Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Media

February 18, 2005

The Wild Op-Ed Page

Maureen Dowd: lazier than bloggers.

Carl Bialik

You may have heard about the wild Internet, where gossip, rumors and conspiracy theories run wild. People's reputations can be destroyed. And those blogs: Horrifying. No ethics. No mercy.

But it's hard to top Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times column for lazy rumor-mongering. Her subject is James Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, the aliased correspondent for a conservative site who mysteriously was credentialed for White House press conferences. Leftist blogs have dug up some germane and not so germane details about Mr. Gannon, and now he's resigned. (Howard Kurtz summarizes the story, along with the latest sordid revalations, in the Washington Post.)

The germane points about Guckert are his false identity and his questionable journalistic credentials. The not-germane ones are personal and irrelevant to his work as a journalist; it's his right to be gay, to pose nude, etc. Yet here's Dowd's opening salvo in her column:

How often does an enterprising young man, heralded in press reports as both a reporter and a contributor to such sites as Hotmilitarystud.com, Workingboys.net, Militaryescorts.com, MilitaryescortsM4M.com and Meetlocalmen.com, get to question the president of the United States?

Who knew that a hotmilitarystud wanting to meetlocalmen could so easily get to be face2face with the commander in chief?

Then Dowd complains about the time she was turned down for a press pass. That's about as close as the piece comes to actual reporting. Otherwise she quotes other publications. The revelations about the military websites aren't only irrelevant; they're also dated.

Criticizing Dowd may seem passe—one website picks on each column; the Washingtonian has a devastating profile—but that doesn't excuse the Times for printing this sort of thing. What is it, a blog or something?

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.







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Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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