Monday, November 22, 2010

Post-Dispatch Reporter Dismisses Substantive Criticism As "Sticks and Stones"

I've written a couple posts recently that were very critical of Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman, and particularly his biased coverage of the Russ Carnahan/ Ed Martin race. I think I provided good evidence for my assertions, but as someone who tries to be open-minded, I realize that people might have reasons for disagreeing with me. However, in my posts, I did provide substantive criticisms, by which I mean specific claims that can be argued for or against. For example, I said that
  • Jake Wagman improperly left out crucial information in his latest article about the election in a way that fed into Ed Martin's insinuations that the election was somehow stolen or cheated.
  • Wagman trumped up stories about election problems in Ed Martin's 4,500 vote loss while completely ignoring well-documented voting problems in a race that Barbara Fraser lost by less than 180 votes. This suggests an inconsistent application of whatever criteria he uses to decide that a story is "newsworthy."
  • Wagman wrote a piece that was basically a press release for Ed Martin attacking Carnahan on the wind farm without getting a single quote from the Carnahan campaign or the Democratic Party.
  • In that same story, Wagman failed to do any research other than the press release, and so left out information that vindicated the Carnahans.

  • You can agree or disagree with these claims, but they are substantive claims. I provided evidence for those claims, and it should in principle be possible for people who disagree to provide evidence against these claims, such as saying, "the Post-Dispatch has a policy of always doing X, which is why Wagman did what he did," or "Wagman has X, Y, Z responsibilities that prevent him from getting quotes on every story." Those would be the types of reasons people could provide in a responsible, adult debate.

    However, I submit that for anyone interested in honest and open debate, it is not cool to respond to substantive criticisms with vague dismissals that don't even attempt to address the substance. If I had just called Wagman a name, then it would make sense to respond with a vague dismissal. But I backed up my claims, so any legitimate response would similarly at least attempt to also make substantive claims and to back them up with evidence. So, with that in mind, consider this tweet yesterday from St. Louis Post-Dispatch Reporter Jeremy Kohler:
    No substance. No supporting evidence. Nothing. Just a knee-jerk "circling the wagons" response that pretends that there was nothing worth responding to. So naturally, I invited him to expand on his critique:

    So far, Kohler has not responded, and has instead moved on to other conversations.

    Personally, I would like to think that a reporter at the Post-Dispatch who has time to make defensive remarks on Twitter would be interested in getting to the truth and as such seriously considering criticisms that relate to how journalism should be conducted. But we shall see.


    1. I would like to state, that there was more corruption in the Lamping/Fraser race than the Martin/Carnahan race (all on Lamping's side) This is just now coming to the surface but if ever there should be some Federal charges it is in that race, not the Carnahan/Martin race. Electioneering fraud and violations by some 'people' are going to split the County loyalties; more to come...

    2. Give it up. The Post has been nothing more than a press release agent for at least the last twenty years. It began its decline during William Woo's tenure, and has been downhill to the bottom ever since. The political and corporate class in this podunk burgh can count on the Post to be there when they need them.