Supplemental: The Times' Amy Chozick does it again!


Which part of "emergency manager" doesn't she understand:
How did it happen? When a new water supply was used for the city of Flint, why wasn't the water treated with standard anti-corrosion chemicals?

That's one of the basic questions which remains unanswered concerning this debacle.

Last week, we showed you some of Professor Marc Edwards' thoughts on the subject, as told to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. When he testified last Wednesday, the Virginia Tech expert described horrific behavior:
EDWARDS (2/3/16): I have said repeatedly that the primary blame for this rests with a few people at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, without question. But in terms of other people in the state, those core professionals misled them throughout this whole thing.


I think it probably started innocently. I think someone forgot to follow the law [about corrosion control], but they ignored warning sign after warning sign...And gradually, step by step, they just felt like they were covering this up. There's no question about it.

You read the e-mails. They were— They lied in writing to the EPA, and it was only after [Flint parent Lee-Anne Walters] figured out that they were not using corrosion control that they started this new story that we don't know if we have to have corrosion control. So I think the written record is quite clear on this.
On the whole, "the blame lies with these three or four employees who were actively misleading everyone," Edwards said. For more detailed excerpts from Edwards' testimony, just click here.

Are Edwards' basic impressions correct? That remains to be seen. But in that passage, he describes a grievous initial error turning into a massive cover-up. To the extent that he is right, he's describing horrific conduct.

Over the weekend, the journalism about this matter also turned horrific. It's no longer just the Maddow Show which is making a joke of the basic reporting. In our view, the New York Times and the Washington Post are now doing horrific work too.

In our view, these big newspaper are making no effort to present the most basic information concerning events in Flint. In place of important information, they seem to be chasing other values—the easy-to-understand values of narrative, drama, excitement, pathos, story-line, human interest.

How horrible is the basic work? Tomorrow, we'll start to look at the front-page reporting which emerged at the Post and the Times this weekend. For today, let's consider Amy Chozick's pathetic attempt, in this morning's Times, to report the basic facts about what happened in Flint.

In this morning's New York Times, Chozick penned a news report about yesterday's visit to Flint by Hillary Clinton. In the following passage, she tried to explain the way this debacle started:
CHOZICK (2/8/16): The water contamination in Flint, which has led to increased levels of lead in the blood of some children, began when the city switched to a cheaper source of water, which turned out to be so corrosive that it caused lead from the city’s old pipes to leach into the water.
That basically isn't what happened. Did the new, "cheaper source of water" actually "turn out to be so corrosive that it caused lead from the city’s old pipes to leach into the water?"

Not exactly, no! In fact, the new source of water only caused that leaching of lead because, for reasons which haven't been explained in any definitive way, it wasn't treated with standard anti-corrosion chemicals, as is required by law.

The new water went untreated! Incredibly, Chozick doesn't mention this basic part of the story at any point in her account of these events.

A bit later in her report, Chozick commits a much more egregious howler. What follows is truly horrific work. Reporting this bad is hard to believe—except from Chozick, that is:
CHOZICK: On Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate, attacked Democrats for what he called “an absolute outrage,” drawing comparisons to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. “Both cities have been governed with one-party government control of far-left Democrats for decades,” Mr. Cruz said.

But some on the left, including Mrs. Clinton’s opponent for the presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have laid blame on Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, after emails showed his administration was dismissive of early complaints about the water.

Last month, two of Mrs. Clinton’s senior campaign aides traveled here to meet with Mayor Karen Weaver to ask how Mrs. Clinton could exert pressure to deal with the water problems and their aftermath. Mrs. Clinton then spoke at length about the Flint water crisis in the Jan. 17 Democratic debate in South Carolina.
Truly, that's astounding.

It's true that Democrats are criticizing Snyder for the way his administration reacted to early complaints. But that omits the major problem with Cruz's presentation, and the major reason for Democratic complaints about Snyder.

Duh! Democrats are blaming Snyder for this debacle because the city of Flint was operating under an emergency manager—an emergency manager appointed by Snyder—at the time of the key decisions which produced the current mess!

There was no one-party Democratic control of Flint at the time of the shift in water supply. To all intents and purposes, it was Governor Snyder's Republican Party which was wholly or almost wholly in charge in Flint.

The city of Flint was under control of a Republican-appointed emergency manager! The omission of that basic fact represents astounding journalistic incompetence. That said, it's a type of incompetence Chozick has been patenting in the past year at the post-journalistic New York Times.

In her account of these events, Chozick omits all mention of the emergency manager! In her account, she leaves Ted Cruz's portrait in place. That portrait suggests that a bunch of Democrats made the decisions in question.

That impression is incorrect—unless you're reading the Times.

In even a slightly rational world, it would be hard to believe that a major reporter, along with her editors, could publish such a groaning account of the basic facts. But Chozick does this sort of thing in much the way other folk breathe.

Were the several Snyder-appointed emergency managers primarily at fault in the chain of events which produced the ongoing debacle? That remains to be seen. When Edwards spoke to the House committee, he testified that the "primary blame" rests with a handful of state employees who failed to follow environmental law, then began lying about their error as part of a cover-up.

That may or may not be correct.

How did this debacle occur? That remains to be seen. But Chozick's report is stunning for its degree of incompetence. As a journalist, she can easily be compared to the grossly incompetent state officials on whom Edwards placed "primary blame" fore what happened in Flint. But this sort of thing is now par for the course at the New York Times.

Tomorrow, we'll start to look at some front-page reports in the Times and the Washington Post about the Flint debacle. Drama, pathos, human interest? These are the post-journalistic products these upper-class papers now peddle.

How about context and perspective? How about basic information?

Crackers, proles and rummies, please! Those are the journalistic values of a bygone age.

Tomorrow: If it's information you want, consult the opinion columns


  1. Reading Chozik I would say Hillary Clinton agrees with Rachel Maddow. Does Somerby mention that in this post?

    It seems Somerby barely mentions why Chozik covered Flint. He just barely slipped in a mention of Clinton at all. Less astute Bob readers might have missed mention of the Secretary's visit altogether and not ask what her comments might have been. Kind of like they missed Clinton's best comments about Alabama driver's license office closing if they just read coverage in the Howler.

    1. Good lord, how can you keep missing the point of every single post here?

      Somerby is complaining about Chozik's poor reporting, not talking about Clinton or Maddow or Flint or any other issue you think he should have discussed.

    2. My complaint is about Somerby's poor reporting.

    3. 1. Somerby is not a reporter. 2. He can write about whatever he chooses -- it is his blog. 3. Identify the topic sentence of each paragraph if you are confused about the subject of a post. 4. Better yet, just go away.

    4. 1) Somerby is reporting. He just chooses to report on journalists. If he is going to suggerst holding them to a standard of his choosing, he can certainly be held to the same standard.

      2) Bob can write about whatever he chooses and so can anyone commenting.

      3) I am not confused.

      4) Get you lips off Bob's ascot.

    5. @5:41

      The purpose of this blog is commentary, not reporting.

      "musings on the mainstream "press corps" and the american discourse"

      What do you suppose the word "musings" means? Look it up.

    6. Musings means reporting inaccurately with bias.

    7. Ya know, 5:54. In your defense of the guy who does your thinking for you, you're pretty much out of ammo when you are reduced to parsing the meaning of "musings."

    8. 4.43 don't be daft.

    9. Hillary agrees with Maddow

    10. Hillary agrees with Obama and Maddow on The Pay Gap too. with Obama and Maddow on The Pay Gap

    11. Hillary and Maddow agreed on Alabama driver's license office closings.

    12. Well, at least Hillary agreed with Bush and Bob on WMD in Iraq!

    13. They don't agree with Maddow. They are pandering to her and her storylines. You don't see that do you?

    14. On the issue of the pay gap I would say they were agreeing with Al Gore, who raised the issue when Rachel Maddow was a morning sidekick on a Mass. radio station.

    15. Bob Ascot Kisser @ 10:41 wrote:

      "They don't agree with Maddow. They are pandering to her and her storylines. You don't see that do you?"

      No. I don't see it Mr/Ms Ascot Smoocher. Here is why. It is not true. And you don't see it because your eyes are too close to what your lips are smacking. In the case of the Alabama Drivers License Office closings, Hillary Clinton called the issue "a blast from the Jim Crow past" before Rachel Maddow even covered the issue. In fact, it was her statment that Maddow covered the first time she did a story on the issue. And Bob deliberately did not mention that fact when he first attacked Maddow for her "gong show" on the topic.

    16. Clinton said ""a blast from the Jim Crow past"" on October 17, 2015

      Maddow covered it on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW 10/2/15: Racial pattern in Alabama DMV closings suggests dirty trick.

    17. Jeez - interesting to see the person who feels entitled to hand out insults can't even do basic research.

    18. Commenters here constantly prove Bob's point about liberal's being less smart than they think they are and caught up in their own beliefs, in other words: human.

      Powerful people always pander to these human failings - and the courtiers like Hannity and Maddow are the people through which they pander. As 2pac says Life Goez On

    19. @ 8:08/8:11/8:53: The Early Morning Ascot Smoochers Club

      "“I strongly oppose Alabama's decision to close driver's license offices across the state, especially in counties that have a significant majority of African Americans. "Just a few years ago, Alabama passed a law requiring citizens to have a photo ID to vote. Now they’re shutting down places where people get those photo IDs. This is only going to make it harder for people to vote. It's a blast from the Jim Crow past.

      Hillary Rodham Clinton
      October 2, 2015

      Jeez indeed gang. Now go to Bob's first post on the topic, October 12, where he starts a long attack on Maddow's coverage. See if you can find how he disappears Hillary Clinton from the story.

  2. "Next week, we expect to open a new pavilion in which we'll be exploring a whole different set of topics."

    Guess all the hammering, banging, and pounding are still going on.

  3. One reason I've become more libertarian is that the government, more than private industry, focuses on passing the buck -- blaming the other tribe. E.g., from the POV of some liberals the f*ckup in Flint is actually good news, because it gives them an excuse to attack a Republican Governor.

    President Obama, like many politicians, uses this approach. Early in his President, when things were going well in Iraq, he took the credit. He might have acknowledged that Bushs's belated surge actually did some good (at enormous cost, to be sure). Years later, when things were going badly in Iraq, it wasn't because Obama withdrew American troops faster than his military recommended. It was all Bush's fault.

    Maybe liberals should help elect a Republican in 2016. That way they'll have a scapegoat for the problems that will emerge in the decade 2020-2030. ;)

    1. Fun game. Can I play"

      "From the point of view of some conservatives, 9/11 was good news because it gave them an excuse to wave the flag and invade two countries."

    2. Since the invasion when exactly were things going well in Iraq? It's been a disaster from the get-go. Republicans have never manned up and took any responsibility for what their stupidity has wrought. Shows a real lack of character.

    3. Joe Biden FEb, 2010
      “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I think it’s gonna be one of the great achievements of this administration. You’re gonna see 90,000 American troops come marchin’ home by the end of the summer. You’re gonna see a stable government in Iraq that is actually movin’ toward a representative government. I’ve been there 17 times now. I go about every two months, three months. I know every one of the major players in all the segments of that society. It’s impressed me. I’ve been impressed, how they have been deciding to use the political process, rather than guns, to settle their differences.”

      Read more:

    4. Obama Dec., 2011
      The president told an audience of soldiers at Fort Bragg that the final pullout from Iraq after nearly nine years of war is a "historic" moment and that the country they leave behind is "an extraordinary achievement".

      "Dozens of bases with American names that housed thousands of American troops have been closed down or turned over to the Iraqis. Thousands of tons of equipment have been packed up and shipped out. Tomorrow, the colours of United States Forces Iraq, the colours you fought under, will be formally cased in a ceremony in Baghdad," he said. "One of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American military will come to an end. Iraq's future will be in the hands of its people. America's war in Iraq will be over."

      The president said the last US troops will leave in the coming days, travelling south across the desert by much the same route that American, British and coalition forces attacked Iraq in 2003.

      Obama hinted at the military and diplomatic quagmire he inherited from a Bush administration that had promised Americans a quick and easy war that would see Iraqis scattering flowers at the feet of US soldiers. Instead, the American invasion unleashed a conflict - part civil war, part anti-occupation - that dragged on for years.

    5. Invading Iraq was the biggest blunder of the Bush Administration and one of the biggest blunders of any administration.

      Getting the hell out of Iraq was one of the greatest accomplishment of the Obama Administration.

  4. A hostile yet clueless NYT reporter unquestioningly latches onto a false right wing narrative as a matter of fact. Where are the fiery liberals?

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