Why Won’t the LA TIMES Fire Andrew Malcolm?

(A moment away from my book to write a guest post.)

It turned out to be a lie. A very strange lie. A “journalism 101” moment, where basic facts were ignored to make an ideological point — which utterly belies the concept of “responsible journalism.”

newspapers

That was the essence of last Wednesday’s posting on my blog, which I’ll come back to. But this newer offense takes the cake for … well, uh… he starts out [emphasis added]:

Michelle Obama serves food to D.C. poor and homeless, but…

First Lady Michelle Obama showed up Thursday as a surprise and welcome volunteer at Miriam’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen for homeless poor people not far from the White House.

She brought with her some food donated by White House staff.

The first lady served up mushroom risotto and broccoli to a long line of homeless men and women during part of herFirst Lady Michelle Obama volunteers as a food server at Miriam’s Kitchen a soup kitchen for poor homeless in Washington DC 3-5-09 lunch hour and in these photos poses for a picture by one homeless diner obviously excited to be in the first lady’s presence.

And here’s the picture:

firstladyathomelessshelter

Then, there are the happy nicities, as though the writer were covering a meeting of the Ladies’ Garden Auxiliary …

Obama said she hoped her service would cause other Americans to volunteer to help the less fortunate in their own communities.

And, of course, such images of need might also help build support for her husband’s economic and healthcare reform agenda, although a Miriam’s spokeswoman said their average “guest” has been homeless since about the time Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

But then, in the Los Angeles Times‘ blog, Top of the Ticket, something

malcolm-0

starts to go

malcolm-1

horribly,

malcolm-2

terribly

malcolm-3

wrong …

firstladyathomelessshelter2

Both of these news photos were widely distributed across the country and even around the world.

It doesn’t detract from the first lady’s generous gesture or the real needs she seeks to highlight to ask two bothersome journalistic questions about these news photos:

If this unidentified meal recipient is too poor to buy his own food, how does he afford a cellphone?

And if he is homeless, where do they send the cellphone bills?

Andrew Malcolm

Yeah, that same guy from Wednesday’s “Dum Dums and Bullet Points” (3-4-9).

A guy like this could find porn in kindergarten drawings.

A guy like this could find fault with Jesus’wardrobe, if he had to cover His return.

A guy like this could receive a box of horse dung and figure that the mailer had just forgotten to include the horse.

It’s way over the top and beyond the edge, although it’s been coming on for awhile. Folks, you’re listening to Old Yeller right at the end: Andrew Malcolm has decided to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel of monkeys.

You know, the kind that Faux Nooz, er, the New York Post says are harmless images of poorly written legislation?*

[* Er ..

nypost-cartoon-malcolm1-variation]

Look, any reporter worth his or her salt knows that one must be VERY careful about doing journalism from photographs. And remember, Andrew Malcolm is a member of the LA Times’ editorial board, and they even paid to nominate him for a Pulitzer Prize, which he made all the way to “finalist” status, so there is no excuse professionally for what he’s doing, as the Times’ “official” political blogger. Were this about a lawyer, I’d be arguing for his disbarrment. Here, we’re talking about journalism, and I’m arguing, wearing my journalist hat, that Andrew Malcolm be fired.

You hearing me LA Times?

You are a great paper — or once were. An astonishing profusion of writers and journalists have written for your pages. I’m one of them.

And Mr. Malcolm has pushed the envelope for too long, too far, too fast to pull anything “disciplinary” — even though he richly deserves it.

I’ve laid out a long series of these blatant political gaffes, going back to his time as a paid staffer on the 2000 Bush campaign.

So what did we just hear?

An attack on a homeless black man for owning a cel phone.

Seriously.

Now, I’m happy to remove the racial component (but, seriously, as a phosphorescent White guy, there has to be an awareness of the perception, just as in the Murdoch Monkey Cartoon.)

maligncolm

Now, mind you, Malcolm is enough of a pro to avoid the outright accusation, which is, I suppose, either THIS GUY ISN’T HOMELESS!!! or THIS GUY IS A DRUG DEALER!! or THIS GUY ISN’T WORTHY OF FREE FOOD IF HE CAN AFFORD A CEL PHONE!!!

And the corollary WHAT BUSINESS DOES A HOMELESS GUY HAVE WITH A TRICKED OUT CEL PHONE!?!!

Having jumped from the frying pan of accusation, Malcolm falls into the fire of making an “eye of the beholder” implied accusation. Why is that worse? Because he INVITES interpretation.

Now, as someone who spent significant portions of my adult life homeless, I would love to disabuse Mr. Malcolm of his privileged White arrogance, and assure him that there is nothing “cute” or “clever” about being homeless. It is a national shame and a stain on our nation’s soul.

So, it certainly bespeaks a “let them eat cake interpretation.” But let me add this voice from The Moderate Voice, a blog which, last week, Mr. Malcolm used as his launching pad for a nasty defense of Limbaugh by claiming that THE MODERATE VOICE SAYS … (not Malcolm. He’s just “observing.”) More on that in a moment. Here’s T-STEEL, Site Administrator for The Moderate Voice:

I volunteered at homeless shelters for 10 years in inner city Detroit, Michigan USA:

1. Many pre-paid cell phones come with cameras.
2. Pre-paid cell phones are inexpensive at legal vendors.
3. Pre-paid cell phones and non pre-paid cell phones are frequently stolen and sold on the street DIRT CHEAP ($2 to $3 a phone many times).
4. Many homeless people buy the pre-paid cell phones and walk around with no service BUT still take pictures.
5. The same homeless people hold on to those cell phones and it is the first thing activated when they get more cash.
6. Many homeless people have only one way to be contacted, the cell phone. Thus it is HIGH priority especially in job searching.
7. Many homeless people are homeless because of loss of a job and inability to find solid work.
8. Homeless doesn’t mean shiftless or lazy. When jobs showed up at homeless shelters, everyone wanted one DESPERATELY.
9. There have been many programs in inner cities to provide cell phones to homeless and poor people for safety reasons (emergencies, etc). Don’t believe me? SafeLink Wireless, please educate those not in the know!
10. As the First Lady, it is her duty to smile if a citizen wants a picture (provided the situation is safe).
11. The guy could be a plant to embarrass First Lady Michelle Obama in a picture or just a regular guy that wanted a picture (hope he didn’t just cut in the line).

Criticism of this photo and situation is pointless, nonsensical, quite petty, and loopy. […]

Yes. But it serves Malcolm’s increasingly ideological purpose of simply acting as a Michelle Malkin-style Right Wing attack dog.

And if you believe all the hogwash that’s been spewing lately about how IMPORTANT newspapers are, and how they’re just STUFFED TO THE GILLS with journalistic integrity and super-duper reportorial objectivity, then there really is no excuse for Andrew Malcolm’s unending string of Rightie Talking Points masquerading as ‘news.’

Sure, Michelle Obama was doing a photo op. But it had an important purpose and served the public good. Homelessness IS going on all over America and getting worse. This shelter, as noted, is just a couple of blocks from the White House for crying out loud.

But Andrew Malcolm’s soul is so corroded with the vitriol of modern Republicanism that all he knows is that he has to find SOME way, ANY way to sneer at the First Lady of the United States of America working in a soup kitchen giving food to a homeless man.

Really?

Does this kind of mentality find drowning kittens refreshing? Kicking old ladies relaxing? No one can say for sure, but there IS one certainty:

This piece has no place in a great American newspaper. A Rupert Murdoch newspaper, perhaps, but not in the Los Angeles Times. Several generations of Chandler are spinning in their eternal rest.

lat

You see, as I noted on Wednesday, F.A.I.R. and Media Matters have documented this behavior for almost a decade now, although before it was more sotto voce — giving a glowing review to Ann Coulter’s Slander in 2002, without ever mentioning his recent history as a paid Bush campaign staffer.

And, perhaps in that great act of cowardice following 9-11, the Times didn’t want to be seen as criticizing El Bushe in any wise, lest they be accused of treason.

But now, as we attempt to return to some even keel of rationality, this kind of Andrew Malcolm column has NO PLACE in a (formerly) great American newspaper. ESPECIALLY one on the verge of extinction.

If our newspapers are going to continually remind us how great their ethical standards are, and how slimy the bloggers are, not like the great newspapers, then they ought to hold themselves to some of those highfalutin’ standards.

Now, remember my Wednesday column about Malcolm’s attempt to conflate Rush Limbaugh with Michael Moore? The one based on Jazz Shaw’s piece in The Moderate Voice?

I want you to read Jazz Shaw’s comment, and ask yourself, HOW is it that Hot Air, the LA Times and US News and World Report ALL made the exact same mistake, based on a gross misreading of Shaw’s column?

Here’s Shaw himself commenting on his post, which ought to put Andrew Malcolm’s “Fireability” Rating at a perfect 100% [emphasis added]:

Last, tying into number two, as our Editor and I discussed, this was yet another of my satire pieces, mostly making fun of all the hub-hub over Limbaugh this week. For chrissakes, I linked to a graphic of a *BIORHYTHM CHART” taken from Fark.com and ended it by saying “you read it on the internet so it must be true.” How both the LA Times and Hot Air readers managed to think that was a serious piece is a mystery, unless you simply read the title and commented without reading the post. It was making fun of all the nonsense over a non-issue. The fact that so many of you didn’t get that is not on me, it’s on you. Go back and actually read it again and you’ll see that there’s no way anyone could take this “article” as a serious analysis of Limbaugh being equal to Moore unless they are either entirely brain dead, or (like the Political Vindication boys) stuck in a mode of lying and not bothering to check any facts.

Stick to material that is simpler to grasp. As the recently passed Paul Harvey would say… “Good day!”

So, Andrew Malcolm, Hot Air and US News and World Report ALL made the same amateur mistake independently? It beggars the imagination.

Now, the Los Angeles Times is going to have to EXPLAIN how it is that Malcolm ‘independently’ channels GOP talking points, comes up with them all on his own, without coordination with some central authority. And how these endless “mistakes” and offenses against the canons of journalism are continually ignored by the LA Times management!?!??

It is shameful for a major U.S. newspaper, a formerly GREAT newspaper to allow this chancre of blatant, inaccurate, slavering ideological propaganda to continue besmirching its good name without ever NOTICING that something is going on.

And now, today, Andrew Malcolm strikes again, as Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic and Steve Benin at the Washington Monthly BOTH note. Sullivan:

10 Mar 2009 10:23 am
Why The L.A.Times Sucks

In part because of columns like this one.

Benin (echoed by the Huffington Post HERE):

March 10, 2009

NOT EVEN CLOSE…. The LA Times‘ Andrew Malcolm played a little fast and loose yesterday, commenting on President Obama’s directive on Bush’s signing statements. (thanks to reader J.R. for the heads-up)

Bill Clinton actually used signing documents way more than George W. Bush. But No. 42 is a Democrat and his wife currently works for Obama. So No. 44 is on a big tear right now to distance himself instead from No. 43, the Republican, who’s back in Texas and doesn’t care but just hearing his name trashed makes Democrats feel good. […]

Obama doesn’t say he won’t ever use signing documents. He just says he’ll work with Congress about them. Which means he will, of course, sign some, but right now he wants today’s news coverage to be on more change to sort-of believe in.

No, this wasn’t written by the Republican National Committee to be read on-air by Fox News personalities; it just seems like it.

Did Clinton use signing statements “way more than George W. Bush”? It’s a highly misleading claim, based on a count of the individual documents, instead of the number of provisions to which the signing statements have been applied. In reality, Bush “broke all records” while abusing this presidential tool, “using signing statements to challenge about 1,200 sections of bills over his eight years in office, about twice the number challenged by all previous presidents combined.”

To hear Malcolm tell it, President Obama is just playing a silly partisan game, “trashing” Bush when Clinton was worse, just to make Democrats “feel good.” This is lazy, partisan, and disingenuous analysis….

Again, a FACTUAL error in service of Malcolm’s increasingly naked, cranky ideology. He will do ANYTHING, it seems, to attack the President of the United States, who clearly wasn’t his choice in the election.

The question is this: How long will the formerly great U.S. newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, continue to subsidize and promote this antithesis of responsible journalism?

[Malcolm follows up on the misread Jazz Shaw post with THIS, yesterday:

Michael Moore denies being the Democrats’ Rush Limbaugh, so it must be true

In case you missed it, Michael Moore, the — let’s see, we’re supposed to call him — the far-left-wing, wacko liberal filmmaker who fought long and hard to ensure the election of Sen. John Kerry in 2004 by making himself the lightning rod for all kinds of vicious conservative antagonisms and attacks, makes a lengthy and fun argument over on Huffington Post that he’s not now and never has been the cultural icon that Rush Limbaugh has become on the conservative side.

While the nation awaits the Obama Cabinet’s next inadvertent, years-long non-payment-of-taxes scandal, this is the funnest fight going. It pits two commercial heavyweights slugging it out on air and online. Both are clever, oversized personalities with their own devoted fans and committed enemies, making neither a likely candidate for bipartisan outreach in the not-quite-here-yet new Washington.

To be honest about it, however, Rush is swinging away at President Obama and his “socialist” spending policies with no time for the guy in the Michigan or whatever baseball cap. Moore and other Democrats are swinging away at Rush, which is great for both sides….

Using THIS intentionally ugly photograph:

click for original

click for original

And, let’s talk turkey, here LA Times: The Michael Moore = Rush Limbaugh analogy is a GOP talking point, intended to conflate — let’s face it — two fat partisans. It is specious, and you, the editors KNOW it. But Malcolm is given carte blanche to parrot talking points with utter loyalty to his Rovian masters and ZERO loyalty to the LA Times, or to journalism.]

How long will the Times remain silent in the face of this internal scandal?

Unless and until they do, let’s not hear anymore hogwash about how newspapers are far superior to bloggers because of their “journalistic standards.”

As of today, the LA Times ranks below any responsible political blog, and a bare step above the poisonous partisan barbarism of a Michelle Malkin, who, by the by, picked up on Malcolm’s “homeless bashing” posting, of which Jazz Shaw, at the Moderate Voice said this:

Andrew Malcolm posted a story about First Lady Michelle Obama showing up at a DC homeless shelter to serve meals to the needy, and it’s resulted in a particularly ugly response.

[…]

A different Michelle – Malkin by name – decided to take this opportunity to cast stones on the effort and focus on the fact that somebody at the shelter had a cell phone.

Via Andrew Malcolm, here is one of the homeless cell phone owners snapping a pic of First Lady Michelle Obama — ruining what was supposed to be a sob story photo op of the compassionate Mrs. O catering to the downtrodden.

Say cheese!

Despicable. There’s simply no other word for it. So there was somebody there with a cell phone….

So, LA Times, that’s ONE WEEK of Andrew Malcolm’s crimes against journalism using YOUR name and YOUR reputation, and tacitly approved of (as has been the last eight plus years of irresponsible behavior) BY YOU.

Silence indicates assent, in this case.

3monkeys

As Daniel Patrick Moynahan is credited with saying:

“You are entitled to your own opinion…but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Those are factual errors all through ONE week, LA Times. Malcolm’s opinions, no matter how noxious I find them, are not at issue here. What is at issue is Malcolm’s long-standing habit of playing fast and loose with the facts. How is THAT going to do other than destroy the reputation and credibility of the Los Angeles Times? Can you afford that in these parlous times?*

[* Synchronicity: Listening to Jefferson Public Radio, at this moment, Doni Greenberg and Kelly Brewer, former Redding, Oregon Record-Searchlight reporters who now run ANewsCafe.com are saying …

“The facts are still the facts and they still have to be right” and “fact-checking never goes out of style”

Now, is the formerly great Los Angeles Times using LOWER standards than they are?]

I submit that it verges on a death wish for your paper to continue this forum without respect to facts or reason.

Now, either admit that the LA Times has lost whatever journalistic integrity it once had, has abandoned all journalistic standards and is no better than a printed blog occupying the lower echelons of mindless partisanship. Or else do the right thing. (And not the Right-wing thing.)

If you need help figuring that out, please reference the title of this post.

Courage.

==================

UPDATE 2:20 PM PDT:

People’s Exhibit ‘A’: From April 17, 2008, in the middle of the campaign, another “assassination by examining a photograph” story weirdly similar to the Michelle Obama/Cel Phone story, based on, I don’t know, investigative picture looking at and interpreting (a discipline normally reserved for stoned college students watching bad movies late at night with the sound turned off) [h/t WordPress, whose “possibly related post” pointed to this]:

Barack Obama makes a one-fingered gesture while speaking of Hillary Clinton

This is one of those political moments that really needs few words.

We’ll no doubt hear much more about this incident in coming days.

Right now, we’ll just leave this video for Ticket readers to view and judge for themselves. It’s Sen. Barack Obama, according to the caption on YouTube posted just minutes ago, speaking to a friendly crowd in Raleigh, N.C., today.

He’s talking critically about his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, and the kind of distasteful gotcha politics that occur in Washington. And he says, “That’s all right. Sen. Clinton looked in her element.”

Watch the video right then. (sic) The presidential candidate raises his right hand to seemingly scratch his cheek.

He doesn’t use his whole hand though. Just one finger. Briefly. A couple of strokes.

He pauses. He smiles slyly as the crowd begins to mumble and then he tries, somewhat distracted, to continue his remarks, smiling as the buzz spreads through the crowd.

He’ll no doubt deny it later, but that mischievous smile seems to confirm plenty. And the crowd sure sees something.

(UPDATE: A new item has been posted on the Obama campaign’s reaction to this issue, calling it “absurd and untrue.”)

— Andrew Malcolm

Aside from his almost-pornographic prose:

He doesn’t use his whole hand though. Just one finger. Briefly. A couple of strokes.

He pauses. He smiles slyly…

this is less guilt-by-interpretation than guilt-by-free-association — seemingly, an Andrew Malcolm specialty.

Bookmark and Share

About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why Won’t the LA TIMES Fire Andrew Malcolm?

  1. Jazz Shaw says:

    Hi guys.

    Just for the record, Malcolm contacted our editor about that piece I wrote and I was told that he found it “entertaining.” I suppose that doesn’t mean the jury is out, but on the day he wrote about it, I suppose I just assumed that he got the fact that it was a satire. I didn’t speak to Malcolm myself, though, so I can’t say for sure. You’d have to talk to Joe Gandelman.