisson, when she filed her story, warned these e-mails were paraphrased. After Garrett’s report aired, Attkisson reiterated that point in an e-mail to reporters and editors: “The talking point draft emails read to CBS News last Friday were from handwritten notes, and the attorney source explained why they were not direct quotes and could not be represented as such, as I noted at the top of my reporting for important context.”Based on the other facts in this case, the highlighted statement by Kessler seems to be inaccurate. Having noted that, let’s try to retell Kessler’s story.
Attkisson did not respond to a request for comment. But since then, CBS has updated her original May 10 story with similar language, noting that this paragraph was “included in the original story submission but was omitted from a previous version due to an inadvertent error in the editing process.”
This is the story Kessler seems to be trying to tell:
According to Attkisson, she sent a report to her editors which carried a warning. For background on this matter, Kessler links to this Mediaite report.
According to Attkisson and her editors, this warning paragraph appeared right at the top of the copy she submitted:
ATTKISSON’S ALLEGED WARNING: Emails were provided by the Administration to certain Congressional Committees for limited review. The Committees were not permitted to copy the emails, so they made handwritten notes. Therefore, parts of the quoted emails may be paraphrased.We’re sorry, but that is insane.
“Parts of the quoted e-mails may be paraphrased?” According to CBS News, Attkisson placed that warning right at the top of the report she submitted to her editors.
If that is true, it’s now official: Attkisson is insane.
What does it mean to say that “part of the quoted e-mails” in a news report “may be paraphrased?” Presumably, it would mean that Attkisson didn’t know whether she had been given quotations from the e-mails or mere paraphrases.
In a situation like that, a journalist would have to be out of her mind to do what Attkisson purportedly did—to file a report with a bunch of apparent quotations, while warning her editors that some of the quotations may be paraphrases.
That said, the story gets worse:
Over at the CBS web site, Attkisson’s original report is still available, with that crazy paragraph inserted into the middle of the copy. After providing that crazy warning, the report offers quotations from various e-mails—except the report has already said that the quotations may not be quotations!
You can see the report as it currently exists at CBS News. As posted, the report is just this side of insane—and this is CBS’s attempt at “correcting” the original report, which simply presented a bunch of apparent quotations and got one of them wrong!
That report as it currently stands is just this side of crazy. Kessler seems to have no idea how crazy this whole story is.
We’ve long since ceased to have a press corps. Most strikingly, Kessler can’t tell.
Still coming: We plan to discuss Jonathan Karl’s report in the next few days. It has been hard to keep pace with the post-journalistic lunacy here.
For the record, some of the errors have been authored by MSNBC’s exercised hosts. We're in a post-journalistic age all over the upper-end “press corps.”