Yesterday, in response to this blog post about the latest news related to Lord Black, I received the following note from the Editor-in-Chief of the National Post:
"the National Post is not the first place I look for reliable news on the Conrad Black saga"
"Dear Mr. Spector,
"I would be interested in hearing the basis for this comment. We obviously have a relationship with Mr. Black, but can you provide even one example of our news reporting on his case having been unreliable?
"I really don't care what you think about the Post, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't cast aspersions on our reporters, who I would put up against any in the business.
Editor-in-Chief, National Post"
Here's my reply:
Dear Mr. Meurice
Thanks for your e-mail.
In it, I fear that you've construed my words too narrowly as being directed at your reporters.
Lester Markel, who ran the Sunday sections of The New York Times for nearly forty years, described the news-gathering process this way:
"The reporter, the most objective reporter, collects 50 facts. Out of the 50 he selects 12 to include in his story (there is such a thing as space limitation) ... [and]discards 38. This is Judgment Number One.
"Then the reporter or editor decides which of the facts shall be the first paragraph of the story, thus emphasizing one fact above the other 11. This is Judgment Number Two.
"Then the editor decides whether the story shall be placed on Page One or Page 12; on Page One it will command many times the attention it would on Page 12. This is Judgment Number Three.
"This so-called factual presentation is thus subjected to three judgments, all of them most humanly and most ungodly made."
The front-page article I referred to in my post, together with its predecessor on July 24th, provide a good example of spin impinging on news. However, the words that appear to have offended you were directed toward the most ungodly judgements of the National Post as a whole.
In a previous blog post, I criticized the Toronto Star's coverage-and lack thereof-of the Omar Khadr case. In fairness to the Star, on page A 16 of today's edition you'll find a full-page feature on the victims of Mr. Khadr's alleged actions and their thoughts about the upcoming trial. (The article, written by National Security reporter Michelle Shephard, is unfortunately not yet posted on the Star's website.)