Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Hack's Last Stand

Tommy "Tom Tom" Christopher has penned a defense of his own incompetence and stupidity which reveals hitherto undisclosed evidence of his own incompetence and stupidity. In summary, here are his defenses:

1. I Did For The Children! Tom Tom's first defense is to hide behind the skirts of imaginary children:

Two weeks ago, we ran a story that contained statements from two 16 year-old girls, who we dubbed “Betty” and Veronica” to protect their identities.... Shortly after the story’s publication, however, suspicions arose about the identities that these people had given me. I continued to follow up with these sources, but after several days, they broke off contact with me. At the time, without evidence to the contrary, I continued to investigate, but also acted publicly upon the belief that these were minor children, at risk of harm."


Now, it is true that, in my desire to protect these kids, I reacted emotionally to Moulitsas, and at other times since the publication of this story. Is it possible that my bias as a parent played some role? The SPJ Code of Ethics instructs journalists to “minimize harm,” and to show “special sensitivity when dealing with children,” so I would like to think that all journalists would take this as seriously as I do, but if that is not the case, I’ll plead no contest to that charge.

First, to state the obvious, Tom Tom wasn't dealing with children. He was dealing with someone pretending to be children, and he wasn't smart enough to realize it. He wasn't protecting children because there were no children.

More significantly, nothing Tom Tom did was done to "protect children." If he had wanted to protect children, he wouldn't have published anything about people he purportedly believed to be children. He would have left the entire thing alone, in order to avoid drawing attention to the "children." He certainly wouldn't have published a five-page wank-a-thon in which he gave children the names of cartoon characters with adult physiques and prattled on about what a great parent he is. Nothing Tom Tom did protected children, either real or imaginary.

2. I'm Really An Investigative Reporter, So Stop Saying That! Tom Tom's second defense is that he did everything possible to verify the identify of people he never met and the veracity of their story. Not really:

On Friday, we detailed the steps that I took to verify the information these sources gave to me, which included independently verified documentation, telephone conversations with Betty’s mother, extensive email contacts, and photo identification for all three sources, which I checked against available information. The photos of the girls were consistent with, but not identical to, those on available social media profiles, the address on the mother’s driver’s license was not fictitious, and was consistent with the school district listed on the girls’ student IDs.

In other words, "I checked to see that the address I was given was an actual address, and that the photographs of the fake teens someone unknown person sent me were similar to other photographs of the fake teens. If they hadn't made an effort to fool me, I never would have fallen for it! If only they had told me they lived at 123 Mockingbird Lane and sent me photos of the cast of Glee!" Would anyone working for a real news organization have published Christopher's shit based on that level of fact checking? Hell, no.

If I Could Reveal My Fake Sources, I Wouldn't Sound So Pathetic! Finally, Tom Tom argues that he wouldn't sound as incredibly dense as he does if only he could reveal information about the people who played him for a fool:

Secondarily, until I had evidence they were lying, I had an ethical duty to my sources to adhere to the attribution and publication guidelines we had agreed to. There are still supporting facts and documents that, for ethical reasons, I’m not at liberty to share. I mention this because some of my loudest critics have demanded that I reveal things (by virtue of off-the-record conversations) that they know I cannot.

"It's a painful coincidence that the evidence might demonstrate the depths of my stupidity is evidence which I cannot share, because that evidence would make me look so good!" Some might say that until he had evidence they were telling the truth, or that they even existed, Tom Tom had an ethical duty to his readers not to publish made-up shit from people he didn't know. But Tom Tom's so friggin' ethical that he's bound to honor his agreements with people who don't exist!

I suspect this is the last we'll hear of this from Tom Tom. He's already back to personally vouching for Andrew Breitbart's heterosexuality (presumably based on personal experience, rather than on reports in e-mails from "underaged girls").

No comments: