March 2, 2012

The fake-but-accurate story — smearing Paul Ryan and Ron Johnson — that appeared in Madison's Cap Times last Saturday.

The Cap Times reveals that it published, then took down a story that "falsely said that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson were joining state Rep. Steve Nass, R-town of La Grange, in pressuring the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to purge its archives of posters from last year’s protests at the Capitol in Madison."
The story was based on a news release that purportedly came from Nass’ office, but was in fact fabricated by Madison labor cartoonist Mike Konopacki [who] sent the fake release to a staff member who then forwarded it to Associate Editor John Nichols, who wrote the story.

The release seemed plausible because on Wednesday, The Capital Times reported that the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s School for Workers abruptly called off an event called “Art in Protest” connected to the Capitol protests after a Nass aide told its organizers that it would be in poor taste. The organizers said publicly that they called off “Art in Protest” for a “variety of reasons” and that “now is not the best time” for it, but the story paraphrased two informed sources anonymously saying that Nass’ office threatened the school’s funding.

Konopacki helped organize the canceled event, and in that story, he was quoted as saying: “I understand why the School for Workers had to make this move. They're in survival mode. But I'm outraged. This is an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and is an attack on academic freedom.”

Nichols wrote a short story based on the fake release and made follow-up calls to flesh out the story, but began to have doubts when he discovered that other sources had not heard about the release.

Questioned about the release, Konopacki revealed that he created it using Photoshop. He said he intended it as a prank (in an initial email he said he “wanted to point out the hypocrisy between allowing Wisconsin protest art in the Smithsonian but not at the Pyle Center” where “Art in Protest” would have taken place), but is apologetic about the confusion it created.
The Cap Times took the embarrassing and libelous story down after 40 minutes.

By the way, John Nichols has a new book: "Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street." Meade and I have been reading it.

ADDED: In his book, Nichols is highly critical of the media for getting the story of the Wisconsin protests wrong. Excerpt:
While it was easy to laugh at Fox, it was harder to comprehend the coverage of events in Wisconsin by the New York Times. The Times can and does produce terrific reporting on a variety of fronts. In many senses, it remains the last bastion of old-school “newspaper of record” seriousness in a media landscape that is littered with the carcasses of once-great news-rooms, thus making it more important—and influential—in today’s news landscape than ever before in its history. The Times even has something that’s lacking at virtually every other print, broadcast, or digital news outlet in America today: a solid labor writer in the person of Steven Greenhouse. Unfortunately, he was not dispatched to Wisconsin to cover the story. The Times reporters who did come to Wisconsin brought with them some of major media’s worst misconceptions and biases with regard to unions and working-class people. And in so doing they became a part of the story, reinforcing Governor Walker’s intransigence.

Walker is a media junkie.... he reads, listens to, and watches media with an eye for how different outlets are interpreting and reacting to stories....

The Times... blew an even bigger piece of the Wisconsin story several weeks later. When Republican legislators used backroom maneuvers to pass Walker’s bill, the Times reported that the fight was “over.” But the editors in New York forgot to tell the people of Wisconsin....

The hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who rallied at their capitol and in communities across the state said by their very presence that they were no longer going to accept the official “line” from old-media outlets that failed them—and new media outlets that simply compounded the sins of the fathers by aggregating and amplifying the folly of media outlets that have replaced reporting with stenography to power. What dawned on Wisconsinites and their allies in other states was that the problem was not simply the overt bias of a Limbaugh or an O’Reilly but the overt ignorance of media outlets that imagined Americans no longer approved of organized labor—and would never ever stand in solidarity with a trade-union movement that was arguing for public services, public utilities, and public schools.

When media outlets got around to conducting polls on the issues that arose in the Wisconsin struggle, they found that, to paraphrase the old Firesign Theatre routine, everything they “knew” was wrong. A CBS News/New York Times survey, conducted shortly after Wisconsin exploded, revealed that six in ten Americans opposed the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public sector union workers, while 56 percent were opposed to the cutting of pay or benefits to reduce state budget deficits. The USA Today/Gallup survey released two weeks after Governor Walker made his proposal indicated that 61 percent of Americans were opposed to legislation that would take away the collective bargaining rights of unionized government workers. Only one in three of those surveyed backed any move to undermine protections for labor.

... Many was the day when an absurdly ill-conceived or simply inaccurate report on the front page of the Walker-supporting Wisconsin State Journal newspaper had been deconstructed by Sly and his guests before Madisonians had trudged out their front doors to find the offending publication in the snowbank where it had landed.

48 comments:

chickenlittle said...

Mike Konopacki is still around Madison? I have a booklet of his--published cartoons from the Madison Press Connection in the late 70's--interesting stuff.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)



Fact-checkers and edtors….layers of’em.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Is lying among leftists a genetic trait or is it just part of the training?

Curious George said...

SHAME, SHAME, SHAME...

Shane said...

It's a curious thing - to prove hypocrisy on the Right, the Left keeps fabricating proof and then getting called on it. Add this latest example to the Gleick debacle...

Synova said...

What overlap do you suppose there is between the set of people who think it's terrible to ask a tax funded school not to hold a "art of protest" show during a recall and the set of people disgusted by "Act of Valor" as propaganda?

Scott M said...

What overlap do you suppose there is between the set of people who think it's terrible to ask a tax funded school not to hold a "art of protest" show during a recall and the set of people disgusted by "Act of Valor" as propaganda?

A Venn diagram with only one circle?

edutcher said...

This is the kind of thing that make people like Andrew Breitbart absolutely necessary.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Is lying among leftists a genetic trait or is it just part of the training?

It certainly does look as if they go to school for it.

PatCA said...

I picked up a copy of the Smithsonian magazine at the MD's office yesterday. I was shocked by how left wing and PC it was!

One article was about a study on some birds that sometimes peck/beat up each other. They have discovered that the aggressors were pecked as children. I am not kidding! What next, bird therapy??

Another article, all gauzy sentimentality, was about how the feds are destroying an old dam in Washington state. The tribal children are being taught how to fish, live off the land, how dams are bad and how the river is sacred (only to them). They are returning this tribe to the stone age, along with the river.

Haters. So of course they will have a laudatory OWS exhibit!

Bart Torvik said...

This was actually the second time that week that the Cap Times was duped by a false press release.

Sofa King said...

I don't really know what's more embarassing: being duped by a bogus press release, or admitting that even when accurate, your "newspaper" is little more than a press release compendium.

traditionalguy said...

The Progs religious narratives are always there like a skeleton's backbone that other bones can be hung on to it, and passed off as a real drawings of fearsome creatures.

The creators like to form scary conservative monsters and then have shows of their work. The best are rewarded prizes.

To understand Progs Propaganda, one must study Walt Disney cartoons complete with heroes and villains.

Tridad said...

Remember the good old days when reporters actually gathered the facts, made the calls, verified information and sources BEFORE they published the story?

Good thing they are professionals.

And they wonder why they are going out of business.

Calypso Facto said...

Madisonians hate Senator Johnson because he actually debates using, you know, facts. Highly inconvenient for their irrational positions.

Christopher in MA said...

"I don't really know what's more embarassing: being duped by a bogus press release, or admitting that even whan accurate, your 'newspaper' is little more than a press release compendium."

Another thing to be grateful to Breitbart for. It's been painfully obvious to anyone paying attention that most of the major rags are nothing more than "Tiger Beat" for the Democrat party.

But he really exposed their lying asses for all to see, such that - if you say your source for something is that you read it in the NYT, WaPo, Inquirer and so on - you've pretty much self-identified as a rube.

Of course, Cook would disagree and insist all newspapers are merely lackeys to the oligarchy, but I wonder if his preferred paper wouldn't be the Daily Worker crossed with the Village Voice and a bit of the Utne Reader.

And with a weekly denunciations list of profiteers, war criminals and cosmopolitans.

edutcher said...

PatCA said...

I picked up a copy of the Smithsonian magazine at the MD's office yesterday. I was shocked by how left wing and PC it was!

Dude, it's run by the Feds (who's been in charge lately?) and funded by Congress.

What part of BOHICA do you not comprehend?

Tom Spaulding said...

When Republican legislators used backroom maneuvers to pass Walker’s bill, the Times reported that the fight was “over.” But the editors in New York forgot to tell the people of Wisconsin....

So, the "people of Wisconsin" = union members, malcontents and activists.

Passing a law by majority vote = "Backroom maneuvers".

Hilarious! Swiftian!

MartyH said...

When I read about Nichols' take on the NYT's coverage all I could think of was the Gell-Mann amnesia effect, here described by Michael Crichton:

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. [In Nichol's case,the WI protests.] You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”
― Michael Crichton

It's just funny that Nichols decries the Gel-Mann amnesia effect while simultaneously providing a good example of it.

Chuck66 said...

If we didn't have party labels, those two, especially Ryan, would be almost universally loved for their work.

They see the problems our nation has, primarily with the spending and unfunded entitlements. It is quite sad that Ryan is demonized because he is trying to save the country from the biggest threat since the Soviet Union in the 50s and 60s.

rcommal said...

Nichols wrote a short story based on the fake release and made follow-up calls to flesh out the story, but began to have doubts when he discovered that other sources had not heard about the release. He alerted editors to hold the story but it had already posted.

So, he wrote the story before making confirmation/follow-up calls? Before, I assume, he called Ryan's or Johnson's office (or Nass') to confirm or at least get their side of or at very least request their comment on the story? The linked "correction" story doesn't say what calls he made or attempted to make. For all we know, the "follow-up calls to flesh out the story" didn't involve calls put into to those three who were being accused of, the original story strongly implies, improperly using influence to try to quash free speech/art.

Regardless of whether or "Associate Editor" Nichols warned them to hold off, why the heck did "editors" post a piece that clearly must have had major, gaping, obvious holes of confirmation? Of, at barest minimum, some sort of balancing comment?

Nichols should be ashamed of himself. That was some bush-league, rookie bullshit he pulled there, in the way he handled the release, the timing of his writing the story and, more specifically, submitting it BEFORE making calls to so-called "flesh it out" (me, I'd go with fact-checking, but I'm a fogy and I guess that's not considered a fundamental value anymore).

In fact, you'd think he was a rookie reporter! But no, it appears based on this incident that he's just a crappy, ethically challenged editor--'scuse me, "associate editor"--unworthy of the job his title implies.

I hate this sort of absolute bullshit. There are some excellent editors out there--really! no kidding! though I know many (most?) at Althouse won't agree--but the egregious mistakes, seemingly willful sloppy shortcuts in reportage, and overwhelming hubris on the part of people like this screws those who try to do their jobs well and makes them just that much harder.

I am disgusted.

And what is with this "seems plausible" bullshit? SEEMS PLAUSIBLE?????? WTF kind of standard is that?

I'll tell you what kind of standard that is: No kind of standard at all.

rcommal said...

Next up: I'll tell you what I really think.

garage mahal said...

Here's where we all pretend to be outraged. Because we all care about journalistic integrity.

I'M OUTRAGED!!!!!

SGT Ted said...

Typical leftwing hit piece, full of Confirmation Bias. The story was "too good to fact check". So, they ran with it. Like they always do.

Chuck66 said...

rcommal.....lets play psycologist for a minute. With blogs (which basically the Capital Times is), the partisons (left or right) are waiting for red meat that proves their notions about their political enemies.

And this story was too good to pass up. Actually it is kind of trival, but still is some good red meat for the Madison left.

Kind of like the fabricated story about Bush 41 not knowning what a grocery store scanner was, it was too good to fact check before publishing.

Christopher in MA said...

"Because we all care about journalistic integrity."

Does the term Fake But Accurate ring any bells in your self-contained little world, garage?

rcommal said...

Garage Mahal:

Here's where we all pretend to be outraged.

I am outraged.

Because we all care about journalistic integrity.

I do care about journalistic malpractice AND integrity. I care about it across the board.

Who the hell are you to imply otherwise? You know shit-all about my background in journalism and how I feel about it.

Fuck off, asshole.

Yes, you read that right:

Fuck off, asshole.

Original Mike said...

I bet John Nicholas and his ilk really long for the day when they never got caught.

garage mahal said...

Maybe Konopacki should have dressed up in a pimp outfit and hand delivered the press release to Nichols and taped it. THEN, the press release would be true. Truth.

rcommal said...

Garage Mahal:

If you think I'm a fan of O'Keefe, you are out of your (small) mind.

Original Mike said...

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. ... You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. ... then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read”

This realization contributed mightly to the scales falling from my eyes regarding our media.

fleetusa said...

Many journalists at all levels have become what an old law professor I had called "mule attachers" - i.e. just put them on the wagon and they go straight ahead without regard to the true facts are situation. Due diligence is unknown to them and if they were investors acting similarly they would be broke in days.

Matthew said...

"Typical leftwing hit piece, full of Confirmation Bias. The story was "too good to fact check". So, they ran with it. Like they always do."

Like the fake banker 1.33 tip? You'd think they'd stop falling for things.

Jay said...

In other words, the moment a leftist reads something that confirms their biases, no matter the claim or source, it is fact.

That explains a lot.

Original Mike said...

"Because we all care about journalistic integrity."

I care deeply. One reason we are so fucked is because the citizenry gets its news from a shallow, dishonest press. On the bright side, they are no longer a monoply.

Hoosier Daddy said...

"... Here's where we all pretend to be outraged..."

I'm not outraged garage. I long ago accepted that leftists incapable of ever being honest.

chickenlittle said...

@Garage: Aren't you a copy machine sales rep? What do you know about journalism?

chickenlittle said...

Maybe Konopacki should have dressed up in a pimp outfit and hand delivered the press release to Nichols and taped it. THEN, the press release would be true. Truth.

I remember Konopacki's work from way back. He used to shoot from the hip against any and everything Governor Dreyfuss used to say and do regardless.

In a way, he's a lot like you, garage.

AprilApple said...

You mean to tell me that democrats lie? I had no idea!

Methadras said...

Oh how the leftards in Wisconsin fear Paul Ryan. They shake at the thought of this man becoming a senator or president. Or GASP, possibly their next governor.

Chip Ahoy said...

Nichols' book sounds like a real live distortion field.

The book flew off the bookshelves. Literally, the other books were doing a magnetic repulse thing on it apparently its polarization prevents it from aligning with other factual books. The book was downloaded but its presence on the hard drive drained all the other book files by 5% of content and redirected it to a third party who used most of it but not all of it to produce and inject content sympathetic to the corrupted book.

His description of media as stenographers for power and public opinion regarding government unions is deeply fatally factually flawed. I'm trying to see you two reading it. As anthropologists study oddly developed things that nonetheless manage to get on. Like Joseph Campbell delighting in the various myths while dissecting the mythology.

Alex said...

Here's where we all pretend to be outraged. Because we all care about journalistic integrity.

I'M OUTRAGED!!!!!


Fuck you are. I swear garage would make the perfect little citizen for Orwell's 1984. Completely unthinking swallower of the state. Right on cue he comes for his daily 2-minute hate sessions. He's perfect.

Christy said...

Did anyone read the review, "
In the Details
," about The Lifespan of a Fact, by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal, in this last week's NYT's Sunday Book Review?

It's about the decade long battle between essayist D'Agata and fact checker Fingal over a piece writen about a suicide in Las Vegas. D'Agata claims facts don't get us to the truth about incidents, but made up facts can and that artists need the flexibilty.

I remember Naipaul writing about trying to find the narrative in a life, but I doubt this is what he meant.

Roger J. said...

Garage--there are some situations that it might be best to remain silent--this was one of them.

Scott M said...

Garage--there are some situations that it might be best to remain silent--this was one of them.

He makes 10 cents per post. Haven't you ever seen those "housewife makes $3000 per month posting to Google" ads?

If you think that's far-fetched, just ponder it for a turn or two. You have to admit that it answers a whole lot of questions.

Roger J. said...

Actually Scott: you may very well have broken the code

Scott M said...

Code-schmode. I just want me some of that phat Garage $3k.

Michael McNeil said...

Scott: Xkcd put it well just as week or so ago.

walter said...

Nichols: "It's reflex to hate Fox, but the NYT is supposed to ____ our ____.