Thursday, May 13, 2010

Links, Dates, Locations

I'm often disappointed when reading the opinion articles by the regular columnists for the New York Times. This group is full of intelligence and insight, privy to great sources and huge travel budgets allowing them unprecedented access to the subjects of their articles. However, their lack of citation and attention to detail is astonishing. Their is rarely a link to a corroborating article or piece of information. The date or place of an address given by a head of state is difficult to find. The chief offender here is Mr. Charles Blow who, while running the "By the Numbers" blog, has yet to point to a single piece of data this year that pointed me directly to a source outside his column. This was particularly exasperating since he's been so focused on the Tea party, a very exciting, hard-to-pin down group, but hasn't bothered to show us where he gets his numbers from. He makes mention of "a recent poll" here about demographics that is not cited, here he points to a study that he says addresses "young women" and links to a table with no demographic info (not mention the article is purportedly about black mothers but he only address young black women). Gail Collins also ran an article recently about birth control with a slough of annecdotes outmoded birth control, Anthony Comstock and Margaret Sanger and scarely dared to mention a date, let alone give us anywhere to find out to what she was referring. David Brooks talks about the economic impact of energy companies and energy policy... with nary a link to a budget or a document. Ross Douthat confronts, of all things, the disconnect between real choices and narratives we tell ourselves... and doesn't tell us where to find a single bare-bones treatment, other than his own, of a single incident he wishes us to engage. I wish now that I'd kept a log of past infractions on this topic but alas, I have not. Suffice it to say that, overall, I am generally underwhelmed by the seriousness with which these journalists take me, the reader. I have enough curiosity to wonder if the opinion they hold is based on any facts. I have the acumen to question their thoughts, balanced as they may be. And yet I find myself treated to something more than a bull session but something much less than a responsible thought. I want dollar figures backed up by actual documents. I want discussions of bills in Congress to be accompanied by links to those bills. Give me at least a place I can find them myself if you can't be troubled to quote something with a citation (other than your own or your colleagues' work). I want the NYT to be a better class of paper, not just to look like a better class of paper.

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