Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Attorneygate: In the context of no context

The conventions of mainstream journalism work against getting to the bottom of something as complex as the Attorneygate firing scandal. One more reason why blogs have come to be so important.

One convention that gets in the way is the lack of context in so much MSM reporting of "just the facts." It's as if the media fear that providing context would compromise their "objectivity" and leave them open to charges of "interpretation," or worse yet, "bias." But without context, facts are meaningless. Context-free reporting is exactly what often allows sources to spin reporters without challenge. Today's NYT story supporting White House talking points that Carol Lam was fired for not going after illegal immigrants aggressively enough is an example:
Without Context:The sporadic complaints developed into a small crisis for the Justice Department by May 2006, when an internal Border Patrol document was leaked to the news media chastising Ms. Lam’s office for its “catch and release” approach.
With Context: May 2006, you'll remember was when all the CIA/Foggo/Hookergate mess was hitting the fan in response to Lam's investigation. So some of the suggestion here is that the bump in DOJ's interest in Lam at this time was immigration-related rather than tied to disgruntlement over here expanding corruption prosecution.
The context was provided by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo and its offshoot TPM Muckraker. They've been providing context from the start, and are raising funds to be able to do even more.

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