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    "The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts" ~ George Orwell

    "An effective way to deal with predators is to taste terrible." ~ Unknown

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    Wednesday, September 08, 2004


    The elder Nawtin used his acute sense of observation to point me to a Slate article quoting Kerry about his recent good fortune in finding a restaurant that caters to the indecisive. The quote seems a bit changed from every other place I've seen it.

    Check out this quoting from the NYT of yesterday(BugMeNot required):

    "Everybody told me, 'God, if you're coming to Canonsburg, you've got to find time to go to Toy's, and he'll take care of you,'" Mr. Kerry said, dropping the name of a restaurant his motorcade had passed on the way in. "I understand it's my kind of place, because you don't have to - you know, when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling: Ah, what do you want?

    "He just gives you what he's got, right?" Mr. Kerry added, continuing steadily off a gangplank of his own making: "And you don't have to worry, it's whatever he's cooked up that day. And I think that's the way it ought to work, for confused people like me who can't make up our minds."

    Ok fine, that's how I've seen it everywhere else. Now let's see the same quote from the Slate article from today:

    "You know when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling, what do you want?" he said. A cook at a local restaurant, though, solves Kerry's dilemma by serving "whatever he's cooked up that day. I think that's the way it ought to work for confused people like me who can't make up our minds what we're going to eat."

    Ok, it looks like Slate chopped it up but they also appear to have added words that may or may not have been said. As both articles are from Kerry friendly sources and I don't know anything about the authors or editors involved, I think at this point there is some more surfing to do on it. But something is amiss...adding in the clarification of not being able to make up their minds about what to eat changes the whole tenor of the quote. Hmmmm. What was really said? Not the turning point of the election of course, but someone isn't doing a very good job of reporting information. The fact that the "what we want to eat" thing appears to post-clarify Kerry's actual words (I can't verify this yet) might make it another little clue to throw on the pile of evidence that says that professional journalism is a very very loose term these days. I'd love to hear from anyone who can give me a link to concrete evidence of the actual quote...

    Update: I've found a Telegraph story (UK) that was filed by a reporter with a dateline in canonsurg and the quote includes that specific clause about eating at the end of the admission of indecisiveness.

    Nawtin has emailed the Slate reporter to question his source (no response), and has also queried Glenn Reynolds who responded that he took his quote from the NYT article and does not know about the Slate article.

    I agree with Nawtin's opinion that in either case there is subversion of the truth: Leaving the last clause off obviously makes Kerry look like he has admitted to being a flip-flop flap-flipper as a general characteristic, which he did not. Adding the clause on to clarify after the fact is downright dishonest. (see update-I don't believe it was)

    At this point, I am inclined to think that probably Kerry said "what we want to eat" and it got edited down for some reason. An unfortunate choice of editing which the Right has already jumped on as a good illustration of John Kerry, the man. Who knows, but I will keep looking around to find a definitive source for the quote just to set my mind at ease. I realize this is not the fisking opportunity of a lifetime. It is small potatoes compared to almost any other detail of the campaign, but hey...I've got nothing better to do.

    Son Of Update: Nawtin has received replies from two reporters who were at the rally and transcribed directly from tape the Kerry quote. The Slate reporter Chris Suellentrop and Milan Simonich from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette both agree that Kerry said "confused people like me who can't make up their mind about what to eat".

    For the record, Chris Suellentrop finds the suggestion that he may have made up the last bit out of nothing insulting to his integrity and I want to state that I have no reason to believe he would do this, while maintaining that the question is fair. The Slate article was 1 out of 20 places we saw the quote repeated and it was the first place to use the entire quote and one of the few to be written by a reporter who was actually there. One of these kids is doin' his own thing....

    With Mr. Suellentrop's part in this established, the question remains though, why the NYT would chop that bit off. As Nawtin says, the quote in the Times makes Kerry look rather foolish, while the true version is fairly harmless. The fact that so many news outlets ran without respecting actual location of the endquotes is irresponsible and the NYT is supposed to be a paper of record. Well, the whole record? Or just part of the record? I am no fan of Kerry (I thought the NYT was?) but I am a huge fan of the truth. It appears that it is rather easy to spread an inaccurate bit of truth through a gullible "copy and paste" media without even trying. I have to assume this was a poor editing decision rather than some backroom willful subversion of reality, of course, but it certainly doesn't help my opinion of the Times.

    At any rate, good scoop Nawtin. Too bad it had to be Republicans figuring this out rather than someone being paid to accurately report the news. And while it seems strange to commend a reporter for knowing that quotation marks traditionally go after the period, props to Suellentrop for getting it right the first time. The Times could probably learn a lesson from him.

    posted by M@ at 3:25 PM   0 comments links to this post


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