Jack Shafer considers the meaning of Christopher Newton’s journalistic transgressions. You’ll recall that he is the AP reporter fired last month for fabricating sources. Here’s what I had to say in mid September before we knew the true extent of his fabrications. Shafer asks an important question:
But before we commence our vilification of Newton we should return to the scenes of the alleged crime and review both Newton’s modus operendi and that of the AP. What does it say about AP methods and practices that nobody caught him over the course of 32 months?
And here’s part of his answer:
Every day, thousands of reporters pad their stories to fit the stock news formula. Like casting agents, they phone around looking for the precise quotation their story needs to appear “balanced.” They lead their witnesses with language such as, “So would you say …?” or asking the question five different ways until they get the right quotation to fit their predetermined thesis and complete the formula. If it’s a journalistic crime for Christopher Newton to invent characters who mouth empty but passable clich