Outsourced to Keith Olbermann:
New York Times Punk’d By Anti-Union Plant: Few news stories better spoke to the destruction of union solidarity and the realization that even those public employees collectively bargaining in Wisconsin were going to have to give something back, than the New York Times’ piece a week ago tomorrow titled “Union Bonds In Wisconsin Begin To Fray.” The by-line was shared by no less than Arthur G. Sulzberger, the son of the publisher and official carrier of the Times’ family name. The piece ran prominently on the front page. Sulzberger himself interviewed the main ‘get’ in the piece. Beyond the mere reporting was the symbolism of the Times - even the sainted liberal media Times – throwing in the towel on the inviolability of unions, conceding that an American state could renege with impunity on a good faith contract with anybody, and that maybe the Right is right every once in awhile. Problem is, A.G. Sulzberger’s featured disillusioned unionist interviewee…wasn’t in a union.
JANESVILLE, Wis. — Rich Hahan worked at the General Motors plant here until it closed about two years ago. He moved to Detroit to take another G.M. job while his wife and children stayed here, but then the automaker cut more jobs. So Mr. Hahan, 50, found himself back in Janesville, collecting unemployment for a time, and watching as the city’s industrial base seemed to crumble away. Among the top five employers here are the county, the schools and the city. And that was enough to make Mr. Hahan, a union man from a union town, a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker’s sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin, a plan that has set off a firestorm of debate and protests at the state Capitol. He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations. “Something needs to be done,” he said, “and quickly.”
Compelling, damning, overwhelming words, and from such a source!
Except the source, Rick Hahn, now admits that while he worked in union factories, he was never, you know, in a union per se. So why did the Diogenes of the Times, Mr. Sulzberger, believe he had found his honest union man? Because Hahn “described himself to a reporter as a ‘union guy.’” And yes, Hahan/Hahn’s deception, intentional or accidental (and if you noticed the multiple spelling, yes, Mr. Sulzberger of the Times also got the guy’s name wrong) sat out there in the alleged newspaper of record for four days, during which nobody bothered to correct the sloppy, destructive reporting of the Family Heir. When they finally did, editors buried it inside. ‘Buried it inside’ is newspaper lingo, in case A.G. Sulzberger isn’t familiar with it.
We know about this Times disaster from last Tuesday because the paper finally got around to correcting it in Saturday’s edition. The mistake got page 1A. The correction got a little box “below the fold” (somebody explain that term to Mr. Sulzberger, too) on 2A, which is read about as thoroughly as the drug interaction warnings that come with aspirin:
A front-page article on Tuesday about reaction among private-sector workers in Wisconsin to Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to cut benefits and collective-bargaining rights for unionized public employees referred incorrectly to the work history of one person quoted, and also misspelled his surname. While the man, Rich Hahn (not Hahan) described himself to a reporter as a “union guy,” he now says that he has worked at unionized factories, but was not himself a union member. (The Times contacted Mr. Hahn again to review his background after a United Auto Workers official said the union had no record of his membership.)
This clear picture of a bunch of agendas happily coinciding – ‘Sulzberger! Find me a Wisconsin union guy who agrees with the Governor!’ – and to hell with the facts or the fact-checking or the spelling, with the truth coming to light only from – gasp! – an actual union guy (from the devil UAW itself!), has been reduced to a “PS, the publisher’s kid kinda screwed up on the most important domestic news story of the moment” instead of serving as the springboard for something fair, or even useful – maybe a front-page piece about the disinformation war being waged by Governor Walker and the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party in Wisconsin and whether or not this Hahan/Hahn was part of it, intentionally or inadvertently....
The obvious point about Sulzberger’s story is that, at best, the Times made a terrible mistake rendering fraudulent a featured piece on imperiled American freedom in the middle of an info-war over that freedom by a reporter whose name is synonymous with its power structure and then tried to whitewash itself (or, at worst, it wasn’t an amazing coincidence, and the Times got played like the proverbial three-dollar banjo and then tried to whitewash itself). Seems to me the Times could start with finding out exactly who Mr. Hahan/Hahn is. There appears to be a “Rich Hahn” involved with “staffing and recruiting” for a company called “PSI” in the “Janesville/Beloit area” in Wisconsin. Is that Mr. Sulzberger’s “union guy”? I’d try to tell you before, but that shred of possibly irrelevant information required me to expend nearly one entire calorie of brain heat performing a google search that kept me hopping for 30 seconds. I just did more research than the Times did and I need a nap. Maybe they could talk to Gabrielle Union. She must have an important point of view on organized labor. Man, what if she liked Walker’s proposals! That’d be some story, huh? That’d get the Right Wing off our backs for eight seconds? Am I right? Sulzberger? Sulzberger? Hello?...
And to Digby:
Hullabaloo: Olbermann... may be a good blogger and a great broadcaster, [but] he missed a very important part of this story. But Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution caught it right away:
For me the best part of the Scott Walker prank call is how much he loves a New York Times article:
SCOTT WALKER: The New York Times, of all things—I don't normally tell people to read the New York Times, but the front page of the New York Times, they've got a great story—one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism—what it's supposed to be, objective journalism—they got out of the capital and went down one county south of the capital, to Janesville, to Rock County, that's where the General Motors plant once was. FAKE DAVID KOCH: Right, right.
WALKER: They moved out two years ago. The lead on this story's about a guy who was laid off two years ago, he'd been laid off twice by GM, who points out that everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees, and it's about damn time they do and he supports me. And they had a bartender, they had—every stereotypical blue collar worker-type, they interviewed, and the only ones who weren't with us were ones who were either a public employee or married to a public employee. It's an unbelievable—so I went through and called all these, uh, a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day, and said to them, everyone, get that story and print it out and send it to anybody giving you grief.
Noting the fact that the article was written by Sulzberger Jr he later wrote:
So that's ominously funny and funnily ominous in its own right. But we don't need to try to predict how honest New York Times coverage will be in the future when A.G. Sulzberger becomes publisher...because we can just examine his writing right now. Sulzberger just wrote a 733-word article about the prank call. Number of mentions of Walker loving a certain Sulzberger-written New York Times article? Zero.
Yes, that's right. Sulzberger Jr also wrote the article for the NY Times about Walker's prank call and never mentioned that Walker had talked at length about his own (incorrect) article in the call.
One hates to think that just because Sulzberger is the heir to a great newspaper empire that he has an agenda. And perhaps it's better to use Occam's Razor and just assume that he's lazy and inept as so many bosses sons are. But these events are ironically funny at the very least. Indeed, the fact that they assigned the Paris Hilton of newspapers to cover this story at all is hilarious, especially considering that he accepted the word of someone who said he was "a union man" and didn't bother to ask what union he belonged to. I'm guessing that Sulzberger Junior just assumed that no one would lie about being a member of a union. Or maybe he was the only person he could find to properly illustrate the article he already wanted to write.
This is a lovely little story of Big Media and its biases working in favor of the ruling class. Just as one would expect...