A Politico story about the
damaging quotes by General Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone included two paragraphs that suggest
freelance reporter Michael Hastings was a bigger “risk” to the Defence
department than a beat reporter. The grafs have since disappeared. (UPDATE: Politico’s editor response added at the end of this article)
These are the grafs that have since been removed from the story:
“McChrystal, an expert on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, has long been thought to be uniquely qualified to lead in Afghanistan. But he is not known for being media savvy. Hastings, who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years, according to the magazine, is not well-known within the Defense Department.
“And as a freelance reporter, Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.”
The Columbia Journalism Review reports:
“Politico managing editor Bill Nichols declined to discuss the deletion with me or to send on a version of the article as it was originally published—making it quite difficult to tell how extensively the article was revised or “updated” beyond this excision.
“[W]e don’t get into why we make editing decisions,” Nichols wrote in a brief email.
“The current version notes that it was updated at 8:35 this morning, but there’s no note to inform readers how or why the article was changed.”
A lot of people picked up on those grafs before they disappeared. Journalism professor Jay Rosen tweeted that the grafs were a “Revealing little look at how journalism in DC works.”
The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan writes of the McChrystal fallout:
“This is news, no? It’s important news. It reflects on the character and integrity of the man tasked to lead America’s longest ever war. So why, one wonders, have we not heard a peep of this from all the official MSM Pentagon reporters and analysts with their deep sources and long experience?”
He sees the grafs as the answer to his question.
“The better their sources, the less we know.”
**UPDATE, via The Huffington Post:
“Politico’s Tim Grieve responds to [Jay] Rosen, saying that the paragraph in question was dropped as the piece was reworked to accommodate additional news. “Together with the other adds that had come in during the day,” Grieve says, “my inserts made the story very long and unwieldy, so I quickly deleted or substantially reworked more than a dozen paragraphs that struck me as either tangential or out-of-date.” He adds:
“The “offending” paragraph about beat reporters vs. freelancers was one of them. No one – no source, no reporter, no editor above or below me – had said a word to me about the paragraph. I removed it solely for the purposes of keeping the story tight and readable. And in fact, I thought so little about doing it that I didn’t even remember taking it out when we first got an inquiry from CJR Wednesday.”
“It’s too bad, because it was the most valuable paragraph in the whole story.”
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