Thursday, December 29, 2011

The scandal isn't that the New York Times is one of our worst papers; the scandal is that it's one of our best papers

In yesterday's NYT, Rachel Donadio had a report on Italy that included this sentence:
Germany has adamantly opposed what it sees as rewarding the bad behavior of southern rim countries like Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal, which amassed high public debts and where tax evasion is rampant.
Except, of course, they didn't. Dean Baker (who first caught this) debunks:
Actually, of this group only Greece was consistently experiencing a rise in its debt to GDP ratio. In Portugal there was some increase in the debt to GDP ratio in the years prior to the recession, but Italy's debt to GDP ratio actually had been trending downward since 2000. Spain was running budget surpluses and had a considerably lower debt to GDP ratio than Germany.
It's not just that the NYT didn't bother to check these facts; it's that they had been debunked repeatedly in numerous places including this column printed less than a month ago in, you guessed it, the New York Times.

And Donadio is not some stringer who happened to stumble in the door. According to her NYT bio:
Rachel Donadio has been Rome Bureau Chief of The New York Times since September 2008, responsible for Italy, the Vatican and the broader southern Mediterranean.
In normal times, you would expect someone like the Rome Bureau Chief to be up on the details of what is arguably the biggest European story since the fall of the Berlin Wall. These are not, however, normal times for journalism. Standards (particularly those regarding accuracy) have fallen while journalists have (with very few exceptions) developed a disturbing herd mentality.

It's bad when journalists stop checking their own and each others' facts. It's also bad when journalists largely stop thinking independently and simply converge on a few standard narrative.

But when these two things happen together... that's catastrophic.

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