Illiterate? Become a Reporter!


One of the things I always marvel at is the lack of knowledge about current events that many journalists have, and how often reporters often don’t read about the things they are talking about. Case in point: The Washington Post’s Express Night Out’s summary of my May 13 post, “Stop Using the Nazi Card.”

In my post, I went after everyone that compared their political opponents to Nazis, except for cases like Ahmadinejad or people calling for genocide. There needs to be a much, much higher standard in the Western democracies as to when comparisons like this can be made. In effect, I was supporting comedian Lewis Black’s commentary on The Daily Show about Glenn Beck’s use of the Nazi card, although I complained that the left-wing wasn’t hammered enough for doing the same during the Bush years.

I was honored that Express Night Out thought my post was good enough to be covered in their May 14 issue here. Just one, tiny problem: They summarize my blog in this way:

NewsRealBlog.com did not appreciate Lewis Black’s rant about talk show host Glenn Beck on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” on Wednesday night.”

Luckily, some people complained about this characterization of my post and then informed me about it. I am flattered that people rushed to correct them on my behalf without me having to ask anyone, or even knowing about it.

Now, on May 17, according to one NRB reader (hat tip to “Ipepac”), a correction has been posted on page 3 of the print edition of Express Night Out:

“An item in Friday’s Blog Log incorrectly characterized Newsrealblog.com’s reaction to a skit by comedian Lewis Black about the use of swastikas during an episode of Glenn Beck’s Fox News program. The author of the blog post agreed with Black’s comments about Beck’s show.”

We all mess up. I’ve done it. I don’t hold any grudge against Clinton Yates who wrote the original summary. I’m just using his forgivable error to make a larger point about a pattern among journalists I’m noticing.

It reminds me of when I was 19, and a reporter from a major but local newspaper came to do a profile on me. I talked about Syrian and Iranian support for the insurgency in Iraq.

She repeatedly asked, “Iran and which country?” After the interview, she called me the next day to ask which countries were involved again. By then, Syrian and Iranian support was widely discussed. She also asked me what an “insurgency” was, clearly never hearing the term before. And get this—she appeared to be Indian, one of the countries most familiar with insurgencies.

When the article came out, it was mostly fine, except there was one part where I was misquoted. I said the war in Iraq had sparked “the fire of democracy” in the region, and she wrote “the fire of terrorism.” Of course, it is possible I just misspoke but based on the other errors, I doubt it.

There are a lot of aspiring journalists out there and many are having difficulty finding jobs. Newspapers can afford to be pickier about who they hire.