A journalistic disgrace

Update, July 25, 2015: Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek argues that the New York Times story may be “wrong in all of its implications and in almost every particular related to the inspector generals’ conclusions.”[1] Eichenwald may be too generous to Hillary Clinton. Apparently, while the Clinton campaign has denied that information in the emails was marked as classified, the inspector general for intelligence agencies “disputed that characterization in a statement late Friday, saying that the information in the emails was classified at the time, even if it wasn’t marked as such, and shouldn’t have been transmitted on a personal email system.” The accusation here is that State Department staffers may have failed to mark the material as classified in order to bypass applicable regulations regarding its handling.[2] If so, this considerably undermines Eichenwald’s premise.

Someone needs to do a much better job of explaining a New York Times correction. The story involves—in the present wording—a request made by two inspectors general that “the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.”[3]

Apparently the Times “initially reported that two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation ‘into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state.'”[4] This is a move from active to passive voice, which does not improve the writing, and from a discourse analysis perspective, may serve to diminish an actor’s role.

Two immediate questions to be asked about this are, first, whose email account was this? And second, who, therefore, mishandled ‘sensitive government information?’ In using a personal email account to handle government business, Clinton apparently did not break the law in effect at that time, but may have violated Obama administration policy.[5] It’s her email account, she used it in violation of government policy, and if there’s any mishandling that occurred with that account, she did it.

Apparently, “the Department [of Justice] has backed away from the ‘criminal’ label, calling it instead ‘a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information.'”[6] Which adds a third question: Just how is this not criminal? Having willfully continued to use her personal email account despite instructions to the contrary, she is clearly culpable.

The bullshit needs to stop and the New York Times should retract its retraction. This is a journalistic disgrace.

  1. [1]Kurt Eichenwald, “How ‘The New York Times’ Bungled the Hillary Clinton Emails Story,” Newsweek, July 24, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/hillary-clinton-new-york-times-emails-357246
  2. [2]Evan Halper, “Federal investigators want Justice Department probe of Hillary Clinton emails,” Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-clinton-email-20150724-story.html
  3. [3]Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo, “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account,” New York Times, July 23, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/24/us/politics/criminal-inquiry-is-sought-in-hillary-clinton-email-account.html
  4. [4]Byers, quoted in Benjamin Mullin, “New York Times appends correction to altered Hillary Clinton story,” Poynter, July 24, 2015, http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/360445/new-york-times-appends-correction-to-altered-hillary-clinton-story/
  5. [5]Kelly J. O’Brien, “Answers to all the questions journalists might have about Hillary Clinton’s emails,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 5, 2015, http://www.cjr.org/analysis/answers_to_all_the_questions_journalists_might_have_about_hillary_clintons_emails.php
  6. [6]Byers, quoted in Benjamin Mullin, “New York Times appends correction to altered Hillary Clinton story,” Poynter, July 24, 2015, http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/360445/new-york-times-appends-correction-to-altered-hillary-clinton-story/

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