At one point in my life, the Los Angeles Times was the “It” paper. While The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal (the journalism section, not its editorial pages) set the standard for American journalism, I convinced myself that the LA Times wasn’t too far behind.
I am convinced now.
The three major newspapers have learned how to use Web 2.0 — blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr — to push journalism to another level.
Even Reuters, the venerable wire service, has set standards on how to use Web 2.0. That company’s rule regarding instantaneous news? Journalism is still journalism. There is no room for opinion, misinformation, or poor reporting.
The uptake? These publications treat blogs like they treat articles published in newspapers.
Which brings me to the Los Angeles Times, especially its Top of the Ticket blog penned primarily by Andrew Malcolm (although the Times lists Johanna Neuman as a contributor).
If you don’t know Malcolm, he’s the former press secretary for First Lady Laura Bush. He’s also a long-time reporter (hell, could be a very good reporter) and served on the Times’ editorial board. My guess is he started writing the Ticket blog sometime early in 2008 (his bio is dated November 1, 2008).
But since the campaign season that year, Malcolm has proved himself to be nothing short of a partisan hack on the levels of a Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. He often resorts to nicknames for President Obama, his latest being “The Smoker.” Which would be fine, I guess, if the blog was labeled clearly as “Opinion” as The New York Times and The Washington Post do.
Instead “Top of the Ticket” is labeled “Politics, coast to coast, with the L.A. Times” and is listed clearly under the “Politics” section, not the “Opinion” section.
To make things even worse for the Times, the newspaper often reposts Malcolm’s blogs as actual stories. For example, “A little secret about Obama’s transparency” posted yesterday looks exactly like an article penned by a real reporter.
In this news article, which is what the URL suggests (even if “Top of the Ticket” is written at the top), includes zero original sources — a big no-no in journalism. Yes, it’s from a blog post, but if it’s reprinted as an actual article, it should contain sources. Heck, most columns contain at least one original source.
But my real problems with Malcolm hit a tipping point Saturday night, a day before the historic vote on healthcare reform, in a blog post titled, “Cast your own vote on Obama’s healthcare plan.” The primary problem comes from the poll questions posted below the blog, especially Nos. 2 and 4:
- Obama’s healthcare plan is so good it should also apply to Obama, his family, all members of Congress and their families. (It does)
- I wish those folks had spent all these months focusing on jobs and the economy instead. (They did)
The wording and loaded questions upset me so much, I wrote a long response and posted it. I kept waiting for it to appear after being moderated, but it didn’t. So I reposted it thinking I had made a mistake. Again, nothing.
I wondered what I had written that kept them from publishing my comment.
Here’s the full text of what I wrote (much of which is repeated above):
Recently, Reuters released standard practices for journalists using social media, which is what blogs are. The standards break down into one simple rule:“Accuracy, freedom from bias and integrity are fundamental to the reputation of Reuters and your ability to do your job effectively. The advent of social media changes none of this and you should do nothing that would damage our reputation for impartiality and independence.”If Andrew Malcolm worked for Reuters, he’d be fired for this piece of misinformation and obvious bias.Malcolm is an embarrassment to the Los Angeles Times. His reporting is full of vindictiveness, poor reporting, and straight-out falsehoods.Take for example poll questions 2 and 4:“2) Obama’s healthcare plan is so good it should also apply to Obama, his family, all members of Congress and their families.”– Unfortunately, it’s not a “healthcare plan.” It’s a reform of the current system. The only “plan” being created is the ability to buy into a pool of other independent people. “Reform” does not equal “plan.” Malcolm knows this is true, but he perpetuates the falsehood because it probably boosts his ego when he receives responses like this. No one’s insurance will change if they don’t want it to.“4) I wish those folks had spent all these months focusing on jobs and the economy instead.”– Was it my imagination or did President Obama just sign an $18 billion jobs bill? In addition, aren’t there physical signs throughout Los Angeles that say “This project is paid for by the Reinvestment Act of 2009”? Nevermind that unemployment has slowed, and it appears job growth should begin by the end of this year. Again, Malcolm knows this, but he perpetuates the lie that Obama hasn’t done anything about jobs because, hey, let me be funny.The Los Angeles Times used to try to compete with the big newspapers — The New York Times and The Washington Post. But with one of the paper’s top political reporters, which is what a blogger is, demonstrating such terribly poor professionalism, it’s no wonder why no one mentions this newspaper when it talks about the best in the nation.Shame on you, LA Times. And Andrew Malcolm, get over yourself.
I had a serious point, so I made it, albeit in an angry way. In fact, my post was tame compared to some of the others that were published.
Here are some of the comments from those who opposed the bill:
Guy Arnold wrote:
“Obama is a devout Muslim and with no doubt he is screwing up our country to it’s worst condition.”
“Obama, progressives and looney tunes dems are done. AS IS THE LAME STREAM MEDIA. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves for helping to elect a Muslim Socialist radical like Obama. How can you look at yourselves in the mirror every day to shave, or what ever?”
“If the President thinks his healthcare if so good, He should ask millions of unborn children what they think of federally funded abortions”
And about 70 others like these (including one guy who wrote, “Is Obama a foreign agent? I don’t know.”)
But he also posted the comments of those who supported the bill (responding to many):