Two of the political news sites I check every day--and fairly often, the only two--are Teagan Goddard's Political Wire and Talking Points Memo, also known as TPM. They would be characterized politically as not right wing, and I have found them to be dependable in their facts. The Political Wire is more of an aggregator (so every new poll's conclusion gets a flat headline that so and so is ahead of so and so, even if other polls report the opposite) but TPM is very good at following a story, correcting where necessary, showing the evolution of an issue.
The Internet as well as presumably cable news exploded Thursday with various revelations concerning federal government data mining of phone calls and Internet traffic. The New York Times, perhaps eager to stake its claim as having broken one of the stories, published an editorial slamming the Obama administration.
It's a harsh enough editorial, but both Political Wire and TPM seriously--really seriously--misquoted it, TPM even doing so in an inflammatory headline. Both misquoted the Times in exactly the same way.
Both TPM and Political Wire led their items with a quote from the Times: "The administration has now lost all credibility." But the Times editorial states: "The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue."
There is a world of difference. Apart from the merits involved in these allegations, it is quite a serious and possibly consequential statement that possibly the most prominent newspaper in America has asserted that the Obama administration has lost all credibility, period. Particularly on the eve of President Obama's meeting with the Chinese leadership.
TPM places a comma after their quotation, so they might say it is not technically a misquotation, as the Political Wire's is, since it places a period before those important words "on this issue." Nevertheless, this is significantly inaccurate and unnecessarily inflammatory. It smacks of sloppiness at best, and a competitive eagerness to get eyeballs on the site, regardless of accuracy.
I've emailed both sites asking for a correction. We'll see what they do. If they were less generally credible sites I'd have no hope.
Update: Interesting. The Political Wire has not changed a thing, but TPM made the correction--noting however that it was the New York Times that changed the sentence from "lost all credibility" to "all credibility on this issue" a few hours after they first published the editorial on line.
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