Part 1—Described as a bombshell report: In the normal course of affairs, a “bombshell report” in the New York Times may influence many voters.
Last Friday morning, the famous newspaper is said to have published that type of report. The piece began on the Times’ front page, under this hard-copy headline:
“The Clintons, The Russians And Uranium”
Inside the paper, the continuation of the report filled two entire pages—A20 and A21.
In itself, the lengthy report contained 4400 words of text. On those interior pages, it was accompanied by six photographs and one large timeline, along with one additional chart.
As any voter could see, the Times report was voluminous. That said, was it truly a bombshell report? Or was it perhaps the latest example of New York Times pseudo-journalism, a possibility Howard Dean raised last Thursday morning?
Was it really a bombshell report? Or was it pseudo-journalism? All week long, we’ll be exploring that question. We’ll also examine the way the Times report was handled by others in the upper-end press—for example, on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC program.
On line, the sprawling report was published early Thursday. That evening, Hayes described the piece, two separate times, as a “bombshell report.”
In one of his teases, the young performer offered the excited statement shown below. We’d have to say the young cable star was way out over his skis:
HAYES (4/23/15): All right. The Clinton campaign fires back after a bombshell report alleges a major conflict of interest that led to a flood of cash. That’s next.In truth, the front-page report doesn’t exactly “allege” a conflict of interest at all, let alone a “major” conflict.
Everyone on earth has noted some version of this fact, starting with the Times itself. But so what? Young Hayes was quite excited this night, just as he was in 2012 when he threw Susan Rice under the bus.
Fellows like Hayes don’t challenge the Times, as we’ve endlessly told you.
In our view, Hayes was wildly overstating the shape of the “bombshell report.” That said, his credulous performance that night illustrates a familiar part of the upper-end press corps’ “pseudo-journalism rules.”
In our view, Hayes’ performance that night was just extremely bad. It may have been even worse than the clowning on that day’s Morning Joe, where pundits excitedly discussed a report which, as they were happy to note, none of them had read.
Later this week, we’ll review the terrible analytical work performed by Hayes and many others. For today, let’s consider the ways a report of this type may influence voters.
How will some American voters react to a sprawling “bombshell” report? Consider the letters the New York Times published Saturday morning.
The Times had killed a lot of trees to present its sprawling report. Quite plainly, its massive lay-out gave the impression that bombshells had exploded.
On Saturday morning, four letters in the Times discussed the bombshell report. In the very first letter, a troubled liberal made a very significant statement.
He won’t be voting for Clinton next year, this troubled reader said:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (4/25/15): I am a well-educated professional living in a major metropolitan area. I strongly support Barack Obama’s presidency. I am a compassionate liberal on most social issues. I am invigorated by the idea of a woman as president. I have been a registered Democrat for over 20 years, and I have never given serious thought to supporting a Republican presidential candidate.Let’s be fair. As he started, the troubled liberal admitted that he’s well-educated. Beyond that, he admitted that he’s a compassionate person with quite a few other fine traits, including the fact that he “lives in a major metropolitan area.”
Despite all this, I will not vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I simply don’t trust her. Email records, foundation money conflicts and so on. The list is simply too long, and a vast right-wing conspiracy is not to blame. Presumably the Republican nominee will be loathsome in other ways, so I will likely abstain from the 2016 presidential election.
If people like me won’t vote for Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic Party should be very concerned.
But so what? Despite his many fine traits, the writer said that he won’t be voting for Clinton next year. He even included her middle name in a bit of a throwback.
“I simply don’t trust her,” this voter said. “The list is simply too long.” He cited two examples from this long list. Each example was recent.
What is the nature of the “foundation money conflicts” which led this writer to make this statement? His letter doesn’t say.
He seems to say that the GOP nominee may be even worse than Clinton. But thanks in part to that “bombshell report,” he has decided that he won’t vote for Clinton next year, no matter how bad the Republican may be.
In that letter, we see one possible reaction to that bombshell report. For whatever reason, the Times chose it as the first reaction its readers would see.
Three more letters discussed the report. The second letter also showed the effect a Times bombshell may have:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (4/25/15): Is there just smoke here, or fire? The way money washes around the globe among the rich and the powerful is disturbing, and this article illustrates that very well. But if one reads between the lines, it’s not at all clear that your reporters found any direct connection between the uranium mine transaction and Hillary Rodham Clinton or the State Department during the relevant periods. Either way, the whole thing makes my head hurt.This writer doesn’t think it’s clear that the Times found Clinton doing anything wrong! (That said, he’s already hedging his bets when he says that Times reporters found no direct connection.)
On the upside, let’s recognize that the Clintons are among the most scrutinized and investigated prominent politicians in American history. Decades of poking into every nook and cranny by their political enemies have produced little. Is it that they’re made of Teflon, or that the stuff thrown at them was not strong enough to stick?
Mount Pleasant, S.C.
To this voter, it isn’t clear that Clinton has done something wrong. But so what? “Either way, the whole thing makes my head hurt,” he says.
There’s a familiar term for that malady. For many years, it’s been known as “Clinton fatigue.” The first letter writer won’t vote for Clinton. The second will be less enthusiastic about her, as he’ll explain to his friends.
In what other ways can a Times report influence American voters? The third letter writer says the report “raises troubling questions.”
He doesn’t say what those questions are. But he says he now hopes, all over again, that Elizabeth Warren gets into the race.
Finally, the fourth letter writer says he’ll be sticking with Clinton. Clinton is forced to “bend the rules,” he says, thereby seeming to assume that she has actually done so.
Those letters are intriguing. Obviously, they don’t represent a scientific sample of voter reaction. The New York Times chose to publish those letters, selecting them from the many others they surely received.
For today, we’ll note two points:
First, those letters help us see the ways a bombshell report may influence an array of voters. Second, none of those letters challenge the journalism performed by the New York Times.
Neither did Hayes, last Thursday night, on The One True Channel. Dearest darlings, it just isn’t done! For decades, that simply hasn’t been allowed by the rules of a largely invisible game.
Those rules were on display in the New York Times’ sprawling report, which was a journalistic mess. Those rules were also on display in Hayes’ pseudo-analysis.
Those rules have guided American life for a very long time. Within the guild we still call the press, everyone who plays for large pay knows to obey those rules.
Just as Howard Dean suggested, that bombshell report by the New York Times was a journalistic mess. Tomorrow, we’ll start to show you why we say that.
It’s what Hayes should have done.
Tomorrow: The anatomy of a pseudo-report