June 13, 2003
Journalistic Laziness

Ann Coulter pointed out something rather amusing in her column today, one that points out how journalists can be lazy when it comes to quotes for various articles. Once a reporter has contact information for someone, it is easier for them to contact the same person, rather than seek out a new source. This results in situations such as this:

Another average individual eager to get Hillary's book was Greg Packer, who was the centerpiece of The New York Times' "man on the street" interview about Hillary-mania. After being first in line for an autographed book at the Fifth Avenue Barnes & Noble, Packer gushed to the Times: "I'm a big fan of Hillary and Bill's. I want to change her mind about running for president. I want to be part of her campaign."

It was easy for the Times to spell Packer's name right because he is apparently the entire media's designated "man on the street" for all articles ever written. He has appeared in news stories more than 100 times as a random member of the public. Packer was quoted on his reaction to military strikes against Iraq; he was quoted at the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Veterans Day Parade. He was quoted at not one — but two — New Year's Eve celebrations at Times Square. He was quoted at the opening of a new "Star Wars" movie, at the opening of an H&M clothing store on Fifth Avenue and at the opening of the viewing stand at Ground Zero. He has been quoted at Yankees games, Mets games, Jets games — even getting tickets for the Brooklyn Cyclones. He was quoted at a Clinton fund-raiser at Alec Baldwin's house in the Hamptons and the pope's visit to Giants stadium.

If the editors at the Times have any sense, they will limit the number of quotes from Packer.

Another type of laziness would be a failure to check the background of people that get quoted. Here is another quote from Coulter's column:

First in line for Hillary's book at Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center on Sunday night was Charles Greinsky, who told the New York Daily News he rushed out at midnight to get one of the first books because he supported Hillary's health care plan. A few years ago, The Associated Press identified Greinsky more fully. It turns out he is "a longtime Clinton campaigner" from Staten Island, who has been the Clintons' guest several times both at the White House and at their home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

Puts an entirely different spin on it than "because he supported Hillary's healthcare plan".

posted on June 13, 2003 02:29 PM


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