Your Lying Eyes

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21 December 2012

Times Reporters Dilemma: When to Work and When to Phone it in?

Sometimes good reporting requires herculean effort, as with the recent NY Times expose of Walmart's shady business dealings in Mexico. This was no two-bit investigation.
The Times has now picked up where Wal-Mart’s internal investigation was cut off, traveling to dozens of towns and cities in Mexico, gathering tens of thousands of documents related to Wal-Mart de Mexico permits, and interviewing scores of government officials and Wal-Mart employees, including 15 hours of interviews with the former lawyer, Sergio Cicero Zapata.
That kind of work couldn't have come cheap. You've got two reporters, at least, spending months and months of time, racking up some serious expenses along the way no doubt - getting people to talk isn't necessarily cheap either. At a minimum you're buying dinners and sending cars - though I'm sure the Times wouldn't have stooped so low as to actually pay off people for their scoops. And all for only the purest of motives - I mean, who could possibly benefit from a story undercutting one of Mexico's biggest businesses?

Meanwhile, in a news article yesterday on Mayor Bloomberg's crusade against guns, the reporter essentially acted as the mayor's PR assistant. The article featured these incisive gems:
Ask Mr. Bloomberg about firearms, and his usual stoic facade falls away, revealing anger and exasperation born of years of witnessing the blood and tears that can flow from gun violence.
Within days of the Newtown shootings, Mr. Bloomberg was on the phone with conservative senators, urging them to change their views. To his surprise, he said, some were willing to consider it. “You could hear in their voice, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” he said.
Why bother trying to contact any of these senators - Bloomberg's word is good enough!
Mr. Bloomberg, meanwhile, took to the phones, calling members of Congress to urge the passage of an assault-weapons ban. To prepare his pitch, he instructed aides to find out how many Americans had been killed by guns since the Arizona shootings in 2011, when Mr. Obama last promised changes in the firearm laws.
God forbid the reporter gather this data himself - and particularly data around murders by "assault weapons", the only guns under consideration in Washington.
The mayor was angry that New York’s gun laws, among the strictest in the country, did little to protect against the use of guns bought illegally in other states.
The mayor's angry! We've let him down!
Friends of Mr. Bloomberg said he came to view guns, like tobacco and unhealthy food, as a dangerous consumer product, and he could not fathom why lawmakers did not take steps to curtail their use. There was also a quixotic element to taking on the gun lobby that appealed to the mayor, who relishes challenges that others view as insurmountable.
Wow, he must have interviewed the mayor's friends - how'd he manage to track them down? Or did the mayor just tell him what his friends think?

I guess gun control is now, like global warming, a topic where there is only one way to think and there is only one-side worthy of attention.


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