Category Archives: Journalism

A Truth Not So True

When I watched the trailer for the movie Truth, I had no idea what it was about, so I was surprised to discover that someone had made a movie about the Killian documents, the journalism scandal that effectively ended the careers of news anchor Dan Rather and news producer Mary Mapes. I thought it was great that someone had made a whole movie about what happens when journalists lose sight of the importance of accuracy — truth — and rush to release a story that is too good to check. It’s a classic tragedy, in which the characters’ downfall comes from their own flaws.

So imagine my shock as the trailer continued and I realized that Dan Rather and Mary Mapes were the heroes of this movie. The filmmakers have apparently bought the narrative that Rather and Mapes were the victims of a right-wing conspiracy to cover up an important story about President George W. Bush.

[Disclaimer: I haven’t actually seen Truth, but reviews such as this one convince me that the trailer presents its viewpoint accurately enough.]

The documents were purportedly memos by Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, who was George W. Bush’s commanding officer in the Air National Guard in the 1970’s, and they appeared to document Bush’s misbehavior and the special treatment he received while in the Guard. Even four years into Bush’s presidency, this would be an important story. As long as the documents were for real.

Which they weren’t. The evidence stacks up like this:

  • The documents were provided to CBS by Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, who had previously made unsupported claims about Bush.
  • Although purportedly written by an Air National Guard officer, the documents used jargon typical of the Army National Guard, which was the same branch of the National Guard that Burkett served in.
  • Burkett admitted to destroying the original documents and only gave CBS photocopies.
  • The documents appear to be in a font very similar to Times Roman, a proportional font that we all get on our computers these days, but which would have required expensive specialized equipment to produce in the 1970s. This equipment was extremely unlikely to be used at a military base for routine memos.
  • The most damning problem with the documents is that if you opened up a copy of Microsoft Word 2003 and started a new blank document, you could easily produce documents identical in appearance without making any adjustments to the fonts, spacing, or margins.

Basically, CBS News was taken in by fake documents created by someone trying to hurt Bush’s chances at a second term. It’s amazing to me that no one noticed the documents weren’t produced on a typewriter using non-proportional type. Kids these days might not be aware of the limitations of office document technology in the 1970’s, but certainly someone in a news organization should have known what typed documents looked like. When the documents were released, bloggers picked up on the problem immediately.

Granted, many of them were right-wing bloggers, and many of them had already established their hatred for Dan Rather. That certainly made their claims suspect, but it didn’t make them wrong. And it quickly became obvious that they were right. Document experts are reluctant to make definitive statements based on viewing photocopies of the documents, but they all agreed the documents were most likely recent fakes.

Rather and Mapes could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had just admitted they rushed the story and made mistakes, but instead they stood by their story and went down with it. Apparently they blame all this on Viacom — CBS’s corporate parent — caving in to conservative demands.

The most astonishing part of the trailer is the Mapes character’s dialog at the end. “Our story was about whether the President fulfilled his service. Nobody wants to talk about that. They want to talk about fonts and forgeries,” she says dismissively. “And they hope to God the truth gets lost in the scrum!”

Yeah, it’s always nice to know the truth. But you weren’t helping.

A Few Words About the Memories Pizza Story

A few days ago, when I first decided to try to write something about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, I looked for a quote I could start with, and I found one about a small family-owned pizza joint called Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, where the owners were saying they won’t cater any gay weddings:

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Crystal O’Connor tells WBND-TV, adding, “We are a Christian establishment.”

Family members say they agree with Gov. Mike Pence that the bill does not encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians.

“We’re not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything,” O’Connor told WBND.

Well, actually, refusing to cater their wedding pretty much is discrimination and…oh, never mind.

I got distracted before I could write any more, and meanwhile the outrage machine got rolling and soon everybody was talking about that little pizza joint. And eventually Memories Pizza closed because they were getting threats. Because there are assholes on all sides of this issue.

So now I find myself feeling uncomfortably sympathetic toward the Memories Pizza folks and the way they’ve been dragged through the media. Jack Marshall had this to say:

Announcing that the law would allow them to refuse to cater a gay wedding, they injected their biases into a debate they were neither legally, ethically, morally or intellectually equipped to participate in.

That’s not quite right. These folks didn’t go looking to make a statement to the world. They’re the local pizza joint in a small town surrounded by farmland and some damned TV reporter went into their place looking for a quote that she could turn into a story. And they were unfortunately nice enough to give her one. And all hell broke loose. By the time the story got to Huffington Post, it had turned into, “Indiana’s Memories Pizza Reportedly Becomes First Business To Reject Catering Gay Weddings.”

Because a digital media empire going after a small family-owned restaurant is really speaking truth to power.

I used to cover community police meetings for a little while as a volunteer reporter, and I remember that after one of them I got to chatting with one of the cops and he started grumbling about some commanders and the way they promoted their friends over more qualified candidates. Since I had already identified myself as a reporter, and we hadn’t gone off the record, there was nothing to stop me from turning this into a story:

CHICAGO — 16th District Police Commander Bob Jones on numerous occasions promoted friends over other more qualified candidates, according to Patrol Officer John Smith…

I didn’t write that story, because (1) it’s not fair to treat people who aren’t used to dealing with the media as if they were the White House Press Secretary, and (2) there really isn’t a lot of news value in reporting that some police officers don’t like their commanders’ decisions. “Man Strongly Disagrees With How His Boss Runs Things” sounds like an Onion headline.

The Memories Pizza story wasn’t quite that unfair — the owners pretty clearly knew they were being interviewed — but remember that this story wasn’t about anything that had actually happened to anyone. Reporter Alyssa Marino’s story was originally headlined, “RFRA: First Michiana business to publicly deny same-sex service,” which is misleading because no one at Memories Pizza had actually refused a request to cater a gay wedding. No gay couple had ever asked.

The headline has since been changed to the slightly better, “RFRA: Michiana business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding,” but that doesn’t save it from the basic problem that is apparent from a more honest headline such as “Owner of Small Town Pizza Joint Says He Would Refuse To Cater Gay Weddings If Anyone Ever Asked Him To.” It just isn’t much of a story. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Gay marriage is still not acceptable to a lot of people. Heck, there must be thousands of small business owners in Indiana alone who oppose same-sex marriage. That doesn’t make it right, but there’s no reason to pick on these particular small business owners. This kind of journalism is one step more sophisticated than flying a news team down to Texas to do man-on-the-street interviews in the hope that someone with an amusing accent will say something bigoted on camera.

Sources and Credit

Scott Greenfield is a little peeved that reporters don’t give credit when they pick up stories from bloggers:

For many years, mainstream media got a lot of juice as a result of links from the web, from blogs.  We would see a story and pick it up, run with it, comment on it, and people would find it sufficiently fascinating to go read the source article in a paper they would never otherwise know about. Do you read the Times? Or the Gate? Or the Christian Science Monitor, or USA Today, or tiny local papers no one outside of bumfuck has ever heard of?  Not unless there is a reason to do so.

Yet, when a blawg picked up on a story or opinion that subsequently caught the interest of a newspaper reporter, they were happy to run with it, but there was almost never a mention of the fact that it came via a blog.  Reporters saw no need to credit blogs, as they were, well, blogs. Beneath their dignity and inconsequential, tapping away with crazy eyes in bathrobes in the middle of the night.

Scott is right about reporters not giving credit to bloggers, but I think he’s wrong about why. Well, some reporters sneer at bloggers, but I think there’s also a bit of a culture clash between the conventions of journalism and blogging.

The reason traditional journalists cite sources in stories is not to give credit, but rather to describe the origin of statements of facts within the story, thereby giving some indication of their credibility. A story which says that “Governor Smith took bribes from the construction industry, according to an anonymous source” is not as credible as a story that says “Governor Smith took bribes from the construction industry, according to a statement issued Wednesday morning by former comptroller Melvin P. Jones.”

This is basically the journalist’s version of footnotes. In an academic paper, the same statement would probably look something like this:

Governor Smith took bribes from the construction industry.1

1Melvin P. Jones, former comptroller, statement on January 29, 2014.

With this cite to a source, readers and other journalists can judge the story’s veracity or even try to contact Melvin P. Jones directly to verify the facts or get additional information.

But regardless of how you write it, as a journalist or as an academic, it doesn’t really do the reader much good to know how the author discovered this fact. “Governor Smith took bribes from the construction industry, according to former comptroller Melvin P. Jones, who this reporter contacted on a tip from accountant Mike Devlin, who he heard about from receptionist Debra Stevens, who he first met while doing another story four years ago.”

Unless they’re interested in the actual reporting process, readers don’t need to know about any of the people the reporter talked to along the way to Melvin P. Jones. They’re not sources, they’re just people with tips and ideas about stories, and journalists usually don’t mention them. (In fact, many of them prefer it that way, so they can keep their jobs.)

Similarly, a journalist who writes something like “Governor Smith took bribes from the construction industry, according to former comptroller Melvin P. Jones, in a story first brought to our attention by Scott Greenfield,” isn’t really adding anything that has an impact on the credibility of the facts being reported. Neither is it worthwhile to mention that other media outlets are reporting the story, for the same reason. And it certainly adds little of value to the reader to know from which particular media outlet or blog the reporter got the idea.

One time when media outlets do credit each other is when they don’t have their own sources. So if the Times is reporting the Governor Smith bribery story, and the Post doesn’t have their own source in the Governor’s office, then the Post‘s only choices are to either not run a story about the Governor’s bribe-taking at all, or run the story and credit the only information source they have: “Governor Smith took bribes from the construction industry, according to former comptroller Melvin P. Jones, as reported in the Times.” This lets readers know that the facts come second-hand by way of the Times, which may or may not make the story less credible for them. Think of it as the journalist’s equivalent to the academic rule discouraging citing secondary sources in footnotes: Use them only when you don’t have a primary source.

This is one of the reasons journalists get so excited about exclusive stories: If any other media outlet wants to talk about your story, they have to credit you. It’s also why it sucks to play catch-up on a story: You have to keep crediting the competition. You can bet that the Post will try to get their own reporter to talk to Melvin P. Jones before the next edition, so that they can end the humiliation of crediting the Times in every single version of the story.

Bloggers think about this completely differently. For one thing, unlike the news media (or academics writing footnotes), we are far more willing to cite secondary sources. In part, that’s because we don’t generally do much reporting. Most traditional bloggers don’t interview people or gather facts, and this puts us in the same position as the Post above: We have to link to other web pages to cite sources for our material.

Bloggers can also be freer in their use of secondary sources because our form of journalism developed in the age of hypermedia. So if I want to write about the recent accusations against Woody Allen by his daughter, I can link to Gideon’s analysis of whether he can be prosecuted or Jack Marshall’s brutal takedown of one of Allen’s defenders and trust that my readers will be able to follow the links to the primary source if they want to. In this way, linking to secondary sources actually provides more information than just linking to the primary source because it also provides links to other people who have interesting things to say.

Since we do this all the time, as an intentional part of blogging, we don’t think of it as a bad thing, the way traditional journalists do. Mentioning other websites and including quotes and links is just how blogging is done. In fact, finding other interesting websites and blog posts is recognized as a big part of the value of blogging: We go out and find interesting stuff for you to read. One of the reasons Glenn Reynolds’s Instapundit blog was so wildly influential is because he was always finding interesting new bloggers for his readers to enjoy.

Also, the early bloggers were somewhat embattled — under attack from traditional journalists and from many of the politicians, business leaders, and celebrities they wrote about — and this led to a sort of “brothers in arms” camaraderie: You suck and your ideas are stupid, and in my post explaining why you suck and why your ideas are stupid, I’m going to pay you the respect of linking to you and giving you credit for the things you wrote because we’re all bloggers and we have to support each other. After all, people who disagree with us are also great sources of material for blog posts. Even our ideological opponents help us succeed at blogging.

If reporters’ citing sources of facts are the journalistic equivalent of footnotes, then bloggers’ links to posts that inspired them are the blogospheric equivalent of a book’s Acknowledgements.

Traditional journalists just don’t think that way. They expect to have competition on stories. Even when a story starts out as an exclusive — and every other news outlet has to credit them as the source — they assume other journalists will be contacting the same sources and searching the same files as they did, and that they will eventually publish substantially similar stories without acknowledging that someone else got there first. That’s just how journalism is done.

Also, traditional journalists are taught to keep themselves out of the story. (You wouldn’t know that from TV reporters, but it’s generally still the case with print media.) That means they generally just tell the story without saying how they got it, or where they got the idea for it, or who else has been writing about it. They assume readers will not be interested in that stuff, or in the general history of how the story has been playing out in the media. After all, even book authors usually put the Acknowledments section at the end, where people don’t have to read it.

When Press Releases Rule the Media

I just noticed that Matt Haiduk posted a complaint a few weeks ago at his Kane County Criminal Lawyer blog about how often news stories about crime are based on nothing but press releases:

If you read a newspaper article and don’t know what’s going on, you’d think a newspaper reporter was sitting in a courtroom watching trials as they unfold. That certainly does happen a lot of the time. What happens more often is that a reporter sits in for parts of a trial. […]

Anyhow, what seems to be happening more often (especially in Kane County) is that media and press releases are pushed out to media outlets, who then write stories based largely on the reports.  Of course, those reports are coming from the Kane County State’s Attorneys office, and the police departments.

Haiduk then goes on to give an example by quoting parallel bits of text from a press release from the Kane County prosecutor’s office and from an uncredited story in the Elgin Courier News. It’s not quite word for word, but it’s close.

There’s nothing unethical about working from a press release — it’s a statement from a source, just like any other — but when that’s the only source of information, it makes the story unbalanced. In this story, for example, there’s no evidence that anyone at the paper tried to get a statement from the defendant or her lawyer. Every attribution is to the prosecutor’s office. Furthermore, given the minimal rewrite of the press release, it’s pretty lazy. I imagine that’s why there’s no reporter’s name on it. And I guess the credit to “Submitted Reports” is the paper’s way of saying they used a press release.

This sort of thing has been going on for a long time, and it’s not just police and prosecutors or even just government. In newspaper terminology (somewhat obsoleted by the internet) the combined amount of print space in the whole paper that’s not advertising is called the “news hole.” And the news hole has to be filled every day.

(On the internet, it’s less about filling the hole and more about pushing out enough content to get enough people to click on the ads, so everyone gets a paycheck.)

Some days, there’s so much going on that the news hole isn’t large enough and stories get left out or saved for later. But on days when there’s not enough news, the editors have to look for filler, and press releases are an easy source of material. This happens a lot, especially in business reporting, which is why most major corporations issue press releases. A whole distribution network has sprung up to handle the flow.

For example, I picked a large company that doesn’t normally generate a lot of media coverage (so not Microsoft or Apple) and visited their press releases page. Then I opened the most recent story “Caterpillar Announces Officer Retirement” and picked a short paragraph near the top:

After more than 15 years with Caterpillar, Hans Haefeli, vice president with responsibility for the Advanced Components & Systems Division (ACSD), has elected to retire to return to the United Kingdom. Haefeli’s retirement will be effective April 30, 2014.

That paragraph doesn’t have a quote in it, so the news media would have no obligation to report it verbatim.

I dropped that paragraph into Google search and looked at the results. The first result is the Caterpiller press release itself. The rest are news outlets:

  • MarketWatch reprints it verbatim off of PR Newswire, and properly labels it as a press release.
  • As does the Wall Street Journal.
  • Rental Equipment Register reports it as a story.
  • HighBeam Research rewrites it as a story about the the replacement and hides part of it behind a paywall.
  • Jutia Group pulls a piece of it off of PR Newswire, and throws in a bunch of other boilerplate.
  • ABC 27 (WHTM), out of Harrisburg, PA quotes it verbatim as coming from “an independent third-party content provider” which is apparently PR Newswire.
  • Benzinga pulls it from PR Newswire.
  • NBC 26 (WAGT), out of Augusta, GA also quotes it verbatim as coming from “an independent third-party content provider” which is apparently PR Newswire. It looks like ABC 27 and NBC 26 are both getting the PR Newswire feed from some sort of news service called WorldNow.
  • The WorldNow version also hits NBC 4, KXXV, WSPA, maybe CNN Money, KCEN, WJHL, Toledo News Now, and many, many more.

There are three lessons here: First, if you want to learn about the world from the news media, learn to tell the difference between news reporting and reprinted press releases.

Second, if you want to get your version of the story out, write press releases. If you’re not sure how, there are plenty of unemployed journalists these days who would be willing to help for a small fee, but basically you just write a story about yourself or whatever you want people to know about. It has to have the same structure and tone as a real news story, and it shouldn’t be full of blatant cheerleading, but there’s no need to bother with balance. Also, remember this is just filler, so it only just barely has to be newsworthy — you wouldn’t believe the crap I get as press releases in my blog email.

Here, let me see if I can make up an example:


Attorney Haiduk Blasts Elgin Courier News Editors

December 10, 2013, Geneva, Illinois — Kane Country criminal defense attorney Matthew J. Haiduk lashed out at the Elgin Courier News over their practice of rewriting press releases and publishing them as if they were reporting actual news.

“If you read a newspaper article and don’t know what’s going on, you’d think a newpaper reporter was sitting in a courtroom watching trials as they unfold,” said Haiduk before providing examples of a December 6th Courier story and a press release the same day from the Kane County State’s Attorney Office which had multiple sections that were nearly word-for-word identical.

“It’s not so much an article as it is a rebroadcast of a prosecutor’s statement about the outcome of the case,” said Haiduk, who went on to describe the problem as widespread and recurring. “This happens nearly every day, all over Chicagoland.”

(You’d need to polish it and pad it out a bit, but that’s easy to do when you can quote yourself as saying something because there you are, saying what you said, right there in the press release!)

The third lesson is to use PR Newswire, or something like it. The PR Newswire website describes itself as “the authoritative source of news and information for leading global media organizations,” which certainly seems to be true, given the large number of media organizations quoting from it.

In two places, there are big green buttons labeled “Send a News Release” which take me to an “Online Member Center” that offers such wonders as:

  • Content Distribution
  • Targeting Monitoring and Measurement
  • Online Engagement
  • Social Media Distribution
  • Multimedia Content Submission
  • Online Press Kits

I don’t have an account, of course, but clicking “Sign up to get started” takes me to the membership signup page, which tells me that for $195 per year I will get:

  • Ability to distribute news via the newswire network with the greatest reach and most comprehensive reporting in the industry…
  • Pre-registration, verification, and setup for news release distribution…
  • Quarterly re-authentication of all of your organization’s “authorized senders”…
  • Complimentary access to Premium, member-only webinars that teach you how to effectively leverage your content and engage with your key audiences…
  • Complimentary organizational archive (with logo) on, our award-winning, heavily trafficked, and search-engine optimized news and information site, attracting over 2,800,000 unique visitors each month.
  • 24/7/365, concierge-level professional services and customer support
  • Complimentary phone/webinar training for all major services. Extra fees may apply for in-person training.
  • Complimentary audience engagement counseling. We’ll provide you with effective guidance to help you achieve your communications objectives.

Manipulating the media about big things is hard — just ask the NSA and the President — but when it comes to the small stories, it sounds like you can do it for a low annual fee, billable to your credit card.

Journalism Is Hard…Like Oak

I keep telling myself I’d like to do more actual journalism here on Windypundit, and to that end, I’ve been reading the Associated Press Reporting Handbook by Jerry Schwartz. The first few chapters give examples of AP news stories and then discuss the reporters’ approach to getting them.

The third chapter discusses “Main Street Welcomes McDonald’s — but Worries” a story about how the people of Coudersport, PA reacted to a McDonald’s restaurant opening in their small town. Schwartz discusses reporter Ted Anthony’s approach to reporting in some detail. Amusingly for a book about journalism, he makes a small factual error:

Coudersport was only one part of the story. Anthony wanted to look at the idea of Main Street in America — to look at whether the popular, idealized conception of the virtues of small-town life was valid. Anthony also wanted to know more about McDonald’s and about the philosophy of fast food. He read a book about the corporation’s history, “Behind the Arches.” He interviewed folks at McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Park, Ill.

Oops. No.

I used to live half a mile from Oak Park, and it’s a mostly-residential community that would be unlikely to host the headquarters of a major international corporation. Besides, everyone around here knows that McDonald’s headquarters is in nearby Oak Brook. (Kim Bhasin at Business Insider has a nice pictorial tour of McDonald’s HQ.)

The book was from 2002, however, and the story was written even earlier, so I thought it just might be possible that McDonald’s used to be headquartered in Oak Park at some point, but Lisa McComb, Director of McDonald’s U.S. Media Relations, was nice enough to confirm for me that McDonald’s has never had an office in Oak Park.

She suggested that the mistake might have arisen because McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc lived in Oak Park at one point, but I think a more likely explanation is that Schwartz simply confused the similar village names. Settlers (or developers) here must have really liked Oak trees, because in addition to Oak Brook and Oak Park, Illinois also has Oak Grove, Oak Lawn, Oakdale, Oakford, Oakwood, and Oakwood Hills.

What’s The Real Bob Etheridge Story?

People complain about reporters asking asking crazy questions, but those are sometimes the ones that get the most interesting results.

For example, in the video below, the reporter goes through the trouble of setting up an ambush interview on a Congressman, and then asks him a really dumb generic question: “Do you fully support the Obama agenda?”

I mean, seriously, couldn’t he have phoned that one in? Ambush interviews are supposed to be for hitting people with questions they really don’t want to hear, like “We have a witness who says you sold your BP stock because you received inside information from the CEO. How do you respond, Senator?” or “Is it true you just spent a week in Argentina with your mistress?”

A good ambush interview is wasted on a pointless question like “Do you fully support the Obama agenda?” which any seasoned politician can answer with a platitude like “My voting record speaks for itself.” There’s no way you can get a good story out of that.

Unless, that is, you get a response like this guy got from Democratic representative Bob Etheridge:

Of course, this is all over the internet. Yet, as Ethical Alarmist Jack Marshall points out, the news media is missing the story:

Today, the day after a video surfaced showing North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge grabbing, restraining, and wrapping his hand around the neck of a young man who dared to ask him a question on a Washington D.C. sidewalk, “The Daily Beast’s” #4 story was the revelation that former Ebay CEO and current G.O.P. candidate for governor of California once shoved an Ebay subordinate in a moment of anger and paid six figures in damages. The story about a sitting U.S. Congressman assaulting a U.S. citizen without provocation on a public street doesn’t appear anywhere in the liberal-leaning news aggregation site’s news summary.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post relegated coverage of the Etheridge attack to its blogs, most of which made the focus of their coverage the “mystery” of the assaulted student’s identity and that of his companion. This theme was picked up elsewhere too: Who were these guys? Were they Republican operatives? Right Wing hit men disguised as students? Was this a plot?

Here is the complete list of people who could have been the victims of Etheridge ‘s assault whose identity and motives would change his culpability: nobody. It doesn’t matter if the student Etheridge assaulted was really Karl Rove on his knees, or Ann Coulter in a mask, or Lindsay Lohan in a desperate cry for help. It doesn’t make one bit of difference. A U.S. Congressman assaulted a citizen in public.

Really, shouldn’t that be the big story?

Some people have suggested that this is a Republican dirty trick of some kind, buttressing their arguments with the fact that the face of the on-camera interviewer is blurred out, and he has not been identified. As some Democratic party hack puts it:

“Motives matter, and I think you can see who was behind this,” said DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse just now. “This was a Republican party tracking operation. If it wasn’t a party tracker or intern, why is the face blurred and why is the source hidden? You know if it had been a right wing blog, they’d identify themselves and they’d be booking this person on TV all day. Republicans know if they admit their involvement in this game of gotcha it will undermine their credibility. One minute this guy is interviewing a member of Congress on camera and the next a video is released with his face blurred out? If that doesn’t tell you this is a Republican Party hatchet job nothing will.”

I was inclined to buy this scenario at first. I know if I had been the interviewer and gotten a video this great, I sure wouldn’t have taken my name off of it. It does seem a little suspicious.

(Note that I was just buying the scenario, not the argument — assaulting people on the public street doesn’t become okay just because they’re members of the opposition party.)

But then, I got to thinking…If this was a setup, what exactly was the plan here? How could these supposed Republican party operatives have known the Congressman would go off like that?

And here’s another one:

“It was pure Gotcha, try to trap a congressman, because they refused to tell them who they were, what school they were from,” [Democratic Consultant Brad] Crone said. “And if you’re working on a project, tell the truth.”

Crone’s got a point. It’s not required by law or anything, but most real reporters give their names and the name of the organization they work for. I know I try to do it when I interview someone, but I sometimes forget. Maybe the kid forgot too.

Or maybe he intentionally withheld his identity.

But so what? If this was a “Gotcha,” what was the plan? How was asking a simple, vapid question a “trap”? Most public figures would have politely asked for a name and then walked off if they got no response. Again, for this to be some sort of Republican plot, these two guys would have had to somehow predict that Etheridge would go nuts like this.

I’m not buying it. Etheridge assaulted some guy on the street. That’s the story.

Update: Jamison Koehler discusses the legal definition of assault in D.C.